Quarterback play and turnover at position from 2019 is one of the biggest storylines to watch in the SEC this fall. LSU has to replace Joe Burrow, while Alabama went into fall practice looking to settle the battle between Mac Jones and Bryce Young. Georgia brought in two transfers to replace Jake Fromm, with Wake Forest's Jamie Newman holding a slight edge over JT Daniels to start. Florida's Kyle Trask is the starter, but Emory Jones could work his way into playing time. Texas A&M's Kellen Mond seems poised for a big senior year, and Auburn hopes Bo Nix takes a step forward in his sophomore campaign. The SEC doesn't have a clear No. 1 quarterback for 2020, but the league has several interesting names under center.
Ranking the quarterbacks by conference or nationally is no easy task. To help compile the rankings, there was some projection involved for 2020. 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, 2020 projection and scheme changes (just to name a few) — were considered and projected to rank the quarterbacks in the SEC for 2020.
Ranking SEC Quarterbacks for 2020
14. Ken Seals, Vanderbilt
All four of the quarterbacks vying for the Vanderbilt starting job didn’t take a snap for the Commodores in 2019. Seals – a true freshman from Texas – is the frontrunner over fellow freshman Mike Wright and junior college recruits Jeremy Moussa and Danny Clark to start in 2020. Seals had a productive high school career, throwing for 3,060 yards and 33 touchdowns and adding 500 yards and seven scores on the ground at Weatherford. If Seals wins the job, the going won’t be easy early on. Vanderbilt opens at Texas A&M and plays LSU in its second game. Additionally, the Commodores have question marks in the trenches and will have a new play-caller (Todd Fitch) this fall.
13. Shawn Robinson, Missouri
For the second year in a row, Missouri is expected to turn to a transfer under center. Clemson transfer Kelly Bryant got the nod last fall, and Robinson – a transfer from TCU – leads the battle for the top spot on the depth chart. After ranking as a four-star prospect in the 2017 signing class, Robinson played in six games (with one start) as a true freshman. The Texas native won the job for 2018 and started the first seven contests for the Horned Frogs. However, a shoulder injury ended his season early, and Robinson decided to transfer to Missouri later that year. Robinson showed flashes of potential in his tenure at TCU, finishing with 1,518 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air and 389 yards and three scores on the ground. New Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz has a strong background on offense and should help Robinson reach his potential over the next couple of seasons.
12. Ryan Hilinski, South Carolina
Starting as a true freshman quarterback in the SEC is never easy, and Hilinski was placed into a tough spot last fall. Starter Jake Bentley suffered a season-ending injury in the opener against North Carolina, pushing Hilinski into the starting role for the final 11 games. As expected, the four-star prospect in the 2019 signing class had his share of ups and downs. However, Hilinski still finished with 2,357 passing yards (most by a freshman in South Carolina history) and tossed 11 touchdowns to five picks. The addition of offensive coordinator Mike Bobo should help Hilinski take a step forward in his development this fall.
11. Jarrett Guarantano, Tennessee
Guarantano had an uneven 2019 season but finished on a high note. He torched Missouri for 415 yards on Nov. 23 and later led the Volunteers to a comeback win over Indiana in the Gator Bowl (221 passing yards). Guarantano finished 2019 with 2,158 yards and 16 touchdowns to eight picks. Outside of the opener against Georgia State (311) and the performance against Missouri, the New Jersey native did not eclipse more than 230 passing yards in any other game. While his total passing yards ranked ninth in the SEC, Guarantano finished third in quarterback rating (143.99) and second in yards per attempt (8.4).
10. Terry Wilson, Kentucky
Wilson was poised to take a big step forward in his second year under center for the Wildcats last fall. However, he suffered a season-ending leg injury in the second game of the year against Eastern Michigan. Prior to the injury, Wilson threw for 360 yards and two touchdowns and added another 44 yards and a score on the ground. The Oklahoma native flashed potential in his first year on campus in 2018, connecting on 67.2 percent of his passes for 11 touchdowns and 1,889 yards. Assuming Wilson is back to 100 percent and shows no ill effects from the knee injury that ended his 2019 season, the senior could be just as dynamic on the ground as his 2018 campaign indicated (547 yards and four scores). Wilson won’t have to win games on his own, as Kentucky brings back one of the SEC’s top offensive lines and features a deep stable of running backs.
9. John Rhys Plumlee, Ole Miss
Plumlee had a dynamic debut for the Rebels last season by rushing for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Mississippi native ran for at least 100 yards in five contests, including 212 versus LSU and 165 against Vanderbilt. While Plumlee excelled on the ground, his passing ability is a work in progress. In nine games last season, Plumlee connected on 52.7 percent of his passes for 910 yards and four touchdowns to three picks. He did not throw for more than 141 yards in a single contest and the completion percentage dropped to 48.4 in SEC games. Plumlee isn’t guaranteed the starting job either, as Matt Corral is pushing for the top spot this fall.
8. Feleipe Franks, Arkansas
With Kyle Trask locked into the No. 1 role in Gainesville, Franks transferred to Arkansas to start in 2020. After starting all 13 games and putting together a strong statistical season (2,547 passing yards and 24 touchdowns and 350 rushing yards and seven scores), Franks suffered a season-ending injury in Florida’s third game of the year in 2019. Arkansas used five different quarterbacks last year, so having a proven option to slide into the starting role for a new coaching staff is a big boost for new coach Sam Pittman.
