We’re 10 days from kicking off the 2012 football season and three SEC teams are still wondering who their starting signal-caller is going to be. That’s not a good situation to be in right now… regardless of how coaches try to spin it.
So which teams are in the best shape quarterback-wise as we race toward Week One? Below are our answers. Each team has been dropped into one of four categories. We’ve also added a word of explanation for why your favorite squad wound up were it wound up.
* Arkansas (Tyler Wilson, senior) — Bobby Petrino is gone, but his system remains. Some NFL scouts openly mourned the fact that the 6-3, 220-pound Wilson returned to Fayetteville for his final season. He passed for 3,600+ yards and a had a TD-INT ratio of 24-6 last season.
* Georgia (Aaron Murray, junior) — Georgia’s QB looks the part of an All-SEC quarterback. He’s got the arm and the legs to win games. But he’s just 2-7 against ranked foes — which can’t all be put on him — and he’s lost his security blanket in tight end Orson Charles.
* Alabama (AJ McCarron, junior) — There’s a reason McCarron made the coaches’ preseason all-conference team: he wins. He captured a BCS title ring in his first season as a starter, completing 67% of his passes while throwing just five interceptions last year. He’s everything Nick Saban wants in a quarterback. One word: Solid.
* Missouri (James Franklin, junior) — At 6-2, 225, Franklin is bigger than most SEC fans probably think. More than just a scrambler, he’ll run over you if he has to. Last year he threw for 2,865 yards and ran for an additional 981 in the offense-first Big XII. But can he adjust his style of play to the SEC… and can he stay healthy if decides not to change his ways?
* Tennessee (Tyler Bray, junior) — Bray has the tools to make all the throws and earn himself a fat NFL paycheck next spring or the year after. The only thing keeping out of the Top Gun category is his head. Bray has had some Stephen Garcia-esque off-field misadventures and his head coach recently said he had to do some maturing and make “lifestyle changes” this summer. If he did, he can be a star.
* Kentucky (Maxwell Smith, sophomore) – Just named UK’s starter yesterday, the sophomore from California made nice strides over the course of the 2011 season. He’ll need to improve further for the Cats to return to a bowl game after a one-year absence.
* LSU (Zach Mettenberger, junior) — Down on the Bayou, there are high expectations for the Georgia-to-juco-LSU newcomer. The 6-5 bomber has Baton Rouge’s best arm since JaMarcus Russell and Tiger coaches say they’re going to use it. But star juco quarterbacks have entered the league and thrived (Cam Newton) and imploded (Brent Schaeffer). Until we see him on the field… the jury’s out.
* Miss. State (Tyler Russell, junior) — Folks in Starkville will tell you that Russell is set for a big year as the Bulldogs lean on veteran wideouts and shift into more of a passing mode. But Russell never could wrestle the starting job away from run-first Chris Relf. And last year he completed just 53% of his 129 pass attempts.
* S. Carolina (Connor Shaw, junior) — In 2011, Shaw took over for Stephen Garcia in October but failed to show the arm that many had Carolina fans had hoped to see. Steve Spurrier went to more of a zone-read offense to suit Shaw’s skill set and the Ol’ Ball Coach says USC may run the ball even more this season. Still, Shaw needs to take a step forward as a thrower.
* Vanderbilt (Jordan Rodgers, senior) — The younger brother of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Vandy’s quarterback has the athleticism to succeed. But can he succeed in the SEC with the talent that surrounds him at VU? He’ll need to do better than a 50% completion percentage and a 9-10 touchdowns-to-interceptions ratio in 2012.
* Auburn (Kiehl Frazier, sophomore or Clint Moseley, junior) – Auburn went 2-3 during the late part of the season with Moseley running Gus Malzahn’s offense. When Frazier played, he threw just 12 passes (completing five to his team and two to his opponents) and ran 76 times. Maybe there’s a reason everyone’s talking about third-string freshman Jonathan Wallace on the Plains.
* Florida (Jacoby Brissett, sophomore or Jeff Driskel, sophomore) – Brissett played in five games for the Gators last year and was woeful as a passer (46% completion percentage, 2-4 TD-INT ratio). Driskel — who’s dealing with a bruised scapula at the moment — wasn’t much better in his five games (47% completion, 0-2 ratio). The fact that neither guy has separated himself so far in fall camp probably isn’t a good sign.
* Ole Miss (Barry Brunetti, junior or Bo Wallace, sophomore) — Face it. It’s an ugly situation in Oxford. Brunetti saw action in four games last year after transferring in from West Virginia. He was pedestrian at best. Wallace arrived in January after an All-American year in the juco ranks, but he’s not yet passed Brunetti on the depth chart. With so little talent around them, it might not matter who wins the starter’s job.
* Texas A&M (Johnny Manziel, freshman) — Rivals ranked Manziel as the 14th best dual-threat quarterback in the nation when he signed with the Aggies in February of 2011. The fact that he won a four-man battle to become A&M’s first-ever SEC quarterback was a surprise to many. Kevin Sumlin knows how to develop quarterbacks, but Year One of his system… entering a defense-first league… things could get rough with a redshirt freshman behind center.