SEC Football: 2014 Stat Predictions for Every New Starting QB
Whether SEC football can retain the mantle of the nation’s strongest conference will largely hinge upon the success of the nine new full-time starting quarterbacks.
This year those defensive coordinators might exact a measure of revenge while programs break in new starters at the game’s most important position.
At least eight, and possibly nine, SEC programs will feature new starting quarterbacks in 2014.
Some—like Missouri’s Maty Mauk and South Carolina’s Dylan Thompson—have seen substantial game experience already but step into the primary starter role for the first time.
Other quarterback battles—like those at Texas A&M, Alabama and LSU, to name three—will continue when camps resume in August.
Today we attempt to predict the stats for the SEC’s new starting quarterbacks, which also means forecasting a starter in some cases.
One program that will be missing from this post will be Tennessee, which we are currently forecasting to return Justin Worley as the primary starter.
Since none of these quarterbacks have seen a full season of game action for one of these programs, it should go without saying that these projections are set for entertainment purposes only.
Here go our 2014 stat predictions for every new starting quarterback in the SEC.
Jacob Coker, Alabama
2,700 passing yards, 25 TDs, 7 INTs; 3 rushing TDs
When camp resumes in Tuscaloosa, offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin’s first task will revolve around quickly trimming the team’s quarterback race.
Last year’s backup, Blake Sims, hopes to hold off a couple of contenders, including newcomer Jacob Coker and sophomore Cooper Bateman.
Coker, who transferred in from Florida State after pushing Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston for the starting spot last August, seems the beneficiary of nobody seizing control in the race during the spring.
He seems like the odds-on favorite to ultimately land the job.
Coincidentally, Coker took over for departed three-year starter AJ McCarron at St. Paul’s Episcopal in Mobile, Alabama.
The former possesses a big arm that made Coker a national story before he even made it official that he would attend Alabama.
A surgically repaired knee could keep Coker from running as effectively as he once could, but he will still have the ability to take off when needed and show a nose for the end zone.
Don’t look for Coker to be a bust for the Crimson Tide. Look for him to come close to duplicating McCarron’s numbers a year ago.
Hutson Mason, Georgia
3,100 passing yards, 27 TDs, 8 INTs
Hutson Mason got his first taste as the Bulldogs starter last year when Aaron Murray suffered a season-ending knee injury.
Georgia turned to Mason to start the final two games—a comeback victory over rival Georgia Tech and a Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska. He threw for 619 yards and three touchdowns during those games.
In both games, Mason showed the poise and skill to give the Bulldogs a chance to win the SEC East in 2014.
The biggest issue might be a need to get rid of the ball quicker. The Cornhuskers sacked Mason four times.
It should be noted, though, that Mason deserved better than a completion percentage of 53 percent against Nebraska. On several occasions, his receivers let him down with critical drops.
There was a reason that Murray started over Mason for the past several years, but the difference isn’t so great that Bulldogs fans should expect overall regression.
With great weapons like tailback Todd Gurley and a seasoned play-caller in Mike Bobo, Mason should slide directly into a great position—especially if he can limit turnovers.
Patrick Towles and Drew Barker, Kentucky
Towles: 1,400 yards, 10 TDs, 8 INTs
Barker: 1,200 yards, 11 TDs, 7 INTs
We are projecting Patrick Towles to start the opener against Tennessee-Martin, but this seems like a job destined to be split among at least two quarterbacks.
Towles, a sophomore who was named Kentucky’s Mr. Football in 2011, emerged as a favorite thanks to some work on his throwing mechanics during the offseason.
At some point, though, another bad Kentucky team might be wise to showcase younger talent at the position.
That’s where Barker, rated by 247Sports as a 4-star prospect and the No. 9 pro-style quarterback this year, comes into play.
Barker provides hope for a program in desperate need of some.
There will be growing pains, sure, but Barker was handpicked by offensive coordinator Neal Brown.
Barker will show signs of a bright future in Lexington—something the coaches would love to see.
Brandon Harris, LSU
2,300 passing yards, 16 TDs, 11 INTs; 500 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs
Anthony Jennings opened the year as the clear favorite to win LSU’s open starting quarterback competition.
He struggled during the spring, though, opening the door for everyone else battling for the top spot.
True freshman and early enrollee Brandon Harris stormed right through the door, seemingly seizing control of the race.
Based on the trajectory of the spring, Jennings is lucky it ended where it did or he might have been moved to receiver.
