SEC engaging in spring arms race


After missing most of last season with a broken lower leg, Jeff Driskel will return as Florida's quarterback in the spring. Practice begins March 19 for the Gators.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer/File
Published: Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 12:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 5:48 p.m.

It's March, which means the Madness is around the corner. But you know what else is? Spring football. And this will be a huge one for so many SEC teams.

The league lost its identity last year with so many putting up points like it was arena football. One of the biggest reasons was that the league was thick with experienced, talented quarterbacks.

But Johnny Manziel, Zach Mettenberger, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, Connor Shaw and James Franklin are among the quarterbacks who are no longer around. It sets up some great battles this spring and summer.

The 14 SEC teams and where they are at quarterback as we get ready for spring drills:

HE'S BACK

1. Nick Marshall, Auburn

Auburn has a pretty good formula working. Find a quarterback at an SEC school who gets in trouble and has to go to junior college, and play for a national title with him. Marshall didn't look like a former defensive back last season. Even without Tre Mason, his second season in coach Gus Malzahn's offense could be scary.

2. Dak Prescott, Mississippi St.

Prescott is a beast, a guy in the Tim Tebow mold physically, and we know what coach Dan Mullen was able to do with Tebow. He needs to be more consistent with his passing, but he could get the Bulldogs over the hump this season.

3. Jeff Driskel, Florida

Coach Will Muschamp can say every position is open at Florida this spring, but he pushed back the start of drills to make sure Driskel is healthy. He'll be the starter and he'll also be playing for his third offensive coordinator in four years.

4. Bo Wallace, Ole Miss

There are times when Wallace looks like an All-SEC quarterback and times when he simply does not. Wallace has a knack for big plays and big mistakes. He's a third-year starter so this could be the year he puts it all together.

HE'S READY

1. Hutson Mason, Georgia

Mason finished up after Murray went down with a torn ACL and was really good against Georgia Tech and really spotty in the Gator Bowl loss. So we have a small sample size for the senior who has waited for his chance. Here it is.

2. Dylan Thompson, S. Carolina

Because Shaw was injured at some point in what seemed like every game in his career, Thompson got his chances to play. He has a good arm, but doesn't give the Gamecocks the running threat Shaw did. Still, he's the guy and Steve Spurrier told us so right after the South Carolina bowl game.

3. Maty Mauk, Missouri

Just ask Florida's defense about Mauk. He filled in for an injured James Franklin and won three of four games as a starter to help the Tigers win the East. Mauk might be the next great quarterback in this conference.

HE'S IN FOR A BATTLE

1. Anthony Jennings, LSU

When Mettenberger went down, Jennings led the team to the winning touchdown against Arkansas. He was fair to mediocre in the bowl game, but he does give Les Miles a guy with at least some experience and all the tools to play the position. Still, early enrollee Brandon Harris is expected to push him.

2. Blake Sims, Alabama

The biggest question for Alabama is at quarterback where Sims would appear to be next in line. But FSU transfer Jacob Coker is everyone's favorite even though he won't enroll until after the spring. Sims has thrown only 39 passes for the Tide, so this is wide open.

3. Kenny Hill, Texas A&M

Hill threw only 22 passes last season and Matt Joeckel actually started when Manziel was suspended at the start of the year. And then there is early enrollee Kyle Allen. Remember Manziel was in a battle until right before his redshirt freshman season.

4. Brandon Allen, Arkansas

Allen would appear to be the guy because he was a starter last year. But he was hardly overwhelming, completing less than half of his passes, and struggled with a shoulder injury. Early enrollee Rafe Peavey is expected to compete for the job.

5. Jalen Whitlow, Kentucky

Both Whitlow and Maxwell Smith started last year, but Smith is out for the spring with an injury. That could open the door for 6-foot-4 stud freshman Drew Barker. Whoever is the starter, the quarterback play has to improve if the Wildcats are going to win some games.

6. Patton Robinette, Vanderbilt

He had his moments last year, including guiding the team to a win at The Swamp, but redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary is expected to give Robinette a battle.

7. Justin Worley, Tennessee

Worley was the starter, then he was benched, then he was the starter, then he suffered a thumb injury. Josh Dobbs and Nathan Peterman both played and neither was impressive. It could be redshirt freshman Riley Ferguson who wins the job.

Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at dooleyp@gvillesun.com.

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