Several young SEC quarterbacks had their first real tests, including star freshmen Jalen Hurts and Jacob Eason, who made their first road starts.
Brandon McIlwain and Danny Etling also made their first starts, while Stephen Johnson found an opening after Drew Barker was injured. The level of SEC quarterback play continues to rise as young players get more experience.
See how your favorite SEC quarterback graded out in Week 3:
Austin Allen: A-
Stats: 16-21 for 241 yards, 2 TDs
There isn’t much to say about this one. The Arkansas signal-caller rolled against a weak Texas State team and got to rest in the second half. It was a nice tune-up before a major matchup against Texas A&M next week.
Stephen Johnson: A-
Stats: 17-22 for 310 yards, 3 TDs; 10 carries for 51 yards
Kentucky narrowly avoided disaster against New Mexico State, but it wasn’t Johnson’s fault. After coming in to replace an injured Drew Barker, Johnson played a nearly flawless game. Regardless of how you feel about ESPN’s QBR metric, a 92.2 out of 100 in his first real minutes at the major college level is impressive. Mark Stoops will have to consider starting Johnson next week against South Carolina.
Drew Lock: B
Stats: 23-38 for 376 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs
Lock looked like the best quarterback in the SEC for a half – and he still might be. Despite being asked to carry the Missouri offense against an excellent Georgia secondary, Lock threw for 376 yards and led the Tigers to a lead for much of the second half. Turnovers hurt Mizzou opportunities late, but Lock should only continue to improve as the season goes on.
Jacob Eason: B-
Stats: 29-55 for 308 yards, 3 TDs, INT
Eason was inefficient and made mistakes throughout, but he was poised and decisive as he led Georgia to his first game-winning drive. He connected with WR Isaiah McKenzie for a beautiful 20-yard pass for what proved to be the winning touchdown. Picking up a win in your first SEC start on the road is not easy.
Chad Kelly: B-
Stats: 26-41 for 421 yards, 3 TDs, INT; 13 carries for 48 yards
Ole Miss fell to Alabama on Saturday, but don’t blame Kelly. Even though he had a key interception and fumble returned for a touchdown, Kelly was the brightest spot against a dominant Alabama defense. Kelly received little to no help from the running game, as he led the team in yards on the ground. His mistakes played a part in the loss, but Kelly played well enough to win.
Jalen Hurts: B-
Stats: 19-31 for 158 yards; 18 rushes for 146 yards
Hurts wasn’t exceptional, but he made all the necessary plays in a key victory against Ole Miss, Alabama’s first against the Rebels since 2013. Hurts failed to score a touchdown for the first time in his career (an oddity for a team that scored 48 points), but led the team in rushing against a strong Ole Miss front. He survived his first road start, which often is a true freshman quarterback’s first real test.
Josh Dobbs: C+
Stats: 19-27 for 203 yards, 2 TDs, INT; 14 rushes for 59 yards, TD
Dobbs was fine in Tennessee’s win against Ohio, but the offense stalled at times against an exceedingly mediocre Ohio team. The Volunteers were favored by 27.5 points, but Tennessee barely reached that mark on its own. Tennessee needed a late touchdown to pull away and win, but Dobbs delivered.
Trevor Knight: C+
Stats: 20-40 for 247 yards, TD; 12 carries for 42
Knight wasn’t great, but he was good enough in Texas A&M’s win against Auburn. The senior led a touchdown drive in the second quarter and kept other drives alive with his feet. The offense fell asleep for a stretch in the second half, but Knight made key plays against a strong Auburn defense.
Danny Etling: C
Stats: 19-30 for 215, TD; 3 carries for 23 yards
Etling was extremely average, but that is exactly what LSU needed. He led the Tigers to a pair of touchdown drives in the first quarter and seemed to put Mississippi State away early. An inconsistent second half keeps his grade down, but Etling earned the starting job for at least one more week.
Brandon McIlwain: C
Stats: 16-28 for 195 yards; 9 carries for 34 yards, 2 TDs
McIlwain won the starting job at South Carolina over Perry Orth and should hold on to it after this weekend’s game. The true freshman ran for two touchdowns in the first 5 minutes and led another first-quarter field goal drive. However, the Gamecocks failed to score again until the fourth quarter. McIlwain should get more consistent as he gets more reps.
Luke Del Rio: C-
Stats: 14-25 for 186 yards, INT
Del Rio went out at the end of the third quarter with an injury that probably will keep him out of Florida’s showdown against Tennessee. However, the starter was unimpressive through three quarters. The opponent – North Texas – is one of the worst teams in football, but Florida was held to 19 points through three quarters. It seems like Florida might have to lean on its defense for yet another week.
Nick Fitzgerald/Damian Williams: D+
Stats: 17-32 for 214 yards, TD; 16 carries for 10 yards, TD
The quarterback performance was underwhelming this week as Mississippi State got down early against LSU. Fitzgerald was pulled after his team fell behind 23-6 and Williams scored a pair of late touchdowns to pad the numbers and make it look more interesting.
Kyle Shurmur: D+
Stats: 17-26 for 149 yards, TD, INT
It wasn’t all Shurmur’s fault, but the Vanderbilt offense struggled mightily against Georgia Tech. Shurmur led an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive on the first possession of the game, but mustered only 3.2 yards per play the rest of the way. Shurmur was later benched for Wade Freebeck.
Sean White/John Franklin III: D
Stats: 22-35 for 163 yards; 17 carries for 45 yards
Auburn’s defense has been stellar; unfortunately, the offense has not followed. The Tigers failed to score on 11 of 14 offensive drives, including a 27-minute scoreless stretch in the second half. Texas A&M has a good defense, but it’s not THAT good. Auburn has to go back to the drawing board this week.