Ranking the SEC West Quarterbacks
The SEC West was considered by most to be the best division in college football last season, even with a lack of elite talent at the quarterback position. Three starters from last season graduated, and one was benched with five games left in the regular season, so now that we're just a few days away from the start of the 2015 season, it's time to see which teams boast the best quarterbacks.
It can't be said enough: the quarterback position is the most important position in football. With that being the case, will it take an elite quarterback to win the SEC West this year?
Nobody is sure who will take the first snap for the Rebels come September 5 when they do battle with UT Martin (and to be honest, it probably won't really matter for that game), but they are in the stickiest situation when it comes to quarterbacks. None of the three leaders are pulling away from the others, although one would think Chad Kelly, nephew to NFL great Jim Kelly, would get the nod. Head coach Hugh Freeze was able to mold Bo Wallace into a solid signal caller the past two seasons, but Wallace did have one thing that none of these three have now: experience.
Arkansas doesn't need a Peyton Manning-type player under center. Head coach Bret Bielema likes to run the ball, and he likes to run the ball a lot. However, someone does have to take the snaps, and senior Brandon Allen will hold that responsibility this season. Allen doesn't have the strongest arm, and he doesn't have the most accurate arm. However, his decision-making is exceptional, throwing for 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions last season (the second fewest interceptions thrown by a starting quarterback in the SEC). He can do what is asked of him with relative ease, and that is what will give the Razorbacks their best shot at being successful this season.
Head coach Les Miles isn't known to produce top-tier talent at the quarterback position, and he really hasn't had a need for it, to be quite frank. He's went to two national championship games (winning one of them) with sub-par quarterback play, and it looks like he'll rely on it once again this season. Anthony Jennings is probably the leader in the clubhouse simply because of his athletic ability and his experience, but Harris is pushing him hard for the starting role. Harris may have the bigger arm of the two, but his lack of playing time against SEC defenses could prove to be the selling point for Jennings to start.
We can speculate all we want, but I'm not even sure Nick Saban knows who will be starting under center for the Crimson Tide when they kickoff against Wisconsin. Rumors have circulated around all five quarterbacks: at first, senior Jake Coker was the lock; after a while, redshirt freshman David Cornwell was the answer; following a ringing endorsement from quarterback guru George Whitfield, true freshman Blake Barnett became the favorite; when things started looking calm, junior Alec Morris has appeared seemingly out of nowhere; and Nick Saban has nothing but good things to say about Cooper Bateman. Whoever it is, though, will be surrounded with elite talent, so the starting quarterback should, under the guidance of offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin, put up comparable numbers to that of Blake Sims last season.
Everyone is buying into the Auburn hype this year (well, most everyone), and it's typically based on the addition of Jeremy Johnson at quarterback. Head coach Gus Malzahn's system usually is most dangerous when he has a mobile quarterback taking snaps, but Johnson has a big arm and is more mobile that some may think. However, he isn't proven, and until he shows what he can do against SEC defenses week in and week out, it's preposterous to rank him any higher than #3.
Don't get caught up in saying, "Well, if Jeremy Johnson isn't experienced, how can you put Kyle Allen at #2?" Allen started the final five games last year for the Aggies after the benching of Kenny "Trill" Hill, and we all know head coach Kevin Sumlin's track record with quarterbacks (e.g. Johnny Manziel, Case Keenum). In those five games, he tossed 13 touchdowns and five interceptions, all to the tune of a cool 1,058 passing yards; and on top of all that, he led the Aggies to three wins, including big wins over the Auburn Tigers and West Virginia. Allen will put up some silly numbers this year, and will help the Aggies compete for an SEC West crown. Mark it down.
It's a given that Dak Prescott is the best quarterback in the SEC West, right? Prescott finished eighth in Heisman voting last season, and with yet another year of experience under his belt, Prescott will be hoping to make it to New York this year. The Bulldogs lost quite a bit of talent from last year's team, but return freak athlete De-Runnya Wilson for Prescott to throw the ball to. If the head coach Dan Mullen and his Dogs want to be successful this season, it will require Prescott to out-do his performance from last season, and one wouldn't want that responsibility to fall on anyone but a senior.