Photo courtesy of Georgia 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. As we look at SEC quarterback stock, we start in the East division.
Florida QB Emory Jones: Selling
Emory Jones has been waiting in the shadows at Florida for a few years now. The adjustment to the starting role won’t be easy. Why? Well, it’s because of the amount of talent that Florida loses offensively. When you are breaking in a new quarterback, it helps to have guys like Kyle Pitts and Kadarius Toney. Unfortunately, Florida loses those guys plus a few others.
Head coach Dan Mullen has done a great job adapting to what he has, so maybe Jones will prove us wrong. Still, the expectations for Jones are getting a little too high. Compared to last year, expect to see a significant step down in quarterback play for Florida this season.
Georgia QB JT Daniels: Buying
In just four games last season, Daniels threw for over 1,200 yards with 10 touchdown tosses and just two interceptions. When you spread those numbers out over 12-plus games, you have All-American type production. Georgia struggled to create a passing game with Stetson Bennett and Dwan Mathis, but that immediately changed when Daniels was finally healthy.
Even with the loss of George Pickens, the Bulldogs have loads of talent around him. Adding Arik Gilbert to the mix only makes things even better. Daniels allows coordinator Todd Monken and the offense to open things up a lot more than it did last year. If Daniels can stay healthy, he should be one of the best quarterbacks in not just the SEC, but all of college football.
Kentucky QB Joey Gatewood: Selling
There is still an ongoing quarterback battle in Lexington, but we’re going to go with the top returning passer for the sake of this list. Kentucky is planning on opening things up in the passing game, which is not great for Joey Gatewood. In a short sample size, Gatewood has shown the inability to produce in the passing game. Last season, he finished with just a 48% completion percentage. Granted, he only had 35 passing attempts.
Unless Gatewood can make huge leaps as a passer, either Beau Allen or Will Levis could become the main signal caller for Kentucky at some point during the season. Both of those guys fit the new scheme a lot better than Gatewood. Expect Gatewood to be a package quarterback again, as he is very dynamic as a runner.
Missouri QB Connor Bazelak: Buying
Bazelak took over the reigns at quarterback for Mizzou in Week 3 of the 2020 season, and immediately took the nation by storm. Bazelak lit up LSU for 406 yards and four touchdowns on a remarkable 85.3% completion rate. As a freshman, Bazelak showcased his quick release and the ability to stay in the pocket. Both of those attributes allowed him to place the ball into tight windows.
Bazelak never quite produced the rest of his freshman season the way he did against LSU, but he showed plenty of flashes. If he can make his performance against LSU a habit, then the SEC better be on high alert.
South Carolina QB Luke Doty: Selling
Doty is an incredible athlete who can attack the defense in a lot of ways, but he’s still probably a year away. Doty started the final few games for South Carolina last year, and wasn’t too sharp as a passer. The former four-star completed 60% of his passes for over 400 yards and had three touchdown passes compared to four interceptions. South Carolina also lost its top wideout in Shi Smith, which will also hurt.
Doty is an incredible athlete who can make plays with his legs. In fact, Doty got some reps as a receiver early in the season for South Carolina. It might be a tough year for South Carolina, and it’ll need to be patient with the young signal caller.
Tennessee QB Harrison Bailey/Hendon Hooker: Buying
Returning starter Harrison Bailey and Virginia Tech transfer Hendon Hooker have separated themselves from the others in Tennessee’s quarterback battle. Now, those two should duke it out for the starting job. Regardless of who wins, we’re buying. Why? New head coach Josh Heupel.
Heupel’s spread offense has produced tons of high-level quarterbacks. It’s an offense that allows a quarterback to go through multiple reads and get the ball to his playmakers. It might be a long year for Tennessee, but it’ll at least be able to move the ball through the air. Returning Velus Jones Jr. and Jalin Hyatt at wide receiver make things a lot easier for whoever the quarterback is.
Vanderbilt QB Ken Seals: Selling
Is Ken Seals a good quarterback? Yes. Will be productive? No. Unfortunately, Vanderbilt just doesn’t have the offensive firepower and talent to make things easier for Seals. If Seals is going to emerge this year, he’ll need the rest of the team to step up. Considering Vandy went 0-9 last year, it’s safe to assume that it won’t be scoring a lot of points. The good news? It can’t get much worse.
Is that fair? No. Seals is a great quarterback who would succeed anywhere else. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get much help from Vandy.