SEC Bloggers: 5 Thoughts on QBs
Miss State's Chris Relf
Miss State's Chris Relf
Posted May 23, 2011

CFN's SEC Bloggers put the conference's quarterback position under the microscope

Gabe Harris: On who are the SEC's best returning QBs?

First things first, who are the proven QBs that are returning period? Some of the best are gone, including Cam Newton, Greg McElroy, Ryan Mallett, and Mike Hartline. I would argue that those four were the SEC's best QBs in 2010.

The starters returning are LSU's Jordan Jefferson, MSU's Chris Relf, UT's Tyler Bray, UGA's Aaron Murray and USC's Stephen Garcia, maybe. Jefferson and Garcia are on slippery slopes for different reasons. Juco transfer Zach Mettenberger is breathing down Jefferson's neck, while Garcia is his own worst enemy. No one would confuse Jefferson with one of the best and Mettenberger hasn't taken a snap at LSU, so he is an unknown. Of course, the same could be said for Cam Newton this time last year. As for Garcia, he took South Carolina to uncharted territory in 2010, but how do you count on him?

So that leaves Chris Relf, Tyler Bray, and Aaron Murray as returning starters who could lead the league. The only presumed new starter that we think could join the party is Arkansas' Tyler Wilson. Below, Brian outlines several reasons why. I'm interested to see how Wilson plays with all the pressure on him, though I think he will do well. Relf finished 2010 strong after a slow start, but threw for more than 1,700 yards, a completion percentage near 60%, a QB rating of 140, and in his last three games accounted for eight TDs vs. two TOs with a completion percentage near 70%. Tyler Bray has a lot of momentum coming into 2011 and threw for 300+ yards in four of his last five games (winning 4-of-5), while adding 16 TDs. Aaron Murray had as good a freshman season as any QB in recent memory: he completed 61% of his passes for 3,049 yards, 24 TDs to eight INTs, and had a QB rating of 155.

These guys are young and still have a long way to go to reach last year's top QBs cumulative resumes. They have the talent and the team situations to get it done, though. The best part is they are young, and we get the opportunity to watch them become the best QBs in the SEC.

Brian Harbach: On who will be the next breakout QB?

There will be no dancing around with this answer - expect big things from Arkansas' Tyler Wilson this year. Wilson has become a polarizing figure this offseason, with some thinking his breakout performance against Auburn was due to Auburn's soft secondary and the Tigers propensity to make backup quarterbacks look like Heisman contenders. While both those statements may be true, they should not take away from what Wilson did, nor the system in which Wilson plays.

There are three reasons to love Wilson this year. First, this spring was the second consecutive that he has led the first team offense. Last year Ryan Mallett was hurt and Wilson was the man through the entire spring practice. Second, Bobby Petrino knows how to coach quarterbacks. Petrino turns mediocre quarterbacks into good ones, and good into great. Think about the guys he had at Louisville... Stefan Lefors was drafted in the fourth round because of Petrino's coaching.

Last but not least, the throws Wilson made against Auburn last year were as wide ranging as the Arkansas offense. Tyler showed good touch on a wheel route, he threw the slant well, he squeezed the ball in some tight windows on a post, and had no problem with the deep ball. It wasn't a situation where the backup comes in and the coach ponders "how do we pare down the playbook?" Petrino knew the entire passing game was available, and that says a lot about Wilson.

The Tyler Wilson Wagon is picking up steam - expect him to have a great year. The Arkansas offense might be even better with him at quarterback than Mallett.

Barrett Sallee: On which team has the most riding on the QB position?

It has to be the Georgia Bulldogs. Aaron Murray enters his sophomore season not only as the SEC's top quarterback, but the quarterback in the conference with the most pressure on his shoulder pads. The natives are restless in Athens, and if Murray suffers a (redshirt) sophomore slump, not only will the fan base be unhappy, but head coach Mark Richt may be looking for a job in January.

There's no denying how good Murray was during his freshman season. His freshman numbers - 209-of-304 for 3,049 yards, 24 touchdowns and only eight interceptions - eclipsed those of Georgia legend David Greene. Not bad company to be in, to say the least. It sounds crazy, but a repeat performance from Murray almost seems expected at this point, despite the loss of leading receiver A.J. Green and leading rusher Washaun Ealey.

Murray is in a very unique position: not only does Richt's employment hinge on his ability to lead an offense that's chock-full of question marks, but the Dawgs also have a schedule that's soft enough to make the SEC East championship a legitimate possibility. The division is wide open, and if Murray can lead his team to a victory over South Carolina in Week 2, it should be "Atlanta Or Bust" for the Bulldogs.

Is it unfair to say that Murray need win a division championship to save his coach's job? Probably. But that's the position that the sophomore from Tampa finds himself in - mostly due to reasons outside of his own control.

Billy Gomila: On which SEC school is today's QB U?

I don't think any SEC school truly has a monopoly on producing NFL QB talent at the moment. Four have produced first-round picks in the last decade, but none with any sort of regularity to brag. However, if there's a school that has found a way to insure a consistent level of steady play, today, it's probably Auburn. At least so long as Gus Malzahn is in town.

While every quarterback isn't going to drive the Gus Bus the way Cam Newton did, the system is based on a strong running game, misdirection and a core group of passing concepts. Lather, rinse and repeat and it creates a solid recipe that is difficult to screw up. Chris Todd might have just been a reincarnation the artist formerly known as Patrick Nix/Daniel Cobb/Brandon Cox, but he was able to keep things respectable before Newton came to town.

The running game is dominant and diverse enough (especially with the running back talent on hand) to lean on for long stretches, and the passing game is incredibly well-constructed. A specific group of route combinations, repeated ad nauseum from multiple formations, mixed with a lot of play-action and screens...

Quarterbacks have hit the ground running in this system at all of Malzahn's previous stops, and so long as he remains at Auburn, they should be able to expect a decent level of play.

Russ Mitchell: On who will be the conference's next first round NFL quarterback?

LSU's Jordan Jefferson. C'mon Tiger fans, you gotta laugh or you'll cry.

Given what is clearly a down year (again) for the conference at the position (in terms of breadth), some would consider this a difficult question. Outside of Chris Relf at MSU and Stephen "throw me a party" Garcia at SC, there's very little experience - very little in the form of an extended track record to support such a claim for any quarterback. With perhaps the lone exception of UGA's talented redshirt sophomore Aaron Murray.

Yes, it was just a single year - but what a year. Murray set a freshman record by passing for more than 3,000 yards, while posting a stellar quarterback rating of 167. He may have started slowly and put up some of his gaudiest numbers against his weaker opponents, but who doesn't? Besides, outside of the Beltway, numbers don't lie...

Murray ended the season as the most prolific frosh in Georgia school history (3,216 total offensive yards) - which was good enough for second best in SEC lore. He also tied a Bulldog record for the most TD passes ever thrown in one season (24), and ran for four more. Which rhymes with lore.
For these reasons, and the fact that he's eligible following this year, we'll take Mr,. Murray as the conference's next best shot at a first round QB pick. Now, if only Georgia had a proven, stable offensive line/backfield/receiving corps....

Please follow Russ Mitchell on Twitter @russmitchellsec, Brian Harbach @harbabd and Barrett Sallee @barrettsallee.

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