SEC Football Q&A: Alabama and Tennessee's QBs, Miss. State and Alex Collins

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterMarch 7, 2014

Former FSU and future Alabama QB Jacob Coker
Former FSU and future Alabama QB Jacob CokerStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

Every Friday, we feature questions from Twitter. Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee.

You have SEC questions, and I have SEC answers. Thank you for your questions. If I didn't get to them this week, they will be saved and used in the future.

And we're off! 

@BarrettSallee Who do you think will take reigns at QB for Alabama and/or Tennessee this season?

— Amanda Stinnett (@BAMA_in_TN) March 7, 2014

Florida State transfer Jacob Coker is the front-runner at Alabama, for sure.

Head coach Nick Saban and offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin wouldn't bring in a two-year graduate transfer at quarterback if they didn't think he'd have a legitimate shot at winning the job. Coker has attributes that are attractive, including his 6'5", 230-pound frame and big arm.

Former FSU and future Alabama QB Jacob Coker
Former FSU and future Alabama QB Jacob CokerMelina Vastola-USA TODAY Sports

But for the most part, he's a mystery. He's built this reputation based on, at least officially, taking eventual Heisman winner Jameis Winston down to the wire in fall camp for the Seminoles last season. Is that warranted? Nobody really knows yet, but the Crimson Tide coaching staff will find out this fall. 

In the meantime, spring practice will be about finding his primary competitor. I wrote earlier this week that if it's not Cooper Bateman who emerges as the No. 1 this spring, he may not get another shot. Whoever emerges will battle Coker for the job this fall, and since pretty much everybody is a mystery in the Tide quarterback race, I'll take Coker just based on the circumstances—subject to change, of course.

At Tennessee, it's sort of similar. Justin Worley has plenty of experience and played well in games against South Carolina and Georgia last year before breaking his thumb. He may not have the most upside, but he has the most experience. If the battle is close with any of the other competitors—Joshua Dobbs, Nathan Peterman or Riley Ferguson—I expect experience to win out.

Ferguson is the wild card, considering he is the only one without any game experience. If he shines this spring, I wouldn't count him out. Whatever happens, Tennessee needs to narrow the field to two heading into fall camp, because the four-man battle last season that ended in late August clearly put a little too much pressure on all the contenders.

Tennessee QB Justin Worley
Tennessee QB Justin WorleyAl Messerschmidt/Getty Images


@BarrettSallee with the returning players to Miss St on both sides and Dak are the bulldogs a legit threat in the west this year?

— greg (@gdillon1986) March 7, 2014

A legit threat in the West? No. A competitive team in the West? Absolutely.

Mississippi State came on strong late last season, winning back-to-back overtime games over Arkansas and Ole Miss in order to get to a bowl game—where the Bulldogs promptly disposed of Rice in the Liberty Bowl. That gave them tons of offseason momentum, especially considering the way that quarterback Dak Prescott played late in the Egg Bowl and in the bowl game.

Mississippi State QB Dak Prescott
Mississippi State QB Dak PrescottStreeter Lecka/Getty Images

With Prescott as the unquestioned starter this offseason, head coach Dan Mullen has the chance to build an offense around a quarterback who allows him to run a system that got him the job in Starkville in the first place. Throw in running back Josh Robinson—who's one of the most underrated running backs in the SEC—and that offense is set up well. 

Defensively, there's a strong core returning, but it needs to be consistent. The unit held Auburn to just 120 rushing yards on the Plains but then promptly gave up 563 total yards to LSU in Starkville. That inconsistency will prevent the Bulldogs from contending for the SEC West, but that doesn't mean they can't take a step forward.

They got to six regular-season wins with a late charge last season, and considering the schedule that features a cakewalk out of conference, the traditional cross-division game with Kentucky and games against Arkansas, Vanderbilt and Ole Miss, a jump to seven or eight regular-season wins wouldn't be shocking at all.

Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen (left) and QB Dak Prescott
Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen (left) and QB Dak PrescottKevin C. Cox/Getty Images


@BarrettSallee Who is the better RB at Arkansas between Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams and can either lead the SEC in rushing?

— TheCheshireHog (@TheCheshireHog) March 7, 2014

The better running back at Arkansas is Alex Collins, but deciding between him and Williams is like picking between a filet mignon and a bone-in ribeye—you really can't go wrong.

Arkansas RB Alex Collins
Arkansas RB Alex CollinsSam Greenwood/Getty Images

Collins rushed for 1,026 yards and four touchdowns as a true freshman, while Williams—then a sophomore—added 900 rushing yards and four more touchdowns. That's impressive simply on paper, but it's even more impressive considering the Razorbacks had no passing game to speak of and everyone in the building knew what was happening on every play.

At 5'11", 206, I like Collins' ability to hit the hole and take the wear and tear between the tackles, but he certainly has the burst when he gets in open space. Unfortunately for Collins (and Williams), open space was more myth than reality last season.

Will either lead the SEC in rushing? No, because of each other.

Head coach Bret Bielema has made a career of coaching productive running backs, often at the same time. But there is still only one football, and I don't see, in an SEC that features run-first teams at Auburn, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and several other places, how any team that has a "1A" and "1B" will be able to produce the SEC's leading rusher.

Arkansas RB Alex Collins
Arkansas RB Alex CollinsWesley Hitt/Getty Images


Do you have a question for next week's Q&A? Send it to SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee on Twitter at @BarrettSallee

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