Led by Missouri’s Drew Lock and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa, the SEC boasts a deep group of quarterbacks for the 2018 season. Lock earned first-team All-SEC honors last fall, while Tagovailoa is poised for a breakout year – if he can beat Jalen Hurts for the starting job. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald and Georgia’s Jake Fromm round out a promising tier of quarterbacks at the top, followed by South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur.
To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2018. This was not a ranking of quarterbacks only based on accomplishments so far or pro potential. All factors - pure talent, supporting cast, having a clear hold on the No. 1 position, previous production, 2018 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) - were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2018.
Ranking the SEC's Quarterbacks for 2018
14. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
With Stephen Johnson departing Lexington, the Wildcats have a two-man competition for the starting quarterback job this offseason. Wilson – a former Oregon and junior college recruit – is battling sophomore Gunnar Hoak for the top spot on the depth chart. Wilson ranked as ESPN’s No. 5 junior college recruit for the 2017 signing class and joined the team prior to spring ball. Wilson completed 10 of 24 throws for 131 yards and added 14 rushing yards on five attempts in the spring game.
13. Feleipe Franks, Florida
Florida’s offense struggled mightily last season, but the entire unit is getting a fresh start under new coach Dan Mullen. The Gators averaged only 21 points in SEC contests last fall. Mullen should make better use of Florida’s talent, which includes development at the quarterback position. Franks led the offense with 1,438 yards and nine touchdowns, but he also tossed eight interceptions and completed just 54.6 percent of his throws in 2017. Franks is far from secure at the top of the depth chart. Incoming freshman Emory Jones and redshirt freshman Kyle Trask will push for the job in fall practice.
12. Cole Kelley, Arkansas
Kelley is listed here, but the battle with Ty Storey will continue into the fall. New coach Chad Morris is known for his background on offense, but it may take a year or two for the staff to put all of the pieces into place. Kelley started four games last season and ended 2017 with 1,038 passing yards and eight touchdowns. The Louisiana native checks in at an imposing 6-foot-7 frame and has enough mobility to make plays on the ground. Storey has played in three games over the last two years and attempted four passes in that span. True freshman Connor Noland is a name to watch this fall.
11. Myles Brennan, LSU
Brennan was the favorite to win this job all offseason, but Justin McMillan made a push for the top spot after throwing for 216 yards in the spring game. Brennan ranked as a four-star recruit in last year’s signing class and spent 2017 working as the backup to Danny Etling. The Mississippi native completed 14 of 24 passes for 182 yards and a touchdown in six appearances last season. New coordinator Steve Ensminger has promised to upgrade LSU’s passing offense. Settling the quarterback battle (and getting more production or big plays through the air) would certainly help the offense improve off its 2017 totals.
Related: LSU Tigers 2018 Schedule Analysis
10. Keller Chryst, Tennessee
Jarrett Guarantano (15 of 27 for 226 yards and two scores) finished the spring on a high note, but he will have to compete with Chryst for the No. 1 spot this fall. New coach Jeremy Pruitt landed Chryst as a graduate transfer from Stanford, giving the Volunteers an experienced option to navigate a brutal 2018 schedule. Chryst completed 160 of 289 passes for 1,926 yards and 19 touchdowns during his three years with the Cardinal. He went 6-0 as the team’s No. 1 quarterback in 2016 and started seven contests before losing the job to K.J. Costello in 2017.
9. Nick Starkel, Texas A&M
Kellen Mond and Starkel will continue their quarterback battle in the fall, but Starkel is a better fit for new coach Jimbo Fisher’s offense and should win the top spot on the depth chart. Starkel opened 2017 as the team’s No. 1 quarterback but suffered a leg injury against UCLA and was sidelined for the next six games. He returned for the final six contests and ended the year with 1,793 passing yards and 14 touchdowns. Starkel also completed 60 percent of his throws and tossed just six interceptions on 205 attempts. Fisher has an excellent track record when it comes to quarterback development. Starkel might be his next star pupil.
