Whether you are sitting on the couch with your buddies, watching ESPN or in a bar sipping piña coladas you’ve probably heard it:
“There are no good quarterbacks in the SEC.”
The quarterback play within the conference in 2015 wasn’t eye-opening by any means, but there was some talent. See Mississippi State’s Dak Prescott, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen or Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly, all of whom finished in the top 15 nationally in passing touchdowns.
See Jacob Coker, who played an integral role in leading Alabama to a national championship. While the senior signal-caller struggled at times during the season, he still managed to connect on 16 of his 25 throws for 335 yards and two touchdowns against Clemson in the title game.
Is the SEC quarterback play elite compared to other Power 5 conferences around the nation? No, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t players that could light up a scoreboard on any given Saturday.
You’ll hear the same exact argument heading into next season with Prescott, Allen and Coker all moving on from the college game.
Kelly, LSU’s Brandon Harris and Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs return, but outside of that trio every team in the SEC will face quarterback questions. UGA’s Greyson Lambert will also come back for his senior season, but he will be pitted up against incoming 5-star freshman Jacob Eason. Missouri will return both Drew Lock and Maty Mauk, who will compete for the starting spot, As for the rest of the SEC East, who knows?
The same can be said in the West outside of Kelly and Harris. Alabama must replace Coker, Auburn has two unproven quarterbacks returning and incorporates a third in junior college transfer John Franklin III, and Texas A&M needs to fill the voids of transfer quarterbacks Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen. Both Mississippi State and Arkansas will need to replace seniors who put up big numbers in 2015.
The questions will remain unanswered until September, but SEC Country decided to take its crack at predicting which players could be First-Team All-SEC quarterback candidates next season. Here’s a look:
Winner: Chad Kelly, Ole Miss
It’s a safe pick, I know. But it’s tough to argue against. Kelly was an All-SEC second team selection in 2015 and will be coming off a season where he led the conference in passing (310.9 yards per game) and total offense (349.4 ypg.). He threw for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns last season, and was the only quarterback to beat Alabama. Kelly accounted for 341 passing yards and three touchdowns in that contest, and capped off his junior campaign tossing 302 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl. He will lose star receiver Laquon Treadwell to the NFL draft, who collected 1,153 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns this season, but he’s the most proven starter returning next season.
You can check out a few candidates that can give Kelly a run for his money below.
Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee
Dobbs was hit or miss in 2015. The junior had games where he would throw for 125 yards against Oklahoma or 83 against Florida. Then he would come back and throw for 312 yards and three touchdowns while also adding 118 yards and two scores on the ground against UGA, which ended the season as the nation’s No. 7 defense. Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards and 15 touchdowns this season, as well as 671 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. He possesses the dual-threat ability to stuff statlines, but consistency will be the key for Dobbs in his senior campaign.
Trevor Knight, Texas A&M
Knight is one of the more intriguing candidates on this list. First, he will need to beat out Jake Hubenak for the Aggies’ starting job, which is all but a foregone conclusion. Knight announced his decision to transfer to Texas A&M on Jan. 4 after spending his first three seasons at Oklahoma. He is probably most known for his performance in the 2014 Sugar Bowl where he led the Sooners to victory over then-No. 7 Alabama behind 348 passing yards and four touchdowns. After playing in 10 games in 2014 and sitting behind Baker Mayfield in this past season, Knight will get another crack at the Crimson Tide on Oct. 22. Knight struggled some in 2014 while passing for 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, but expectations are high as he heads to College Station, Texas, partly due to his surrounding cast of receivers, including wide receivers Christian Kirk, Ricky Seals-Jones, Josh Reynolds and Speedy Noil. The weapons are there, but can Knight get the job done?
Brandon Harris, LSU
This is one of those “Who-else-would-you-pick” situations. I could have went with Eason or any other quarterback who may win a starting job, but I decided to play it safe. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any argument to be had. In his first season as full-time starter, Harris passed for a respectable 2,158 yards and 13 touchdowns. There were times throughout the season where you wondered if he was finally turning the corner, such as his 286-yard performance against then-No. 24 Western Kentucky, but he never took the next step. The same question will carry into the 2016 season, as Harris passed for 254 yards and a touchdown against Texas Tech in the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl. The Tigers return a bevy of big-time receivers, including sophomore Malachi Dupre and junior Travin Dural. He also has a guy named Leonard Fournette on his side that could open up the passing game. The Tigers will need Harris to mature as a passer in 2016 if they have any hope of winning the SEC West.