With the season rapidly approaching, it's time to take a look at our yearly preseason position rankings in the SEC. We're kicking things off with quarterback, which isn't exactly the strongest position in the conference.
1. Mississippi State: When you return the SEC's best quarterback, senior Dak Prescott, you have a pretty good chance of taking the top spot. Last season, the Heisman Trophy candidate broke 12 school records, including rushing yards by a quarterback (986), total offense (4,435 yards), total offense per game (341.2) and touchdowns responsible for (41). Backup Damian Williams has 434 career passing yards and three touchdowns to his name.
2. Tennessee: Junior Joshua Dobbs made tremendous strides during the second half of last season, when he finished the year 4-1. During that span, the Vols’ offense averaged 36.7 points and 431 yards per game. Like Prescott, Dobbs offers dual-threat ability; last year, he threw for 1,206 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for another 469 yards and eight TDs. Three freshmen will compete to be Dobbs’ backup.
3. Auburn: People are expecting special things from junior Jeremy Johnson, who played in 13 games with two starts as Nick Marshall’s backup. Johnson has thrown for 858 yards and nine touchdowns in his career and possesses much more arm talent than the more nimble Marshall. Johnson should make Auburn’s offense even more potent and balanced with his passing ability.
4. Texas A&M: Does it really matter who starts behind center for the Aggies? All coach Kevin Sumlin has done in three seasons is engineer the SEC’s best statistical passing offense. In 2014, Kyle Allen started the final five games of the season (3-2) and finished the year with 1,322 yards, 16 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Now, he must compete with hotshot freshman Kyler Murray, who appears to be a really special specimen.
5. Missouri: Two years ago, Maty Mauk looked like the next great thing in the SEC after he filled in swimmingly for James Franklin. But last season left us with mixed reviews: Mauk averaged just 174.8 yards per game in conference play and threw 13 interceptions alongside his 25 touchdowns. Mauk dealt with a shoulder injury during the second half of the season, but nine of his interceptions came when he was healthy.
6. Arkansas: Senior Brandon Allen isn’t the flashiest quarterback around, but he was extremely efficient last season, throwing 20 touchdowns to five interceptions. However, he averaged just 175.8 yards per game. New offensive coordinator Dan Enos promises to open things up in the passing game, but Arkansas still needs more consistency at receiver, and Allen has to prove to be a real threat throwing downfield.
7. Kentucky: Mark Stoops is still trying to find his starting quarterback, but veteran Patrick Towles threw for 2,718 yards and 14 touchdowns with nine picks in 2014. Pretty average, and eight of his interceptions came in Kentucky’s seven losses. His efficiency rating in those games was 108.1. He’s battling with redshirt freshman Drew Barker, a top recruit from the Class of 2014, who has been given every opportunity to take the starting job.
8. Georgia: When your coaches go after Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson and eventually sign Virginia transfer Greyson Lambert, clearly there are questions at quarterback. With Jacob Park transferring, it’s a three-headed race starring Brice Ramsey (333 yards last season), Lambert (1,632) and Faton Bauta (48). The reps have been pretty much equal in practice, and this one could bleed into the season.
9. Alabama: Jake Coker is still competing with a host of youngsters, headed by David Cornwell, Blake Barnett and Cooper Bateman, and it’s anyone’s position to win. Coker was supposed to be the guy last season, but that didn’t work out. Cornwell has received praise here and there, and while Nick Saban isn’t panicking, this race is wide open and could continue through the start of the season.
10. LSU: Les Miles seems a lot more confident in the battle between Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris than he did last year, but we still don’t know what to expect from either. Jennings started 12 games last season but completed just 48.9 percent of his passes and crossed the 200-yard mark only once. Harris could be a star, but focus is everything with him. In one start last season, he went 3-of-14 for 58 yards in a blowout loss to Auburn.
11. Ole Miss: The Rebels went from the experienced Bo Wallace to very youthful and unproven. Clemson transfer Chad Kelly could be a stud with his arm and mobility, but he still has to nail down the offense. Ryan Buchanan had the best grasp on the offense this spring and DeVante Kincade is the most athletic, but both played sparingly last season. No one has separated himself here.
12. Florida: The Gators haven’t had good quarterback play since Tim Tebow left after the 2009 season, and first-year coach Jim McElwain, who has a wealth of QB knowledge, has to find a starter between sophomore Treon Harris (six starts last season) and redshirt freshman Will Grier. Both have been hot and cold since the spring with no real separation. Harris is the better athlete, but the overall arm talent goes to Grier.
13. South Carolina: This is another multi-headed quarterback battle still looking for an ending. Connor Mitch (two career games) appeared to be the favorite coming out of spring, but coach Steve Spurrier insists things are open among Mitch, Perry Orth, Michael Scarnecchia and true freshman Lorenzo Nunez. Mitch appears to be inching ahead, but regardless of who takes over, South Carolina has hardly any experience returning.
14. Vanderbilt: Last season, the Commodores rotated in four different starting quarterbacks who combined to throw an SEC-high 19 interceptions and owned an SEC-low 102.4 efficiency rating. After the departures of Stephen Rivers and Patton Robinette, Johnny McCrary (985 yards last season) and Wade Freebeck (376) were even after spring practice. Freshman Kyle Shurmur enters the fray but will likely redshirt.