Tag Archives: Drew Barker

SEC Quarterbacks Are Downright Unimpressive

Anybody who knows me at all knows that I have a special place in my heart for SEC football. I really do. But I can’t sit by and be silent about this. The SEC quarterbacks, once again, look overwhelmingly bad. At the risk of sounding cliché, watching the SEC quarterback play so far this year is like watching paint dry.

I can’t think of a single SEC quarterback who actually excites me right now. Meanwhile, I can think of four or five ACC quarterbacks that do. This is madness. How does the conference with the most ranked teams have the worst quarterbacks? I just don’t get it.

Usually, the SEC East is a mess and the SEC West is great. This year, everybody except for Alabama (and maybe Texas A&M) is a mess. Yet somehow there are still eight teams ranked in the AP top 25 at the moment. I’ll let you in on a little something, though—they definitely aren’t ranked because of their quarterbacks.

So here is where I go through every SEC team, by division and in alphabetical order, to prove a point. I’ll keep the assessment for each team brief.

The Florida Gators have been starting Luke Del Rio at quarterback. On the season so far he has 762 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, and two interceptions. But unfortunately for the Gators, he’s sidelined due to a knee injury and they’ll have to rely on Purdue graduate transfer Austin Appleby for now. Just when they were getting some momentum…

The Georgia Bulldogs seemed pretty well-off as far as quarterbacks go when the season started. Both Greyson Lambert (who was solid last year) and Jacob Eason (who’s a true freshman) have taken snaps for the Dawgs, with Eason taking the majority of the snaps. Eason has racked up 643 yards passing, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. Not bad…and also not fantastic.

The Kentucky Wildcats have played both Drew Barker and Stephen Johnson at quarterback, but Barker went down against New Mexico State and Kentucky has had more success with Johnson now anyways. He has 355 yards passing, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. In the second week at Florida, Drew Barker actually threw three interceptions to the Florida defense and only completed two passes to his own players. Oops!

The Missouri Tigers have mostly stuck with quarterback Drew Lock so far this season. A bright spot in the East, he has 1106 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and three interceptions. But, the Tigers are still struggling, only managing to win one of their first three games this season.

The South Carolina Gamecocks haven’t had all that much luck at quarterback between Brandon McIlwain and Perry Orth. McIlwain has been slightly better than his competition, with 356 yards passing, two touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also added 80 yards rushing and two more touchdowns on the ground. But with Muschamp at the helm, I don’t know if they’ll ever have great quarterback play.

The Tennessee Volunteers have had pretty much the same Josh Dobbs they’ve been behind for a couple years now. So far his passing game leaves a lot to be desired with 486 passing yards, six touchdowns, and three interceptions. On the bright side, he has added 161 yards rushing and three touchdowns on the ground. He’s also been a great leader despite being behind a shaky offensive line.

The Vanderbilt Commodores have struggled offensively (as always) behind Kyle Shurmur so far this year. He’s had 335 yards passing for two touchdowns and one interception. If Shurmur could get it together, maybe they could actually win a couple conference games this season.

But wait…there’s more! We still have another division full of mediocre quarterbacks to go.

The Alabama Crimson Tide have had Jalen Hurts take the majority of their snaps at quarterback this year. He has 563 passing yards, four touchdowns, and one interception. He’s also added 197 rushing yards and two more touchdowns on the ground. Plus, they’re Alabama. Their quarterback play won’t make or break their season.

The Arkansas Razorbacks have stuck with Austin Allen as their quarterback so far this season. Allen has 655 yards passing, seven touchdowns, and two interceptions. He’s been good so far; he just hasn’t been outstanding.

The Auburn Tigers had some fun at quarterback against Clemson to open the season, but Sean White is now taking the snaps. He has 510 passing yards, three touchdowns, and one interception so far. Meh.

The LSU Tigers started off the season behind Brandon Harris at quarterback but have since given the nod to Danny Etling. Etling has 315 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He also does have one rushing touchdown. He may not be great, but I think he’s better than Harris.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs have played both Nick Fitzgerald and Damian Williams at quarterback so far this year. Fitzgerald has edged out Williams with 298 passing yards, two touchdowns, and one interception to Williams’ 237 passing yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, Fitzgerald has 219 yards on the ground and Williams has 88 yards as well as a touchdown. While they seem fairly evenly matched, neither is too exciting at this point.

The Ole Miss Rebels have Chad “Swag” Kelly, who was supposed to be the best quarterback in the nation. Kelly does have 953 passing yards and ten touchdowns, but he also has four interceptions. The Rebels will live and die by Kelly this season so those mistakes are costly.

The Texas A&M Aggies have Trevor Knight at quarterback. Knight has 830 passing yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions. He also has 151 rushing yards and three more touchdowns on the ground. He’s no Lamar Jackson, but he’s better than most SEC quarterbacks.

