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SEC Quarterback Turnover Could Result In Early Volatility

A lot of new quarterbacks will take the sticks across the SEC this season. Could this lead to early season upheaval?

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Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Several quarterbacks with multiple years of starting experience departed the SEC last season. Gone are the names we've come to know well like: Connor Shaw, AJ McCarron, Aaron Murray, and Johnny Manziel to name but a few.  For the past few seasons reliable quarterback play was a given at most SEC schools. This season five schools will start a quarterback without any career starts, while only three schools return quarterbacks with double digit starts (one of whom was injured all of last season).

This year, some teams may experience new-found vulnerabilities due to quarterback turnover, especially early in the season when other offensive positions and the defense continue to gel.

Returning Quarterback Situations


SEC East


Returning QB with > 75 passing attempts in 2013?

Career Starts


Y (89)






Y (88)



Y (196 ;121)

4-3 ; 1-4


Y (133)






Y (110)


The table attempts to measure the amount of quarterback experience returning in terms of career starts but also production in 2013 to account for a quarterback becoming battle-hardened despite not starting games. South Carolina may have lost Connor Shaw but it returns Dylan Thompson who has seen playing time over the years. Florida will return previously injured Jeff Driskel and his laudable career record. No other returning quarterback in the eastern division can match their experience or output.

Hutson Mason is likely named the starter for Georgia this fall after backing up Murray the last few seasons. Patton Robinette might start for the Commodores. Maty Mauk acquitted himself well last season, but his career mark still has a small sample size. Tennessee was forced to split reps between three quarterbacks hampering individual experience. UK could start a redshirt freshman who only played in a single offensive possession two years ago before a season-ending injury or two complete unknowns.



SEC West

Returning QB > 75 passing attempts in 2013?

Career Starts




Texas A&M






Ole Miss

Y (437)



Y (237)



Y (258)



Y (239)


Two western division powers will both be reloading with the graduation of Zach Mettenberger and McCarron. Of the returning quarterbacks, there's no guarantee that Brandon Allen retains his job throughout the season, while Dak Prescott and Bo Wallace will set out to improve upon their records. Odd that MSU may feel more comfortable about its quarterback situation than Texas A&M?


One general school of thought when a team has an inexperienced quarterback is to not ask him to do too much. Simplify the offense - at least early on - and let his running backs keep him ahead of the chains, while his defense and special teams hand over good field position. It can take time for inexperienced quarterbacks to adjust, and could have an impact on the team.

In short, inexperienced quarterbacks can make an entire team vulnerable. At worst, they commit turnovers at a higher rate than average. Other times, smart defenses adjust their scheme and force the quarterback to beat them.

In a rudimentary attempt to measure potential losses, viewed solely through the prism of inexperienced quarterbacks, I'm going to compare what I judge are the least experienced quarterback teams to the top four preseason S&P+ defenses they'll face in their first five games (for the uninitiated S&P+ are adjusted rankings that take into account strength of schedule, garbage time stats, and loads of other things).

The thinking being inexperienced quarterbacks facing tough defenses early make their team especially vulnerable absent other variables. Possibly even if factoring in other variables.


SEC East


Team's Offense (Preseason S&P+)

Opponents' Defenses (Preseason S&P+)



UL-Monroe (94.6); UF (127.9); Vandy (103.8); USC (117.9)



Temple (87.2); Ole Miss (121.9); USC (117.9); UK (96.9)



Utah St. (119.9); Oklahoma (119.6); UGA (113.9); UF (127.9)



Clemson (122.0); USC (117.9); Vandy (103.8); UT (107.5)

Vanderbilt's early opponents' defenses probably won't prevent its new quarterback from winning at least 2-3 games (its FCS opponent is not shown). Tennessee's offense appears to be facing a litany of tough defenses early in the season, and off-season improvement for their slightly more experienced quarterbacks will be critical. UGA also faces a few tough defenses early, and despite all its returning offensive firepower, and Mason will need all their help.

Assuming the preseason projections are accurate, it's not difficult to envision each of these teams with at least two losses several weeks into the season with sub-par quarterback play.


SEC West
Team Team's Offense (Preseason S&P+) Opponents' Defenses (Preseason S&P+)
'Bama 125.2 WVU (99.8); S. Miss (91.1); UF (127.9); Ole Miss (121.9)
LSU 116.9 Wisconsin (119.6); UL Monroe (94.6); MSU (122.2); N.Mexico St. (73.6)
Texas A&M 129.0 USC (117.9); Rice (100); SMU (98.2); Arkansas (101.4)

Once again assuming the preseason rankings are accurate, LSU appears more vulnerable than the other two teams. Points could be hard to come by against Wisconsin and MSU, and strong defensive efforts will be important. Alabama may be challenged by Florida defensively, but it's biggest threat may come on its starting quarterback's first road game at Ole Miss. Texas A&M's offensive rating seems a bit high, but it probably won't miss a beat in its first month of play except against South Carolina.


There will be numerous brand new and/or inexperienced quarterbacks in the SEC this season. Solid quarterback play is typically critical to a team's success. Inexperienced quarterbacks can make a team vulnerable, especially early in the season when other offensive positions and the defense are still getting their sea legs. Big name SEC programs may be more vulnerable to early season losses than in previous seasons as a result.