7. Myles Brennan, LSU
Replacing Joe Burrow is no easy task, but Brennan spent the last two years working as a backup to the 2019 Heisman Trophy winner. Essentially, he should be prepared for this opportunity, and the change in offensive philosophy prior to last fall will help Brennan deliver a breakout year in 2020. Since arriving on campus in 2017, Brennan has appeared in 17 games and connected on 42 of 70 passes for 600 yards and two scores. The sample size is limited, but Brennan has averaged a healthy 8.6 yards per attempt and connected on 60 percent of his throws. The Mississippi native is a good breakout candidate in the SEC for 2020. However, reaching that level will require help to emerge around him, especially after receiver Ja’Marr Chase opted out of the 2020 season.
6. K.J. Costello, Mississippi State
Mike Leach’s debut in Starkville received a boost with Costello’s decision to transfer to Mississippi State. After throwing for 3,540 yards and 29 touchdowns at Stanford in 2018, Costello was on NFL scouts' radar as a possible early entry to the draft following the '19 campaign. However, injuries limited the California native to five games. Costello was productive in that stint, connecting on 61.1 percent of his passes for 1,038 yards and six scores. The 6-foot-5 senior should be an excellent fit in Leach’s Air Raid attack.
5. Bo Nix, Auburn
In order to challenge for the SEC West title, Auburn is counting on Nix to take a significant step forward in his development. Nix – a five-star freshman in the 2019 signing class – won the job out of fall practice and started his career on a high note with a late touchdown pass to beat Oregon in the opener. However, Nix had an up-and-down run through the SEC. He threw three picks and connected on just 11 passes at Florida and went 15 of 35 for 157 yards in a loss to LSU. Nix finished sixth among SEC quarterbacks (conference-only games) in yards per attempt (6.8) and also ranked third in passes of 30-plus yards (13). Nix’s numbers through 13 starts were solid (2,542 passing yards and 16 TDs) and he added 313 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. New offensive coordinator Chad Morris should help his development, but the Tigers are also breaking in four new starters in the trenches.
4. Kellen Mond, Texas A&M
Mond has the most passing yards (7,379) of any quarterback in the SEC going into 2020. Coach Jimbo Fisher is one of the best developers of quarterback talent in college football, and hopes are high for Mond to take a big step forward as a senior. After throwing for 3,107 yards as a sophomore in 2018, Mond’s numbers dipped slightly with a tough schedule (2,897 yards). However, 2019 brought his best mark in completion percentage (62) and saw another season of at least 500 rushing yards. Mond has recorded 1,384 yards and 18 rushing scores over the last three years. With another offseason to work under Fisher, an experienced offensive line and plenty of weapons on the outside, all of the pieces are in place for Mond to earn first-team All-SEC honors by the end of 2020.
3. Mac Jones, Alabama
Yes, this might seem high for Jones, but remember we are ranking on potential and projection for 2020 – not just career stats so far. Jones has to hold off talented freshman Bryce Young, but the junior kept Alabama’s offense on track last year after Tua Tagovailoa was lost to a season-ending hip injury. Jones threw for 327 yards and three touchdowns in the Citrus Bowl against Michigan and completed 26 passes for 335 yards and four scores in a road loss at Auburn. In 12 overall appearances, Jones threw for 1,503 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also threw only three interceptions, connected on 68.8 percent of his passes and averaged 10.7 yards per attempt.
2. Jamie Newman, Georgia
Newman and Georgia’s quarterback situation might be the biggest wild-card storyline to watch in the SEC this fall. USC transfer JT Daniels is also in the mix, but all signs out of Athens point to Newman as the frontrunner. After going 3-1 in the final four games as Wake Forest’s starter in 2018, Newman beat out Sam Hartman for the starting nod for ’19. The North Carolina native started fast last fall, tossing 17 of his 26 touchdowns through the first six games. However, Newman fought injuries and also had to deal with ailments to his supporting cast, and his numbers over the second half of the season slipped. Despite throwing for less than 200 yards in three out of Wake Forest’s final four games, Newman still ended 2019 with 2,868 yards and 26 touchdowns to 11 picks. He also ran for 574 yards and six scores and ranked fourth among ACC quarterbacks with 12 completions of 40 yards or more. Newman should be a good fit for Georgia’s revamped offense under coordinator Todd Monken. But the unusual offseason will add to the challenge of transitioning to the SEC.
1. Kyle Trask, Florida
The SEC doesn’t have a clear-cut No. 1 quarterback going into 2020. A couple of signal-callers could get the nod here, but let’s give the edge to Trask. After taking over the No. 1 role after Feleipe Franks was lost for the year, Trask threw for 2,941 yards and 25 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. The Texas native averaged 8.3 yards per attempt, connected on 66.9 percent of his throws, and finished fifth in the SEC in completions of 30-plus yards (17). Florida coach Dan Mullen is one of the top offensive-minded coaches in college football, and with another year to work with Trask, look for the senior to build off last season’s promising performance to direct one of the SEC’s top offenses.
Podcast: Breaking Down College Football's QB Rankings for 2020