THOUGHTS OF THE DAY; JANUARY 11, 2019
ALL TOO EARLY QB SITUATION IN THE SEC FOR 2019
Here is an all-too early look at the quarterback situation for 2019 of every school in the Southeastern Conference. The league returns nine starting quarterbacks including Heisman runner-up Tua Tagovailoa of Alabama.
ALABAMA: Tua Tagovailoa set nearly every Alabama passing record in his first year as a starter, throwing for 3,966 yards (11.2 per attempt) and 43 touchdowns. Jalen Hurts won’t be around to back up Tua since he’s going to transfer to somewhere he can step in and start in 2019. Does Nick Saban trust Mac Jones or one of the incoming freshmen to step in and do the job should Tua go down with an injury? Doubful, therefore look for Nick to convince a grad transfer to come spend a year in Tuscaloosa.
Incumbent: Tua Tagovailoa (6-1, 218, JR)
Backup: Mac Jones (6-2, 205, RSO)
Signed: Taulia Tagovailoa (6-0, 204, Alabaster, AL Thompson); Paul Hewitt (6-5, 213, Trussville, AL Hewitt-Trussville)
ARKANSAS: Ty Storey was barely adequate as the starter (1,584 passing yards, 6.3 per attempt, 11 TDPs with 10 INTs). Redshirt freshman Connor Noland has the big arm and incoming dual threat freshman Kenneth Jefferson has the wheels. They will have a chance to compete for the starting job. Unless one of these three guys can step get the job done, HBC Chad Morris has a mess on his hands.
Incumbent: Ty Storey (6-2, 215, RSR)
Backup: Connor Noland (6-2, 207, RFR); John Stephen Jones (5-11, 185, RFR)
Signed: Kenneth Jefferson (6-3, 211, Sardis, MS North Panola)
AUBURN: Jarrett Stidham has bolted for the NFL. Next in line is Malik Willis who has magic in his feet and a questionable arm. Incoming freshman Bo Nix is expected to be the QB of the future but Cord Sandberg, who spent the last six years playing minor league baseball is on campus. When he was in high school Sandberg had a skill set that fit perfectly in what Malzahn wants from a QB. Can he rekindle the high school skills and become a legitimate challenger? Willis likely emerges as the starter after spring ball, but you shouldn’t count on him being the starter in September.
Backup: Malik Willis (6-1, 195, JR); Joey Gatewood (6-5, 237, RFR)
Signed: Bo Nix (6-2, 204, Pinson, AL Pinson Valley); Cord Sandberg (6-3, 215, Bradenton, FL Manatee)
FLORIDA: Feleipe Franks spent a year proving his critics wrong. He wasn’t perfect – 2,457 passing yards (7.6 per attempt) and 24 TDPs, 350 rushing yards and seven TDs – but he proved in the last four games (including the bowl win over Michigan) that he’s capable of living up to his potential. Kyle Trask probably graduates in the spring and then transfers. The Jones boys – Emory and Jalon – will battle for the backup job. This should be a real position of strength for 2019.
Incumbent: Feleipe Franks (6-6, 240, RJR)
Backups: Kyle Trask (6-5, 234, RJR); Emory Jones (6-2, 199, RFR)
Signed: Jalon Jones (6-4, 203, Richmond, VA Henrico)
GEORGIA: Jake Fromm is 24-5 as a starter with 5,364 passing yards and 54 career TDPs. Fromm is one of the best QBs in the country and he won’t be challenged as the starter, but there isn’t a scholarship backup who was on the Georgia roster last year. Juco transfer Steson Bennett IV is the likely backup.
Incumbent: Jake Fromm (6-2, 220, JR)
Signed: Stetson Bennett IV (6-0, 185, Blackshear, GA/Ellisville, MS Jones County JC); Dwan Mathis (6-4, 197, Oak Park, MI)
KENTUCKY: Dual threat Terry Wilson led the Wildcats to their first 10-win season since 1977, throwing for 1,889 yards (7.0 per attempt) and 11 TDs while running for 547 yards and four more TDs. He will have to carry more of the offensive load in 2019 because he won’t have Benny Snell Jr. to grind out the yards. Backup Gunnar Hoak has the big arm, but he doesn’t have Wilson’s mobility. The two freshmen probably redshirt.