Now that you’ve made it through that, maybe you can understand why I’m just unimpressed with the SEC quarterbacks at this point. You know things are rough when Missouri arguably has the best quarterback at the moment. Missouri…a team that has lost two of their first three games. I guess you could argue that Trevor Knight is just as good since he’s more of a dual-threat quarterback. But either way, those two are the best the SEC has to offer right now and that’s not good.

Now, I understand that just looking at these stats isn’t really fair in a lot of ways. Offensive lines not giving time to throw or space to run can be absolutely devastating for quarterbacks. Receivers dropping passes can be just as bad. And facing good secondary units can also be incredibly tough for a quarterback. But even with those things in mind, there isn’t a single quarterback in the SEC that has really impressed me or excited me the way quarterbacks in other conferences have. I didn’t expect there to be a Heisman trophy-winning quarterback from the SEC, but I also didn’t expect the performances to be this lackluster.

Fortunately for SEC fans and our quarterbacks, football isn’t just about that one player taking the snaps. In the SEC it tends to be more about running backs and defenses. That’s probably why there’s still a whopping eight SEC football teams ranked in the AP Top 25, like I mentioned before. And as much as quarterback play can be fun to watch, I prefer watching some hard-hitting SEC defense anyways. So maybe I should save my complaining for the day the defenses are weak.

Here’s the big question for this year will SEC teams be able to compete in the postseason when these SEC quarterbacks are playing like this? If you ask me, it depends on the team. If you have a great defense, a solid offensive line, and a good back or two, then you can compete with anyone. That’s why Alabama is virtually unstoppable. But otherwise, you’ll just become another overrated SEC team. And nobody wants that.

And then there’s the other big question. Why is this such a problem for the SEC and will it continue next year? In all honesty, I still haven’t figured out why the SEC doesn’t have the same quarterback depth that the other major conferences do. But this isn’t something new by any means. And while it may get a little better next season as some of the guys mentioned above take more snaps and gain experience, I don’t expect the SEC to have phenomenal quarterback play anytime soon. I’ll leave that to the ACC for now.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Image courtesy of Ken Lund.

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Rival Strategies: How Learning from Louisville’s Past Could Help Kentucky’s Future

Last Monday University of Kentucky Head Football Coach Mark Stoops answered one of the few remaining questions concerning his team as they prepare to open the season, who would the team’s starting quarterback be?

Stoops anointed last season’s starter Patrick Towles as his signal caller after a spirited challenge from Drew Barker.

The coaching seems pleased with both quarterbacks and has indicated on multiple occasions that Barker will receive playing time this season.

When Barker will actually get to play is anyone’s guess but looking at Kentucky’s early season schedule it might be a while. The Wildcats will be in the thick of SEC play starting in week 2 and each game figures to be close. Hardly ideal circumstances for producing the mop up minutes that Barker will likely receive this season.

That could spell trouble if Towles goes down with an injury at any point this season.

Last year’s backup quarterback Reese Phillips saw significantly limited minutes and when he briefly filled in for an injured Towles during a key game at Tennessee he wilted due to nerves under the bright lights at Neyland Stadium.

Kentucky can ill afford a shaky quarterback during a season where a bowl is an absolute necessity to keep the program’s momentum trending in the right direction. Stoops and his staff need to find a way to get Barker on the field without disrupting the flow of the offense.

If they look at the history of Louisville, Kentucky’s arch rival, an excellent example exists of just how to get Barker quality in game reps.

Going into the 2004 season then and current Louisville Head Coach Bobby Petrino had an embarrassment of riches at the quarterback position.

Solid incumbent starter Stefan LeFors returned to guide the Cardinal’s explosive offense but waiting in the wings was highly prized true freshmen Brian Brohm.

Petrino had a brewing quarterback controversy on his hands, the underrated LeFors vs. the player many fans believed would end up being the best in the program’s history, but he came up with a novel solution to the problem.

LeFors started all season but Brohm received valuable playing time by getting to command at least one offensive series per game.

Petrino’s gamble paid off handsomely in one of the biggest games of the season.

Against #2 ranked Miami on the road in a prime time game on ESPN the Cardinals found themselves in a tight contest with the Hurricanes. Late in the first half LeFors was injured and Brohm was inserted into the game. He piloted the offense beautifully thanks to having already played a good number of quality series early in his career.

Although the game ended in a U of L loss, it did serve as an example that the Cardinals would be just fine in the long run if LeFors was out of commission for an extended period of time.

Giving Barker a series or two per game in the same vein as Brohm would be beneficial for him and the team.

Not only would Barker get playing time but he would do so against SEC defenses in a high pressure environment very early on. That will limit Barker’s learning curve if he were pressed into early action and  it will also prevent the shock that undermined Phillips performance in Knoxville last November.

