The SEC has been called the most dominant conference in all of college football and I won't disagree with that. Most people recognize the SEC's dominance because of the intimidating defenses you will find in SEC country. However, this offseason, all the headlines have gone to the quarterbacks. Here is a rundown of the best quarterbacking units in the conference:
1. Texas A&M - starter: Johnny Manziel
Manziel is the reigning Heisman winner and an electric athlete. He really swooped in out of nowhere last season, but now seems to be the topic of most conversations that go on in the world of sports. He has earned the nickname "Johnny Football," and grabbed a lot of headlines this offseason for his off the field social life. However, the only question about his game is if he can repeat the magical season he had last season.
2. Alabama - starter: AJ McCarron
Nick Saban teams are usually known for their defenses. Year in and year out Saban fields a defense that is one of the best in college football and this year will be no different, however, it is his quarterback that has everyone talking. Like Manziel, he has a hot girlfriend, is really good at football. McCarron is also going for his third national championship this season. He will have tons of talented skill players around him this season that could really benefit his quest for that third championship.
3. Georgia - starter: Aaron Murray
Murray could finish his career with a bunch of SEC records. He's been around the SEC going on five seasons and he's been really good. It's only natural that he eventually creep up on some big time records. However, this season he will be trying to breakthrough and win an SEC title, a feat he came so close to last season. Murray will have two big time running backs back to help him as well as solid receiver corps. There will be stiff competition around the Bulldogs, but Murray should lead the Dawgs back to Atlanta.
4. Mississippi State - starter: Tyler Russell
Russell is guy that has received a lot of praise in his career. His talent is no secret, but he was also the quarterback that was supposed to help Mississippi State get over the hump and compete to go to Atlanta. While his receiving corps will be less experienced this season, Russell still has enough back to win. The Bulldogs also appear to have a more than serviceable backup in Dak Prescott.
5. Ole Miss - starter: Bo Wallace
Last season Wallace played with a shoulder injury for most of the season. It showed as he threw 17 interceptions. However, Wallace also made a number of big time throws and returns all of his receivers this season and adds some to the mix. Wallace had his shoulder surgically repaired this offseason and could be poised for a big time season. Barry Brunetti is the backup, but he will see snaps this season and will likely mostly run the ball.
6. South Carolina - starter: Connor Shaw
While Connor Shaw has won a lot in his career at South Carolina, he has also been banged up a good bit. That makes the presence of Dylan Thompson that much more important. Shaw is more of a dual threat at the quarterback position, while Thompson was more of pocket type guy that won't make as many plays with his feet. The Gamecocks have good skill guys on offense and I expect them to get it done like they have in years past.
7. Florida - starter: Jeff Driskel
Driskel is more of a running back playing quarterback sometimes. He is a very effective runner and a solid passer on shorter routes. I think this year you will see Driskel become more of a complete passer and I think Florida will have some receivers step up for him and you will see Driskel make more plays from the pocket, while still being an effective passer. I think this is the season that Driskel breaks out and lives up to the hype that followed him out of high school.
8. Missouri - starter: James Franklin
James Franklin didn't have the introductory season in the SEC that he thought he would. He was injured for most of the season and never could get in a rhythm when was on the field. He played hurt when he did play and all in all, it's likely a season that he will want to forget. I think this season you will see the Franklin from 2011. He can be a playmaker in the SEC and I think he will need to be if Mizzou is to be any good this season.
9. LSU - starter: Zach Mettenberger
LSU didn't get what it thought it would from Mettenberger last season. They thought they finally had their quartberback that would be able to air it out and throw them to a national championship. He was unable to do so. He improved as the season went on and I think he will have a solid season. He has tons of talented receivers around him. There is really no excuse for him to not be good. If he is not up to par, I expect Stephen Rivers to be a serviceable backup, but a quarterback the running game will have to carry.
10. Auburn - starter: Kiehl Frazier or Jonathan Wallace
I expect Frazier to win this job. I think either quarterback can be successful in Gus Malzahn's offense. I think the offense will make both of these quarterbacks feel comfortable and look good. I think Frazier wins out in the end and shows why he was such a highly regarded recruit in high school. I think the best of Wallace can come out if he wins the job, as well. He and Frazier possess very similar skill sets.
11. Vanderbilt - starter: Austyn Carta-Samuels
Carta-Samuels is new to the league as well. He has an accurate arm, though, and should be set with the receivers he has coming back. While the receivers will make the transition to the league easier, it will still be tough. Especially since his first game is against an SEC opponent in Ole Miss. It is unsure how Carta-Samuels will perform, but he should get better as the season goes on.
12. Tennessee - starter: Justin Worley or Nathan Peterman
Worley looked to be the heir to Tyler Bray under Derek Dooley, but he is mainly a pocket passer and he hasn't impressed when he's had the opportunity to this point in his career. On the other hand, Peterman is younger, but fits Butch Jones's offense better. In fact, Jones pursued Peterman heavily out of high school. I think Peterman wins this job and goes through growing pains, but I think he is a guy that can hold the job.
13. Arkansas - starter: Brandon Allen
Brandon Mitchell is an option here and he could be pretty good in an offense that allowed him to show off his athleticism and big time arm, however, Bret Bielema is looking for a true pocket passer that can manage the game. While experience is a big issue here, I think Brandon Allen takes this job and improves once he get used to the speed of the game.
14. Kentucky - starter: Maxwell Smith or Jalen Whitlow
While it appears that Whitlow has taken control of this job heading into Fall camp, Head Coach Mark Stoops cautions those who are of that thinking. Maxwell Smith is still there and even Patrick Towles. However, if Kentucky wants to have a chance to win at all this year, I think they need to go with the athleticism of Whitlow. Whitlow has gained accuracy and even arm strength since he's been in school. Whitlow could develop into a really good dual threat quarterback down the road.
Top 5 starting quarterbacks in the SEC:
1. Johnny Manziel
2. AJ McCarron
3. Aaron Murray
4. Tyler Russell
5. Bo Wallace