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Breaking Down SEC and Southeast Quarterbacks from 2012-13

The years that should have produced the SEC's 2016 quarterbacking leaders didn't.

Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

To continue my exploration of the SEC's 2016 quarterback problem, I'm now going to get specific about certain years. I'll begin with the 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes, as they should have supplied the league with senior/redshirt junior leaders for this season.

Let's look at 2012. Here are the 4 and 5-star quarterback recruits from 2012 according to the 247 Sports Composite who came from states within the SEC's footprint or who signed with SEC schools if they didn't. They're in the order that they were rated in the composite.

Player Stars Home State Signed Results
Jameis Winston 5 Alabama Florida State Heisman, No. 1 NFL pick
Anthony Alford 4 Mississippi Southern Miss MLB
Matt Davis 4 Texas Texas A&M Transferred to JUCO, then SMU
Chad Voytik 4 Tennessee Pitt Started '14, benched '15
Greyson Lambert 4 Georgia Virginia Transferred to UGA
Trevor Knight 4 Texas Oklahoma Transferred to A&M
Tommy Armstrong 4 Texas Nebraska Multi-year starter
Zeke Pike 4 Kentucky Auburn Transferred to L'ville, now TE
Maty Mauk 4 Ohio Missouri Started, dismissed
Jalen Overstreet 4 Texas Texas Moved to RB, dismissed, now at SHSU
Ford Childress 4 Texas West Virginia JUCO, Fresno, rarely played
Patrick Towles 4 Kentucky Kentucky Started, benched, transferred to BC

Putting aside his regrettable off-field issues that are beyond the scope of this study, Winston was the big miss for the conference in an on-field context. He was from the geographic heart of the SEC but spurned Alabama to sign with Florida State. He ended up a Heisman winner and the leader of one of the best offenses ever in 2013, and even though his level of play fell back in 2014, he still helped lead his team to the first College Football Playoff before becoming the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

Among the others who didn't sign with SEC programs, Voytik, Lambert, Knight, and Armstrong started for at least one season. Armstrong has had the best career of any of them, as he's the only one that didn't get benched for another player. Voytik lost his job to Tennessee transfer Nathan Peterman (who didn't make this list as a 3-star recruit), Lambert fell behind Matt Johns, and Knight got usurped by Texas Tech transfer Baker Mayfield. Armstrong took over the Nebraska starting job in 2013 before being the primary starter in 2014-15, but he's been erratic and hasn't been an all-conference contender. And, of course, Lambert and Knight are now on SEC rosters.

The blue chip quarterbacks who the SEC did sign didn't amount to a ton. Towles and Mauk had the biggest impacts, but both fell behind younger players last year. Davis and Pike had no real impact at all.

So of the 2012 quarterbacking prospects who either hailed from or ended up in SEC country, only Winston was a runaway success. Because it's highly likely that he'd already be off in the NFL by now anyway if he had signed with a conference member, he wouldn't be helping with the 2016 situation.

It's weird to say, but the only two 2012 blue chip quarterbacks in the SEC at present did not even sign with SEC schools out of high school.

Now, onto the 2013 recruiting class.

Player Stars Home State Signed Results
Cooper Bateman 4 Utah Alabama Backup so far
Brice Ramsey 4 Georgia Georgia Backup so far
Cody Thomas 4 Texas Oklahoma Backup so far
Asiantii Woulard 4 Florida UCLA Didn't play, transferred to USF
J.T. Barrett 4 Texas Ohio State Starter for most of '14 CFP title team
Hayden Rettig 4 California LSU Transferred to Rutgers
Joshua Dobbs 4 Georgia Tennessee Multi-year starter
Jeremy Johnson 4 Alabama Auburn Started, benched in '15
Kohl Stewart 4 Texas Texas A&M MLB
Anthony Jennings 4 Georgia LSU Started, benched
Kenny Hill 4 Texas Texas A&M Started, benched, transferred to TCU
Cord Sandberg 4 Florida Mississippi State MLB
Ryan Buchanan 4 Mississippi Ole Miss Backup, retired from football
Austin Allen 4 Arkansas Arkansas Backup so far
Kyle Bolin 4 Kentucky Louisville Backup, briefly started, backup again
Chris Johnson 4 Texas Baylor Moved to WR, back to QB briefly in '15

The table is much longer because there was a bumper crop of blue chip quarterbacks. There were 33 signal callers rated 4 or 5-star in the composite, nine more than the 24 each of 2014 and 2015.

Two players stand out above the rest. Barrett is another big one who got away, as he started the vast majority of the games for the 2014 national champion. Dobbs has been a multi-year starter for Tennessee and is a big reason why the Vols are the East favorite for this coming year.

After those two, though, who do you put third? I guess you could go with Hill, who famously lit up a bad South Carolina defense that one time and is one of two candidates to start at TCU this fall. He, Jennings, and and Jeremy Johnson have logged the most on-field work, but all three played their way to the bench. Baylor's Chris Johnson also got some work in thanks to the Bears' injury plague last year, but he had been moved to wide receiver prior to the other guys going down.

Despite this class having signed four cycles ago, its story is largely still yet to be written. Allen is the only named starter for 2016, although Bateman leads for the Bama job. Hill, Rettig, and Woulard are locked in competitions at their new schools, while Ramsey is battling Lambert for the right to keep the seat warm for 2016 super recruit Jacob Eason. While not likely in the cases or Ramsey and Woulard, it's possible that as many as six of the guys on the list will get their first extended periods as starting quarterback this fall.

Conclusions

The story with the 2012 recruiting class is that guys besides Winston just didn't pan out all that well. Whether that's due to the players, the coaching they got, or more likely a combination of the two, it just wasn't a good year for highly rated quarterbacks from the southeast and Texas.

The 2013 class had some real busts in it. The top three guys in it haven't played much at all, though it's hard to call Bateman a bust considering he's been waiting behind three straight senior starters. Jeremy Johnson had his chance at starting and threw it away (to the other team). So did Jennings. Ramsey had a chance to win a starting job in 2015 but couldn't. Thomas and Bolin didn't pan out and now are well behind entrenched starters.

Other than with Barrett, it's hard to look at this list and say that the SEC would be in far better quarterbacking shape if guys who are not in it now had been. I think Hill showed real potential as a freshman in College Station, but the quarterbacking position there has been so chaotic since that it's hard to say what would've happened if he hadn't left.

Allen got stuck behind his brother, who was the SEC's top-rated passer last year. Bateman has had to wait out three consecutive championship-winning starters. Buchanan was waiting out Bo Wallace, but then he got stuck behind the SEC's most prolific offensive machine of 2016 before deciding to move on from the game.

If 2012 was the year that didn't produce much, 2013 was the year when teams that ended up having good quarterback options from older classes scooped up a few of the top prospects. Thus, we have the strange situation where a few fourth-year players will be getting their first real action on the field.

The key to remember through all of this study is that the SEC might not actually have a bunch of bad quarterbacks. It has a bunch of unproven quarterbacks, and the 2013 class best exemplifies that fact.