Perhaps the future of SEC passing offenses doesn’t look so bleak after all.
There still are a couple of quarterback controversies lingering in the conference, but for the most part Week 2 was highlighted by a refreshing number of promising games from young quarterbacks.
Jalen Hurts once again looked the part of future star for Alabama. Sean White and the Auburn offense found their rhythm against Arkansas State. And Dan Mullen seems to have found his next dual-threat passer in Nick Fitzgerald.
Let’s dive into some more quarterback questions in the Week 3 edition of SEC Country’s Q&A column:
Danny Etling: Upgrade or more of the same?
You know things are bad in Baton Rouge when a former Purdue backup who went 6 for 14 passing against Jacksonville State is treated like a savior.
Etling made a handful of solid throws after Brandon Harris was pulled in the second quarter. He also made some lousy ones (see below). Perhaps he becomes a better game manager than Harris, but that’s not saying a lot.
Les Miles told the media Wednesday that Etling will take the first snap against Mississippi State. In all likelihood, he and Harris will split time.
Whether Etling plays 60 offensive snaps or 20, though, I don’t see LSU changing much. Miles and Cam Cameron are set in their ways; Leonard Fournette will continue getting 26 touches a game, Derrius Guice will get three and the Tigers will waste the great receivers receivers they have.
So long as the dinosaur offense reigns supreme under Miles, LSU always will be limited offensively.
Josh Dobbs clearly hasn’t improved as a passer; does it matter?
Short answer: no.
Dobbs only accounted for 91 passing yards against Virginia Tech. But he rushed for 106 yards and a pair of touchdowns, and that played a much bigger role in Tennessee storming back to a 45-24 win. (Well, that and the Hokies fumbling left and right.)
Last season, the Vols were 4-2 in games in which Dobbs threw for fewer than 150 yards — and the two losses were noted choke jobs against Oklahoma and Florida. He rushed for 118 yards against the Gators and put his team in position to win that one.
Would it be nice for Tennessee if Dobbs could be the guy who sliced up Georgia for 300-plus yards last year? Absolutely. But all the Vols need to win is competent offensive line play, Jalen Hurd playing workhorse and Dobbs not making mistakes. Actually getting Alvin Kamara involved wouldn’t hurt, either.
Can Chad Kelly make history against Alabama?
A phenomenal stat resurfaced this week: Nick Saban hasn’t lost to a team three times in a row since doing so to Purdue (1997-99) during the Drew Brees years. The last quarterback to beat Saban back-to-back? Florida’s Rex Grossman, who did so in 2000 and 2001 when Saban coached LSU.
Kelly has a chance to join Brees and Grossman on Saturday. Last year, he played lights out in Tuscaloosa (18 of 33, 341 yards, 3 touchdowns), but Ole Miss still needed five Alabama turnovers and a ridiculous 66-yard tip-drill touchdown to pull off the upset.
The Rebels will have home field advantage this time around, but they’ll be without a ton of talent from the 2015 squad. No Laremy Tunsil to stonewall Kelly’s blind side — ready or not, here comes Jonathan Allen. And no Laquon Treadwell or Cody Core, who combined for 9 catches and 203 yards receiving in that game.
The biggest revelation from Kelly’s collapse against Florida State: His decision-making still needs to improve. There’s a great film breakdown at Red Cup Rebellion that illustrates this quite well; at times, Kelly still has tunnel vision and doesn’t see the entire field. Alabama will feast if that happens again.
The SEC’s leading passer through Week 2 is… Drew Lock?
Believe it or not, yes. Lock has attempted 88 passes — more than Trevor Knight, Kelly or anyone else — that have resulted in 730 yards, 6 touchdowns and no interceptions. A giant chunk of that production came in Missouri’s win against Eastern Michigan, but before you write that off, the Eagles fielded the nation’s No. 33 pass defense last year. LSU threw for only 80 yards against them in 2015, for comparison.
The Mizzou offense under new coordinator Josh Heupel already looks drastically different — a Baylor-esque spread scheme that tests you vertically while sprinkling in power running up the middle. Heupel also is one of the few play-callers to really get the best of a Kirby Smart defense in recent years.
Here’s what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s Dave Matter wrote to Dawg Nation on the subject:
At least five offensive players interviewed Monday mentioned the 2014 Sugar Bowl, when Heupel’s Oklahoma offense shredded Smart’s Alabama defense for 429 yards. The offense has been watching that film and it’s obvious we’ll see some elements from OU’s game plan show up on Saturday, possibly the heavy use of presnap shifts and motions the Sooners used.”
Five offense players talked about that game. Think Heupel is dipping into his old bag of tricks? The Bulldogs could have a tough one on their hands.
Does Jacob Eason deserve to start against Missouri?
Speaking of Georgia, its prized freshman quarterback and its offense went through major growing pains last weekend. Eason, who went 11 of 20 for 204 yards, a touchdown and a pick, looked like a future star on some plays and an antsy youngster on others. In his defense, the offensive line was atrocious, receivers dropped a few passes and the running game couldn’t muster any sort of push against an FCS team.
Georgia made its situation more interesting by playing senior Greyson Lambert for the last couple of drives, and he probably made the biggest throw of the game — a third-down conversion in Bulldogs territory with Nicholls State trailing by two.
Smart maintains that he isn’t committed to one quarterback or the other, and an SEC road game environment could be tough on a freshman. Eason’s upside is way higher, though. Lambert is the safer choice, but if Smart and offensive coordinator Jim Chaney are committed to developing Eason (and they better be), you start Eason for the experience and to build offensive cohesion.
Who’ll be better, Luke Del Rio or Austin Allen?
They looked like a couple of the SEC’s more promising young passers on Saturday. Allen wowed the college football world with a dramatic performance in Arkansas’ road upset of TCU. Del Rio torched Kentucky and was responsible for Florida’s highest SEC-game passing total since 2004 (320 yards).
Who has the higher ceiling in 2016? It’s close, but for now the edge probably goes to Allen, who already has played in two close games that were high-pressure (for very different reasons). Del Rio hasn’t been tested like that yet — the Gators defense has given up 14 points in two games and feasted on Kentucky last week. UMass kept its game close, but not 1-point close like Arkansas-Louisiana Tech.
Florida travels to Fayetteville on Nov. 5, so we’ll get a better look then.