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For the first time in a while, SEC quarterbacks don’t take a backseat to anyone

SEC quarterbacks
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For the first time in a while, the SEC in 2017 won’t have to be embarrassed about its quarterbacks.

The SEC leads all Power Five conferences with eight returning quarterbacks who threw for at least 2,000 yards last season. It also has four returning quarterbacks who threw at least 20 TD passes, tied for the most with the Big Ten. More than stats, though – much more, really – is the idea that 11 of the league’s 14 teams should be comfortable about their quarterback situations heading into the season.

The three that likely have some trepidation are Florida, Tennessee and Texas A&M. But even at those schools, there is talent at the position; it’s just untested. The other 11 schools? Forgive those coaches if they smirk a bit when coaches outside the SEC bemoan the state of quarterback play in their league.

The eight schools whose returning starting quarterback threw for at least 2,000 yards last season are Alabama with Jalen Hurts, Arkansas with Austin Allen, Georgia with Jacob Eason, Kentucky with Stephen Johnson, LSU with Danny Etling, Mississippi State with Nick Fitzgerald, Missouri with Drew Lock and Vanderbilt with Kyle Shurmur. Allen, Fitzgerald, Hurts and Lock also threw at least 20 TD passes. Six of those eight — all but Lock and Shurmur — were starting for the first time for their teams last season, and Eason and Hurts were true freshmen.

RELATED: Our post-spring practice SEC power rankings

One more thing to consider: While Auburn (with Jarrett Stidham), Ole Miss (with Shea Patterson) and South Carolina (with Jake Bentley) don’t have quarterbacks who meet those benchmarks (Stidham is a JC transfer, while Bentley and Patterson didn’t see any time at all until the second half of last season), those teams are just fine with what they have at the position. Each of the three should be expected to throw for 2,000 yards and 20 TDs. Truthfully, all three should throw for at least 3,000 yards and 25 TDs, but Auburn and Ole Miss have new coordinators and South Carolina has Will Muschamp as coach, so there is some question as to the peak effectiveness of that trio of signal-callers.

It’s not just about passing yards, either. Fitzgerald and Hurts are big-time rushing threats, and Johnson is the third returning SEC quarterback who rushed for at least 300 yards last season.

The one thing the SEC doesn’t have at quarterback is a superstar. No quarterback in the SEC is as good as Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, USC’s Sam Darnold, Washington’s Jake Browning, Washington State’s Luke Falk or UCLA’s Josh Rosen. But if that six-pack is the top tier, there are a handful of SEC quarterbacks – most notably, Fitzgerald – who could play their way into the second tier to join the likes of Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett and Penn State’s Trace McSorley.

RELATED: SEC schedule talk: Florida, LSU, Mississippi State and Ole Miss face tough tasks this season

Here’s a closer look at the numbers.

ACC

Returning 2,000-yard passers: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson (3,543 yards), FSU’s Deondre Francois (3,350), NC State’s Ryan Finley (3,055), Duke’s Daniel Jones (2,835), Syracuse’s Eric Dungey (2,679), Virginia’s Kurt Benkert (2,552).
Returning QBs with 20 TD passes: Jackson with 30, Benkert with 21, Francois with 20.
Returning QBs with 300 rushing yards: Jackson with 1,571, Wake Forest’s John Wolford with 521, Jones with 486.

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