We’re coming up on a month from the start of spring practice for some of the SEC schools.
There could be several interesting quarterback battles brewing. Here’s a quick glance at a few of those that are up for grabs:
First-year offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe has already said it’s going to be wide open among seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee and junior college transfer Zach Mettenberger. Obviously, the Tigers have to get more production out of their passing game than they did in 2010, but at least Jefferson played some of his best football toward the end of the season. If he’s made of the right stuff, Mettenberger’s arrival will only raise Jefferson's level of play this spring. The 6-5, 245-pound Mettenberger has a big arm and the kind of work ethic coaches love. He’s clearly a talented player and one the Georgia coaches hated to lose after his off-the-field trouble last year. This is a battle that will almost certainly extend into preseason practice in August.
Does John Brantley transform into the kind of passer everybody thought he was going to be last season now that he’s in a pro-style system with a new head coach and new offensive coordinator? Jeff Driskel might be a true freshman, but he’s oozing with athletic ability and will be worth the price of admission this spring. Having him enroll early was big for the Gators. It’s yet to be determined how Trey Burton and Jordan Reed will fit into the quarterback equation in Charlie Weis’ system.
Nathan Stanley has been down this road before. He won the Rebels’ starting job last spring, but Ole Miss brought in Oregon castoff Jeremiah Masoli during the summer. Masoli took over in the second game and was the starter for the rest of the season. Stanley, now a junior, gets another shot to win the job this spring. Masoli is gone, but Ole Miss went out and signed junior college quarterback Zack Stoudt, and he’s already enrolled in school. Randall Mackey redshirted last season after coming over from junior college and is more of a multi-purpose threat. Former West Virginia quarterback Barry Brunetti is transferring to Ole Miss and has applied for a waiver from the NCAA that would allow him to play right away and not have to sit out for a season.
Sophomore A.J. McCarron is the guy to beat. He’s entering his third year in the program after redshirting his first year on campus and has all the physical tools to be a great one. Redshirt freshman Phillip Sims was ESPN’s top-rated quarterback in the country coming out of high school. There were some rumblings earlier this year that he might be looking to transfer, but his father said in January those rumors were untrue and that he’s looking forward to battling for the starting job this spring.
Rising senior Stephen Garcia played with more consistency for much of the past season, although he threw five interceptions in his final two games. South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier plans to take a long look at sophomore Connor Shaw in the spring, and if Shaw outplays Garcia, don’t be surprised if you see a lot more of Shaw next season than you did in 2010.
Touted freshman signee Kiehl Frazier won’t be on campus until this summer, so the spring will be junior Barrett Trotter's stage to show what he can do. Sophomore Clint Moseley will be the other guy to watch this spring.
Everything's new at Vanderbilt, which means the Commodores may well have a new quarterback next fall. Senior Larry Smith is back, but he figures to get a stiff challenge this spring from Jordan Rodgers, who redshirted last season. Rodgers, the younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, signed with the Commodores out of junior college, but a shoulder problem kept him from competing for the job. He ended up having surgery. The Commodores also signed three freshman quarterbacks in the 2011 class who will be on campus this summer.
Judging from the way Tyler Wilson stepped in and performed in the Auburn game, the Hogs have supreme confidence that he can pick up where Ryan Mallett left off this past season. A third-year sophomore, Wilson has all of his top playmakers at receiver coming back. His competition this spring will be a pair of redshirt freshmen -- Jacoby Walker and Brandon Mitchell. Walker is coming off a torn ACL in last year’s spring game.