The 2016 season is over, and rosters are starting to come together for 2017. It’s the perfect time to come together and evaluate each team’s quarterback situation for next season.
Quarterback issues were a significant part of the SEC’s struggles last season, but starters return at 12 of the 14 schools. The turnaround should be immediate.We’re starting with the undisputed kings of the SEC.
To clarify, this grade takes into account a team’s entire quarterback situation, including backups. Just having a great starter isn’t necessarily good enough to earn a quality grade.
Make sure and read all our quarterback installments:
Alabama Crimson Tide | Arkansas Razorbacks | Auburn Tigers | Florida Gators | Georgia Bulldogs | Kentucky Wildcats | LSU Tigers | Mississippi State Bulldogs | Missouri Tigers | Ole Miss Rebels | South Carolina | Tennessee Volunteers | Texas A&M Aggies | Vanderbilt Commodores
Alabama Crimson Tide
Key returners: Jalen Hurts (sophomore)
Returning production: 240-382 for 2,780 yards, 23 TDs, 9 INTs; 191 carries for 954 yards, 13 TDs
Departing production: 23-33 for 338 yards, 3 TDs
Evaluating Alabama’s quarterbacks is an exceptionally difficult task after the College Football Playoff. As a true freshman, Hurts dominated the SEC to the tune of 13-0 and SEC Offensive Player of the Year. His running ability changed the dynamic in Tuscaloosa and allowed for one of the most efficient offenses in college football. Hurts is set up to be one of the great players in SEC history, especially if he stays all four years.
But against the better teams in the country, Hurts looked like a true freshman. Alabama played against 5 top 10 defenses per defensive S&P+ in 2016: LSU, Auburn, Florida, Washington and Clemson. He was ineffective passing against all but Auburn. In the other four games, he averaged just 108.3 yards per game and 5.2 yards per attempt. That went down to 4.2 yards per attempt in the College Football Playoff against a Pac-12 team and an ACC opponent.
Granted, Hurts made an impact in all of those games with his legs. Against LSU, he ran for a game-winning touchdown. He appeared to do the same against Clemson in the national title game before Deshaun Watson led a historically great drive. And again, these were top 10 defenses — most quarterbacks couldn’t throw consistently against them.
Hurts will develop into a much better passer. He was a true freshman, for goodness sake! The SEC should be terrified. But at this point, he gets docked a few points for being somewhat one-dimensional.
Backup quarterback is a position of intrigue. After starting the season with a four-man depth chart, Hurts took over the second game. Blake Barnett transferred to Arizona State almost immediately, while David Cornwell and Cooper Bateman followed him after the season. That leaves the well exceptionally dry.
The Tide are adding elite Hawaiian quarterback recruit Tua Tagovailoa to the mix in the spring. While Tagovailoa will develop into a nice player, asking a true freshman to be an instant backup is a significant challenge. What Hurts did is patently abnormal. At this moment, it appears Mac Jones will also be third string as the only other scholarship quarterback on the roster. It would certainly not be unprecedented for Nick Saban to consider adding a graduate transfer quarterback to the mix for depth.
Quarterback potential at Alabama might be better than any other team in the nation. It’s terrifying to think how the Tide will grow. But for now, Alabama’s quarterbacks rate as above average with development required.