Guaranteed, four of the five SEC teams on Arkansas’ schedule that lost their starting quarterback will record a reduction in passing. Missouri could go the other way.
Gone are Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, Georgia’s Aaron Murray and LSU’s Zach Mettenberger who threw for 113 touchdowns and more than 13,000 yards last year.
Each is ranked among the top nine quarterbacks in the NFL draft by people who are supposed to know. No matter how good their replacements turn out to be, there will be an immediate drop off.
Put it this way, Arkansas’ Brandon Allen is a full season of starts ahead of whoever takes over in College Station, Tuscaloosa, Athens, and Baton Rouge. Some Arkansas fans are down on Allen because of 2013, but reading defenses and making decisions is a learning curve for every new quarterback. Plus, he played hurt and had little help.
More than likely, Allen will outdo his brother and Rafe Peavey in the Razorbacks’ spring game on Saturday and convince some fence-straddlers that he deserves to be the starter against Auburn on Aug. 30.
Meanwhile, reviewing the performances of the new SEC quarterbacks in other spring games and projecting the W-L record in the fall, proceed with caution. Also consider that an incoming player might be the answer at Alabama and that an outgoing quarterback might have turned the competition at A&M into a no-contest.
Before trying to interpret the abysmal numbers at Alabama and LSU, mull the words of Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban who said that everybody should understand that in the spring game “we really limit what we do on offense, we really limit what we do on defense and we really don’t try to feature players.”
Working with those ground rules, the raw numbers:
• Blake Sims, McCarron’s backup in 2013, was 13-of-30 for 178 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions. During two previous scrimmages closed to the media, he reportedly threw for five 515 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
• Cooper Bateman, redshirted last year, completed 11-of-24 for 156 yards and was sacked three times.
• No. 3 quarterback Alec Morris had an excellent day punting.
• Jacob Coker, the back-up to Jameis Winston, is to finish his undergraduate degree at Florida State, enroll at Alabama and compete with Sims through August. In two years at FSU, he has thrown a total of 41 passes.
A week earlier, Anthony Jennings, a freshman last November when he took advantage of a big mistake by the Arkansas secondary to bail out LSU, had two passes intercepted for touchdowns and finished the day 9-of-17. Five months removed from high school, Brandon Harris completed 11-of-28 for 195 yards and three touchdowns and led all rushers with 75 yards on six attempts.
At A&M, where there was no spring game because of a $450 million renovation to Kyle Field, another early enrollee appears to have won the starting job by default. Kyle Allen was supposed to compete with senior Matt Joeckel and sophomore Kenny Hill, but Joeckel is transferring and Hill was suspended for the final week of spring practice. Mastering Kevin Sumlin’s up-temp offense in months is a challenge.
In Athens, Hutson Mason performed like a fifth-year senior who learned while sitting behind the SEC’s all-time leading passer for four years. Mason was 18-of-27 for 241 yards and has a safety net named Todd Gurley at running back.
The quarterback most likely to outdo his predecessor, Maty Mauk was 11-of-15 in Missouri’s spring game,
As a freshman, he started four SEC games in place of James Franklin and would have been 4-0 if not for the second-half heroics of South Carolina’s Connor Shaw.
Auburn’s Nick Marshall is odds-on to be the All-SEC quarterback. Mauk , who threw for more than 1,000 yards and had 11 touchdown passes vs. two interceptions, is an early choice to be on the Second Team.