Senator Blutarsky asked, "Where did all the QBs go?" yesterday. Matt Hinton at Dr. Saturday gave a good look at quarterbacks among the BCS conferences, and he concluded that it's largely a perception problem in relation to the rest of the nation. It's also is largely a function of three disastrous situations from last year not being rectified.
To take a closer look, here's a comparison between the quarterback situations from 2004, just a few seasons ago, and now. Are things really that much worse? Let's see. The order is that of the 2004 passing efficiency rankings.
2004: Jason Campbell, senior
2009: A runner who can't pass, a passer with no arm, and the guy who couldn't beat either out last year
Campbell is one of the greatest quarterbacks in Auburn history, so comparing just about anyone to him is not fair. Still, the quarterback position for the Tigers of the Plains is an abject disaster, a side effect of a decaying regime. Brandon Cox was solid but not spectacular between '04 and now, but "solid but not spectacular" would be a big upgrade over 2008.
Verdict: Much, much worse now
2004: Chris Leak, sophomore
2009: Tim Tebow, senior
The quarterback position was then a picture of stability just as it is now. Leak's second campaign was his finest, both statistically and qualitatively. Things dipped for Leak in the Meyer/Mullen era as they ran an offense he was ill suited for, but Tebow has been a smashing success and, barring injury, will continue to be in 2009.
Verdict: A bit better
2004: David Greene, senior
2009: Joe Cox, senior
Greene won more games as a starter than any other quarterback in history, so it's hard to compare anyone in Bulldogs history to him. Cox has performed well enough when he's had the chance to play, but he doesn't look destined for stardom in this his final year. He sat behind a good one in Matthew Stafford, so it's hard to knock him for not winning the starting role yet. No he's not as good, but come on. This is David Greene we're talking about.
Verdict: A bit worse
2004: Matt Jones, senior
2009: Ryan Mallett, sophomore
Jones is a very different quarterback than Mallett is, what with his scrambling, improv ability, and speed. Mallett is a tall, pocket bound statue-type quarterback who is the prototypical specimen for a Bobby Petrino offense. Jones was quite good and quite fun to watch, but being a consensus five-star quarterback, Mallett's ceiling is higher. I'm going to call it even for now, but if Mallett lives up to his billing, it will easily swing into the "better" category.
2004: Erik Ainge, freshman / Rick Clausen, freshman
2009: A gaping hole of bitterness and sorrow
Tennessee's situation in 2004 wasn't ideal, with dueling freshmen attempting to fill the shoes of Casey Clausen. But you know what? They combined to finish fifth in the conference in passing efficiency and the Vols won 10 games and went to Altanta that year. Ainge ended up not being half bad, too. This season is a much different story. They have Jonathan Crompton, Turnover Machine and Nick Stephens, who couldn't definitively beat out Crompton a year ago. It gets worse in 2010, but that's beyond the scope of this piece.
Verdict: Much worse
2004: Marcus Randall, senior / JaMarcus Russell, freshman
2009: Jordan Jefferson, sophomore
LSU's quarterback platoon in 2004 guided the team to nine wins, with each appearing in every game (except against Troy, when Russell didn't). Randall was never able to fend off the young but talented Russell to hold the position down, but injury and inconsistency kept Russell from keeping Randall on the bench. Jefferson kind of fits the mold of Russell in the "young but talented" department, but this time there's no Randall to compete with. Jarrett Lee is still hanging around, but it's definitely Jefferson's job.
Part II tomorrow.