SEC QB Primer: Where All 14 Teams Stand At Critical Position As Spring Practices Wrap Up

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There are multiple teams around the SEC starting to wrap-up spring practice, which is mind boggling because it feels like the 2022 season just ended. As teams around the conference prepare for 2023, a number of them will be breaking in new quarterbacks.

It’s hard to believe the days of Stetson Bennett, Bryce Young, Hendon Hooker and Will Levis are over. We really didn’t have enough time to get used to Anthony Richardson in the SEC. As I’m sure Billy Napier agrees. But, as we move into the future of the conference, we’re witnessing a changing of the guard at the quarterback position.

No More Young Or Bennett, But Georgia And Alabama Ready For New Blood

Here we go, a new era of college football in Athens and Tuscaloosa. Will Alabama OC Tommy Rees and Nick Saban go with Ty Simpson or Jalen Milroe? This is the biggest question, as things are looking a bit different in T-Town. Simpson only threw five passes last season, and it was Jalen Milroe who got the start when Bryce Young was inured. It honestly feels like the first game of the season against MTSU will become a tryout game for both QBs. Maybe Bama decides earlier, but they have options.

Alabama QB Jalen Milroe. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

As for Georgia, it’s either Brock Vandergriff or Carson Beck. Who will be the guy to takeover for Stetson Bennett? This is the biggest question for me entering the 2023 season. Both quarterbacks have undeniable talent, but the offense will obviously look different without OC Todd Monken. Just prepare yourself for a few new wrinkles on offense under Mike Bobo, who is no stranger to high-scoring production at Georgia. But, the good news is that Kirby Smart has replacements that are capable to lead them to a third-straight national title.

Also, let’s not forget that whoever is taking snaps this fall will have Ladd McConkey and Brock Bowers as dominant weapons, along with another group of talented running backs.

What Does The SEC Look Like In 2023? A Few Familiar Faces

KJ Jefferson Returns To Arkansas For Redemption

After the ending of 2022, KJ Jefferson entered Spring practice as one of the SEC veterans. Coming off a year where he passed for 2,648 yards, while rushing for 640 yards and 9 touchdowns. If there is one quarterback who could take the next step, the Razorbacks QB has that upside. There will be one aspect missing from this offense, after OC Kendal Briles left for TCU.

But, credit to Sam Pittman for going out and grabbing Dan Enos to run this offense, especially with the talent of KJ Jefferson around for one more season. I loved the Razorbacks entering last season, because of KJ Jefferson. Not much changes in my mind heading into 2023.

Jayden Daniels Returns To Be ‘The Guy’ For Brian Kelly At LSU

It took Daniels almost half the season to get comfortable in Baton Rouge under new coach Brian Kelly, but boy did he flourish. After a humbling loss to Tennessee, the Tigers quarterback seemed to find a new level to his game. Daniels passed for 2,913 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2022, while rushing for 885 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. The Tigers offense will be in good hands this season, as long as the they can establish a rushing attack.

LSU coach Brian Kelly and QB Jayden Daniels. (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)

Can Will Rogers Take The Next Step At Mississippi State Without Mike Leach

I know it will be difficult to see Will Rogers slinging it around on the field without Mike Leach calling the plays. But, the Bulldogs are in good hands for 2023, as long as Rogers can keep it from the other team. Coming off a 2023 season where he averaged 305 passing yards per game, it will be difficult for him to top that. Rogers already owns the record for career passing yards at Mississippi State, but there’s still work to do.

The biggest question is what this offense will look like under OC Kevin Barbary. It will certainly be different, not really the ‘Air-Raid’ style that Rogers was used to under Mike Leach. Look for a lot of motion and receivers moving around to find mismatches. If you want a glimpse, checkout Kevin Barbary’s work at Appalachian State.

Spencer Rattler Gets New OC, Another Year To Prove Himself At South Carolina

What we saw out of Spencer Rattler in the back half of the 2022 season is why Shane Beamer brought him to Columbia in the first place. It’s certainly hard to forget his monster games against Tennessee, Clemson and Notre Dame, where Rattler threw for a combined 1,044 yards. Honestly, this offense needed a new coordinator, which Shane Beamer found in Dowell Loggins from Arkansas.

South Carolina QB Spencer Rattler. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

“Really excited about the relationship between Spencer and Dowell,” Shane Beamer told Outkick. “Dowell’s background in the NFL with multiple QBs has really helped Spencer elevate his game. Spencer has become more of a leader for us and I’m excited to watch him continue to progress in 2023.”

If Spencer Rattler can come out of the gates firing like he did to end the 2022 season, then the Gamecocks have a chance at continued success. The addition of Trey Knox will benefit this offense, while the rushing attack could take pressure off Rattler. Contain yourself Gamecock Fans, there’s still a lot of transitioning to do.

SEC QB’s Getting A Fresh Start, Others Reclaiming Their Spot

It’s The Joe Milton Show At Tennessee, Again

Here we go again. The Josh Heupel offense has been handed to Joe Milton and it’s his turn at redemption. We got a glimpse of what a more mature Milton looks like last season after Hendon Hooker tore his ACL. In the Orange Bowl win over Clemson, Milton passed for 251 yards and three touchdowns. If this is the type of quarterback Tennessee is getting in 2023, then maybe this offense doesn’t fall-off too much. It will be hard to duplicate what Hendon Hooker did at Tennessee, but Joe Milton has waited his turn, learning this offense over the past two years.

