After a season of transition and turmoil at the quarterback position in the SEC, the postseason has provided … more transition and turmoil.
Will Grier’s decision to transfer from Florida made him the sixth quarterback to leave an SEC school since the end of the regular season. Five of them started at least one game in 2015. One touted graduate transfer, Dakota Prukop, chose Oregon over Alabama.
This was already a rough season for quarterbacks in the SEC, in part because of the general lack of experience at the position. Now Florida and Texas A&M, if graduate transfer Trevor Knight doesn’t choose the Aggies, will join a group of teams that could be leaning on inexperienced players at the most critical position in 2016.
So what does the quarterback situation look like for each SEC school in 2016? There’s still time for more transfers or a last-second commitment (or de-commitment), but here’s where everyone stacks up right now:
NOTE: Players are classified by what they will be in 2016
1. Ole Miss
Incumbent: Senior Chad Kelly (3,740 yards, 27 TDs, 12 INTs)
Contenders: Freshman Shea Patterson (No. 2 pro-style), junior Ryan Buchanan (96 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT)
This is contingent on “Swag” Kelly returning to Ole Miss for his senior season. If Kelly comes back, the Rebels have the best combination of experience and talent in reserve of anyone in the conference for 2016. The Rebels are likely to lose most of their other impact players, but getting Kelly back would make them a definite contender.
Incumbent: Senior Joshua Dobbs (2,125 yards, 15 TDs, 5 INTs)
Contenders: Sophomore Quinten Dormady (181 yards, 1 TD), freshman Jarrett Guarantano (No. 1 dual-threat)
Dobbs showed flashes of being an elite quarterback in 2015, so maybe he will fulfill his vast promise next year. Dormady and Guarantano were both highly-rated recruits. Dobbs could be the only starting quarterback in the East during Week 1 of 2016 with more than five career starts, pending what happens at a couple other potential contenders. The Vols could be a trendy pick to win the division next year.
Contenders: Sophomore Sean White (1,064 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs), senior Jeremy Johnson (1,043 yards, 9 TDs, 7 INTs), junior college transfer John Franklin III (No. 1 JUCO athlete), freshman Woody Barrett (No. 4 dual-threat), redshirt freshman Tyler Harris (No. 15 pro-style in 2015)
White replaced Johnson, but then got hurt during a disappointing season for the Tigers. Franklin III didn’t start at his junior college (the one Chad Kelly also went too), but he has said he can win the Auburn job next season. It could be a crowded competition in the fall if either Johnson or White doesn’t take control of the job in the spring.
Incumbent: Senior Greyson Lambert (1,844 yards, 11 TDs, 2 INTs)
Contenders: junior Brice Ramsey (247 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs), Jacob Eason (No. 1 pro-style)
Eason might be the most-likely true freshman in the country to start at quarterback next season. That said, Lambert had his moments (albeit against lesser competition) and is going to compete to retain his job. One way for a first-year coach to put the brakes on expectations is definitely to start a true freshman at quarterback though.
Contenders: Junior Cooper Bateman (291 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs), redshirt freshman Blake Barnett (No. 2 pro-style in 2015), freshman Jalen Hurts (No. 6 dual-threat), redshirt sophomore David Cornwell (No. 4 pro-style in 2014)
This could be a third-straight season where Alabama starts training camp with no idea who its starting quarterback is going to be. Prukop would have been the favorite had he chosen the Crimson Tide, but Bateman or Barnett seems most likely at this point. Given the talent around them, someone will be in a position to be competent at a minimum.
Incumbent: Junior Brandon Harris (1,904 yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs)
Contenders: Redshirt freshman Justin McMillan (No. 36 dual-threat in 2015), senior Anthony Jennings (1,611 yards, 11 TDs, 7 INTS in 2014), junior Danny Etling (transfer from Purdue)
Harris will have 13 starts heading into next season, which will be tied with Chad Kelly and Treon Harris for the second-most in the SEC behind Joshua Dobbs. He did not progress as much as the Tigers needed him to this season, but who is going to dislodge him in 2016? There have also been no indications that Cam Cameron will be replaced as offensive coordinator. LSU will have a ton of talent and could win the SEC, but will only reach its potential if Harris improves. Four-star freshman Feleipe Franks might have been a viable option, but he flipped to Florida.
