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SEC Football: Early 2022 QB Preview and Rankings

Bryce Young, Alabama Crimson Tide Football, 2022 College Football Playoff National Championship

College football's 2022 season is still months away, but spring practice is just around the corner, and it’s time to take a look at quarterback play in the SEC. With the bulk of the transfer movement and National Signing Day in the books, most of the 131 programs at the FBS level have a good idea of how their roster is going to look this season. The quarterback position is always under the spotlight, but the transfer portal has added another avenue for teams to quickly improve a struggling signal-caller or find the right option.

Quarterback play in the SEC is headlined by reigning Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young, who returns as the top signal-caller in college football for 2022. The conference has depth at the top with Arkansas' KJ Jefferson, Tennessee's Hendon Hooker and Mississippi State's Will Rogers. Also, Spencer Rattler adds to the talent at the top of the league after transferring to South Carolina from Oklahoma. Stetson Bennett returns at Georgia, and Kentucky's quarterback room is in great shape with Will Levis at the controls.

With spring practice quickly approaching, Athlon Sports will examine the quarterback situations for the Power 5 conferences and how the outlook has changed from '21. Here's a look at the SEC for '22:

SEC Football: Early 2022 QB Preview and Rankings

East Division

Florida

Projected 2022 Starter: Anthony Richardson
Emory Jones was reportedly set to transfer, but he’s still on campus and competing with Richardson and Ohio State transfer Jack Miller III for the starting nod this spring. Richardson has significant upside (8.1 yards per play), and new coach Billy Napier could help him harness some of his potential into production.
Key Spring Storylines: Richardson has the upside to be a difference-maker for Florida’s offense. This spring is all about getting Richardson comfortable in Napier’s scheme.

Georgia

Projected 2022 Starter: Stetson Bennett IV
Bennett went from walk-on to throwing for 29 touchdowns en route to leading Georgia to the 2021 national championship. With JT Daniels transferring, Bennett will be the Bulldogs’ No. 1 quarterback once again in ’22.
Key Spring Storylines: Who wins the No. 2 job? Is it true freshman Gunner Stockton? Redshirt freshman Brock Vandagriff? Or will Carson Beck hold off both?

Kentucky

Projected 2022 Starter: Will Levis
Levis and new play-caller Liam Coen were the driving forces behind a much-improved Kentucky passing game in 2021. The Penn State transfer threw for 2,812 yards and 24 touchdowns and ran for 376 yards and nine scores over 13 games.
Key Spring Storylines: Levis is the unquestioned starter, but Kentucky does have holes to fill around him up front and in the receiving corps with Wan’Dale Robinson off to the NFL.

Missouri

Projected 2022 Starter: Brady Cook
Cook gets the early nod here, but the Tigers also have promising options in Tyler Macon and true freshman Sam Horn to battle for the starting job this offseason. Cook earned his first start in the Armed Forces Bowl against Army, completing 27 of 34 throws for 238 yards and a touchdown. He also added 53 yards and a score on the ground. Macon played in three games last year, completing nine of 17 throws for 143 yards and a score.
Key Spring Storylines: Does Cook take control of the job over Macon? Or does the quarterback battle continue into the fall once Horn arrives on campus?

South Carolina

Projected 2022 Starter: Spencer Rattler
Rattler didn’t quite live up to the hype as one of the nation’s top quarterbacks in 2021 at Oklahoma, but the junior has an opportunity to rebound at South Carolina. Coach Shane Beamer worked with Rattler for two years with the Sooners (2019-20), and the familiarity, plus a fresh start should help the former five-star recruit get back on track.
Key Spring Storylines: Rattler was up-and-down in ’21, but several factors – a lot of those out of his control – contributed to the uneven season. This spring is all about South Carolina getting the junior familiar with the scheme to push for a monster ’22 campaign.

Tennessee

Projected 2022 Starter: Hendon Hooker
The Volunteers showed massive improvement on offense in coach Josh Heupel’s first season. After averaging 21.5 points a game in 2020, Tennessee ranked second in the SEC with 39.3 a contest in ’21. Hooker’s transfer to Rocky Top from Virginia Tech was a big reason for the jump in production, as he piloted Heupel’s high-powered attack by throwing for 2,945 yards and 31 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
Key Spring Storylines: Hooker should push for preseason All-SEC honors. And with Joe Milton returning as the backup, the question marks are minimal for Tennessee’s quarterback room.

Vanderbilt

Projected 2022 Starter: Ken Seals
Seals is listed as the projected starter, but it’s essentially a toss-up with Mike Wright going into spring ball. Wright started four out of Vanderbilt’s five games and finished second to Seals in passing yards (1,181 to 1,042) but paced the team in touchdown tosses (eight to five).
Key Spring Storylines: Has Wright edged ahead of Seals? Or is this battle poised to extend into fall practice?

West Division

Alabama

Projected 2022 Starter: Bryce Young
The reigning Heisman Trophy winner returns as the top quarterback in college football in 2022.
Key Spring Storylines: Who is the backup to Young? Jalen Milroe and incoming freshman Ty Simpson will battle for that spot this offseason.

