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Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2017

Jalen Hurts, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

Jalen Hurts, Alabama Crimson Tide Football

Uncertainty surrounded the SEC’s quarterbacks going into the 2016 season, but that won’t be the case for 2017. The league is deep at this position, headlined by Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham and Arkansas’ Austin Allen. In addition to the top three, the SEC will have additional reinforcements with the development of South Carolina’s Jake Bentley, Georgia’s Jacob Eason and Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson. If those three sophomores develop as expected, the SEC could be college football’s No. 1 quarterback league for 2017. 

Austin Allen, Arkansas

To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2017. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, previous production, 2017 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2017.

Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2017

14. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M

It’s hard to get a good read on Texas A&M’s quarterback situation entering preseason practices this fall. Mond gets the nod as the projected starter here, but senior Jake Hubenak and redshirt freshman Nick Starkel are essentially tied for No. 1. Mond ranked as the No. 106 recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2017 signing class and enrolled in time to compete in spring workouts. At IMG Academy as a senior in 2016, Mond threw for 1,936 yards and 20 touchdowns and added 775 yards and 18 scores on the ground. Considering how tight this battle is, all three quarterbacks could see time this fall. 

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Texas A&M

13. Stephen Johnson, Kentucky

Drew Barker opened 2016 as Kentucky’s No. 1 quarterback but was lost for the season due to a back injury suffered in September. Barker’s injury opened the door for Johnson – a junior college prospect in 2016 – to take over as the top quarterback. Johnson was steady in his time under center for coach Mark Stoops, throwing for 2,037 yards and 13 touchdowns and adding 327 yards and three scores on the ground. In order for Kentucky to challenge for a spot among the top three in the SEC East, Johnson has to be better in league play after tossing four scores and completing just 50.9 percent of his passes in conference action.

Kentucky football schedule

12. Quinten Dormady, Tennessee

Dormady gets the nod here, but redshirt freshman Jarrett Guarantano is likely to see plenty of action for the Volunteers in 2017. Dormady has spent the last two years as a backup to Joshua Dobbs and completed 24 of 39 passes for 357 yards and one score in limited work. The Texas native ranked as the No. 262 recruit and a four-star prospect in the 2015 247Sports Composite. Both Dormady and Guarantano have upside and could finish a couple of spots higher on this list by December.

College Football Top 25: Tennessee

Related: College Football's Top 30 Coordinator Hires for 2017

11. Danny Etling, LSU

The top priority for new coordinator Matt Canada is pretty simple: Improve the passing attack. While total yardage aren’t the best way to judge the effectiveness of passing offenses, it’s notable the Tigers have only finished higher than ninth once in the SEC in passing yards per game since 2009. After sitting out 2015 due to transfer rules, Etling took over the starting job from Brandon Harris for the final 10 games of 2016. He passed for 2,123 yards and 11 scores and connected on eight passes of 40 or more yards.

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10. Malik Zaire, Florida

The Gators ended spring practice with redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks atop the depth chart, but the job is likely to change hands with Zaire arriving from Notre Dame as a graduate transfer. He played sparingly as a reserve behind Everett Golson but earned one start in the Music City Bowl during the 2014 campaign. Zaire was slated to start in 2015 but suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 2. The emergence of DeShone Kizer pushed Zaire into a backup role in South Bend last fall. Zaire has attempted only 98 passes in his career but has showed good mobility on the ground (324 yards). He should be an upgrade for the Gators at quarterback.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Florida

9. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt

Shurmur took a step forward in his development over the final month of the regular season, helping Vanderbilt win four out of its last six games and earn a trip to the Independence Bowl. Shurmur torched Tennessee for 416 yards and also tossed two touchdowns and 273 yards in a 38-17 victory over Ole Miss. While Shurmur’s final stat line was only 2,409 yards and nine touchdowns to 10 picks, the junior is clearly trending in the right direction entering 2017. 

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Related: College Football Bowl Projections for 2017

8. Drew Lock, Missouri

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In his first full year as Missouri’s No. 1 quarterback, Lock was one of the bright spots for a team that finished 4-8. The Missouri native finished second in the SEC by averaging 283.3 passing yards per game and tossed 23 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions. Lock’s development was a big reason why the Tigers averaged 31.4 points per game last fall. While the final numbers were impressive, Missouri needs better play out of Lock in SEC games. In league play, Lock’s totals slipped to 10 touchdowns to 10 interceptions and posted a 53.3 completion percentage.

