The best quarterbacks in the SEC in 2012? (Part 1)

I was enjoying my lunch at an extended family lunch that included about two dozen relatives from several states. Several of mine relatives have been dating Tennessee fans!!! Can you believe it? I must confess that my relatives themselves are fans of several different teams. Two of my sisters graduated from Ole Miss and one of them married a big Tennessee fan twenty years ago.

We usually have a lot of  light-hearted give and take at these lunches especially if my Razorbacks are taking on the Vols in football. At the last lunch I made the comment, “Everyone knows that Tyler Wilson is the best quarterback in the SEC and may be the best in the nation.” Two at the table objected and actually said that Tennessee and Georgia had better quarterbacks than Wilson. (The Maxwell Watchlist includes our Razorback quarterback as well as both Tennessee and Georgia’s quarterbacks as reported on a link from Arkansas Sports 360)

However,  I did notice on your link that all three are on the Maxwell watch list. To me it is obvious that Wilson is the best, but we just have to wait and see. May the best Razorback win.

Here are some thoughts of other publications throughout the nation(Football Nation , 247 sports) and here are some links to other rankings here :

Athlon Sports

4. SEC

This is where the rankings start to get interesting. The ACC and Pac-12 are head and shoulders above the rest of the nation when it comes to passing talent. For now, the Big 12 gets the nod over the SEC due to a few factors. First, if all the talent falls back into place in the Big 12 — Robert Griffin III, Landry Jones and Geno Smith —  it would easily top the SEC. Second, can Mizzou’s James Franklin accomplish in the SEC what he produced in the Big 12? And lastly, half of this conference will have major question marks or unproven commodities under center in 2012.

At the top, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson give the SEC a fantastic 1-2 punch. Wilson led the SEC in yards in his first season as the starter, and Murray led the conference in touchdown passes as he led the Dawgs back to the SEC title game. Georgia will once again be picked to win the East, and the Hogs have a schedule that sets up nicely to challenge LSU and Alabama.

Most important will be the influx of “new” talent. The SEC missed out on most of Tyler Bray’s 2011 season at Tennessee due to injury, and Big Orange faithful will welcome him back to campus for a full season in 2012. Bray might be the best pure passer in the entire conference and will certainly benefit from the return of injured star wideout Justin Hunter. Missouri will bring second-year dual-threat star Franklin to the East as well. The sophomore was dynamic all season long and claimed MVP honors by posting 132 yards passing and 142 yards rushing (and three touchdowns) against North Carolina’s SEC-type front seven in the Independence Bowl. How good he can be in his first season facing actual SEC defenses remains to be seen.

It also appears that LSU will go with the burly, highly touted UGA transfer Zach Mettenberger. The 6-foot-5, 225 pounder saw limited action in five games this fall with LSU and will be a junior next fall. The Tigers also reeled in the nation’s No. 2 incoming freshman quarterback in Gunner Kiel.

The development of A.J. McCarron at Alabama, Jordan Rodgers at Vanderbilt and Connor Shaw at South Carolina will likely determine just how good the quarterback play in the SEC will be in 2012. McCarron led all SEC passers with a 66.8% completion rate and appears poised for stardom next fall as he becomes the focal point of the offense. Other than Bray, he might be the best pure passer and top NFL prospect in the conference. Rodgers won’t have the veteran, opportunistic defense helping him next fall and will need to continue to prove himself. Shaw went 6-1 after Stephen Garcia was excommunicated, but doubts still remain about his ability to lead the Gamecocks to a championship.

While the top is very strong in this league, the bottom is full of more questions than any other conference. Mississippi State has options but none has been able to take the next step. Florida, Ole Miss, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Auburn each have major issues at the position. The Gators, Aggies and Tigers have highly touted yet largely unproven players to choose from, while Kentucky and Ole Miss could be in for another long year.

The Known Commodities:

1. Aaron Murray, Georgia (JR)
Passing Stats: 2,861 yards, 33 TD, 12 INT, 58.8%
Rushing Stats: 79 att., 116 yards, 2 TD

2. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas (SR)
Passing Stats: 3,422 yards, 22 TD, 6 INT, 63.1%
Rushing Stats: 53 att., minus-21 yards, 4 TD

3. Tyler Bray, Tennessee (JR)
Passing Stats: 1,983 yards, 17 TD, 6 INT, 59.5%
Rushing Stats: 26 att., minus-70 yards, TD

4. James Franklin, Missouri (JR)
Passing Stats: 2,733 yards, 20 TD, 10 INT, 63.2%
Rushing Stats: 199 att., 839 yards, 13 TD

5. AJ McCarron, Alabama (JR)
Passing Stats: 2,400 yards, 16 TD, 5 INT, 66.8%
Rushing Stats: 26 att., minus-33 yards, 2 TD

6. Jordan Rodgers, Vanderbilt (SR)
Passing Stats: 1,498 yards, 9 TD, 9 INT, 51.2%
Rushing Stats: 108 att., 387 yards, 4 TD

7. Connor Shaw, South Carolina (JR)
Passing Stats: 1,218 yards, 12 TD, 6 INT, 65.5%
Rushing Stats: 116 att., 483 yards, 7 TD

The Unknowns:

Zach Mettenberger, LSU
Tyler Russell/Chris Relf, Mississippi State
Kiehl Frazier/Clint Moseley/Barrett Trotter, Auburn
Jeff Driskel/Jacoby Brissett, Florida
Jamiell Showers/Matt Davis/Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M
The Kentucky Wildcats
Barry Brunetti/Randall Mackey, Ole Miss


Sporting News:

The only three-time captain in the history of USC football has an idea of how he gets better.

