Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Tracking the SEC's newbies at quarterback
By Chris Low
Seven of the SEC’s starting quarterbacks are first-timers, meaning they had never gone into a season in this league as the full-time starter until this year or had never been the full-time starter for any length of time.
That’s half the quarterbacks in the league.
How have the newbies fared to this point? Granted, it’s early, but we’ve split them up into three categories – off and running, jury’s still out and slow out of the gate.
Off and running
Tyler Russell, Mississippi State, Jr.: With four career starts under his belt coming into the season, Russell was ahead of the game a little bit, and as a result, has been on top of his game. He had the best game of his career last week in the 28-10 win over Auburn with 222 passing yards and three touchdowns. Russell has thrown it 53 times in his first two games and has yet to throw an interception.
Maxwell Smith, Kentucky, So.: After being pressed into starting duty late last season, Smith still had to win the starting job this preseason over senior Morgan Newton. It’s been a red-hot start for Smith, who passed for 354 yards and four touchdowns last week in the 47-14 win over Kent State. The Wildcats lost in the opener at Louisville, but Smith also played well in that game. Through two games, he’s thrown six touchdown passes and no interceptions and is completing 73 percent of his passes.
Bo Wallace, Ole Miss, So.: That Ole Miss offense has been mighty explosive in its first two games, and Wallace is a big reason why. He’s third in the SEC in total offense with 573 yards and has already accounted for seven touchdowns in two games. He leads the Rebels in rushing with 135 yards and is also completing 76.1 percent of his passes. The big test comes this weekend against Texas.
Jury’s still out
Jeff Driskel, Florida, So.: One of his problems last week in the 20-17 win at Texas A&M was holding onto the ball too long, which was one of the reasons he was sacked eight times. But Driskel didn’t turn the ball over and had two clutch plays in the fourth quarter against the Aggies. His 39-yard pass to Omarius Hines set up the Gators’ go-ahead touchdown, and his 21-yard run on the final drive iced the game. The important thing for Driskel is that he continues to grow as a passer.
Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M, RFr.: He’s played exactly one game in his college career and was dynamic in the first half of that game last week against Florida. The Gators simply couldn’t tackle Manziel, who also completed 23 of 30 passes. But in the second half, the Aggies’ offense went belly-up, and Manziel was neutralized. He’s a terrific athlete and is only going to get better as he gets more snaps in this league.
Zach Mettenberger, LSU, Jr.: The only stat that counts is that No. 3 LSU is 2-0. Mettenberger hasn’t been called on to do a lot because the Tigers haven’t needed him to. His time will come. He’s completing 70.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception. He only threw it 18 times last week in the 41-3 rout of Washington. But with Mettenberger back there at quarterback, the Tigers are much more of a threat to hurt teams down the field than they ever were a year ago.
Slow out of the gate
Kiehl Frazier, Auburn, So.: It’s not fair to put all of the blame for the Tigers’ 0-2 start on Frazier, who’s clearly had his struggles. There’s blame to go around on the Plains. Nonetheless, the Tigers have scored just one offensive touchdown in their first two games, and Frazier has thrown four interceptions, one touchdown and is completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes. He won’t last long as the starter with those numbers.