Photo courtesy of Ole Miss athletics
As thousands of fans get ready to pile into venues around the Southeast again, we take a deep look at each SEC team’s starters and ask ourselves if we are buying or selling them.
The first edition of this series will be at quarterback — a position with an unbelievable level of importance. After previously looking at quarterbacks from the SEC East, we now look at the signal callers from the SEC West.
Alabama QB Bryce Young: Buying
Bryce Young has some big shoes to fill, but he has a chance to be just as good as those who have come before him. Young wasn’t the starter last year for Alabama, but sitting behind Mac Jones might’ve been even more beneficial to his development. In limited time and in the spring game, it wasn’t hard to see why so many people like Young. Young is able to throw off different platforms and put the ball wherever he wants — something that was unique to Tua Tagovailoa. In a lot of ways, the two are comparable.
Young was the highest-rated quarterback signee in Alabama history. When you couple that with Alabama’s recent history of developing quarterbacks, then Young has a chance to be great.
If Young is part of the Heisman Trophy talk by year’s end, don’t be surprised.
Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson: Buying
Arkansas got a boost in quarterback play from Feleipe Franks last season, but KJ Jefferson allows offensive coordinator Kendal Briles to open things up. Briles likes a more mobile quarterback who can make plays with his legs, and Jefferson is just that. In one game as a starter last year, Jefferson went 18-for-33 passing for 274 yards and three touchdowns. So the question isn’t if he can produce in the SEC, it’s if he can do it over the stretch of a full season.
Jefferson still needs to continue to grow, but his athleticism gives him the potential to be really good. Pair Jefferson’s playmaking ability with how he fits in Arkansas’ offense and it looks like you have one of the more underrated quarterbacks in the entire conference. Oh yeah, Arkansas has plenty of weapons around him.
Auburn QB Bo Nix: Buying
This may come off as a surprise for a quarterback who has had plenty of ups and downs over his first two seasons, but we will see a much more composed version of Bo Nix in 2021. At this point in his career, he knows what works and what doesn’t. Now, he’ll be playing in a much more quarterback-friendly offense. Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and head coach Bryan Harsin aren’t going to field a super explosive offense, but they’ll be fielding one that makes things easier on Nix.
The addition of TJ Finley has made things interesting, but that should only push Nix to be better. Athletically, Nix could be the most gifted quarterback in the SEC. Now, it’s up to Harsin and Bobo to instill newfound confidence in the former five-star.
In order for Nix to turn the corner, he will need more help from his offensive line and wide receivers.
LSU QB Myles Brennan: Buying
There are some who believe Max Johnson will ultimately win this job. While that is certainly a possibility, we think Brennan will edge out Johnson. When Brennan went down last year, the LSU offense struggled to produce through the air all season. Now, Brennan will look to take advantage of his opportunity yet again.
Brennan threw for over 1,000 yards last year with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in just three games for LSU last year. If that type of production continues, things should flow a lot better offensively for the Tigers.
New offensive coordinator Jake Peetz will come in and try and create an offense similar to Joe Brady’s in 2019 — the same offense that made Joe Burrow a Heisman winner and the top overall pick in the NFL Draft. LSU is hoping Brennan can be even half as productive as Burrow.
Mississippi State QB Will Rogers: Buying
There is no offense in the country that throws the ball the way that Mississippi State head coach Mike Leach does. Will Rogers started eight games as a true freshman for Mississippi State, and was more than effective. Rogers threw for nearly 2,000 yards with 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His best game came against Ole Miss, where he went 45-for-61 passing with 440 yards and three touchdowns. Clearly, Rogers is comfortable in this offense and is capable of producing at a high level.
Now, it’s about consistency. As a freshman, Rogers had the tendency to turn the ball over and hold onto the ball too long. That is to be expected from a freshman. Leach brought in an experienced quarterback in Jack Abraham, but Rogers showed tons of promise as a freshman. Should Rogers improve during his second year, he could end up being one of the most productive quarterbacks statistically in the country.
Ole Miss QB Matt Corral: Buying
This one should be obvious. When Matt Corral was on last year, he was among the best quarterbacks in the entire country. Corral put together many explosive plays last season, and his production should continue to grow during his second season as the Ole Miss starter.
Head coach Lane Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby have done a fantastic job at creating a highly-explosive offense, and they’ll continue to put Corral in good spots next season. If Corral can remain healthy and sharpen his decision making even further, then he could be a Heisman-caliber performer.
Texas A&M QB Haynes King: Buying
Haynes King will have to beat out Zach Calzada for the starting job, but it seems like he will. King has some big shoes to fill with four-year starter Kellen Mond headed off to the NFL, but there is confidence that King can be productive. The former four-star is an incredible athlete who can move the ball downfield with his arm and legs.
Fortunately, King doesn’t have to be elite next year. The Aggies return a ton of talent at the skill positions, including arguably the best tight end in the nation in Jalen Wydermeyer. For those reasons, King will just need to be adequate and take care of the ball.