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SEC football: QB position will see lots of new faces

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Auburn's Nick Marshall is one of just a handful of starting quarterbacks who return as the starter, but he's facing a possible suspension. Auburn's Nick Marshall is one of just a handful of starting quarterbacks who return as the starter, but he's facing a possible suspension.
Hutson Mason filled in for Georgia when Aaron Murray tore his ACL. He will now be called on to shoulder the load all season. Hutson Mason filled in for Georgia when Aaron Murray tore his ACL. He will now be called on to shoulder the load all season.

(RNN) – The Southeastern Conference lost nearly all of its star power at quarterback after last season, and the most visible position on the field is going to be full of fresh faces this season.

In 2013, nine teams brought a quarterback to SEC Media Days. This year only five are scheduled to do so. Only one of those players – Ole Miss’ Bo Wallace – was a full-time starter in 2013.

Dak Prescott and Dylan Thompson will represent Mississippi State and South Carolina, respectively. Both were involved in a season-long QB rotation last year. Maty Mauk will represent Missouri after filling in for the injured James Franklin last season and Florida is bringing Jeff Driskel who was sidelined last year due to injury.

Below is a look at the quarterback situation for each of the teams in the SEC, in the order they will appear at Media Days.

Auburn – Nick Marshall is the unquestioned starter after leading the Tigers to the national championship game last season, but he enters Media Days following a citation for marijuana possession. Marshall was not arrested and faces a fine with a September court date if he doesn’t pay it. No disciplinary action has been announced but Marshall was scrubbed from Auburn’s Media Days delegation Sunday due to the incident.

Florida – Following a season-ending injury early last year, Driskel will be back under center for the Gators. Florida fared well with Driskel in coach Will Muschamp’s run-heavy offense, but following injuries to Driskel and other players, the Gators collapsed down the stretch and ended the nation’s second-longest bowl appearance streak.

Vanderbilt – Patton Robinette is the only QB on Vandy’s roster with experience, having led the Commodores to wins over Georgia and Florida last season when Austyn Carta-Samuels was hurt. He’s primarily a running threat, while redshirt freshman Johnny McCrary has drawn the praise of his coach for a solid spring. Vanderbilt also got a transfer from LSU in Stephen Rivers. Rivers’ brother, Phillip, is the quarterback for the San Diego Chargers, and he’s a big, physical player even if he’s untested. There are six players in the running for the job, but Robinette and McCrary are seen as the frontrunners.

South Carolina – Thompson is unquestionably the man who will lead the Gamecocks. He threw for 783 yards last season in an on-again, off-again rotation with Connor Shaw. He hasn’t seen a ton of action, but he’s been more than capable when called upon. Thompson is more of a pocket passer than Shaw was, which might work better in Steve Spurrier’s offense.

Mississippi State – Prescott led the Bulldogs in both passing and rushing last season and was installed as the full-time starter midway through the season. He battled Tyler Russell for playing time but will be the lone signal caller this season. Prescott was the difference in several of Mississippi State’s games, using his dual threat capability to keep a lot of drives alive. There are some whispers of a Heisman Trophy chance for Prescott, but that’s a long shot that will require a better effort than he got last season from the Bulldog’s supporting cast.

Texas A&M – There’s no Johnny Manziel, but some people say the guy who will replace him is just as good. The only problem is nobody knows who that guy is. Matt Joeckel transferred, so that leaves two guys vying for the job. Kenny Hill is a speedster in the Manziel mold and backed up “Johnny Football.” Kyle Allen was the top-rated quarterback prospect out of high school last year. He has speed but is considered a better passer than Hill and maybe even Manziel. Early indicators are it is Allen’s job to lose.

Tennessee – Justin Worley and Joshua Dobbs led the Volunteers under center last year, with Worley being the primary passer. Worley was injured against Alabama and missed the rest of the season. Tennessee has some competition for the job, but no one is expected to mount a serious challenge to Worley, who is a senior.

Missouri – “Mauktober” will go mainstream this season now that James Franklin is gone. Mauk proved he was more than capable when Franklin was sidelined with an injury, and he led the Tigers to wins over Georgia, Florida and Tennessee, doing most of his damage in October. He threw for more than 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns and showed some running ability as well.

LSU – There may be no team with more quarterback controversy this season than LSU. Brandon Harris and Anthony Jennings will compete for the starting job in a battle that may last well into the season. Les Miles is no stranger to quarterback controversy, and his decision in that area dominated the conversation following the Tigers’ 2011 national championship game loss to Alabama. Jennings backed up Zach Mettenberger last season and led LSU on a game-winning drive against Arkansas but struggled in the Outback Bowl and spring game. Harris had four touchdowns in the spring game and is considered by most to be the frontrunner.

Arkansas – Brandon Allen will reprise his role as the Razorbacks’ starter following last season’s 3-9 campaign. He threw for 1,500 yards and 13 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in Arkansas’ run-heavy attack. The job was put up for competition during the spring, but Allen emerged as the starter after easily outpacing several unremarkable challengers.

Georgia – Replacing the most prolific passer in SEC history won’t be easy. With Aaron Murray gone, the reins have been turned over to Hutson Mason who filled in when Murray went down with a torn ACL last season. Murray had four seasons of 3,000-plus yards, and Mason compiled more than 600 yards and four touchdowns in relief. Georgia has arguably the most talented offense in the conference, and Mason will be trying to deliver the championship Murray couldn’t. Murray had four years to try for it, but Mason will only get one.

Ole Miss – Wallace is firmly entrenched as the starter after throwing for 3,346 yards last season. Wallace has led the Rebels to some good times, including an upset win over LSU and a bowl win last season, but he’s also been turnover prone and inconsistent, like in the Egg Bowl when he threw three interceptions and fumbled at the goal line in overtime, which led to Mississippi State becoming bowl eligible. This will be his third and final year as Ole Miss’ starter and he will be without standout wide receiver Donte Moncrief.

Alabama – If you type “Alabama quarterback” into Google, more results come up of former Crimson Tide signal caller AJ McCarron’s wife than of any current Tide QB. That’s because the two were married over the weekend and Alabama does not have a single quarterback with a collegiate start to his name. Blake Sims was the likely successor to three-year starter McCarron until Jacob Coker transferred from Florida State. Coker is highly touted but unproven and saw limited action for the Seminoles over the last two seasons, but he doesn’t have any meaningful stats to speak of. He didn’t play in Alabama’s spring game, where Sims threw for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Alabama coach Nick Saban has done well with first-year starters under center, having won national championships with Greg McElroy in 2009 and McCarron in 2011, and no topic Saban addresses will be more analyzed than this one.

Kentucky – There are a lot of names on Kentucky’s depth chart but no clear favorite. Jalen Whitlow transferred after being asked to play wide receiver and Maxwell Smith, who led the Wildcats in passing last season, is recovering from an injury. Patrick Towles and Brew Barker, who were both highly ranked recruits, are in the mix along with Reese Phillips, who was solid during spring practice. Kentucky is coming off consecutive 2-10 seasons and hasn’t won a conference game since 2011.

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