Arkansas

Projected 2022 Starter: KJ Jefferson
Jefferson is a rising star in the SEC after averaging 256.9 total yards a game and scoring 27 overall times in 2021.
Key Spring Storylines: Jefferson is entrenched as the starter, and Malik Hornsby pulled his name out of the transfer portal. The Razorbacks are set at quarterback in ’22.

Auburn

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Projected 2022 Starter: Zach Calzada
This is a tough quarterback competition to project. Calzada started 10 games, led Texas A&M to an upset of Alabama while throwing for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2021. However, he’s not guaranteed the starting role after transferring to the Plains. Former LSU signal-caller T.J. Finley threw for 827 yards and six scores last fall, while freshmen Dematrius Davis and Holden Geriner are also in the mix.
Key Spring Storylines: Will a clear No. 1 quarterback emerge this spring?

LSU

Projected 2022 Starter: Myles Brennan
Brennan missed ’21 due to injury and decided to transfer, only to remove his name from the portal in December. The Mississippi native replaced Joe Burrow as the starter in ’20 but suffered a season-ending injury after LSU’s third game. Brennan’s return is good news for LSU and new coach Brian Kelly, as it gives the program an experienced option to bridge the gap to the next wave of talent.
Key Spring Storylines: Brennan is favored to be LSU’s starter, but the development of freshmen Garrett Nussmeier and Walker Howard is worth monitoring.

Mississippi State

Projected 2022 Starter: Will Rogers
No question marks here for the Bulldogs. Rogers was in complete command of coach Mike Leach’s Air Raid attack in ’21, throwing for 4,739 yards and 36 scores.
Key Spring Storylines: With Rogers entrenched as one of the SEC’s top quarterbacks for ’22, the only real question mark in Starkville is the backup battle between Sawyer Robertson and Chance Lovertich.

Ole Miss

Projected 2022 Starter: Jaxson Dart
The Rebels were a big winner in the transfer portal this offseason, with Dart one of the top players landed by coach Lane Kiffin. Matt Corral’s departure created a void under center, and Dart – a USC transfer – is slated to push Luke Altmyer for the starting nod. Dart ranked as the No. 10 quarterback recruit in the 2021 signing class by the 247Sports Composite and threw for 1,353 yards and nine touchdowns in six games.
Key Spring Storylines: Dart is talented, and the portal additions will boost the supporting cast. The Rebels might not match their production from 2021, but Dart’s development should keep this offense near the top of the SEC.

Texas A&M

Projected 2022 Starter: Haynes King
King appeared poised for a breakout 2021 campaign in his first year as the starter. The Texas native accounted for more than 300 total yards in the opener against Kent State, but his season was derailed by injury against Colorado in Week 2. King was unable to suit up the rest of the year, and he will enter ’22 with just 39 career pass attempts in College Station.
Key Spring Storylines: King is listed here, but a battle should unfold for coach Jimbo Fisher. LSU transfer Max Johnson and five-star true freshman Conner Weigman could push King until the first snap of the season.

Pre-Spring, Way-too-Early SEC QB Rankings for 2022

1. Bryce Young, Alabama
College football’s No. 1 quarterback for 2022 resides in Tuscaloosa.

2. Hendon Hooker, Tennessee
It’s tough call between Hooker, Will Rogers and KJ Jefferson for the No. 2 spot.

3. KJ Jefferson, Arkansas
Jefferson should be even better in his second year as the starter. The Razorbacks need to find a replacement for Treylon Burks at receiver.

4. Will Rogers, Mississippi State
Rogers finished second in the SEC in passing yards (4,739) and touchdowns (36) in 2021.

5. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina
Not all of Oklahoma’s offensive issues in 2021 were on Rattler’s shoulders. Look for a rebound in Columbia.

6. Stetson Bennett, Georgia
Bennett ranked second among Power 5 quarterbacks by averaging 10 yards per pass attempt in 2021.

7. Will Levis, Kentucky
Levis needs to cut down on the interceptions (13), but he should be more comfortable in his second year as the starter in Lexington.

8. Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss
Matt Corral will be missed, but Dart should be a good fit for coach Lane Kiffin’s offense.

9. Myles Brennan, LSU
LSU’s offensive line is a concern, but Brennan will have a healthy Kayshon Boutte to throw to 2022.

10. Anthony Richardson, Florida
Richardson has big-play potential but needs to show more overall consistency.

11. Haynes King, Texas A&M
There’s upside with King, but he has only one career start and could be pushed by Max Johnson and Conner Weigman this offseason.

12. Zach Calzada, Auburn
Can coach Bryan Harsin help Calzada take the next step after showing signs of promise at Texas A&M?

13. Brady Cook, Missouri
Cook had a promising start in the bowl loss to Army, but Tyler Macon and Sam Horn will push him for the job.

14. Ken Seals/Mike Wright, Vanderbilt
Has Wright pulled ahead of Seals for the starting job? Or is Seals poised to regain the No. 1 spot this spring?