A few thoughts to jump start your Friday morning:
Even before the opt out of the century by Georgia’s Jamie Newman, Kyle Trask was going to be the best quarterback in the Southeastern Conference and Florida was going to have the league’s best quarterback situation. Here are my rankings of the projected starting quarterbacks in the SEC top to bottom, followed by the ranking of the quarterback situations in the league.
THE STARTING QBs:
1. KYLE TRASK, FLORIDA: He is the top returning passer in the SEC. All signs point to Trask building on what he accomplished last year when he put up the best Florida QB numbers since Tim Tebow and that was after taking over in the fourth quarter of game three. With a more experienced offensive line and a better running game, Trask should have an all-star type of season.
2. K.J. COSTELLO, MISSISSIPPI STATE: Mike Leach’s Air Raid offense is a match made in heaven for Costello, who is a grad transfer from Stanford. Costello didn’t get a spring practice but he’s smart enough to learn the Air Raid without it and there is no question he has an NFL arm. He might lead the nation in passing.
3. KELLEN MOND, TEXAS A&M: It’s not that Mond has been bad in his two years starting for Jimbo Fisher. Quite the opposite, but so much more has been expected. He’s got the size, the arm, the feet and the experience. So why hasn’t he been better and why haven’t the Aggies been more dynamic offensively? He needs to be dynamic for the Aggies to challenge for the SEC West title.
4. MAC JONES, ALABAMA: He’s got an arm made for throwing deep, seriously fast receivers who run the fly route better than any in the country and an offensive coordinator in Steve Sarkisian who has a lot of Steve Spurrier in him. Jones is far better than anyone thought he would be when he was signed out of Bolles.
5. BO NIX, AUBURN: He’s got the arm and he’s got the feet, plus he proved last year he’s exceptional in the fourth quarter at bringing the Tigers from behind in big games (see Oregon, see Alabama). What he has to find is consistency in quarters one through three. If he does that he’ll be dynamic.
6. TERRY WILSON, KENTUCKY: He was on the verge of a really good season in 2019 when he went down in game two with a season-ending injury. Word is that he’s healed well and hasn’t lost any elusiveness. If he has improved his accuracy he could make Kentucky’s offense two-dimensional after basically reverting to single-wing in the last half of 2019.
7. JOHN RHYS PLUMLEE, OLE MISS: Given the talent Ole Miss has at running back combined with Plumlee’s ability to break a long run any time he has the ball in his hands, would anybody be surprised if Lane Kiffin runs some version of the veer to maximize what Plumlee does best?
8. JARRETT GUARANTANO, TENNESSEE: Does a year older make you a year better? Gurantano was good against bad teams, terrible against good ones. He’s got talent but he does a lot of bonehead things that probably make offensive coordinator Jim Chaney wonder if he could make more money with an Amway distributorship.
9. J.T. DANIELS, GEORGIA: Let’s get real here. Maybe he was a 5-star recruit coming out of high school but he wasn’t all that good as a freshman at Southern Cal and if he had remained healthy last season, you can bet the farm Clay Helton would be collecting fat unemployment checks from a humongous buyout. The reason Daniels transferred from USC and why Helton remains gainfully employed has everything to do with the fact he didn’t want to spend the next couple of years backing up Kedon Slovis, a former off the radar recruit who is infinitely better.
10. RYAN HILINSKI, SOUTH CAROLINA: Hilinksi was the master of the two-inch pass last year. Mr. Dink and Dunk has a throw it down the field arm but he needs (a) time to throw and (b) better play calls. If he can’t learn Mike Bobo’s offense in a hurry he won’t start.
11. FELEIPE FRANKS, ARKANSAS: If he’s not still gimpy from that brutal ankle dislocation suffered against Kentucky in game three last season at Florida, Feleipe is going to surprise some people with how well he plays. He’s got a nice system to run and Kendal Briles will tailor it to the things Feleipe does best. It won’t be too complicated and he will be able to take off and run. If he stays within himself instead of trying to be a hero, he’ll put up rather good numbers.
12. MYLES BRENNAN, LSU: Brennan is a fourth-year junior who has grown from a skinny 170-pounder into a solid 210. He has a big league arm but he’ll be operating behind a raw O-line and he won’t have Ja’Marr Chase to throw to. Brennan will have to be much better than expected for LSU to be a factor in the SEC West.
13. SHAWN ROBINSON, MISSOURI: In two seasons at TCU he couldn’t stay healthy. It’s been a year and a half since he last played. He learned an offense coordinated by Derek Dooley last year when he sat out but Dooley and that offense are long since departed replaced by Eli Drinkwitz’s version of the Boise State offense. Robinson does have experience, but when he was at TCU he ran it a whole lot better than he threw it.
14. WHOEVER IS THE QB AT VANDERBILT: It’s anybody’s guess who will start at QB but Vandy’s best bets are probably juco transfers Jeremy Moussa and Danny Clark. Clark started out at Kentucky before leaving for junior college.
RANKING THE QUARTERBACK UNITS IN THE SEC
1. FLORIDA: Not only do the Gators have the top starting quarterback in the SEC but they have a backup in Emory Jones who got to play in a lot of critical situations last year as a redshirt freshman. Dan Mullen won’t go with a two-quarterback system, but he will find a way to use both Trask and Jones effectively. True freshman Anthony Richardson is a future star who will be Captain Clipboard this year unless it’s a blowout.