“You do things you’ve never done before,” Matt Barkley says.

Tyler Bray’s promising 2011 was derailed by a thumb injury. (AP Photo)

Considering what Barkley has accomplished, that’s a scary thought. At least on an individual level.

For the second straight season, college football has a celebrity quarterback—and lock No. 1 pick in the 2013 NFL draft—returning to take one more shot at winning a championship.

And like last season when Stanford’s Andrew Luck returned, Barkley has dwarfed the rest of a talented group of quarterbacks. There will be at least three quarterbacks taken in the first round of the April NFL draft—maybe three in the top five picks—and there could be more than that in 2013.

A look at the next five quarterbacks after Barkley for the 2012 season:

1. Tyler Wilson, Arkansas, Sr.: He would have been a first-round pick had he left after this season, but decided to return to—what else?—try and win an SEC championship for the first time at Arkansas.

Why he’s here: All the measurables NFL teams crave: physical frame (6-3, 220 pounds), big arm, athleticism. Wilson plays in a pro-style system and knows (and thrives on) the NFL route tree.

How he can improve: Decision-making, accuracy. Both come with more game repetitions. Wilson has only played one full season, and one half of one game in 2010 of meaningful snaps.

An NFL scout says: “I love his moxie. I’ve seen him—over and over—stand tall in the pocket and just get drilled after delivering a strike. He has a big arm, and he has the right guy (Bobby Petrino) coaching him. There were a lot of people disappointed when he didn’t come out (early). I want to see him perform when they’re the hunted.”

2. Tyler Bray, Tennessee, Jr.: We haven’t seen nearly enough of the Vols’ rising star (12 career starts) because he didn’t play soon enough as a freshman in 2010, and sustained a thumb injury in 2011.

Why he’s here: Potential—and loads of it. The biggest jump in production and grasp of the game for quarterbacks comes from the freshman to sophomore seasons. Bray was on his way to a big season last year (14 TDs, 2 INTs before thumb injury), and struggled to grip the ball the last two games of the season (3 TDs, 4 INTs) when he returned and played with pain.

How he can improve: Accuracy and maturity. Bray tries too often to use his strong arm to force throws. Much of that isn’t necessarily knowledge; it’s maturity. Knowing when to back off. He must become more of a vocal leader on the team.

An NFL scout says: “A lot to like about him. He’s a little thin, but I don’t anticipate weight being an issue. You watch him, and some of the time it looks like he’s just chucking it around in his backyard. I want to see him get serious—about the game and his position.”

3. Mike Glennon, N.C. State, Sr.: Here’s all you need to know about Glennon, who was unfairly put in position as the fall guy for coach Tom O’Brien’s decision to cut ties with Russell Wilson: O’Brien thinks Glennon can be as good as Matt Ryan—who has turned into an elite NFL quarterback.

Why he’s here: While we all focused on Wilson and his Big Ten championship season at Wisconsin, we lost sight of Glennon’s breakthrough season (31 TDs, 12 INTs, 3,054 yards). Late in the year, with N.C. State at 5-5 and desperate for wins to reach the postseason, Glennon threw for 823 yards, 11 TDs and 2 INTs in victories over Clemson, Maryland and Louisville in the Belk Bowl.

How he can improve: Accuracy and wins. Every scout says the same thing: your game tape is your resume. Glennon must prove he can carry his team (like he did the last three games of 2011) through an entire season.

An NFL scout says: “He has a very high football IQ; a guy that can step right in and run a system. Get him in the weight room, and he’ll develop into that slight frame (6-6, 225 pounds). His accuracy changes with each route. Needs to be more consistent there.”

4. James Franklin, Missouri, Jr.: The wild card of the group. Franklin last season looked magnificent and mind-bogglingly lost at various times. His arm strength and athletic ability remind scouts of Robert Griffin III, but he’s much too inconsistent.

Why he’s here: Physically, the total package. A legitimate Cam Newton-type player: a strong arm and pass-first mentality and the ability (and want) to punish defenses in the run game. Find some video of last year’s Texas A&M game, and see why the Newton comparisons are easy to make.

How he can improve: Cut down on turnovers and poor decisions, and accuracy. Franklin already is under the gun before the season begins: Missouri offensive coordinator David Yost told Sporting News earlier this spring that he’d be shocked of Franklin weren’t the best quarterback in the SEC in 2012 (there are three other SEC quarterbacks on this list).

An NFL scout says: “It’s going to be very interesting to see him play against SEC defenses. That’s a man’s league on defense; the defensive lines, the coverages, the confusion they create. It’s not only a good physical test, but a tremendous mental and emotional challenge.”

5. Aaron Murray, Georgia, Jr.: Without Zach Mettenberger’s legal problems in the 2010 offseason, Murray may not even be in this position. Or at Georgia. Instead, he’s primed to leave early for the NFL with a big season in 2012.

Why he’s here: A strong arm and a high quarterback IQ. He has terrific leadership skills and a rare toughness. He doesn’t have the same skill set as former Georgia star (and No. 1 overall pick) Matthew Stafford, but who does in the last two decades? Of the group of five, the best pure football player.

How he can improve: Accuracy. Simply put, you can’t complete less than 60 percent of your passes in college—where the passing lanes and windows are much greater than the NFL—and expect to succeed at a high level in the NFL.

An NFL scout says: “I want to see improvement on the intermediate throws; the throws you have to make in our league. He has nice touch on the deep throws, and he understands the position. He just has to refine mechanics and throw with confidence; it’s all workable stuff.”


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