CORONA VIRUS AND THE QB SITUATION AT EVERY SEC SCHOOL
There will be no spring practice even if the all clear is given for the Corona Virus on April 15. How does that affect the quarterback situation at each SEC school? For a school like Florida, the affect will be minimal. For a school like Vanderbilt, it’s akin to the Titanic going belly up in the North Atlantic.
Here is how I rate the QB situation at all 14 SEC schools:
(1) FLORIDA: This will be the third year in the system for returning starter Kyle Trask (237-354 for 2,941 passing yards and 25 TDPs (7 INTs) and backup Emory Jones (267 passing yards for three TDs; 256 rushing yards for four) so no spring practice, no problem. They both know the offense and now they don’t have to worry about getting hurt during the spring. About the only real negative is that Mullen probably didn’t get to work on some of the packages he plans to use for Jones in the fall.
(2) Texas A&M: Kellen Mond has been Jimbo Fisher’s starting QB for the last two seasons so no spring practice, no problem. Mond threw for 2,897 yards and 20 TDs last year while running for 500 and eight more scores. Redshirt freshman Zach Calzada could have used the reps in the spring, but he’s been in the system for a full year, so it’s not like he has to learn everything from scratch. As long as Mond stays healthy, this is the second best QB situation in the SEC behind Florida.
(3) Alabama: Mack Jones (97-141 passing for 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns) played in 12 games, started three, and showed he’s far more talented than anyone gave him credit for. He has the same offensive coordinator that he had last year in Steve Sarkisian and he returns weapons like RB Najee Harris (1,224 rushing yards for 13 TDs, 27-303 receiving for seven) and stud wide receivers DeVonta Smith (68-1,256 and 14 TDs) and Jaylen Waddle (33-560, six TDs). Because he knows the offense, throws as accurate a deep ball as you’ll see in college football and has those kind of weapons, Jones will be just fine even without the spring. Who gets hurt by no spring are sophomore Taulia Tagovailoa and early enrollee freshman Bryce Young.
(4) Auburn: There is a new offensive coordinator in former Arkansas HBC Chad Morris, but Morris and Gus Malzahn are old buddies who know each other’s offenses in and out, so no spring practice isn’t likely to hurt sophomore Bo Nix, who threw for 2,542 yards and 16 touchdowns (six INTs) while running for 313 and seven. No spring practice will definitely hurt the backup QBs, such as former minor league baseball player Cord Sandberg. If Nix stays healthy, it’s an excellent situation.
(5) Kentucky: Terry Wilson, who went down in game two with a season-ending injury, wasn’t going to participate in the spring anyway so he’s not hurt by the cancellation of practices. Besides, he’s got the same offensive coordinator he had in 2018 when he threw for 1,889 yards and 11 TDs and ran for 547 and four more. The one who needed the spring was Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood, who needed to learn the offense. Last year’s backup Sawyer Smith is back for his final year. If Wilson is healthy, then this is an extremely good situation.
(6) Mississippi State: Even without the benefit of spring practice, the QB situation should be very good for the Bulldogs. Mike Leach, after all, turned Garner Minshew into the nation’s leading passer and an NFL-capable QB in a single fall camp back at Washington State. In former Stanford QB and grad transfer K.J. Costello (6,151 passing yards, 49 TDs in three years), Leach has a QB with an outstanding arm with superior intellect (could have gotten into Stanford without a football scholarship). Can Leach keep Garrett Schrader happy? Schrader played in 10 games, started four, last year when he threw for 1,170 yards and eight TDs and ran for 587 yards and six TDs. Although this isn’t ideal, the combination of Leach and Costello should make this an easy transition even without spring football.
(7) Tennessee: This is one of the better situations in the SEC since offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has two quarterbacks with starting experience in Jarret Guarantano (2,158 passing yards, 16 touchdowns) and Brian Mauser (541 passing yards, two touchdowns). Both of them could have used the spring, but at least they’ll be working with the same playbook and system when football reconvenes in August. The Vols also have rising sophomore J.T. Shrout, who saw limited action in five games in 2019.
(8) South Carolina: Will Muschamp hired former Colorado State HBC Mike Bobo as his offensive coordinator and with Bobo came grad transfer Collin Hill, who threw for 840 yards and eight touchdowns in three games before he went down with a season-ending injury in 2019. Without a spring practice to get the new offense down, last year’s South Carolina starter Ryan Hilinski (2,357 passing yards, 11 TDs as a true freshman) could be at a real disadvantage since Hill spent three years with Bobo running the same offensive system. True freshman Luke Doty will have to be reckoned with in August. This is not a bad situation, but it would have been much better with spring practice.
