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SEC post-spring position rankings: Sorting through the QB battles

Cooper Bateman didn't separate himself from the pack in Alabama's A-Day game. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Now that practice is officially over, it’s time to begin our post-spring position rankings.

Up first: quarterbacks.

With so many starting jobs still undecided, this is no small task. Remember, around this time last year we had Auburn No. 3 and Arkansas No. 6. And we all know how that played out with Jeremy Johnson imploding and Brandon Allen emerging as the nation’s highest rated passer, according to QBR.

In other words, this isn’t a perfect list. Rather, it a starting point.

1. Ole Miss: The NFL draft was supposed to decimate the Rebs, but it didn’t thanks in large part to Chad Kelly’s decision to return to school. A 4,000-yard passer last season, Kelly makes Ole Miss an SEC title contender.

2. Tennessee: Joshua Dobbs is the smartest guy in the room and easily the East’s top signal-caller with 22 career starts under his belt. While he needs to improve his accuracy some, Dobbs is a play-maker and the engine to coach Butch Jones’ offense.

3. LSU: The good news is LSU fans don’t have to wonder who their starter will be. The bad news is it’s a name they’re all too familiar with in Brandon Harris, who has been shaky the last two years. So why is LSU so high on this list? First, Harris has talent as a former four-star prospect. Second, he has talent around him with Leonard Fournette, Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural. And finally, there’s still time. Consider the case of Brandon Allen, who was miserable his first two years and then came into his own, throwing 50 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his final two seasons.

4. Texas A&M: Outside of Ole Miss, Texas A&M is the home to the only other quarterback in the SEC to have beaten Alabama. So what if Trevor Knight happened to have done it while at Oklahoma? He’s an Aggie now. While Knight’s stock has dropped considerably since beating the Tide in the Sugar Bowl, a change of scenery seems to have done him well with coach Kevin Sumlin naming him the starter earlier this month.

5. Arkansas: Coaches knew who they wanted all along, they simply wanted to see a few days of spring practice to be sure Austin Allen was the one. And he didn’t disappoint, earning the starting nod ahead of the spring game. A tenacious competitor with a strong arm, Austin caused offensive coordinator Dan Enos to wonder at times last year who was the better brother: Austin or older brother Brandon?

6. Georgia: Is it the perfect situation for Kirby Smart? No, but the first-time head coach has options. On the one hand, he can go with the experience of Greyson Lambert and hope he turns a corner as a senior. If that doesn’t work out, he’s got Jacob Eason up his sleeve. While starting a true freshman is inherently risky, Eason has the kind of talent that’s hard to let ride the bench.

7. Kentucky: Drew Barker didn’t scoff at going through yet another position battle. Instead, he went wire-to-wire as first-team QB this spring, fending off juco transfer Stephen Johnson. While Barker wasn’t sharp in relief of Patrick Towles late last season, it will be interesting to see how he settles in now that Towles is gone, and he’ll have gone through an entire offseason with the comfort of knowing he’s the starter.

8. Alabama: There was never the possibility of a starter being named coming out of spring, so nothing was lost. With that said, it didn’t help that neither Cooper Bateman or David Cornwell looked sharp during A-Day. Rather, the field of candidates widened to include not just former five-star Blake Barnett, but true freshman Jalen Hurts, who was the best play-maker on the field.

9. Florida: Luke Del Rio hasn’t been named the starter yet, just don’t tell Gator fans that. After what they saw this spring, they’re sold. Sure, he’s not flashy, but Florida doesn’t necessarily need that. With what promises to be another top-notch defense, if Del Rio is a solid game-manager, then that will be enough.

10. Missouri: Drew Lock was a mess last year, but then again he was never supposed to be starting as a true freshman. So cut him some slack and see how he bounces back. While new head coach Barry Odom hasn’t named Lock the starter, it feels inevitable after the spring game in which he threw for 134 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.

11. Auburn: The hope was that the clouds would part, John Franklin would set foot on campus and all would be right with Gus Malzahn’s offense. But the speedy juco transfer never took charge of the quarterback battle, throwing for 61 yards during the spring game. With Sean White and Jeremy Johnson still in the mix, Auburn’s QB dilemma remains unresolved.

12. Mississippi State: One man isn’t going to fill the shoes of Dak Prescott, but that doesn’t mean having multiple quarterbacks is the answer. Coming out of spring, the list of potential replacements is long and without much separation. Nick Fitzgerald is still the leader, but Damian Williams, Elijah Staley and Nick Tiano are all right there.

13: Vanderbilt: Kyle Shurmur wasn’t supposed to see the field in 2015. Coach Derek Mason wanted nothing to do with another true freshman under center. Yet, Shurmur was called on and predictably struggled. Like Lock, the hope is that Shurmur will develop through the bumps and bruises.

14. South Carolina: Having Perry Orth and Brandon McIlwain as co-No. 1s is what some might describe as being stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, there’s Orth, a senior with a 1-7 record who missed much of spring practice after suffering a broken collarbone. On the other hand, you have McIlwain, who feels like he got to campus yesterday and needs time to develop as a passer. The early enrollee can certainly make plays with his feet, but you wonder if he has the size to survive in the SEC.