Breaking down the SEC's quarterback battles
The start of fall camps is right around the corner and at several major programs the focus will be on the quarterback position as former elite recruits battle it out for the starting job. Last week, we took a look at some of the most high-profile battles and had National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell weigh in on how he sees them shaking out. This week, we take a conference by conference look at the remaining quarterback competitions. Today we focus on the SEC.
Front-runner: Cole Kelley
Contender: Ty Storey
The situation: While new head coach Chad Morris completely opened up the competition in the spring, it became pretty clear by the time the team broke for the summer that it was down to Kelley and Storey for the No. 1 job. While both players saw time last year, Morris brings a new offense that will require much more of the quarterback than in the past. Given Kelley’s experience as a starter last year, he has the edge, even though this battle is pretty much a coin flip.
The Hawgs also signed two true freshmen who didn’t enroll early in Noland and Jones, so if things don’t go well with more veteran options, it will be worth watching to see if any of the younger players on the roster can work their way into the conversation as the season moves along.
Farrell’s take: You have to like Kelley in this battle with his experience. He was always a massive prospect who could move better than you think although he’ll be slinging the rock and getting it out quickly in Morris’ offense. I can’t see Storey taking this job from him unless there is an injury.
Front-runner: Gunnar Hoak
Contender: Terry Wilson
The situation: After losing two-year starter Stephen Johnson, the competition for the starting job was wide open heading into the offseason. After spring, not much was settled except for the fact that Hoak and Wilson have taken the lead in the race. Hoak has been in program for two years, but has yet to see action in game. Wilson, who originally signed with Oregon out of high school, enrolled early as a junior college transfer and has the experience of having played quite a bit last season at the JUCO level.
During Kentucky’s spring game, neither quarterback really stood out and while Clark and Wood also saw time, they didn’t really do enough to enter the mix heading into the fall. Kentucky fans are hoping the quarterback who wins this battle will not only be the starter this year, but hopefully for 2019 as well.
Farrell’s take: Hoak has been waiting his turn, but watch out for Wilson in this one. I liked his ability to throw and extend the play a lot coming out of high school and he has matured a lot as a passer and playmaker in JUCO. Hoak has the experience in the system but Wilson is the more dynamic option.
Front-runner: Feleipe Franks
The situation: The Gators have just three scholarship quarterbacks on the roster, but they are in an advantageous situation considering that all three were on hand and healthy in the spring. Most expected Franks to take control of the job in the spring but that didn’t exactly happen as he was inconsistent while learning Dan Mullen’s offense. Trask is a very real threat, especially considering his ability to pick things up quickly, but considering Franks upside as well as his experience playing last year, he is still the favorite. Jones was hand-picked by Mullen to be his quarterback of the future and while he might not win the job heading into the season, he could be used situationally in the fall.
Farrell’s take: Franks should take this job with his arm strength if he can become more consistent as a passer. Trask is a solid option, but Franks has the much higher ceiling and will develop more in Mullen’s offense than he did under Jim McElwain.
Front-runner: Joe Burrow
Longshots: Andre Sale
The situation: The quarterback competition at LSU has been an interesting one, with it appearing to be a battle between Brennan and company during the spring. But a major wrench was thrown into the mix with Burrow announced his intentions to transfer from Ohio State after not winning the job with the Buckeyes. With two years of eligibility remaining, it’s clear he was brought in to win the job and considering LSU’s pursuit, it would be surprising if anyone else wins the job. Brennan has shown flashes, both last season on the field and this spring in practice so he seems like the biggest threat to Burrow. Narcisse is an excellent athlete when healthy and McMillan has the age and maturity factor in his favor.
Farrell’s take: I’m a big Myles Brennan fan and he’s the quarterback of the future, but it’s clear Burrow was brought in to take the job and be the guy. It will be a good competition between the two and they are the best options. You have to like Burrow’s chances here.
Front-runner: Keller Chyrst
The situation: Tennessee had an open competition during the spring between Guarantano and McBride, but the battle will become much more hotly contested in fall camp thanks to the arrival of graduate transfer Chyrst and true freshman Shrout. Chyrst has the experience factor working in his favor and seems like a natural fit in the Vols' new pro-style offense. If he can limit his mistakes he will likely win the job and serve as one-year caretaker as Jeremy Pruitt kicks of his rebuild of the program.
Guarantano saw action for the Vols last year, as did McBride, but both were inconsistent. Guarantano may have the highest ceiling of the bunch and if the former Rivals100 prospect can have a good fall, he might be able to wrestle the job from Chryst.
Farrell’s take: I’ve never been that high on Chryst and we all know how high I’ve been on Guarantano’s upside and ceiling, so this will be an interesting battle. Chryst has the experience and probably has the edge when it comes to winning the job, but don’t count out Guarantano even after some struggles last year.
Front-runner: Nick Starkel
Contenders: Kellen Mond
The situation: This battle is very interesting, especially considering that both Starkel and Mond saw significant time last season. Starkel started the year as the man under center, only to go down with an ankle injury that saw him miss significant time. While he was out, Mond stepped in and had some pretty impressive stretches, but struggled at times as a passer. By the end of year, Starkel was back under center and threw for nearly 500 yards to close out the season in the Aggies' 55-52 loss in the Belk Bowl.
When Jimbo Fisher came in he opened the competition back up and wasn’t ready to name a starter after the spring. Starkel remains the odds-on favorite, especially after beating out Mond last year, but Mond has some experience and has clearly made the decision a tough one for Fisher and his staff.
Farrell’s take: Everyone knows I was the guy who pushed for Mond’s fifth star out of high school and that I love his upside, but his inconsistency as a passer last year was disappointing so Starkel has the edge here. He’s the more natural passer and a better fit for the new offense, but Mond’s talent could be tempting for Fisher and company in certain sets.