Perception is not always reality. Take the perception SEC football is only a defensive-minded conference as an example. Three of the top quarterbacks in the nation play in the SEC. Another three have the chance for breakout seasons in 2013.
Most fans would name Johnny Manziel first when listing college quarterbacks because of his popularity after his Heisman Trophy season in 2012. Manziel has the ability to make plenty of plays with his feet, which gives defenses multiple problems.
Critics of Manziel say his Heisman popularity may cause some issues, but Oklahoma’s defense will say otherwise. Texas A&M returns a quality supporting cast for Manziel in 2013. Improving from his 3,706 passing yards and 26 touchdowns will not be easy, but fans should not expect Johnny Football to suddenly disappear.
After Manziel, fans would name their team’s quarterback. AJ McCarron and Aaron Murray are two quarterbacks that should quickly be named, as well.
McCarron and Murray each led their teams to 11-1 regular season records and SEC division titles. McCarron’s Alabama Crimson Tide defeated Murray’s Georgia Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome on December 1 to win the SEC Championship. Both fanbases rejoiced when each player announced his returning for a senior year.
The last two BCS national championship games have ended with members of the national media singing AJ McCarron’s praise. In January, McCarron finished his junior season with 30 touchdowns and three interceptions. In other words, he threw an interception every 10 touchdowns.
McCarron has the best wide receiving corps in the history of Alabama football for the 2013 season. With Amari Cooper returning for his sophomore year, McCarron looks to throw for over 3,000 yards and 30 touchdowns.
As with McCarron, Aaron Murray returns a supporting cast to help him in 2013. Georgia’s pair of sophomore runningbacks can take pressure off of Murray, or he can throw to Malcolm Mitchell and other wide receivers.
A duplication of his 2012 season will easily put Murray and the bulldogs back in Atlanta playing for the SEC Championship. Murray threw more touchdowns (36) and yards (3,895) than McCarron while throwing triple the interceptions.
Following the three elite SEC quarterbacks are three players with the ability to put up significant numbers in 2013.
Zack Mettenberger arrived at LSU as the quarterback to take them to the title game. He impressed few prior to playing Alabama, when his football light bulb turned on. After the Alabama game, Mettenberger made the throws many expected him to make in September.
His stats do not impress at all, but those are a product of Coach Les Miles not allowing Mettenberger to throw the ball prior to the Alabama game. His season stats of 2,609 yards and 12 touchdowns should not be replicated in 2013. Mettenberger possesses the ability to throw for more yards and touchdowns.
Connor Shaw enters his senior season at South Carolina. In his time in Columbia, Shaw has shown some flashes of greatness. However, his inconsistencies led Coach Steve Spurrier replacing him with Dylan Thompson throughout the season.
Shaw needs to improve on throwing fewer interceptions if he wants to stay on Spurrier’s good side. Fans and critics cannot laugh at Shaw’s 68 percent completion percentage, but they can point to his seven interceptions in 2012 as a major flaw.
The third SEC quarterback with the chance to have a major statistical year resides in Oxford, Mississippi. Bo Wallace threw for 22 touchdowns in his first year at Ole Miss under coach Hugh Freeze. The downside of Wallace’s play came in his 17 interceptions.
Ole Miss had a surprisingly successful year in recruiting and landed Rivals five-star wide receiver Laquon Treadwell. Add Treadwell with junior Donte Moncrief, and Wallace has two quality targets. Wallace’s success also depends on how well Ole Miss is able to run Freeze’s hurry-up-no-huddle offense in 2013. At times, the offense failed to gain rhythm in 2012, causing turnovers and punts.
With these six quarterbacks, college football fans have to ask if the SEC is as defensive-minded as many believe.