2. MISSISSIPPI STATE: Maybe it’s a brand new offense but Costello is bright enough to pick it up without the benefit of spring practice. Backup Garrett Shrader was a part-time starter last year and the future of the program. Leach will figure out a way to get him on the field.
3. TEXAS A&M: The Aggies don’t have an experienced backup but Kellen Mond is in his third year playing for Jimbo Fisher and redshirt freshman backup Zach Calzada is in his second year in the offense. Calzada might be relegated to third string if true freshman Haynes King is anywhere as good as the hype.
4. ALABAMA: There isn’t an experienced backup but Mac Jones is his second year working with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian and expected true freshman backup Bryce Young reminds a lot of people of former Oklahoma Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.
5. OLE MISS: If Ole Miss doesn’t go with an option attack then Lane Kiffin will run a two QB system to take advantage of Plumlee’s feet and Matt Corral’s arm. Corral throws the ball well enough that he could start at half the SEC schools right now. Redshirt freshman Grant Tisdale has a lot of ability. He entered the transfer portal but decided to come back.
6. AUBURN: Bo Nix is an Auburn legend in the making but if he goes down the Tigers have problems. There isn’t any experience among the backups. Don’t be surprised if true freshman Chayil Garnett moves past Cord Sandberg as the backup.
7. TENNESSEE: Guarantano and backup Brian Maurer have the benefit of a full year working with OC Jim Chaney. Guarantano has to find a measure of consistency and Maurer has to stay healthy. If Maurer isn’t healthy, then the backup role should be taken by true freshman Harrison Bailey.
8. GEORGIA: J.T. Daniels has zero in the way of mobility and he will operate behind an inexperienced O-line. Stetson Bennett IV got mop-up duty last year but if he has to play starter’s minutes Georgia is in trouble. The other options are D’Wan Mathis, who had brain surgery last year, and true freshman Carson Beck.
9. KENTUCKY: Terry Wilson is coming off an ACL injury and Joey Gatewood doesn’t have his NCAA waiver yet. Sawyer Smith is the backup if Gatewood can’t go. Wilson better stay healthy.
10. SOUTH CAROLINA: Hilinski has to learn it’s legal to throw it downfield and Colorado State grad transfer Collin Hill has to stay healthy. Smart money is on Hilinski to hold down the starting job and improve dramatically under Mike Bobo.
11. LSU: Brennan has been around four years and he’s worked with Steve Ensminger the entire time so that counts for something. Behind him are a bunch of kids who have never taken a college football snap. Max Johnson, son of former FSU and Tampa Bay Bucs QB Brad Johnson, will probably be the backup.
12. ARKANSAS: If Feleipe Franks goes down, the Hogs are in serious trouble. None of the three backups who played last year completed 50% of their passes and that was in a quarterback friendly offense. Expect true freshman Malik Hornsby to settle in as Franks’ backup.
13. MISSOURI: Robinson should be the starter simply because he’s played two seasons of Division I football. He might surprise people if he can figure out he’s supposed to throw to the people wearing the same color shirt he has on. If he can’t get the job done, Drinkwitz might turn to true freshman Brady Cook.
14. VANDERBILT: There isn’t a quarterback on the roster who has ever taken a Division I snap. Whoever is the QB will be operating behind the worst O-line in the SEC. The operating phrase will be “Feets don’t fail me now!”
AARON MURRAY SPEAKS OUT ON THE JAMIE NEWMAN OPT OUT: Aaron Murray, the former Georgia quarterback who led the Poodles to one of their recent Near National Titles (NNTs) spoke out about the opt out of Jamie Newman, who he thinks could have been a Near Heisman Trophy winner (NHT):
“I don’t know if it was an agent telling him he needs to stay, I don’t know who it was, but I think he lost out on an opportunity to be a better quarterback. To win possibly an SEC, to make it in the playoffs, to be a Heisman contender and I think he pissed away millions of dollars in my opinion.”
Heisman contender? Pissed away millions of dollars? Oh please.
A FEW PITHY THOUGHTS: Instead of furloughing the entire NCAA staff for the next few weeks, why didn’t Mark Emmert offer up about $3 million or so of his bloated $3.9 million salary to keep a few folks working? I’m convinced that if Emmert had a brain he would take it out and play with it … Other than make a lot of the low level employees sweat out the rent and groceries for the next few weeks, about the only thing accomplished by the furloughs are to delay transfer waiver decisions for both football and basketball … The way the Jacksonville Jaguars are either trading or cutting anyone with talent it seems the front office has decided to make the short list of the worst teams in NFL history and in doing so earn the right to draft either Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence or Ohio State’s Justin Fields. If I’m Fields or Lawrence I’m not amused. Both of them need to do an Eli Manning and tell the Jags that if they’re drafted by Jacksonville they refuse to sign … The Seattle Seahawks signed wide receiver Josh Gordon Thursday. He’s been suspended six times since 2013, five times for substance abuse. Like, we’re supposed to believe he’s learned his lesson and he’ll go straight? There are two chances he makes it through the season without being suspended for drugs: no way and no how.