Ranking the spring SEC quarterback battles

The SEC might possess the biggest array of the nation's most talented players from top to bottom, but there's a very important position that's lagging at the moment.


In 2016, the SEC can't escape the fact that it has a bunch of big, fat question marks next to a handful of quarterback situations.

SEC championship foes Alabama (reigning national champ as well) and Florida will probably have new starting quarterbacks this fall. Mississippi State just lost its greatest quarterback ever. Texas A&M doesn't even have its two starting quarterbacks from last year (both underclassmen) on campus anymore!

Only Ole Miss, which has record-breaking Chad Kelly, and Tennessee, proud partner with the fleet-footed Joshua Dobbs, have truly stable quarterback situations. There is a lot of rebuilding at quarterback, which means SEC offensive coordinators have a lot of work to do before they can concentrate on their summer tans.

Here are the SEC's nine quarterback battles ranked 1-9. We ranked them by general interest -- both locally and nationally -- and by importance to their respective programs.

1. Alabama: Cooper Bateman, David Cornwell, Blake Barnett, Jalen Hurts: OK, so as we've learned the past two seasons, Alabama doesn't really need to figure out who's going to start at quarterback until the fall. Still, this is the SEC's best team and it's the defending national champion, so there's automatic intrigue. Bateman is the only one with college -- and starting -- experience; expect early-favorite talk with him. Cornwell's name was mentioned in starter talk last year, but he didn't play. Barnett, the former No. 1 pocket-passer by ESPN, has been viewed as the future here. Hurts just enrolled. This one should linger into the fall.

2. Florida: Luke Del Rio, Austin Appleby, Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask: We keep thinking if Florida juuuuust finds a quarterback, the Gators will officially be back. With Treon Harris not with the team this spring, Florida has four players competing at quarterback. Del Rio, the former Alabama and Oregon State player, is eligible and is the early favorite. Word out of Gainesville is that he's making all the early throws but still has a ways to go. Appleby is a graduate transfer from Purdue who has 19 touchdowns and interceptions in his career. Franks and Trask are both raw, true freshmen. However, Franks, the No. 5 pocket-passer in this year's class, has a huge arm, and if he can get the right touch, watch out.

3. Auburn: Jeremy Johnson, Sean White, Tyler Queen, John Franklin III: It's pretty obvious that Gus Malzahn's offense can't come close to operating correctly without the right quarterback. And it appears that the chosen quarterback has to be able to run right to left. He also needs to have composure, something Johnson and White lacked for most of last season. Can Johnson return to last year's fantastic spring form? Queen, a redshirt freshman, will get reps, but has a long way to go. Franklin, a juco transfer, has really wowed with his speed in practice and could be the favorite to win. Malzahn must find the right guy because his seat is getting hotter on the Plains.

4. Arkansas: Austin Allen, Ricky Town, Rafe Peavey: Austin is the favorite to replace his older brother, but it'll be interesting to see what Town, the former USC commit, does this spring. Peavey is intriguing because he was a highly touted prospect in 2014. This one should be fun, and you know Dan Enos, who completely transformed this passing game, will figure out how to make one of them a stud.

5. Georgia: Greyson Lambert, Brice Ramsey, Jacob Eason: Eason might be the Chosen One, but he isn't even taking second-team reps right now. Lambert, who wasn't consistent enough in big games last year, is at the top of the depth chart, with Ramsey, who mostly punted last season, taking second-team reps. This could all change in a week, but it's clear that offensive coordinator Jim Chaney is going to be meticulous with this and he isn't going to hand Eason the job.

6. Mississippi State: Nick Fitzgerald, Damian Williams, Elijah Staley, Nick Tiano: One of them must replace the biggest man ever on Mississippi State's campus: Dak Prescott. He broke 38 school records, so no pressure or anything. Fitzgerald played the most last year (235 yards and three touchdowns last year), while Williams, the most experienced, missed all of last season due to injury. Staley's season was also cut short because of injury, while Tiano redshirted. Fitzgerald is viewed as the early favorite.

7. South Carolina: Lorenzo Nunez, Connor Mitch, Perry Orth, Brandon McIlwain: Yet again, Will Muschamp must find the right quarterback. He had this issue at Florida, and he can't have it at South Carolina. He has already said he'd like to have more of an Auburn-type offense, so McIlwain, a top dual-threat prospect, will get every chance to be the starter this spring. Orth is No. 1 on the depth chart, but he and Nunez both struggled with consistency last year. Nunez's running ability could give him new life, though. Mitch is back from injury and was supposed to be the future of the position at one point.

8. Texas A&M: Trevor Knight, Jake Hubenak: While it's incredibly important that Kevin Sumlin finds the right quarterback, this feels like Knight's job to lose. The Oklahoma transfer had an up-and-down career at OU, but he'd be Sumlin's first senior starting quarterback at A&M and has more experience than Hubenak. Now, Hubenak performed well in A&M's bowl loss last season (307 yards with two touchdowns and an interception), but is he the better fit in Noel Mazzone's uptempo offense?

9. LSU: Brandon Harris, Danny Etling: This is Harris' job to lose, and he has said he's taking all of the first-team reps. But Etling will get his chances. He has impressed coaches and Harris struggled for most of 2015, so Etling, who had 2,490 yards and 16 TDs/12 INTs at Purdue, is someone to keep an eye on.