(9) Georgia: Kirby Smart has a new offensive coordinator/quarterback coach in Todd Monken, which means a brand new scheme. He’s also breaking in a new O-line coach in Matt Luke. Additionally, the QB is going to be Wake Forest grad transfer Jamie Newman, who really needed the reps in the spring to learn the offense and adjust to the new personnel. Newman had good stats at Wake Forest – 2,868 passing yards, 26 TDP; 574 rushing yards, six TD – but nine of his 11 interceptions came against the five teams Wake Forest played that posted winning records. Newman might discover that learning a new offense on the fly while going against better secondaries in the SEC than he ever saw in the ACC isn’t quite as easy as he might have thought when he transferred in. Early enrollee freshman Carson Beck doesn’t get the benefit of spring football, so the backup situation is going to be dicey.
(10) Ole Miss: The good news is the Rebels return two quarterbacks with starting experience in John Rhys Plumlee (910 passing yards, four TDs; 1,023 rushing yards, 12 TDs) and Matt Corrall (1,362 passing yards, six TDPs). Both of them could have used the spring to learn new HBC Lane Kiffin’s offense, but Kiffin’s offenses are always very user friendly and he’s a well-known QB guru. The problem is figuring out which one makes the Kiffin offense better? Maybe Kiffin will go with a two QB system at least until either Plumlee or Corrall shows he can make the offense hum along.
(11) LSU: Nobody needed spring football more than Myles Brennan, who has to follow Heisman winner and Tiger legend Joe Burrow. Brennan has always had the big arm but limited experience (three seasons, 600 passing yards, two touchdowns). Brennan spent last year learning his third offense in three years, but now Joe Brady is gone, so he needed the spring to learn a fourth offense. At least when football resumes he’ll be able to throw to Ja’Marr Chase, last year’s Biletnikoff winner. The backups are true freshmen.
(12) Arkansas: Former UF QB and grad transfer Feleipe Franks will have to learn a new offense and win over new teammates without the benefit of spring practice. He’ll be learning from offensive coordinator Kendal Briles, who did well at FAU with Kiffin and at Houston, but whose offense stunk it up last year at FSU. Can Franks play an entire season in new surroundings with new coaches the way he did the last four games at UF in 2018 when he went 4-0 with eight TDPs and four rushing TDs. Behind him are senior Jack Lindsey, redshirt sophomore John Stephen Jones and sophomore K.J. Jefferson, who combined to throw for 424 yards and five touchdowns last year.
(13) Missouri: There is a new coach (Eli Drinkwitz) and a new system to learn. The starting QB is likely to be Shawn Robinson, who sat out last season after transferring in from TCU. In seven starts before he got hurt as a sophomore at TCU in 2018, Robinson threw for 1,334 yards and nine TDs (eight INTs) and ran for 230 yards and three TDs. Taylor Powell, who played in six games and got a start against Georgia last year, is the other experienced QB on the roster. Robinson would have benefitted from spring football, but at least he’s got some starting experience in a Power Five conference. It’s not an ideal situation but it’s not bottom of the barrel, either.
(14) Vanderbilt: All of Vanderbilt’s experienced quarterbacks transferred out and the three best offensive players from last year – running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, wide receiver Kalijah Lipscomb and tight end Jared Pinkney – graduated. Juco transfer Jeremy Moussa and early enrollee freshman Ken Seals were hoping to get a leg up on juco transfer Michael Wright and former Kentucky backup QB Danny Clark, but with no spring practice the already tenuous situation for HBC Derek Mason took a turn for the worse.
A FEW FINAL THOUGHTS: Tom Brady quarterbacking someone other than the New England Patriots? Well, it’s actually going to happen and he’s expected to sign with the Tampa Bay Bucs. Did anyone really expect that? Now what do the Bucs do with Jameis Winston and his $23 million salary? Is there anyone out there who can turn him into a decent NFL QB? … Phillip Rivers signed with the Indianapolis Colts for $25 million which means Jacoby Brissett is almost certainly on the move again … And with Rivers gone from the Chargers, do they spend big bucks for a free agent QB or do they roll the dice and go with a rookie like Justin Herbert of Oregon? … Kevin Durant is one of four Brooklyn Nets to test positive for Corona Virus … Wyoming has hired Northern Colorado coach Jeff Linder to replace fired Allen Edwards … Samford fired former Kentucky big man Scott Padgett … Former Vandy coach Bryce Drew has been hired as the head basketball coach at Grand Canyon … This is how I would have seeded the top four lines if there had been an NCAA Tournament – (1) Kansas, Gonzaga, Dayton, Florida State; (2) Baylor, San Diego State, Kentucky, Villanova; (3) Maryland, Michigan State, Creighton, BYU; (4) Duke, Louisville, Oregon and Auburn.