The Southeastern Conference is the strongest in college football year in and year out. Players like Stetson Bennett, Anthony Richardson, Hendon Hooker, and Bryce Young have moved on, and many SEC schools have question marks at the sport’s most important position.
Making a power ranking of quarterbacks for the conference does not just account for each quarterback’s talent, but also the surrounding cast, the scheme, and past production all factor into determining who slots in from 14 to one.
1. Jayden Daniels – LSU
The former Arizona State quarterback was the starter last season in Baton Rouge. His improvement down the stretch contributed to the Tigers winning the SEC West. Daniels is a major threat with his legs, rushing for 855 yards plus 11 touchdowns in 2022. He added nearly 3,000 yards through the air and another 17 touchdowns. Perhaps most impressively, Daniels takes care of the ball. He threw only three interceptions all season. He gets the top spot because of his improvement and a terrific surrounding cast. The offensive line is solid, and the wide receiver group is one of the best in the country. Daniels is one of the favorites for the Heisman Trophy for a reason.
2. KJ Jefferson – Arkansas
Jefferson returns after a stellar 2022. He has the athletic tools to be as good as any quarterback in the country. Last year, Jefferson finished second in the SEC in total offense with 33 total touchdowns and more than 3,200 yards of offense. Jefferson is physically imposing and uses his rocket arm and speed to punish defenses. Dan Enos has an excellent track record and is Arkansas’ new offensive coordinator. Still, the receivers Jefferson throws to are not on par with what Daniels has at LSU.
3. Devin Leary – Kentucky
Everything about this ranking requires Devin Leary to be healthy. The former NC State signal-caller was outstanding in 2021 but missed a large chunk of the 2022 campaign. Leary threw for 62 touchdowns to only 16 interceptions during his four seasons with North Carolina State and will be working with offensive coordinator Liam Coen. Coen was the OC for Will Levis‘s best season in Lexington and could unlock Leary.
4. Carson Beck – Georgia
Fourth might seem like a stretch for a player who has barely played, and it is entirely unknown how Beck will handle the pressure of succeeding Stetson Bennett. He’s ranked ahead of more established players because he has the talent. Plus, he will be surrounded by an elite group of Bulldogs primed for a third-straight national title. Brock Bowers is one of the best players in the country, regardless of position, and can help as a safety valve for Beck. In addition, Georgia has a terrific offensive line and a great group of receivers with multiple options for Beck to distribute to.
5. Will Rogers – Mississippi State
Will Rogers slips to fifth not because of his past production but because of concerns about the new offense and direction of the program. New offensive coordinator Kevin Barbay will not run the Air Raid, and Rogers’s numbers will drop. Still, there are plenty of positives. Rogers has played in 35 games and has a veteran offensive line protecting him. He’s still capable of having a great season, but there are enough questions to drop him to fifth.
6. Conner Weigman – Texas A&M
Connor Weigman was a five-star recruit, and now he’s the starting quarterback for an offense with many highly touted players. Weigman has seen limited action, but the new offensive coordinator is Bobby Petrino, so things in College Station are about to get very interesting. If Petrino is allowed full control of the offense, Weigman could be in line for a big season, and he’s a prime breakout candidate. Texas A&M is capable of challenging for the SEC West if Weigman is as good as the Aggies feel he is.
7. Spencer Rattler – South Carolina
Spencer Rattler has had quite the journey. He was a five-star recruit in high school, starring in Arizona and committing to play for Lincoln Riley at Oklahoma. He was usurped by Caleb Williams and transferred to South Carolina. Rattler did not look good in the early part of the 2022 campaign, but the Gamecocks found a rhythm and ended the season with wins over Tennessee and Clemson. Which Rattler are we getting this fall? He only threw for 3,012 yards and 18 touchdowns and didn’t offer much with his legs. Of concern, South Carolina lost critical pieces to the transfer portal, so it will be difficult to replicate his success at the end of 2022.
8. Joe Milton III – Tennessee
Joe Milton is a physically imposing gunslinger with incredible arm strength. Sometimes he looks like one of the best quarterbacks in the country and a surefire NFL Draft pick. However, he was the starting quarterback for Michigan until he lost the position. He was also the starting quarterback for Tennessee until he lost that job. During his career, Milton has not been accurate enough and lacks consistency, causing him to end up on the bench. The offensive system of Josh Heupel is as good as it gets for a quarterback, and there are a few dynamic receivers for Milton to throw to.
9. Jaxson Dart – Ole Miss
Another transfer quarterback, Jaxson Dart, is in his second season in Oxford after leaving USC. The things in his favor are a talented group of receivers and running backs. However, Lane Kiffin did not appear to have much faith in Dart as he heavily pursued and landed Spencer Sanders and Walker Howard in the transfer portal. If Dart convinced Kiffin, he would not have gone aggressively after two transfer quarterbacks.
10. Alabama Quarterback – Jalen Milroe or Ty Simpson
No one knows who Alabama will be starting against Middle Tennessee on September 2, and it seems highly likely that Jalen Milroe and Ty Simpson will play for at least a couple of games. Milroe is a dynamic athlete who could cause havoc as a runner but has not looked at all good as a passer. He has not seized the job, so he likely has not advanced much in that area. Ty Simpson was a five-star recruit in 2022 and has the pedigree you would expect in a future great quarterback. However, he has no experience, and the wide receivers are not impressive.
11. Payton Thorne – Auburn
Payton Thorne is a transfer from Michigan State and threw for nearly 6500 yards in four seasons with the Spartans. He’s not without his warts, but a decent group of wide receivers plus offensive whiz Hugh Freeze provides for optimism. Thorne is not a long-term answer for the Tigers but is a pretty good one-year stopgap option as Freeze begins to build his program.
12. AJ Swann – Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt is a tough place to win, but Clark Lea, entering his third season, is doing a pretty solid job. Quarterback AJ Swann enters his first season as the full-time starter for the Commodores. Swann started six games as a true freshman and did an admirable job, throwing ten touchdowns against some formidable defenses. He needs to continue developing, but things could be much worse for Vanderbilt.
13. Brady Cook – Missouri
Brady Cook threw for 14 touchdowns while starting his first season for the Missouri Tigers. Mizzou lost a star wideout to Georgia and has significant questions on the offense. In addition, Cook is coming off of shoulder surgery, so health is a concern. Those 14 touchdowns don’t look bad, but nine were against porous defenses in Abilene Christian, New Mexico State, and Tennessee. Cook must prove he can be consistent and stretch the field with vertical passing.
14. Graham Mertz – Florida
It is difficult to get excited about Graham Mertz, a transfer that did not make much sense then and doesn’t make any more today. Mertz was a highly-touted prospect who chose to play for Wisconsin, but after a dazzling debut, things never got on track for him with the Badgers. An optimist could say that the Wisconsin system was terrible and did not allow Mertz to shine. The pessimist would point to his 53.6 percent completion rate on low yards per attempt and a lack of dynamic rushing ability. Florida does not have great weapons, and head coach Billy Napier may already be on the hot seat.
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