8. Jordan Ta’amu, Ole Miss
Ole Miss’ offense didn’t miss a beat after Shea Patterson was lost for the year due to a knee injury in late October. Ta’amu kept the Rebels’ attack firing on all cylinders, guiding the offense to 30 or more points in four out of the last five games. The Hawaii native ended the season with 1,682 yards and 11 touchdowns to just four picks. Ta’amu can also hurt defenses with his legs (165 yards last year) and should connect on plenty of big plays with receiver A.J. Brown in 2018.
7. Kyle Shurmur, Vanderbilt
Shurmur quietly finished 2017 ranked second among SEC quarterbacks with 26 touchdown tosses. Over 12 contests, Shurmur threw for 2,823 yards and connected on 57.9 percent of his throws. Shurmur also eclipsed 300 or more yards in three out of Vanderbilt’s last five games in 2017.
6. Jake Bentley, South Carolina
New play-caller Bryan McClendon is tasked with helping Bentley elevate his play after South Carolina’s offense averaged only 24.2 points a game last fall. More up-tempo looks are in the works for McClendon, which is a good fit for an offense featuring one of the SEC’s top receiving corps. Bentley showed promise in a late stint as South Carolina’s starter in 2016 and threw for 2,794 yards and 18 scores last fall. Entering his junior year, Bentley looks poised to take the next step in his development.
5. Jake Fromm, Georgia
Fromm ranks as the No. 5 quarterback on this list, but he could easily rank a few spots higher. The gap between the league’s top signal-callers in 2018 is small, and Fromm still has to contend with incoming freshman Justin Fields. Fromm was one of college football’s top freshmen last season, as he replaced Jacob Eason as Georgia’s No. 1 quarterback following an injury in the opener against Appalachian State. Fromm threw for 2,615 yards and 24 touchdowns, while his 62.2 completion percentage tied for second in the SEC last fall.
4. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State
Fitzgerald was limited in the spring due to a leg injury suffered in the Egg Bowl against Ole Miss. However, the Georgia native is on track to return to full strength for the fall and should thrive under new coach Joe Moorhead. In his second year as the starter, Fitzgerald threw for 1,782 yards and 15 touchdowns and added 984 yards and 14 scores on the ground. The senior is still developing as a passer, but Moorhead should help him take a step forward in his final year in Starkville.
3. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Running back Kerryon Johnson will be missed, but Auburn's offense is set behind Stidham and one of the league's top receiving corps for 2018. After all, Stidham’s 3,158 passing yards in his first year on campus ranked second for a single season in program history. He also tossed 18 touchdowns and added 153 yards and four scores on the ground. Stidham’s 10 passing plays of 50 yards or more ranked fifth nationally among FBS quarterbacks last season.
2. Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock earned first-team All-SEC honors after throwing for 3,964 yards and 44 touchdowns last season. The Missouri native was instrumental in the Tigers’ late-season surge, guiding the offense to an average of 51.3 points in the team’s six games prior to the Texas Bowl. Lock’s 44 touchdowns were the most of any FBS quarterback last fall, while his 521 passing yards in the opener against Missouri State set a new school record.
1. Tua Tagovailoa, Alabama
Yes, ranking Tagovailoa is a projection and requires the sophomore holding off Jalen Hurts for the starting job. And sure, he’s got some developing to do and has to prove the second-half performance against Georgia can be counted on for a full year. However, it’s no secret Tagovailoa – a five-star prospect and the No. 32 overall player in the 2017 247Sports Composite – might be the most-talented quarterback signed by Nick Saban since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007. In nine games last year, Tagovailoa threw for 636 yards and 11 touchdowns on 49 completions and added 133 yards and two scores on the ground. The Hawaii native has all of the talent needed to rank among the nation’s best at quarterback by the end of 2018. How soon will he reach his potential under new coordinator Mike Locksley and quarterbacks coach Dan Enos?