As the 2018 season cometh, you can sum up the state of the Southeastern Conference thusly:
The league has more full-time first-year head coaches than schools that definitely will be starting rookie quarterbacks. There will be six new faces in new places — if you count Dan Mullen’s migration east from Mississippi State to Florida and Matt Luke at Ole Miss — at the coaches’ podium at SEC Media Days this week, while only two schools will definitely be starting rookie quarterbacks.
The list of experienced SEC signal callers is like the mighty Mississippi (the river, not the Rebels football team): deep and wide. You can tell by the list of quarterbacks representing their schools this week in Atlanta.
If a coach can leave his control fetish at the College Football Hall of Fame bag check, you know he’s got a dependable hand returning at quarterback. That leaves out Alabama’s Nick Saban, but we’ll circle back to his Crimson Tide a bit later.
Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham, Ole Miss’ Jordan Ta’amu, Mississippi State’s Nick Fitzgerald, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Vanderbilt’s Kyle Shurmur are all on the interview list for media days. So is Missouri’s Drew Lock, who some regard as the top quarterback prospect for the 2019 NFL draft.
Throw in Georgia’s Jake Fromm and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts (even when things are “unsettled” at Alabama, the riches overflow) and you have a quarterback situation that rivals or exceeds that of 2014 in the SEC. That was the season of Dak Prescott (Mississippi State), Nick Marshall (Auburn), Blake Sims (Alabama), Bo Wallace (Ole Miss) and Brandon Allen (Arkansas).
All this quarterbacking bounty only serves to highlight the stressful urgency of the quarterback situation at LSU.
The Kentucky Wildcats are the only SEC team besides the Tigers that do not have a quarterback with even one FBS start on their roster.
Yes, junior transfer Joe Burrow has top-of-mind awareness at LSU — his Instagram announcement that he will wear No. 9 this season was an overnight internet sensation. And he is the presumptive man to beat as the start of preseason camp approaches in a little more than two weeks.
But Burrow never started a game in three years at The Ohio State. Same for LSU’s other incumbent quarterback contenders: Myles Brennan, Justin McMillan and Lowell Narcisse.
That is not to imply one of them will not flourish in the new pass-first offense being crafted by Steve Ensminger, himself an LSU quarterback once upon a time who was never able to shake coach Charlie McClendon of the notion of him sharing time with the late David Woodley. But if you are the Tigers, and you see all the familiar old hands behind center across the league, well, there are bound to be some growing pains. And just as likely, there are bound to be some times when LSU wishes it had another year from reliable if unspectacular Danny Etling.
Still, Ensminger and LSU coach Ed Orgeron can take solace in one definitive trend in the SEC: the old axiom that you can’t win in the SEC with an inexperienced quarterback has been torn down like Atlanta’s Georgia Dome (or, if you prefer, it’s Gone With the Wind). Georgia’s Jake Fromm took over from an injured Jacob Eason and never let the job go. He went 12-2 as the Bulldogs’ starter and was one overtime bomb from Tagovailoa to Amite’s DeVonta Smith away from winning the CFP National Championship Game.
A day's worth of bouncing from interview room to interview room taking questions from more than 1,000 media members isn’t every athlete’s idea…
At Arkansas, former Teurlings Catholic star Cole Kelley returns with a modicum of starting experience (four games) as he attempts to build on the remnants of the Allen Dynasty (Brandon and Austin) under first-year coach Chad Morris. At Tennessee, things can only go up from last season’s 0-8 SEC mark (a first for the Volunteers), at least if first-year coach Jeremy Pruitt can decide whether it’s more profitable to stick with six-game 2017 starter Jarrett Guarantano or opt for graduate transfer Keller Chryst (11-2 at Stanford).
And Jimbo Fisher? Surely he wants to settle on one quarterback in his first season at Texas A&M and avoid the revolving door that was the position last year between Nick Starkel, Kellen Mond and the departed Jake Hubenak.
As a general rule, quarterbacks get more credit and more blame than they deserve. But it also seems to be true that the best years for the SEC seem to be the ones when the quarterback talent — and experience — is at its highest.
The number of days until the start of LSU football season on Sept. 2 are dwindling — 49 as of Sunday — but the numbers on the LSU football ros…