The latest twist in the SEC quarterback saga? The top national award for quarterbacks has two semifinalists who play in the SEC – and three who used to.
The list of 16 semifinalists for the Davey O’Brien Award, presented to the nation’s leading quarterback, has more players who transferred out of SEC schools than quarterbacks still in them.
In addition to the expected SEC quarterbacks, Nick Fitzgerald of Mississippi State and Jalen Hurts of Alabama, the list includes three players that were, once upon a time, in the conference. Those are Riley Ferguson of Memphis (formerly Tennessee), Will Grier of West Virginia (Florida) and Kenny Hill of TCU (Texas A&M).
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For the SEC, that seems embarrassing. But for the fans of the schools that lost a future O’Brien contender to transfer, it’s flat-out painful.
That’s because Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M have endured the most quarterback instability in the conference, with Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M shuffling through three quarterbacks apiece.
If circumstances had gone different in Gainesville, there’s no question that Gators fans would have gladly taken Grier and his numbers (217-of-334, 65 percent completion percentage, 3,068 yards, 30 touchdowns, 10 interceptions) ahead of what they’ve received from the trio of Feleipe Franks, Luke Del Rio and Malik Zaire.
For A&M fans, Hill’s figures (176-of-259, 68 percent completion percentage, 2,009 yards, 15 touchdowns, five interceptions) compare favorably to the results of Kellen Mond, Nick Starkel and Jake Hubenak in College Station.
And for Vols fans, it’s especially painful. That’s because while Quinten Dormady, Jarrett Guarantano and (briefly) Will McBride have quarterbacked their way to a winless conference mark and as many interceptions as touchdowns, Ferguson has thrived across the state at Memphis. He’s completed 60.7 percent of his passes (218-of-359) with 2,881 yards, 27 touchdowns and seven interceptions, prompting some scouts to view him as NFL material.
It hasn’t been all that bad a year for SEC quarterback performances. Ole Miss sophomore Shea Patterson likely would have earned a semifinal nomination had he remained healthy, Georgia freshman Jake Fromm has played efficiently in a run-first offense and Missouri’s Drew Lock and Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham have had their moments.
But seeing more ex-SEC quarterbacks than current ones on the Davey O’Brien semifinal list can’t be a good thing for the conference – and, for many fans, one look at that list brings back the memories of the ones that got away.
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