Incumbent: Treon Harris (1,530 yards, 9 TDs, 5 INTs)
Contenders: Junior Luke Del Rio (No. 33 pro-style in 2013), freshman Feleipe Franks (No. 3 pro-style), freshman Kyle Trask (No. 89 pro-style)
Grier was expected to regain his starting job after missing the first six games next year because of a suspension, but now he’s gone. Another freshman, Dwayne Haskins (No. 7 pro-style) could still end up flipping in favor of the Gators from his commitment to Maryland. Harris is clearly going to have some work to do to hold onto the job, because he hasn’t been impressive since replacing Grier. Franks, who recently switched from LSU to Florida, might be the favorite to start.
8. Mississippi State
Contenders: Redshirt sophomore Nick Fitzgerald (235 yards, 3 TDs), redshirt sophomore Elijah Staley (51 yards, 1 TD), senior Damian Williams (155 yards, 3 TDs in 2014), redshirt freshman Nick Tiano (No. 32 pro style in 2015)
Someone has to replace the best quarterback in program history. Coach Dan Mullen has spoken of Fitzgerald like he expects him to be the starter, but Staley could challenge for the job. He was rated higher in the same recruiting class, but Fitzgerald is currently No. 2 on the depth chart behind Dak Prescott.
Contenders: Junior Austin Allen (35 yards, 1 TD), redshirt freshman Ricky Town (No. 6 pro-style in 2015), redshirt freshman Ty Storey (No. 9 pro-style in 2015)
It would be a great story if Allen can replace his brother and continue the Fayetteville High School pipeline for the Razorbacks, but he’ll face stiff competition from two of the top recruits in this past year’s class. Storey is an Arkansas kid, and Town was a huge recruit who transferred from Southern Cal to Arkansas shortly after preseason camp started.
Incumbent: Redshirt sophomore Drew Lock (1,332 yards, 4 TDs, 8 INTs)
Contenders: Senior Maty Mauk (654 yards, 6 TDs, 4 INTs), Redshirt sophomore Marvin Zanders (No. 131 athlete in 2014)
Mauk was reinstated by the new coaching staff, so he could regain control of the position. Lock showed flashes of real promise, but also plenty of room to improve. They’ll be working with new offensive coordinator Josh Heupel. Lock will be the favorite, but Mauk could be a redemption story.
Contenders: Redshirt sophomore Drew Barker (364 yards, 1 TD, 2 INTs), junior Reese Phillips (45 yards, 1 INT in 2014), freshman Gunnar Hoak (No. 37 pro-style)
Barker is the heavy favorite here. He took the job from Patrick Towles late in the season, which led to Towles’ decision to transfer to Boston College. There is no question about Barker’s pedigree. He was one of the nation’s best recruits in 2014. Can he develop into a top SEC quarterback? That remains to be seen. He’ll have a new offensive coordinator to work with.
12. Texas A&M
Contenders: Junior Jake Hubenak (92 yards, 1 TD)
The Aggies have lost three starting quarterbacks since the end of the 2014 season. Kyle Allen, Kyler Murray and Kenny Hill have all transferred out, and Kohl Stewart signed with the Aggies in 2013 but then was the No. 4 pick in the MLB draft and became a full-time baseball player. As of today, Hubenak has an incredible amount of job security for someone who has thrown 27 passes (and completed 12 of them), but the Aggies are expected to continue the search for a competitor. There was a report that former Oklahoma quarterback Trevor Knight could transfer in to be a one-year bridge to uber 2017 commit Tate Martell. If Knight shows up, the Aggies would be much higher on this list.
13. South Carolina
Incumbent: Senior Perry Orth (1,929 yards, 12 TDs, 9 INTs)
Contenders: Sophomore Lorenzo Nunez (376 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs), junior Connor Mitch (165 yards, 1 TD), freshman Brandon McIlwain (No. 3 dual-threat)
This might be one of the more fascinating competitions. Mitch won the job at the start of the season, but got hurt. Nunez has the most upside of the three returners, but McIlwain could show up and wow everyone. And Orth could continue to be the most comfortable option. It’s a new coaching staff and new offense though, so the pecking order could completely change.
Contenders: Junior Johnny McCrary (1,533 yards, 6 TDs, 12 INTs), sophomore Kyle Shurmur (503 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs), junior Wade Freeback (26 yards, 1 INT), freshman Deuce Wallace (No. 22 pro-style)
Derek Mason played both McCrary and Shurmur at times, and neither took control of the position. They will probably continue to battle during the offseason. Both have more experience than a few other potential starters in the league, but are they as talented? Vanderbilt’s defense was nasty for much of 2015, but the offense was a huge problem.