The 2008 football season will not exactly be the Year of the Quarterback in the Southeastern Conference.
Other than Florida and Georgia, every team in the league has question marks looming over the most critical position in the sport.
Is it any surprise that the Gators and Bulldogs are expected by most to be the SEC’s best teams this fall? Florida, with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and Georgia, with Matt Stafford, have no worries at quarterback.
No such luxuries exist around the rest of the conference.
Kentucky must replace Andre’ Woodson, who set an SEC record last year with 40 touchdown passes. The candidates are Curtis Pulley and Michael Hartline.
Coach Steve Spurrier’s fun-n-gun offense at South Carolina has yet to take flight partly because a premier quarterback hasn’t emerged. Nobody is coming back this fall who scares anyone, either.
Tennessee must find a replacement for Erik Ainge, who delivered a splendid season in 2007. That man appears to be Jonathan Crompton, who has yet to do anything at UT to prove he was worth all the hype coming out of high school.
Vanderbilt hopes Chris Nickson recovers from a poor 2007 season and plays more like he did in 2006. Benched midway through last season, Nickson found himself fighting against Mackenzi Adams in the spring for the starting job.
Alabama features an experienced and sometime-productive quarterback in John Parker Wilson. He holds school records for passing yards and touchdowns in a season but still commits too many costly turnovers. He was No. 92 nationally (ouch!) in passing efficiency last year.
New Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino is counting on a big senior season from Casey Dick, who has 22 career starts but has never come close to playing like quarterbacks Petrino had at Louisville such as Brian Brohm.
Defending national champion LSU thought Ryan Perrilloux was set to take over for Matt Flynn as the starting quarterback, but the troubled Perrilloux was dismissed from the team this spring for disciplinary reasons. LSU’s starter this fall? Who knows?
Ole Miss believes its offense is in good hands with Texas transfer Jevan Snead, who played well in the spring for new coach Houston Nutt. But again, he has no experience and is an unknown commodity. And the odds are he won’t exactly be Eli Manning.
Replacing Brandon Cox won’t be easy at Auburn, which is throwing the position up for grabs between Kodi Burns and junior-college transfer Chris Todd. Whoever starts will be asked to operate the Tigers’ new spread offense.
Mississippi State’s offense last season was about as fun to watch as a spelling bee. Wesley Carroll took over at quarterback for the final eight games as a true freshman. He’s first in line to start this fall but has a long way to go.
Some team in the SEC in 2008 will rise up, surprise everyone and find itself playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game.
The smart money says it will be a team that gets better quarterback play than anyone expected during the summer months.
ONE STAYS, ONE GOES: Standout point guard Ronald Steele will return to Alabama next season, while forward Richard Hendrix will leave early for the NBA.
Steele, regarded as the league’s best point guard before missing all of the 2007-08 season with a knee injury, chose to return and could help the Crimson Tide quickly rebuild.
The 6-foot-8 Hendrix is choosing to stay in draft rather than return for his senior season despite being told by NBA scouts that he isn’t likely to be picked in the first round and, thus, not receive a guaranteed contract.
ON THE MOVE: Former Kentucky guard Derrick Jasper plans to transfer to UNLV, according to recent reports.
The 6-foot-6 Jasper left UK this spring, citing a desire to play closer to his California home.
Brett Hait covers Vanderbilt athletics and the Southeastern Conference for The City Paper. He can be reached at email@example.com .