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It is May, my dudes, and you know what that means? It is officially #ListSZN for sportswriters.
Yes, the time-honored tradition of killing time and churning out content during what is the dead season for college sports and the NFL is underway once again. Whether it's looking forward to the upcoming season or looking back with lists ranking the all-time greatest players, coaches, teams and moments, there will be a list for every man, woman and child to read.
And Athlon Sports is looking ahead to who will be the best gunslingers in college football with its ranking of all projected starting quarterbacks for all 130 FBS teams in 2018. It should be a fantastic season for great QB play across the CFB landscape with the likes of West Virginia's Will Grier (Athlon's No. 1 QB), Penn State's Trace McSorley (No. 3) and Washington's Jake Browning all having Heisman Trophy potential. But, we will be focusing down South to see which SEC teams have the best signal-callers at the helm this year. Here's how Athlon ranked the QBs in the SEC:
Starting with the top of the list, *woah* holy hype machine for Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa. While the Hawaiian saved the Tide during the CFP National Championship Game against Georgia after Nick Saban called an audible during halftime after Jalen Hurts wasn't giving Bama a chance to win, he still doesn't have near the total in-game experience compared to others ranked below him. Granted, he has some amazing talent and did well against a great UGA defense, the No. 2 ranking has to be due to recency bias and playing for the Crimson juggernaut.
Behind Tua is the most NFL-ready QB in the conference in Missouri's Drew Lock. He led the SEC in passing touchdowns (as well as FBS) and yards by a wide margin in 2017, setting an SEC single-season record with 44 TDs. He helped guide Mizzou to a 7-6 finish after starting the year 1-5. Yes, his stats may have been padded by facing subpar competition during the back half of the schedule, but he has a hand-cannon for an arm. Will he thrive under new OC Derek Dooley's pro-style philosophy?
Athlon's No. 9-14 ranked QBs are a logjam of SEC talent that could end up being arranged any which way. Stidham had all the hype surrounding him when he transferred to Auburn from Baylor and had an efficient year in helping lead the Tigers to the SEC Title Game. Fitzgerald is a dark-horse Heisman candidate who has become the best dual-threat QB in the conference, so we'll see how he looks in his senior year under new coach Joe Moorhead and his high-powered offense. Finally, for the two Jakes of the SEC East, Fromm and Bentley, both led their teams to success after being thrusted into the starting role in their respective freshman campaigns, with Fromm being a play away from a national title last year. Mark your calendars for Sept. 8 for an early-season showdown between these two.
In the middle of the SEC rankings, there lies potential for these guys to have some attention-grabbing seasons.
Vanderbilt's Shurmur has really matured as a player and took a great leap in 2017, finishing second in the SEC in passing touchdowns with 26 and leading Vandy to big wins over Kansas State and Tennessee. Ta'amu of Ole Miss stepped in for the injured Shea Patterson and tore it up down the stretch, averaging 320.8 passing yards per game during the Rebels' last five contests. He could become one of the best QBs in the nation if he's able to carry his team far. Nick Starkel of Texas A&M will be leading the Aggies during Year One of the Jimbo Fisher Era. Like Ta'amu, he took over the starting spot during the later half of the schedule and did have promising games, throwing for over 400 yards twice, but only took down one conference foe in Ole Miss so it'll be interesting to see what Fisher gets out of him. We take a big leap from No. 42 to No. 72 to Tennessee grad transfer from Stanford, Keller Chryst. While with the Cardinal, he was a perfect 6-0 as a starter, throwing for 19 TDs and 6 INTs over his career. However, he lost the starting job to K.J. Costello last season. He's expected to beat out Jarrett Guarantano for the lead role at UT, so keep an eye on the battle over the offseason.
To conclude the list, the majority of the lower-ranked QBs have some serious untapped potential. LSU's Brennan was one of the top high school prospects and didn't see much action in 2017, but could really help the Tigers' offense find a new identity. Arkansas' Cole Kelley has the chance to do amazing things in new HC Chad Morris' wide-open scheme, but will he be the right fit? Florida's Feleipe Franks has yet to live up to his hype and may potentially lose the starting battle with true freshman Emory Jones. And JUCO transfer Terry Wilson of Kentucky will also have a battle on his hands with Gunnar Hoak.
While there is a lot of hype and promise for many of the quarterbacks on this list, let's check back in when January rolls around and reevaluate, because it may look quite different.