There won't be any college football games played for quite a while but that doesn't mean we are going to stop talking about the sport we love. Each week during the off-season we will bring you the top stories and we will also be discussing a variety of topics in our weekly roundtable. Agree, disagree or want to chime in to the conversation then let us know in the comments. If you want to pose a question for us to answer then e-mail it to us at collegefootballzealot at gmail.com or just drop it in the comments section. Joining us this week on our panel of College Football Enthusiasts is a Friend of the Blog, Greg from the Leather Helmet Blog. Make sure to check out his website on a daily basis if you are a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, the SEC or College Football in general. Now onto this weeks questions and opinions...
1. The SEC has significant turnover at QB this year losing Cam Newton, Ryan Mallet, Greg McElroy, Mike Hartline, and Jeremiah Masoli. Who will be the best QB in the SEC this year?
Greg (Leather Helmet Blog): At the risk of being a complete homer, I'm going with Aaron Murray. Murray had a good-to-excellent year in 2010 playing on a fair-to-middling team.
If Murray gets a competent running game to take some of the heat off his shoulders and allow the play-action passing game to go, he should be heading for a spectacular season. Don't sleep on the Dawgs offense without A.J. Green. There is talent aplenty in Athens and a different attitude, as well.
Brandon: I am going to go with Aaron Murray from Georgia, after looking at the numbers he put up for a subpar Georgia team a year ago; I don’t see any reason why he can’t be the best Quarterback in the SEC this year. He has a year of starting under his belt, and many of these new quarterbacks have little to n experience so as of February 19th I think he is the best.
J Martin: I feel like this question is set up to generate as much Aaron Murray love as possible (editor's note: I can neither confirm nor deny the motive behind this question). Because nobody's going to say Stephen Garcia, are they? I'm going to go with Tyler Wilson at Arkansas, though. He looked extremely sharp in relief of an injured Mallett this past season, and Bobby Petrino is, in my opinion, the premier quarterback coach in college football today. It also helps that while this will be his first year as the #1 QB for the Razorbacks, he also got a lot of quality first team reps last offseason while Mallett was nursing another injury. So he's a bit further along in his development than your typical 1st year starter. Any opponent expecting to get a respite from Arkansas' aerial attack is in for disappointment.
Kevin: When it's all said and done I think the answer to this question is going to be A.J. McCarron of Alabama. Why? Because he's got the best surrounding cast. He's got a bunch offensive linemen coming back, a stable of RBs, a pair of good senior receivers and he's got the best defense in the SEC. He doesn't have the pressure that all of the other QBs in the league have. He doesn't have to win the game, he just needs to be good enough not to suck and I think that will take some of the pressure off. It has to feel good knowing that if you make a mistake you have one of the best defenses in the nation out there to get the ball back for you. Another under-the-radar guy to watch is Mississippi State's Chris Relf. He will be a senior in Dan Mullen's offense and is 3rd in total yardage among returning SEC QBs behind Murray and Stephen Garcia.
2. If you were an NFL GM which QB would you take first in this years draft?
Greg (Leather Helmet Blog): Cam Newton! He big, strong, fast and throws a sweet ball. If he is half as smart as I think he is, he can't miss. He would have made a great tight end at UGA.
Brandon: It is a shame I can’t answer this like I want to because I think Ryan Mallett will the BEST quarterback from this class, but that is not the question. If I were an NFL GM, specifically, in a place like Buffalo which needs more appeal to the outer NFL world I would take Cam Newton above Blaine Gabbert. Cam Newton has a higher upside than Gabbert, and I can vouch for this after watching Nebraska’s defense smack him around repeatedly in his two years as a starter. Cam Newton, who has his flaws as a player, passes the eye test since he was never slowed down over the course of the season and all of his off the field issues were based on his father and not on him. He is a raw player, but I would take him first and hope his potential can be tapped into and create a bigger fan base.
J Martin: This is a tough one because I don't really love any of the quarterbacks in this year's class. The fact that draft pundits have had to resort to propping up Blaine Gabbert as a top tier draft pick is both laughable and sad to me. We all have front row seats for the slow death of the quarterback position. If it was up to me, I'd let everybody else take big money risks on the likes of Gabbert, Jake Locker, and Cammy Cam, then I'd spend a mid-to-late round pick on somebody like Christian Ponder or Greg McElroy. Both of guys are going to be career backups, but they'd be ideal backups.
Kevin: Make fun of Blaine Gabbert all you want but I also remember a puny looking Sam Bradford getting crushed and overwhelmed by an SEC defense a couple of years ago. And he turned out alright. I love Cam Newton's upside but at Auburn he ran much more of a gimmick offense than did Gabbert. Newton's responsibilities in college was to look for one or maybe two receivers and if it wasn't there then tuck it and run. And he did a fantastic job at it but he's not going to be prepared to go up against NFL defenses and make reads and decisions at the speed the game is played for several years. So if I'm an NFL GM and I need a QB first that means I need him to play so I'm going with Gabbert. Put him in the pocket and let him chuck it around. Like J, I'm not sold on any of the QBs in this years draft. Hell, Andy Dalton might end up being the best out of this bunch.
3. What will be the most intriguing QB battle this year in spring/fall practice?
Greg (Leather Helmet Blog): LSU. If Mettenberger can come in and establish himself the Tigers should be trouble for everyone in the West in 2011. Of course, things could get interesting in Columbia, as well. Then there is the possibility of a battle in Baja Georgia as Charlie Weis re-establishes his schematic advantage over college football. But I'll stick with LSU where Mett may be the missing link that gets them back to the SECCG.
Brandon: I am going to sound very Nebraska-Centric with this, but I think the QB battle between Taylor Martinez and Cody Green will be one to watch. I have repeatedly mentioned my dislike of the way the offense is ran when Taylor Martinez is at quarterback, and I am interested to see if he really has complete confidence from his teammates and the coaching staff. The other big thing with this battle is if Cody Green plays well enough in practice where it leads the coaching staff to trust him with his arm and not just “managing” the offense by only throwing a few times each game.
J Martin: I may be biased but I'm awfully intrigued by the looming AJ McCarron/Phillip Sims battle at Alabama. Beyond the fact that it'll be a contest between two incredibly talented QBs and both will be looking to put on a show at the A-Day game, the stakes are a lot higher than just taking control of the #1 position on the depth chart. With McCarron due to be a redshirt sophomore and Sims a redshirt freshman, there has been significant chatter that whoever fails to secure the starting spot will look to transfer before the start of the season. In essence, this QB battle could become a sort of "Loser Leaves Town" match: the winner takes the reins of a team with legit national title aspirations in 2011, the loser starts looking for a new place to play ball. That's what I call intrigue.
Kevin: I'm going with Florida. John Brantley was a disaster last year. Maybe it wasn't all his fault but I just can't look at his numbers and think that Muschamp and Weis are going to war with him this year. He threw more INTs than TDs last year. Jeff Driskel came in early so he's on the same schedule as Brantley is in learning the new offense. This one might not be settled during the spring and could spill over to the fall and during the season which could make for a lot of fun in Gainesville.
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