Incumbent: Terry Wilson (6-3, 205, RJR)
Backups: Gunnar Hoak (6-4, 206, JR)
Signed: Amani Gilmore (6-2, 192, Amite, LA); Nick Scalzo (5-10, 179, Fort Lauderdale, FL Cardinal Gibbons)
LSU: Joe Burrow arrived on campus in August and promptly led the Tigers to a 10-win season while learning the offense on the fly. He threw for 2,894 yards and 16 TDs while running for 399 and seven more scores. With a year as a starter and a full offseason to commit the offense to memory, Burrow should be one of the best in the SEC in 2019. Backup Myles Brennan has the big arm and is ready to step in if called upon.
Incumbent: Joe Burrow (6-4, 216, SR)
Backups: Myles Brennan (6-5, 183, RSO)
Signed: Peter Parrish (6-1, 198, Phenix City, AL Central)
MISSISSIPPI STATE: Keytaon Thompson is a gifted runner (672 rushing yards and 10 TDs as a backup in two seasons) but won’t wow anyone with his accuracy as a passer (50-105 for 844 yards and eight touchdowns). He will be the starter when spring football begins, but he’ll have to fend off redshirt dual threat Jalen Madden, who has a better arm. Early enrollee freshman Garrett Shrader has lots of potential but needs a lot of work on his throwing mechanics.
Backups: Keytaon Thompson (6-4, 225, JR); Jalen Madden (6-2, 220, RFR)
Signed: Garrett Shrader (6-5, 199, Charlotte, NC Charlotte Christian)
MISSOURI: Record setting Drew Lock has graduated and most folks are conceding the starting job to Clemson grad transfer Kelly Bryant, who was 16-2 as a starter. Former LSU signee and juco transfer Lindsey Scott Jr. might have a say in who starts as well. Yet another transfer is Shawn Robinson from TCU, who will sit out 2019 unless he gets a waiver from the NCAA. If Robinson is eligible, then at least two transfer QBs will be unhappy at Mizzou.
Backups: Lindsey Scott Jr. (5-11, 220, RJR); Micah Wilson (6-3, 210, RJR); Taylor Powell (6-2, 210, RSO)
Signed: Kelly Bryant (6-3, 225, SR, Graduate transfer from Clemson); Shawn Robinson (6-2, 227, JR, Transfer from TCU)
OLE MISS: Big arm redshirt freshman Matt Corrall will be the starter. In four games as a true freshman Corrall was 16-22passing for 239 yards (10.9 per attempt) for two TDs and he ran for 83 yards and two more scores. He will be backed up by two true freshmen unless a grad or juco transfers in.
Backups: Matt Corrall (6-1, 205, SO)
Signed: Grant Tisdale (6-1, 204, Allen, TX); Kinkead Dent (6-5, 190, Yazoo City, MS Manchester Academy)
SOUTH CAROLINA: Jake Bentley will be a fourth-year starter in the fall. He’s thrown for 7,385 yards and 54 touchdowns. If he can do a better job of taking care of the football, he could play his way into the first couple of rounds in the 2020 NFL Draft. Incoming freshman Ryan Hilinski will be groomed to take over when Bentley moves on. He has serious arm talent.
Incumbent: Jake Bentley (6-4, 224, SR)
Backups: Jay Urich (6-5, 210, RSO); Dakereon Joyner (6-1, 208, RFR)
Signed: Ryan Hilinski (6-4, 222, Orange, CA Orange Lutheran)
TENNESSEE: Jarrett Guarantano (1,907 yards and 12 TDs in 2018) will be the starter unless HBC Jeremy Pruitt can convince an experience grad transfer to come in and compete for the job. Guarantano got dinged up quite a bit in 2018 so Pruitt is probably on the prowl for someone with some experience to come in and be a backup.
Incumbent: Jarrett Guarantano (6-4, 209, RJR)
Backups: J.T. Shrout (6-3, 210, RFR)
Signed: Brian Maurer (6-3, 190, Ocala, FL West Port)
TEXAS A&M: Kellen Mond blossomed as a sophomore, throwing for 3,107 yards (7.5 per attempt) and 24 touchdowns while running for 474 and seven more TDs. Nick Starkel will be in College Station this spring, but he may very well transfer out. Dual threat redshirt freshman James Foster might be the most talented QB on the roster.
