Who's got backup in the SEC?

October, 2, 2009
10/02/09
9:14
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


The hit on Florida quarterback Tim Tebow and his subsequent concussion last week is a sobering reminder for everybody in college football how close they are to playing their backup quarterback.

Maybe it’s a missed block, a blindside sack or a scramble that ends in a violent collision with a linebacker.

And sometimes, it’s a freak thing that can cause your quarterback to go down.

You never know, which means the guy waiting in the shadows can turn out to be the most valuable player on the team.

Twice this decade, LSU has won SEC championships with backups leading the way in the title game – Ryan Perrilloux in 2007 and Matt Mauck in 2001.

How ready are the backup quarterbacks around the league this season?

Here’s a quick look breaking them down into three categories:

Ready to roll

Mackenzi Adams, Vanderbilt: It seems like Adams has been around for six or seven years now. He’s been the ultimate go-to guy off the bench any time the Commodores have needed him. He’s not a great passer, but is effective running the ball and knows the offense inside and out. He’s been an integral part of some of Vanderbilt’s bigger wins the last few seasons.

John Brantley, Florida: As a pure passer, Brantley might be even better than Tebow. He gave Urban Meyer a ton of confidence with his performance this past spring and probably would be starting for several teams in the league right now. The Gators didn’t look like they skipped a beat after he came in for Tebow in the Kentucky game, although their offense will look a little different with Brantley in the game.

Randall Cobb, Kentucky: If Mike Hartline went down, it would be interesting to see which way Rich Brooks would go. The listed backup is junior Will Fidler, who improved in the spring, but still hasn’t played any meaningful snaps in games. Ultimately, Brooks would probably go with Cobb, who took the job from Hartline toward the end of last season and is one of the premier athletes in the league. Cobb was a quarterback in high school and can throw it, but the Wildcats need him more right now at receiver.

Jarrett Lee, LSU: One of the more experienced backups in the league, Lee started eight games last season as a redshirt freshman. He was 4-4 as a starter and passed for more than 1,800 yards and 14 touchdowns, but also threw 16 interceptions, seven of which were returned for touchdowns. The wild card for the Tigers is true freshman Russell Shepard, who’s a dynamic threat as a runner but still working on his passing.

Chris Relf, Mississippi State: He’s already sharing some of the quarterback duties with senior starter Tyson Lee this season. A bigger, more physical player, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Relf is more of a threat as a runner and is being used in that role some this season. He’s already had some games where he’s been close to 10 carries. True freshman Tyler Russell is waiting in the wings.

Nick Stephens, Tennessee: Stephens started as many games as Jonathan Crompton last season, but neither was overly effective. The best thing Stephens does is throw the deep ball. He pushed Crompton during preseason camp this year. But so far, Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin has stuck with Crompton despite his eight interceptions through four games.

Has the hype

Neil Caudle, Auburn: Some in and around the program felt Caudle might be the favorite to win the starting job entering preseason practice, but Chris Todd quickly shot down that theory. Caudle, a junior, has played very few meaningful snaps for the Tigers. The player the Auburn fans want to see is true freshman Tyrik Rollison, who would seem to fit well into what Gus Malzahn likes to do on offense.

Logan Gray, Georgia: The Bulldogs have a package in place for Gray, who’s one of the most versatile athletes on the team. He returned punts last season, and there was some talk leading up to the South Carolina game that he might play an expanded role against the Gamecocks. The jury is still out on his ability to throw the ball. The Bulldogs also have a pair of true freshmen they like -- Aaron Murray and Zach Metterberger.

Star Jackson, Alabama: The sophomore from Lake Worth, Fla., came to Alabama with all kinds of credentials. He’s a 6-foot-3, 205-pound pro-style passer that can also run. He just hasn’t played any meaningful snaps yet with the game on the line. Down the road, Jackson may have a hard time holding off true freshman A.J. McCarron, who was also highly touted coming out of high school.

Tyler Wilson, Arkansas: Wilson has played a little bit this season for the Hogs, as Bobby Petrino wants to get the redshirt freshman some experience. He fits well into Petrino’s system and is a talented passer, although he’s still adjusting to playing under center. He operated exclusively out of the shotgun in high school.

Who knows?

Reid McCollum, South Carolina: The Gamecocks could really be in trouble if something happened to Stephen Garcia. Redshirt freshman Reid McCollum is his backup and has thrown just one pass this season. He was sick last week with the flu, but Spurrier said he’s going to try and get McCollum in the game this week in the first half just to get him some meaningful experience. McCollum’s claim to fame is that he was A.J. Green’s quarterback in high school.

Nathan Stanley, Ole Miss: If something were to happen to Jevan Snead, the Rebels wouldn’t have anybody behind him who’s thrown more than five passes in his college career. Redshirt freshman Nathan Stanley would probably get the first shot. The 6-foot-5, 200-pound Stanley was one of Ole Miss’ most improved players in the spring. Senior Billy Tapp would also be an option, although he’s yet to throw a pass this season.

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