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SEC Football: Breaking Down the Biggest Quarterback Battles for 2020

Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee Volunteers Football

Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee Volunteers Football

The SEC is one of three Power 5 leagues still planning to play a 2020 college football season. Fall practice is underway among the 14 teams in the league, and there are plenty of intriguing quarterback battles to sort out before the season starts on Sept. 26. LSU lost Joe Burrow, but Myles Brennan is set as the starter this fall. However, some of the other contenders – Alabama and Georgia – open practice with some uncertainty at quarterback. The next tier of teams in the league features QB competitions at Tennessee, South Carolina and Ole Miss.

Which quarterback battles are worth watching in fall practice? Here’s a breakdown of the seven quarterback competitions to watch around the SEC:

SEC Football: Breaking Down the Biggest Quarterback Battles for 2020

Alabama

Tua Tagovailoa’s season-ending hip injury in mid-November allowed Mac Jones to stake an early claim for the 2020 starting job. After attempting 13 passes as a backup in 2018, Jones threw for 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns to three picks in 141 attempts. Incoming freshman Bryce Young — the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the 2020 signing class — will push Jones for the starting nod after accounting for 68 touchdowns as a high school senior. Both quarterbacks could play snaps in 2020. With the uncertainty surrounding the season, Jones’ experience could pay off in what might be a tight battle for the starting nod.

Projected Winner: Jones

Georgia

New is the best word to sum up Georgia’s offense for 2020. There’s a new play-caller (Todd Monken), the team’s top two running backs are gone, the offensive line features three new starters, and a quarterback battle between two transfers will unfold prior to the opener against Arkansas. Jamie Newman arrived in Athens after a successful 2019 season at Wake Forest. The North Carolina native passed for 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns to 11 interceptions and added 574 yards and six scores on the ground. Newman also connected on 60.9 percent of his passes. USC transfer JT Daniels received a waiver for immediate eligibility but opens fall practice not completely cleared from a torn ACL suffered in the 2019 season opener. Daniels – a former five-star prospect in the 2018 signing class – threw for 2,672 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman with the Trojans. This will be one of the biggest and most intriguing quarterback battles to watch this fall.

Projected Winner: Newman

Missouri

For the second year in a row, Missouri is expected to turn to a transfer. Former TCU signal-caller Shawn Robinson is the favorite to replace Kelly Bryant, but he will be pushed by junior Taylor Powell and redshirt freshman Connor Bazelak. Robinson showed promise before a shoulder injury hindered his first full year (2018) as the Horned Frogs' starter. Bazelak is a four-star prospect but is recovering from a knee injury suffered against Arkansas in Missouri’s final game of the 2019 season. He’s back to compete in fall practice, but new coach Eli Drinkwitz won’t announce a starter before kickoff for the opener against Alabama on Sept. 26.

Projected Winner: Robinson

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Ole Miss

Matt Corral started the first four games of 2019 but lost the job to John Rhys Plumlee after suffering an injury against California in late September. Plumlee started the final eight contests and showcased an intriguing skill set for new head coach Lane Kiffin. Plumlee led the SEC by averaging 113.7 rushing yards a game and connected on 52.7 percent of his passes. Corral won’t match Plumlee’s explosiveness on the ground but brings more to the passing attack. Both are likely to see time in 2020.

Projected Winner: Plumlee

South Carolina

Jake Bentley started the 2019 season as South Carolina’s No. 1 signal-caller, but a foot injury suffered against North Carolina in the opener pushed Ryan Hilinski into the top spot. As a true freshman, Hilinski proceeded to play in 11 contests and threw for 2,357 yards and 11 touchdowns to just five picks. With another offseason to develop, the former four-star prospect was expected to take a step forward in 2020, especially with former Colorado State head coach Mike Bobo hired to call plays. While Hilinski has the inside track, Colorado State transfer Collin Hill could push for the job. Hill battled a couple of significant knee injuries during his four-year stint with the Rams, but is able to practice this fall, and his experience in the offense is a plus for the revamped staff.

Projected Winner: Hilinski

Tennessee

Improvement from its quarterbacks could mean a return to the Top 25 for Tennessee in 2020. Three signal-callers received snaps for head coach Jeremy Pruitt last season and combined for 13 interceptions and a completion percentage of 55.7. Jarrett Guarantano passed for 2,158 yards and 16 touchdowns last fall and, despite the uneven week-to-week play, remained the team’s best option. Brian Maurer and J.T. Shrout failed to unseat Guarantano, but he could be pushed by touted four-star prospect Harrison Bailey this fall.

Projected Winner: Guarantano

Vanderbilt

Zero. That’s the amount of career pass attempts at Vanderbilt for the four quarterbacks vying to start in 2020. Freshmen Ken Seals and Mike Wright, along with junior college recruits Danny Clark and Jeremy Moussa are battling for the top spot in Nashville. Clark (Kentucky) and Moussa (Hawaii) have some experience at the FBS level from their previous stop, but Seals was considered the front-runner coming out of the spring. Seals – a three-star prospect from Texas – threw for 3,060 yards and 33 touchdowns as a high school senior. The winner of this battle will also work under a new play-caller (Todd Fitch) and behind a revamped offensive line after two potential starters opted out of the 2020 season.

Projected Winner: Seals