SEC quarterback superlatives

August, 9, 2011
8/09/11
1:00
PM ET
Everyone likes to judge athletes, right? Well, we've handed out a handful of superlatives the SEC's quarterbacks.

We're using our eyes and what we've seen of these gunslingers and info collected from around the league to come up with our superlatives.

There are still a handful of questions concerning the quarterbacks in this league, but there is also a wealth of potential.

So we don’t have to extend this intro any more, here are our SEC quarterback superlatives:

Biggest Arm: Zach Mettenberger, LSU. He might not be JaMarcus Russell sitting on his knees, chucking the ball 70 yards, but Mettenberger has a cannon for a right arm. When you watch video of Mettenberger, you can see that he has a quick release and some great velocity and zip on his passes. What’s really impressive is his consistency hitting receivers in stride on deep throws.

Best Runner: Randall Mackey, Ole Miss. Mackey arrived at Ole Miss with a ton of hype from his junior college days. Mackey is learning to be a pass-first quarterback, but he’s still dangerous with his legs and his elusiveness makes him very hard to contain inside and outside of the pocket. The former JUCO All-American rushed for 579 yards and five touchdowns in 2009.

Best First-year Starter: Tyler Wilson, Arkansas. The Wilson hype began when he replaced Ryan Mallett against Auburn last season and passed for 332 yards and four touchdowns. He might not have the arm Mallett possessed, but he’s every bit as talented and developed impressive leadership skills this spring. With Wilson at the helm, Bobby Petrino’s pass-friendly offense shouldn’t miss a beat.

Best Backup: A.J. McCarron or Phillip Sims, Alabama. The one not named Alabama’s starter this fall earns this superlative. They are currently neck-and-neck in this race and both have shown they can guide one of the nation’s best teams, not only by their play but with their leadership skills. The youngsters are surprisingly mature, and either could start for a few teams in this league.

[+] EnlargeAaron Murray
Dale Zanine/US PresswireGeorgia quarterback Aaron Murray has embraced his role as a team leader.
Best Leader: Aaron Murray, Georgia. Murray made major strides this spring after his freshman season with the Bulldogs. Murray had impressive stats in his first season, but the Bulldogs were 6-7, so Murray took it upon himself to the leader for his team. With a few veteran leaders from last year gone, Murray immediately stepped up this spring and has become much more vocal with his teammates and plans to lead with not just his play, but his words.

Most Improved: Chris Relf, Mississippi State. Relf became one of the most exciting quarterbacks to watch in the league last season. Relf went from 783 total yards in 2009 to 3,285 in 2010. For most of last season, Relf made his mark by barreling through defenders, but began to use his arm more, passing for 200 or more yards in the final three games of the season, a stretch in which the Bulldogs went 2-1.

Most Enigmatic: Stephen Garcia, South Carolina. Garcia received an unprecedented sixth chance from coach Steve Spurrier after an alcohol-related outburst at a mandatory leadership seminar event this spring. Garcia has found himself in a lot of trouble off the field since he arrived in Columbia, but keeps coming back. He has the chance to lead the Gamecocks to something special this fall, but people still wonder if he can stay out of trouble in order to do that.

Most to Prove: John Brantley, Florida. The senior arrived at Florida with a boatload of hype five years ago, but it was painful to watch him try to run the Gators’ spread offense last season. He isn’t a runner and was never cut out for the spread, but now that he’ll be directing Charlie Weis’ pro-style offense, Brantley has a chance to reinvent himself. Brantley has a big arm, but he has to develop confidence before he can make Florida’s offense go.

Most Valuable: Murray. He has the skills and intangibles to be the best quarterback in the league. He doesn’t have great height (he’s barely 6-foot-1), but he makes up for it with his composure in the pocket, solid arm strength and accuracy, and his leadership skills. He enhanced his game this spring by working on his footwork to deliver tighter, more accurate passes. If Murray goes down, Georgia goes from a team that could win the East, to a team that could struggle to make a bowl.

Chris Low | email

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