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7. Jacob Eason, Georgia

Eason’s development is crucial to Georgia’s hopes of winning the SEC East in 2017. The five-star prospect started 12 games for the Bulldogs as a true freshman last fall and finished the year by throwing for 2,430 yards and 16 scores. Eason needs to improve his accuracy (55.1 percent) and do a better job of taking care of the ball (eight picks last year), but the talent is there to take a step forward in 2017.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Georgia

6. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss

Until a knee injury suffered in November by Chad Kelly, Patterson was not expected to play for Ole Miss in 2016. The Louisiana native ranked as a five-star recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2016 signing class and started for the Rebels over the final three games. In that small three-game window, Patterson showcased his potential. He completed 72 of 132 throws for 880 yards and six touchdowns and added 169 yards on the ground. Patterson’s best performance came on the road at Texas A&M, as he guided the Rebels to a 29-28 victory by accounting for 402 total yards. With one of the SEC’s top receiving corps at his disposal, along with the addition of new coordinator Phil Longo, look for Patterson to emerge as one of the league’s top signal-callers in his sophomore campaign.

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Related: SEC Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2017

5. Jake Bentley, South Carolina

In an effort to spark the offense and an eye to the future, Bentley’s redshirt was removed prior to the Oct. 22 matchup against UMass. The move paid dividends for coach Will Muschamp, as Bentley threw for threw for 1,420 yards and nine scores and guided the Gamecocks 4-2 record in the final six regular season games, with a trip to the Birmingham Bowl against USF. Bentley was supposed to be a high school senior last fall but enrolled a year ahead of schedule.

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4. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

Replacing Dak Prescott wasn’t supposed to be that easy for coach Dan Mullen and Mississippi State in 2016. While Prescott was clearly missed, the Bulldogs identified their next star under center in the second half of last season. Fitzgerald guided Mississippi State to four wins over its final six games and finished 2016 by averaging 292.2 total yards per contest. Fitzgerald’s 1,375 rushing yards led the team and were the most by a quarterback in Mississippi State school history. The next step for Fitzgerald is to develop as a passer and improve his completion percentage (54.3 percent in 2016).

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Mississippi State

Related: Ranking All 130 College Football Teams for 2017

3. Austin Allen, Arkansas

The Razorbacks had a seamless transition from Brandon Allen to Austin Allen at quarterback in 2016. In his first year as Arkansas’ No. 1 quarterback, Allen threw for 3,430 yards and 25 touchdowns. He also led the SEC by connecting on 53 passes of 20 or more yards. A knee injury suffered against Auburn on Oct. 22 hindered Allen late in the season, but even with some turnover among the supporting cast for 2017, the senior is entrenched as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks.

College football rankings: Arkansas

2. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

Stidham could be the missing piece for Auburn’s offense and has the ability to finish 2017 as the SEC’s No. 1 quarterback. The Tigers led the SEC in rushing (271.3 ypg) but tied for the fewest touchdown tosses (four) in league-only games last year. Stidham gives coach Gus Malzahn and coordinator Chip Lindsey a difference-maker at the position, as the Texas native possesses a powerful, accurate arm and is also mobile enough to be a factor on the ground. Stidham spent one season at Baylor, throwing for 1,265 yards and 12 scores in 10 games in the 2015 campaign. He left Waco last summer and spent 2016 as a student at McLennan Community College. Stidham ranked as the No. 39 overall recruit by the 247Sports Composite in the 2015 signing class.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Auburn

Related: SEC Football Predictions for 2017

1. Jalen Hurts, Alabama

The bar is set high for Hurts in his second year as the starter. As a true freshman last fall, Hurts guided Alabama to the national championship game and claimed first-team All-SEC honors. Hurts proved to be a dynamic runner (954 yards and 13 scores) but also passed for 2,780 yards and 23 touchdowns. With a full offseason to work as the starter, Hurts should continue to develop as a passer in 2017.

College Football Top 25 Rankings: Alabama