The first team offense will also have experience with him leading them, thus preventing a sharp drop off in chemistry in the case of a Towles injury and UK Offensive Coordinator Shannon Dawson will not have to tailor his strategy around Barker’s strengths while the freshmen catches up with the rest of the starters.

While Kentucky and Louisville fans are often at each other’s throats, one would hope that the coaching staffs are not to prideful to learn from the other, especially when it could make the difference in a pivotal season.

Football Time in Kentucky: A Quick of Summary of News from UK’s First Week of Practice

After a long summer of nothing but baseball and golf on TV the return of college football, specifically the Kentucky Wildcats, in less than three weeks is a god send.

Coach Mark Stoops’ 3rd seasons does not officially begin until September 5th against Louisiana-Lafayette but fall camp is well under way. Plenty of news leaked out during that time, too much to cover in one article, so here is a quick breakdown of the five biggest developments coming out of UK’s first week and a half of practice.

The Quarterback Battle

Junior Patrick Towles started every game for the Wildcats last season at quarterback and though he struggled during the latter half of the year he did have moments of brilliance such as the Mississippi State and Florida games. Majority of the Big Blue Nation assumed that a good spring would be enough for him to retain his starting job.

Towles did perform well in the the spring and that momentum has carried over into camp. So why did it take until today for Towles to officially be named the starter again?

Two words: Drew Barker.

The redshirt freshmen was the centerpiece of UK’s marquee 2014 recruiting class. He was expected to come in and compete and perhaps win the starting job last fall. Barker’s first season in the program was worse than anyone expected.

He was not able to beat out Reese Phillips during the spring and summer for the right to backup Towles. His performance in practice left much to be desired. Off the field Barker was involved in two controversial incidents: an air gun prank that shut down campus and a bar fight. That was not the kind of behavior Mark Stoops or Kentucky fans hope for from their QB of the future.

This spring, Barker appeared to have righted the ship on and off the field. His  work during spring practice and the first week of fall camp was and has been good enough for the coaching staff to hold off on naming UK’s starting quarterback until early this week.

Barker’s reemergence is a positive thing for the UK football team. If his improvement continues he will push Towles to be better each week. It also means Kentucky has quality depth at the quarterback position, a true luxury in the rough and tumble world of the SEC.

The Search for Bud Dupree’s Replacement Continues

When defensive end/linebacker Bud Dupree took his immense talents to the NFL’s Pittsburgh Steelers he left a huge hole to fill in the UK defense.

Throughout the fall and summer Defensive Coordinator DJ Eliot and his assistants have searched for someone to fill Dupree’s hybrid role. The front runner was thought to be junior Jason Hatcher. He had limited appearances at the position in 2014 and performed well when called into duty. Then a two game suspension to start the season has halted Hatcher’s assumed momentum.

Redshirt freshmen Denzil Ware is the next likely candidate. He has made an impact in practice and is the most likely to get the starting nod  on opening but Ware lacks in game experience as do the other players competing for the job.

Dupree’s replacement may not be found until Hatcher comes back from suspension. By that time the season will be two weeks old and the Wildcats will be in the midst of critical four-game stretch. If no one steps up than UK’s defense is in big trouble.

Injuries, Injuries and more Injuries

Last season injuries to key players slowed down Kentucky’s hot 5-1 start. So far in camp the Wildcat’s familiar nemesis has reared its ugly head.

Running back Stanley “Boom” Williams, wide receiver Jeff Badet and linebacker Ryan Flannigan have missed significant amounts of practice time due to injury. All three are expected to be heavy contributors this season.

While the Wildcats have more depth than in previous seasons most of it is young and untested. Keeping players like the trio mentioned above healthy is of the up most importance if UK is going to reach a bowl game this season.

Depth

The injury scares are not as world breaking as they were during the first two seasons of Stoops’ tenure.

UK’s head coach has noted on several occasions how pleased he is at the quality depth his team has. Stoops’ believes that the increase depth allows for the team to be more physical in practice than in past years.

The increased depth also takes the pressure off the freshmen to perform at a high level early unlike the previous two seasons and allows for them to acclimate to the college game at a more appropriate level.

Breaking in the New Commonwealth Stadium

Not all the news out of camp has been business related.

Last Saturday the team scrimmaged in the newly renovated Commonwealth Stadium for the very first time.

The university has invested millions to improve the aging stadium. Upgrades include new artificial turf for the field, renovated press boxes and a new state of the art recruiting room in the south end zone. Several players indicated how excited they are for the fans to finally see the improvements up close.

Many fans share that excitement and are hopeful that the newly refurbished stadium will match a newly refurbished football team.

Hopes are high going into Stoops’ third season and while the jury is still out on how good the Wildcats will be one thing is certain, its finally football time in Kentucky!