Ranking the SEC quarterbacks

The quarterback position in the SEC is looking up in 2012 after a so-so season a year ago.

With spring practice set to begin for several teams, we'll take our shot at ranking the projected starters heading into the spring.

This list may and probably will change by the time we get to September. There are always surprises, and you never know how the new guys are going to respond.

A few of the quarterbacks are coming off of injuries, and several of the starting jobs are still up for grabs.

So look at this ranking as a pecking order of who you would pick to be your quarterback in the fall based on what you know right now about that player, his prior experience in the college game, his projected impact in the fall and how much progress you expect him to make over the next six months leading up to the season.

Here's what we came up with pre-spring:

1. Tyler Wilson, Sr., Arkansas: He seriously considered turning pro, and a lot of the analysts felt like he would have gone in the top two rounds. Wilson threw for 3,638 yards and 24 touchdowns and was intercepted just six times in his first season as a starter last year. His best football is ahead of him.

2. Aaron Murray, Jr., Georgia: The only knock on Murray is his interceptions. He threw 14 picks last season, but he also set a school record with 35 touchdown passes. Most of his receiving corps is back in 2012, so look for him to take it to another level next season and break even more records.

3. James Franklin, Jr., Missouri: Granted, he'll be going against SEC defenses for the first time in the fall, but Franklin has proven that he can be effective both running and passing. He just missed 1,000 yards rushing last season (981) and passed for 2,865 yards. He accounted for 36 touchdowns and is the essence of a multi-purpose threat.

4. AJ McCarron, Jr., Alabama: McCarron was outstanding at protecting the ball all of last season, and when the Alabama coaches asked him to step up his game, he delivered in the BCS National Championship Game with an MVP performance. He has all the physical tools to have a breakout season in 2012, and he now has the experience, too.

5. Tyler Bray, Jr., Tennessee: Bray got off to a super start last season before breaking his thumb against Georgia in the fifth game. He's still looking for his first marquee win, but has the arm strength to make the kind of throws few quarterbacks can. His receiving corps should be excellent, although the jury is still out on Bray as a leader.

6. Connor Shaw, Jr., South Carolina: One of the most improved quarterbacks in the league, Shaw closed the 2011 season on fire. He's never going to be a big pocket passer, but he's good on the move and always a threat to take off and run. The Gamecocks have the whole offseason to gear what they do offensively around Shaw's strengths and expand their zone read package.

7. Zach Mettenberger, Jr., LSU: Everybody on the Bayou is eager to see Mettenberger's big arm. LSU coach Les Miles says the Tigers are going to put that big arm to good use next season and throw the ball more. Mettenberger has waited his turn. Once he gains a little experience, he has a chance to be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league.

8. Jordan Rodgers, Sr., Vanderbilt: Once he took over as Vanderbilt's starter last season, the Commodores took off offensively. In particular, they were able to hit more big plays down the field. Rodgers makes things happen with his ability to run and can also throw it. He needs to cut down on his interceptions.

9. Clint Moseley, Jr., Auburn: With first-year offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler taking over, Moseley's ability to throw the ball from the pocket should give him an edge. He still has to beat out Kiehl Frazier for the job, and that's going to be a battle. But the experience of starting toward the end of last season should help Moseley.

10. Tyler Russell, Jr., Mississippi State: Russell banged up his knee in bowl practice back in December, so he could be limited this spring. He got his chance to start some in the second half of the season a year ago, and there's no question that he can throw it. But he still has to prove he can do all the other things it takes to be a good quarterback in this league.

11. Jacoby Brissett, So., Florida: Talk about being thrown into the fire. Brissett was forced into action against Alabama and then started the next two games against LSU and Auburn last season as a true freshman. He'll have a battle on his hands this spring with Jeff Driskel, and it's a battle that will probably go into the preseason.

12. Bo Wallace, So., Ole Miss: His junior college numbers last season were eye-popping, and he still has to go out and win the job this spring. But Wallace knows Hugh Freeze's system, and at 6-5, has the arm and the presence in the pocket to put up big numbers. Even so, there's a learning curve in this league for all first-year quarterbacks.

13. Maxwell Smith, So., Kentucky: After Morgan Newton struggled with injuries and inconsistency last season, Smith got his chance to see if he could jump-start Kentucky's offense late in the season. He showed some promise before getting banged up and having to miss the Tennessee game. Newton is out this spring after undergoing shoulder surgery, but will challenge for the job in the fall.

14. Jameill Showers, So., Texas A&M: Kevin Sumlin takes over in College Station with a group of quarterbacks that have virtually no college experience. Showers played in four games last season while backing up Ryan Tannehill and threw only five passes. He's the front-runner going into the spring, but Sumlin has made it clear that the competition will be wide open.