Experienced quarterbacks a rarity in this year’s SEC

Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker looks for a open receiver during the game against the Louisville Cardinals at Commonwealth Stadium on Saturday, November 28, 2015 in Lexington, Ky. Louisville defeated Kentucky 38-24. Photo by Michael Reaves | Staff.

Anthony Crawford

The message that rang throughout day two of SEC Media Days is how valuable having experience at the quarterback position is and how few teams can say they have it.

The times of having experienced guys like AJ McCarron, Connor Shaw or Aaron Murray in the SEC seem to be over for the time being.

“It used to be there’s a lot of good quarterbacks, and you hated that as a defensive coordinator for the last eight or nine years, you were facing some really talented guys,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “And it seems to be there’s more question marks every time we have this event.”

The lack of experience under center is almost no more present than with Mississippi State with the loss of Dak Prescott.

Prescott, a two-time All-SEC First Team quarterback, made plays when needed and steadied the waters for the Bulldogs when things got rough. Now without that leadership, Mississippi State will need multiple players to help plug all those holes and coming out of Spring with a four-way race for the starting quarterback job doesn’t help anyone.

“Obviously, anyone that was a real veteran quarterback has a little bit of an advantage during the season in that experience, just because those guys have been on that stage before,” Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen. “They’ve been in the moment. It’s one less thing you have to worry about as a coach.”

It seems that coaches throughout the league don’t have that luxury heading into the season, and some, like Mullens, have the added burden of still having to name a starter.

Quarterback races are still alive and competitive with teams like Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi State and Georgia. And those teams and even those who already have a starter named like UK with Drew Barker — will be starting a player with limited experience.

On of the few exceptions to this trend throughout the conference is Tennessee with senior quarterback Joshua Dobbs.

Dobbs ranked fifth among SEC quarterbacks last season with 2291 passing yards and also ranked first among quarterbacks in rushing yards. The only remaining quarterback that ranked similarly last season is Chad Kelly of Ole Miss, so it’s safe to assume those two will take up the two quarterback spots on the All-SEC preseason teams.

Dobbs is a big reason why so many analysts like Tennessee and see the SEC East race as the Vols’ to lose. But as Mullen noted, the media has been incorrect in picking the winner of the SEC six of the last seven years, and overlooking these inexperienced or even unnamed quarterbacks is just as likely to come back and haunt them.

“I don’t think it inhibits the league at all,” Smart said. “In years past we had these same question marks. People arose. Certainly, at this time no one knew who Cam Newton was, and he was amazing. Nobody thought they knew what Nick Marshall would do. Nobody thought Blake Sims was going to do it. Nobody gave Jacob Coker a lot of credit either.”

In Newton and Coker, those are guys that carried low or unheralded expectations to SEC Championships and national titles.

That is not to say that Barker and other quarterbacks not named Kelly or Dobbs will be national contenders. But there are always guys that go under-the-radar prior to the season and fans should be just as excited about those possibilities as they are about known quantities like Dobbs and Kelly.