OK, that’s a joke, but Harris’ campaign to claim for QB1 in his first year at LSU isn’t.
Not only did Harris seem the more polished passer during spring, he also showed his speed will translate well even against an SEC defense as strong as the Tigers’.
Coach Les Miles loves pounding opponents into submission. He should have the offensive line and talented tailbacks—led by another incoming freshman, Leonard Fournette—to do so.
That means LSU won’t need to rely on Harris—or Jennings in the event he rallies—to win many games.
That said, the opener against Wisconsin provides an early test for a young Tigers attack.
Harris, like any true freshman, will have some frustrating moments. He also has the ability to engineer some huge moments.
Maty Mauk, Missouri
3,300 passing yards, 32 TDs, 8 INTs; 400 rushing yards, 4 rushing TDs
Of new starting quarterbacks, Missouri’s Mauk probably ranks high among those in which coaches have the most confidence.
And for good reason.
Mauk stepped into the fire when James Franklin suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder. The former, then a redshirt freshman, answered the call.
His completion percentage wasn’t pretty (51 percent), but Mauk threw for 910 yards with 10 touchdowns and two interceptions in his four games as a starter.
More importantly, the Tigers went 3-1 over that stretch, allowing them to sustain on their way to the SEC East title.
Now Franklin is gone and Mauk will take over the starting role.
Gone are Missouri’s three leading receivers—Dorial Green-Beckham, Marcus Lucas and Lucas Washington—but Mauk showed enough moxie to overcome their losses.
Not only is Mauk a capable passer—though as indicated with his completion percentage, he still has some work to do in terms of accuracy—he is a competent runner.
Look for Missouri to continue to surge as an offensive program, even with substantial turnover at key positions.
Dylan Thompson, South Carolina
3,400 passing yards, 29 TDs, 10 INTs
South Carolina’s offense will have a different feel to it with Thompson running the show than it did with Connor Shaw leading the way.
Shaw, who set the program career wins record, wasn’t the prototypical quarterback. He had to develop as a pocket passer but always possessed a competitive streak that made him a third-down conversion machine—and a winner.
Thompson will be the dropback passer more customary in Steve Spurrier’s offenses.
Look for the fifth-year senior to take significant strides forward now that he will see steady playing time.
All the stats Thompson compiled as a part-time player are akin to those of a pinch hitter in baseball because Shaw saw the majority of reps during practices.
Now there is no doubt Thompson runs the show.
He will pass behind what could be one of the SEC’s top offensive lines and will hand the ball off to Mike Davis, one of the league’s best tailbacks.
Thompson will need to avoid falling into a turnover funk, but he has the weapons around to emerge as a breakout player this season.
Kenny Hill and Kyle Allen, Texas A&M
Hill: 2,200 passing yards, 19 TDs, 11 INTs; 700 rushing yards, 6 rushing TDs
Allen: 1,300 passing yards, 12 TDs, 5 INTs
Texas A&M’s quarterback situation seems like another destined for split playing time.
Kenny Hill has the experience, but he was suspended during the spring for public intoxication.
Look for this battle to continue deep into preseason camp, but for Hill to ultimately win.
Hill has the upper hand in terms of system knowledge, which could prove critical.
He also presents the best dual-threat option.
Sooner or later, though, Allen’s ability will force coach Kevin Sumlin to get him game action as well.
It’s never a bad thing to have two game-ready quarterbacks in the SEC. Sumlin seems to be in good shape with the combination of Hill and Allen.
Stephen Rivers, Vanderbilt
2,200 passing yards, 15 TDs, 12 INTs
Declaring Stephen Rivers the starting quarterback is presumptuous considering he’s yet to take part in his first practice at Vanderbilt.
The LSU transfer decided to enroll at Vandy while pursuing postgraduate work—and a chance to start in the SEC.
Rivers even seems like a reasonable bet considering sophomore Patton Robinette failed to take charge in the quarterback race during spring practice.
Freshman Johnny McCrary might be Rivers’ top competition.
Rivers will likely be a pure passer for a team that seems likely to rely on the run game and what should be another capable defense.
The Commodores must find a way to overcome the loss of receiver Jordan Matthews, meaning Rivers—or whoever wins the starting quarterback job—will have to develop with young pass-catchers.
Jordan Cunningham, who likely tops the depth chart at receiver, finished last year with 15 catches for 123 yards.