Tennessee QB Joe Milton III. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

After being named the starter in 2021, he took a backseat to Hooker. Now, it feels like Milton is ready to be the leader this team needs. The Vols lost Cedric Tillman and Jalin Hyatt, but they have restocked at WR, led by Squirrel White and Bru McCoy. If Joe Milton is truly a different QB, which he has looked like in Spring practice according to sources, then Tennessee could surprise folks again.

No More Will Levis At Kentucky, It’s Devin Leary Time

Ok, I am one of those guys who did appreciate how Will Levis played at Kentucky, but doesn’t think he’ll be hard to replace. Nothing against the former Wildcat, I just feel there are a number of quarterbacks who can run OC Liam Coen’s offense. After suffering an injury in the 2022 season, NC State transfer Devin Leary is ready to take the reigns in Lexington. In 2021 the Wolfpack QB passed for 3,433 yards and 35 touchdowns, while throwing for 1,265 yards and 11 TD’s in 2022 before his injury.

New Kentucky QB Devin Leary. (Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)

Leary was one of the best transfer portal pickups this offseason and Mark Stoops is hoping the young man can adapt quickly. He’ll certainly have the receivers, with Tayvion Robinson and Barion Brown catching passes. The biggest component to success in 2023 will be replacing Chris Rodriguez at running back. If Kentucky can stay consistent on offense, maybe they don’t have that big of a drop-off.

Texas A&M’s Bobby Petrino Calling Plays For Conner Weigman In 2023

Welcome back to the twilight zone, as Bobby Petrino returns to the SEC. In a perfect world, Jimbo Fisher and Petrino will be on the same page when it comes to play calling. But, we’ll have to wait on that scenario to play out, even though Jimbo can say all the right things. As for Connor Weigman, the kid has potential, which he showed in 2022.

I’d love to be listening in on those conversations between Jimbo and Petrino this season, as I’m sure everything will go smoothly with play calling. Yes, this is sarcasm.

Weigman finished the season with 896 yards and eight touchdowns, beating Ole Miss and LSU in the process. Can he continue to move in an upward traction? This will depend on the offensive line giving him enough time in the pocket, while Amari Daniels and Le’Veon Moss look to handle the load at running back.

Welcome To The SEC Spencer Sanders. Leading Ole Miss Offense? Maybe

There are a number of questions regarding the quarterback position for Lane Kiffin in 2023. Does Ole Miss stick with Jaxson Dart, or do they go with Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders? At the end of the day, Sanders could end up being the backup to Dart or LSU transfer Walker Howard. But, Lane Kiffin does have options. It’s a very good problem to have, considering Dart showed signs of potential in 2022, while Howard comes in highly touted.

At Oklahoma State, Sanders threw for 9,553 yards and 67 touchdowns, but was also intercepted 40 times. Jaxson Dart recently told reporters in Oxford that: ‘I see myself as the starter’, noting how he established himself in year one under Lane Kiffin.

“He’s looked great. It’s strange to say for a returning starter, but he’s probably one of the most improved players out there,” Lane Kiffin said last week.

But this feels like another QB competition that will carryover into Fall practice, with Jaxson Dart doing his best to keep the transfer from taking his job.

Walker Howard, Jaxson Dart and Spencer Sanders are battling for Ole Miss starting job. (Getty Images/3)

Either way, we will see Spencer Sanders in 2023, but he has a battle on his hand for the rest of Spring and over the summer.

Can Graham Mertz Actually Be Successful In The SEC At Florida?

Billy Napier went into the portal and snagged Wisconsin transfer Graham Mertz, who they’re hoping can manage the offense this season. After Anthony Richardson left, it left a huge hole in the Gators offense, but nobody should expect Mertz to make an All-SEC team next season. Maybe I’m wrong, and Wisconsin does run a different offense, but his 5,405 yards and 38 touchdowns were overshadowed by his 26 interceptions.

Right now, Mertz is battling Jack Miller for the starting job, with both QB’s splitting time with the first team. At the moment, neither QB is running away with the job in Spring practice. Billy Napier brought the Wisconsin transfer to Gainesville to bring some type of veteran presence to the locker room, but it isn’t a lock that he’ll be the starter.

Auburn, Missouri, Vanderbilt Could Use Some Help

Hugh Freeze inherited Robby Ashford and TJ Finley for his first year at Auburn, which could go many different ways. Honestly, the Tigers wanted a transfer portal quarterback, but couldn’t grab one in time. Look for Hugh Freeze to hit the Spring portal period hard, finding a QB who can run his system and maybe end-up taking over.

As for Missouri and Vanderbilt, it’s all about returning starters. Can Brady Cook take the next step at Missouri? He’s coming off shoulder surgery, which gave Sam Horn and Jake Garcia a bulk of Spring reps. He better if Eli Drinkwitz wants to stay off the hot seat. For AJ Swann and the ‘Dores, he passed for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, giving the Commodores enough to build off of. We’ll see how these two teams handle a tough SEC East.

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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