SEC: Questions at quarterback

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen, at left center, laughs with quarterback Dak Prescott as the two move between interview rooms at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala., on Tuesday.

Doug Finger/Staff photographer
Published: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 2:28 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 4:21 p.m.

HOOVER, Ala. — There were only five quarterbacks who were chosen to attend SEC Media Days by their coaches and there's a good reason for that.

Half of the 14 league coaches don't know who that quarterback is going to be.

At Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Arkansas, Alabama and Kentucky, there are still quarterback competitions that will crank up when camp opens.

What that means is some coaches are going to have to do a lot of adjusting in September.

“Every quarterback has to go through a process of development,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban.

Saban will choose between FSU transfer Jacob Coker and Blake Sims, who has thrown 39 passes the last two years. He said the three things a quarterback has to have are judgment, accuracy and leadership.

“How long is it going to take him to go through that process?” Saban said. “Older, more mature players seem to do that more quickly. It creates a question mark as to when it's going to resolve itself. The development of that position is going to be crucial to the success of our team.”

Two teams — Georgia and South Carolina — will have fifth-year seniors who have waited for their chances. Both have starts under their belts, but are still relative rookies.

And for all the quarterbacks, the practices of summer prepare them, but it's when they are playing those early games that the coaches find out what the real strengths are for the most important player on the field.

“You can go through practice and you can go through scrimmages, but there's nothing like a real game,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said.

Malzahn says it usually takes him three or four games to get a feel for what a quarterback can do. That could be a problem for schools starting rookie quarterbacks.

“I think you're always kind of feeling yourself out,” said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel.

Pinkel has Maty Mauk, who did start four games when James Franklin was injured last year. But even if you've seen your quarterback in action, things change from year to year. The personnel around a quarterback exposes and complements that quarterback's skill set.

“Each team is a unique team,” said Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen. “Dak (Prescott) is going to be a different player this year than he was last year. One of the things is finding out where his comfort level is compared to last year.”

For the seven coaches who don't know who their quarterback will be, there certainly will be a feeling-out process. There's a chance that all of them will start with quarterbacks who have at least seen the field, whether it be as backups or replacements for injured starters.

But it's different when a quarterback is handed a team at the start of the season and told to take it home.

“It depends on the guy,” said Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin.

Sumlin will chose between true freshman Kyle Allen and Kenny Hill, who threw 22 passes as Johnny Manziel's backup last season.

“Some guys can handle more than others,” Sumlin said. “You guys have heard me say I was guilty of not giving Johnny enough that first Florida game.

“Now, it's one thing to be able to adjust as a coach, but I'm not big on just drawing things up in the dirt on a Saturday afternoon. You have to really have a feel for what a guy can handle and you don't have that feel until you get in an environment.”

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