A loaded schedule produced few positive performances from SEC passers in Week 1, and for some schools, it didn’t offer much clarity on their quarterback competitions, either.
As I wrote in The Crock Pot, 23 quarterbacks attempted at least one pass for SEC teams, and seven teams used multiple quarterbacks. Collectively, they threw for 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and a 56 percent completion rate. Chad Kelly, the conference’s beacon of hope under center, threw three picks and fumbled against Florida State on Monday.
Alabama played three quarterbacks. Auburn played three quarterbacks. Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State each played two.
Let’s pick up the pieces and find out where this crop of signal callers can go from here in the Week 2 edition of our SEC quarterbacks Q&A:
Has LSU already soured on Brandon Harris?
Coach Les Miles and right-hand man Cam Cameron received a tongue-lashing from their fan base after Saturday’s loss to Wisconsin — and deservedly so. Quarterback Brandon Harris threw a horrendous interception at the end of the game, and the Tigers’ loaded offense mustered just seven points at Lambeau Field.
For now, Miles is only making one major offensive change: Cameron is going back to the coaches’ booth. But The Mad Hatter also offered a telling quote about his criticized quarterback.
“I recognize that he’s got to still come (along),” Miles said. “We all do. And he doesn’t have a lifetime to do it. There are other quarterbacks to go to.”
Miles knows he’s coaching for his job this year. If Harris continues to be LSU’s weak link once SEC play starts, we could actually see Danny Etling.
An ex-Purdue backup under center for a team like LSU would perfectly encapsulate the problems of the Miles era. His staff spent a whole offseason feeding us fluff about how the offense would look different, more dynamic and that Harris looked better than ever.
What did we see on Saturday? The same tired song and dance. Harris will get his mulligan, but he did not look like the answer.
Can we expect more from Austin Allen against TCU?
The first-time Arkansas starter wasn’t exactly perfect against Louisiana Tech last weekend — 20 of 29, 191 yards, 2 TDs and 2 INTs — but neither was the usually-stout Arkansas rushing attack. Bret Bielema better hope he can get more than 2.65 yards per carry against TCU, a team that allowed 41 points to South Dakota State in Week 1.
Offensively, the Hogs always will rely on their stable of backs and that big O-line. But Allen will have to keep pace with former Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill for his team to have a chance.
Here’s why that’s possible:
Last season, the Horned Frogs allowed 29 passing plays of 30-plus yards. Against South Dakota State, they allowed four. Coach Gary Patterson’s defense is complex in that it often features elements of both man and zone coverage on the same play, and relies on a defender’s ability to read the offense and pick up on patterns.
Misreads tend to result in busted coverages and one-on-one matchups. Arkansas has the receiving threats — Drew Morgan, Keon Hatcher, Jeremy Sprinkle — to challenge TCU’s corners deep and take advantage of this. Offensive coordinator Dan Enos should put them in position to do so.
The question is whether Allen can hit them, and whether his offensive line will afford him time in the pocket. If both happen, this game spells massive growth for the Arkansas offense.
Is Jalen Hurts legit?
Derrick Henry seems to think so.
Aside from that, it’s obvious that Alabama has a future stud in its freshman signal caller. His supporting cast is stacked and Lane Kiffin is an offensive genius, sure. He also made freshman mistakes — an interception, a fumbled snap.
But accounting for four total touchdowns in your first college game? Against a ranked Southern Cal team on a neutral field?
For Nick Saban to sign off on playing Hurts in Week 1 means he must have been lighting up those Crimson Tide scrimmages and practices. After Saturday, that wouldn’t surprise anyone.
You’ve got to feel for Blake Barnett. He completed 5 of 6 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown in his first career start, but he’s basically been the secondary story all week. He may or may not start again versus Western Kentucky. Regardless, Hurts will keep seeing the field until he proves he doesn’t belong there.
In one game, No. 2 looked special, and he’ll only get better.
Should Georgia keep handling its quarterbacks the same way?
The good news for Kirby Smart: It doesn’t really matter this week.
The Bulldogs play Nicholls State, an FCS team that went 3-8 last season, so they figure to rotate Jacob Eason and Greyson Lambert again on Saturday. Whoever Kirby Smart names his Week 2 “starter” is inconsequential.
The next two games — at Missouri and at Ole Miss — are far from it.
If Georgia truly felt Eason deserved to have full rein of the offense, Lambert wouldn’t have been under center in hurry-up situations against UNC last weekend. Our first taste of Eason should give Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney further confidence in him — there were no horrible freshman mistakes, and he looked poised while going 8 of 12 for 131 yards — but the two coaches also seem fine bringing him along cautiously until he’s 100 percent ready.
Lambert didn’t exactly play himself out of the job against UNC, going 5 for 8 for 54 yards with no interceptions.
Eason’s arm clearly offers more, but starting in a true road game atmosphere against a conference foe is asking a lot of an 18-year-old, regardless of how many stars are attached to his name. Faurot Field won’t be anything like the Georgia Dome or Sanford Stadium.
Barring a drastic turn of events, the senior should start Week 3 against Missouri. To the chagrin of many Georgia fans, I should add. That’s the safe play for an SEC East contender.
If Lambert shows any sign of struggling, though, they’ll yank him faster than you can say “Brian Schottenheimer.”
What exactly can Auburn do at quarterback?
On a serious note, it’ll be hard to manage quarterbacks worse than Auburn did against Clemson last Saturday. I’m willing to bet we see a lot less of the goofy gimmicks and a lot more of Sean White handing off to Kerryon Johnson and Kamryn Pettway. John Franklin III will serve as White’s primary backup, with Jeremy Johnson left floating in the wind.
“(The game plan) wasn’t successful like I thought it would be. So we’re going to move forward with Sean White and bring along John Franklin,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.
Clemson is a great team, and Auburn should improve on its 2.1 yards-per-carry average.
White (10 of 21, 140 yards passing, 1 interception) is the safest bet of the bunch and should start for the next few weeks, at least. If the Tigers actually stick with him and he develops, a vastly improved defense looks like it can carry this team to bowl season.
Should White and his backups continue to flounder… Lane Kiffin probably could design some neat plays for Woody Barrett next year.
Which SEC quarterback is under the most pressure this week?
This normally would be Harris in light of his head coach’s comments. But with LSU playing Jacksonville State on Saturday, Josh Dobbs is the clear choice.
Dobbs definitely wasn’t the only source of offensive ugliness for Tennessee against Appalachian State. The line looked a mess. Jalen Hurd and Alvin Kamara never found much daylight, as the Vols averaged 2.9 yards per carry. Offensive coordinator Mike DeBord kept the game plan pretty vanilla — understandable, as you try not to use all your tricks against a Sun Belt team.
But Dobbs looked shaky, for sure. His on-field demeanor did not match that of a senior leader playing in his 25th college game. The App State defensive line was in his face and had him forcing throws he normally never forces.
Finishing 16 of 29 passing for 192 yards, a touchdown and a pick? That’s not the droid they’re looking for on Rocky Top, especially not this season.
Another close, sloppy win on the national stage against Virginia Tech would further hurt Tennessee’s hopes. A loss would be disastrous for a program some say lacks a killer instinct.
It’s time for Dobbs to press reset and re-write the 2016 narrative for Tennessee.