Incumbent: Kellen Mond (6-2, 210, JR)
Backups: Bo Schneider (6-2, 230, RSR); Nick Starkel (6-3, 218, RJR); James Foster (6-3, 210, RFR); Connor Blumrick (6-5, 210, RFR)
Signed: Zach Calzada (6-3, 193, Sugar Hill, GA Lanier)
VANDERBILT: Kyle Shurmur has graduated so Derek Mason landed Ball State grad transfer Riley Neal, who has thrown for 7,393 yards and 46 touchdowns in his career. Deuce Wallace has returned to the team after missing 2018 for personal reasons so he will be the backup.
Backups: Deuce Wallace (6-2, 218, RSO); Allan Walters (6-2, 200, RFR)
Signed: Riley Neal (6-6, 225, SR, Graduate transfer from Ball State)
CAN THE GATORS SPRING THE UPSET VS. #3 UT?
Mike White has the Gators (9-5, 1-1 SEC) playing defense at a near elite level but they will be tested like they haven’t been all season Saturday night when 3rd-ranked Tennessee (13-1, 2-0 SEC) come to the O-Dome (6 p.m., ESPN). Coming off a road win that the Gators held high scoring Arkansas to just 51 points, Saturday they’ll have to go toe-to-toe with a Tennessee team that averages 86.4 per game and hasn’t lost since falling to Kansas 87-81 in a November matchup in Brooklyn, NY.
Four Vols average double figures and two more average nine or more. The Vols are hitting 51.4% overall from the field and 35% from the 3-point line. Tennessee averages an outstanding 20.8 assists per game while defensively holding opponents to 65.0. Florida, on the other hand, shoots 43.1% from the field and 34.1% from the 3-point line. The Gators are prone to long stretches of bricks from the outside and the inside game is almost non-existent. The Gators make their money on the defensive end, where they hold opponents to 60.0 while holding them to 38.9% shooting and just 29.6% from the 3-point line.
There are two big questions for the Gators Saturday night: (1) Can they slow down Tennessee’s dynamic duo of 6-7 Grant Williams (18.8 points, 7.8 rebounds per game) and 6-6 Admiral Schofield (18.0 points and 6.2 rebounds per game); and (2) can the Gators hit enough 3-point shots to stretch the Tennessee defense?
KERWIN BELL NEW OC AT SOUTH FLORIDA
Charlie Strong has hired former Gator QB Kerwin Bell as his offensive coordinator. Bell spent the last three seasons as the HBC at Valdosta State, where he led the Blazers to a 14-0 season and the 2019 Division II national championship. In 14 games at Valdosta State this past season, the Blazers were held to less than 40 points only one time, scoring 728 points while averaging 52 per game.
South Florida had offensive issues in 2018, particularly the last five games of the season (all losses) in which they scored a combined 85 points. Although Bell won’t have an experienced QB to work with, USF does return former Gator Jordan Cronkrite, who ran for 1,121 yards and scored nine TDs last season, and Johnny Ford, who ran for 787 and eight TDs as well as leading receiver Randall St. Felix (33-679 for four TDs).
RANDOM THOUGHTS: The expected changes on the Alabama staff have begun. Wide receivers coach Josh Gattis is the new offensive coordinator for Jim Harbaugh at Michigan and O-line coach Brent Key is the new O-line/assistant head coach at Georgia Tech … Rod Carey is leaving Northern Illinois to become the HBC at Temple. Expect Northern Illinois to hire Matt Canada, who was Maryland’s interim in 2018 … Former Gator running back Robert Gillispie will coach the running backs for Mack Brown at North Carolina … Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran turned down $1.1 million from Georgia to remain at Kentucky … Vandy OC Andy Ludwig might be the new OC at Utah … Manny Diaz is expected to hire former Tennessee QB and USC offensive coordinator as the new OC at Miami … With Georgia transfer Justin Fields expected to be ruled eligible to play immediately at Ohio State, backup QB Tate Martell has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. That doesn’t guarantee that Martell will transfer but it allows other schools to contact him without fear of tampering charges … Former LSU offensive lineman Matt Branch had his leg amputated Wednesday after he was shot in the leg when a Labrador retriever jumped into a truck bed, stepped on the safety on a shotgun and caused it to discharge … Former Gator Heisman Trophy QB Tim Tebow is engaged to marry 2017 Miss Universe Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa. If Tebow and Nel-Peters tie the knot, he will be the second Gator great married to a former Miss Universe. Al Horford, who plays for the NBA Boston Celtics, is married to Ameila Vega of the Dominican Republic, who was Miss Universe in 2003.