The question has been asked many times: are the SEC defenses that great, or are they the beneficiaries of subpar offenses? Most folks in SEC country will say it is the former and point to bowl victories against “offensive minded” conferences to prove it.

One area in which the SEC has suffered for the past few years has been the development of good quarterbacks. The SEC has gotten its share of good quarterbacks through the years (Cam Newton, Matthew Stafford, Peyton and Eli Manning come to mind), but they never appear in the conference at the same time. The 2012 season could change all of that. On paper, a number teams return, or debut, some highly thought of signal callers. If half of them reach their potential, this could turn into a special class of QBs.

The Rock Solid

Aaron Murray, Georgia

The junior returns to lead the Bulldogs for his junior year. While not the prototypical QB, Murray measures in to be around 6-1, Murray threw for 2,861 with 33 TDs. He also had 12 INTs and some unfortunate fumbles at key spots in big games. While cutting back on the turnovers is a must for Murray, his production has been instrumental to Georgia’s success. It also led to Murray being named to the second team All-SEC squad.

 

Tyler Wison, Arkansas

Tyler Wilson led the most prolific offense in the SEC last year in Arkansas. Wilson passed for 3,422 yards, 22 touchdowns with only 6 interceptions for a 63.1% passing percentage. Those gaudy stats were enough to have Wilson selected to the first team All- Standing at 6-3, Wilson has shown great pocket awareness and movement and is probably a first rounder in next year’s NFL draft. The question surrounding Wilson and all of Arkansas is whether he can be as productive without head coach Bobby Petrino.

Next Guys Up

Tyler Bray, Tennessee

Tyler Bray needs to be mentioned along with Murray and Wilson, but he has yet to play a full season for the Volunteers. He has been the difference maker in every game he has started. Made the starter eight games into his freshman year, Bray threw for 1,546 yards and 18 TDs. With those stats in just five games, Tennessee was excited to see the young gunslinger in year two. Bray picked up just where he left off, throwing for 1,579 yards and 14 TDs with only 2 interceptions. Unfortunately, Bray injured his throwing hand in the Georgia game and sat out the next five games (with Tennessee losing four of them). Bray did not come back well after the injury with only 404 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions in the last two games. If Bray can finally play a whole year for Tennessee, the Volunteers may make some noise in the SEC East and subsequently save his coach’s job.

AJ McCarron, Alabama

Going into last season, no one was sure if AJ McCarron would be the starter of the Crimson Tide. He went into the season sharing the starting job with Phillip Sims. McCarron started to take hold of the job in the Kent State game and took over completely the following week against Penn State. McCarron never wowed anyone during the season with modest numbers (2, 634 yards, 16 TDs and only 5 INTs), but extremely accurate and efficient in the passing game, he had a 66.8% rate. McCarron was labeled a game manager and seen as the weak link going in to the national championship game against LSU. He turned that label on its ear as he threw for 234 yards on LSU’s vaunted defense. It may not seem like much, but McCarron made all the plays the Crimson Tide had to have and was named Offensive MVP of the game. If McCarron can continue with the momentum he built in the championship game, he can make the jump to elite status.

We’ve Seen You But Not Really!

Connor Shaw, South Carolina

With the tumultuous situation with Stephen Garcia, Connor Shaw has seen extensive playing time at South Carolina, including becoming the starter after Garcia’s dismissal. Coming in almost halfway through the season, Shaw’s stats are modest to say the least (1448 yards, 14 TDs and 6 INTS), but he was steady. Shaw is a bit more mobile than most quarterbacks under Spurrier, which must also be factored into his performance (483 yards and 7 TDs). Spurrier is notoriously hard on his quarterbacks. If Shaw can take the next step under his tutelage, Shaw will be able to contend in the SEC.

Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt

Having the name “Rodgers” as a quarterback carries a lot of weight, especially when your brother’s first name is Aaron. Those are big foot steps to fill in when you are the younger brother of one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Jordan Rodgers began to make a name for himself last year leading the Commodores. After taking the starting job, at Alabama of all places, Rodgers almost led the Commodores to upset victories over Georgia and Arkansas. If Rodgers can improve his touchdown to
interception ratio (9:10), Vanderbilt will be a pain for all SEC teams this year.

James Franklin, Missouri

James Franklin became quite the threat to Big 12 defenses last year. Franklin was responsible for over 3000 yards and 36 total touchdowns last year. The dual threat Franklin was the primary force behind Missouri’s success. Franklin was sidelined with a shoulder injury in the spring. Though it sounds like he will not miss any games, that injury has to be a concern. The other question for Franklin is whether his game and that offense will translate to the SEC.

 

 

Show Me Something

Guys like Tyler Russell and the Florida duo of Jeff Driskell and Jacoby Brissett are guys that have seen
the field, but the jury is still out on them.

Russell of Mississippi State saw plenty of action the past two years. Coach Dan Mullen never seemed sure of former starter Chris Relf and pulled him for Russell. Russell never took the job from Relf, so there is concern there. Also, Russell is more of a passing quarterback and Mullen’s spread is based around a power running QB. Interesting to see what happens with Russell.

Possible Florida quarterback Jeff Driskell replaced John Brantley after he went down to Alabama last year. The Crimson Tide promptly put Driskell out as well and feasted on young Jacoby Brissett. It was not pretty for either QB after that until John Brantley returned. Now these two are battling for the starting spot and neither can separate from the other. It is hard to see either one of them taking a big leap for the position.

Rolling the Dice

Zach Mettenberger, LSU

Mettenberger has been heralded as LSU’s savior, but he has never taken a meaningful snap for the Tigers. The purple and gold Kool-Aid is not just for the fans, as the Tigers are ranked as high as #1 in the national standings. The optimism is caused by Mettenberger’s time spent in the Georgia program (where he could have possibly beat Aaron Murray for the starting job), his performance at Butler Community College (he threw for 32 TDS and only four interceptions), and the passing performance has been so inconsistent in Baton Rouge. Mettenberger has all the tools to be the top notch QB in the league; he just needs the season to back it up.

 

Who would you pick as your quarterback in the SEC? Let us know in the comments!