With the regular season just around the corner, we're taking a look at the top quarterback battles in the SEC.
We visited this topic back in May, but now that summer workouts are over with and we've been able to speak with a few more people on the subject, we'll tackle it once again just before the season starts.
From the two youngsters in Tuscaloosa, to the three-headed monster at Ole Miss, there is a lot of competition under center in a league that thrives on abusing quarterbacks.
Not only is there a lot of competition, but there is a lot of youth involved as well:
1. Alabama: A.J. McCarron versus Phillip Sims -- This one features two underclassmen who are looking to guide one of the best teams in America. Alabama isn't just playing for the SEC championship; the Tide want to add another national championship trophy to their lavish collection. To do that, Alabama will have to figure out who will take over under center. Both McCarron, who mostly appeared in mop-up duty last season, and Sims, a redshirt freshman, left spring even. Nothing has happened to change that, with both getting equal reps in practice. Both have impressed their coaches and teammates with their playing ability and leadership. Players continue to say they'd be pleased with either taking the job and coach Nick Saban said he won't hesitate to play both during the season.
2. Auburn: Barrett Trotter versus Clint Moseley versus Kiehl Frazier -- The defending national champs must replace Cam Newton and his record-setting, Heisman-winning season. Trotter, a junior, is the most experienced, but has attempted just nine career passes -- nine more than Moseley (sophomore) and Frazier (freshman) combined. Trotter and Moseley competed against each other this spring, both struggling at times and leaving the spring game relatively even. They welcomed Frazier -- and his high school hype -- to the mix this summer. Some feel Trotter has the edge, but Moseley is bigger and more athletic, while Frazier, a true dual-threat, has already had the Newton comparisons draped over him.
3. Ole Miss: Barry Brunetti versus Randall Mackey versus Zack Stoudt -- The Rebels received great news when athletic West Virginia transfer Brunetti was granted immediate eligibility to play this fall by the NCAA. He’s the only quarterback on the roster with Division I experience, though it’s very limited, and coach Houston Nutt has said multiple times that if he had to play a game immediately, Brunetti would start. However, even before senior Nathan Stanley left this spring, Mackey, a junior college All-American who redshirted last season, had the edge at the position. Mackey isn’t just a gifted athlete, he’s gained a ton of respect from his teammates with his leadership skills. Stoudt doesn't move around much, but he might have the best combination of arm strength and accuracy. Brunetti might have the edge, but this battle is far from over.
4. LSU: Jordan Jefferson versus Zach Mettenberger versus Jarrett Lee -- Steve Kragthorpe tweaked just about every aspect of Jefferson's game this spring, enhancing Jefferson’s ability and boosting his confidence. Kragthorpe was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and has stepped down as offensive coordinator, but will stay on as quarterbacks coach, which should benefit Jefferson greatly. He'll need that continued tutelage because juco transfer Mettenberger has been very impressive and possesses a wealth of potential. If Jefferson falters, Mettenberger will get his shot. Also, Lee showed up to preseason camp in considerably better shape and is down to a little more than 200 pounds. Coach Les Miles insists that with Lee's experience, he can't be counted out of the battle.
5. Vanderbilt: Larry Smith versus Jordan Rodgers versus Josh Grady versus Lafonte Thourogood -- Smith is getting a chance to transform his image with Vanderbilt’s new coaching staff. Under the direction of quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne, Smith has renewed confidence and says he’s made vast on-field improvements. Head coach James Franklin has complete confidence in Smith, but the senior will have to fend off Rodgers, a junior who missed spring recovering from shoulder surgery. Aaron Rodgers’ little brother is someone Vandy’s staff is especially excited about. Freshmen Grady and Thourogood will also be competing for the starting spot.