Top Returning SEC Quarterbacks For 2017

    The race to determine the top returning quarterback in the SEC in 2017 is about to get interesting now that so many talented underclassmen are a year older.

    March 2, 2017

    The race to determine the top returning quarterback in the SEC in 2017 is about to get interesting now that so many talented underclassmen are a year older.

    True, the SEC has had a quarterback problem in recent years. But the times may be changing, or at least that’s the hope for a league that’s had a paucity of star power under center in recent years. In 2016, the position was boosted by underclassmen, like Alabama’s Jalen Hurts, Georgia’s Jacob Eason, Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson, Mizzou’s Drew Lock and South Carolina’s Jake Bentley. Now, the next generation of SEC quarterbacks is a valuable year older, and it’s being joined by upwardly mobile Baylor transfer Jarrett Stidham, who has three years of remaining eligibility at Auburn. Skeptics still abound, but brighter days are ahead for the league and its QB conundrum.

    Top Returning SEC Quarterbacks

    5. Shea Patterson, Ole Miss

    It’s going to be a fun year in Oxford, as the Rebels witness the full unveiling of the Patterson era. Although he started the final three games after Chad Kelly was injured, the 5-star 2016 recruit should be a very different player with an entire offseason to prepare as the starter. Patterson possesses the characteristics of a franchise quarterback, from the moxie and scrambling ability to the spirals that fit through tight windows. Whether this ranking winds up being too high or too low rests squarely on how quickly he develops in Year 2.

    4. Jarrett Stidham, Auburn

    Sure, it’s a projection based more on raw talent and need than actual college production. But Stidham is teed up to flourish now that he’s transferred from Baylor to Auburn. He’s a former blue-chipper, who started three games and threw a dozen touchdown passes as a true freshman in Waco in 2015. And Stidham’s skill set, a live arm to go along with outstanding athleticism, ought to mesh nicely with Gus Malzahn and new coordinator Chip Lindsey. The import’s first orders of business will be to learn the system and then win the job over Auburn’s holdovers.

    3. Nick Fitzgerald, Mississippi State

    Life after Dak Prescott, the best quarterback in Bulldog history, is not quite as dire as expected. All things considered, Fitzgerald was brilliant in his starting debut, smashing nine school records. The 6-5, 223-pound dual-threat threw 21 scoring strikes and rushed for 1,375 yards and 16 additional touchdowns. Fitzgerald is a speedy force running the read option, with the long gait to explode through the second level. If his accuracy and efficiency as a passer improve, he could be unstoppable in 2017.

    2. Austin Allen, Arkansas

    Based purely on passing skills, Allen might be the SEC’s best quarterback in 2017. He led the league in passing yards and threw 25 touchdown passes, advertising excellent zip on his throws. And he was plenty tough in the pocket, standing tall despite getting hammered on a weekly basis. Allen needs more protection, as well as the emergence of new targets now that four of last year’s top five receivers have graduated. With some help, he’ll be prolific in his Fayetteville finale.

    1. Jalen Hurts, Alabama

    Hurts darn near pulled a Jamelle Holieway in 2016, coming within a victory of winning a national championship as a true freshman. Hurts performed with uncommon maturity for such an inexperienced quarterback, accounting for 36 touchdowns and almost 1,000 yards on the ground. No moment was too big, a dynamic that won’t change in the years ahead. For Hurts to inch closer to being a complete quarterback, he’ll need to develop as a pocket passer, particularly on intermediate and deep routes.

    MORE: Top Returning Quarterbacks In All Of College Football For 2017


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