I-A College Football
 
 
        === Dorm Report: New SEC QBs try to assert themselves ===
 
 By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor
 
 Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Replacing great players moving on via
 graduation or the NFL Draft is just the nature of the business in college
 football.
 
 However, it's rare that so many elite quarterbacks from a single conference
 depart in the same offseason.
 
 The SEC has asserted its dominance as far and away the nation's best
 conference over the past decade, and the same will likely be said about the
 league during the 2014 campaign, but heading into spring workouts several
 highly established programs will need to start looking forward to their future
 at the quarterback position.
 
 Texas A&M - Johnny Manziel followed up his Heisman Trophy-winning freshman
 campaign with arguably an even better sophomore season, as he completed just
 shy of 70 percent of his passes for 4,114 yards, 37 touchdowns and 13
 interceptions to go with an extra 759 yards and nine scores rushing. He's off
 to pursue his NFL dreams and expects to be one of the first quarterbacks
 chosen. The Aggies' success in recent years was almost solely on the shoulders
 of Johnny Football, and his departure leaves a gaping hole under center in
 College Station.
 
 It's still a three-way race for who will get to handle the reins during the
 2014 season. Matt Joeckel earned the start in last season's opener against
 Rice when Manziel was suspended for the first half, completing 14-of-19 passes
 for 190 yards and a touchdown, and as a senior he has a leg up on his
 competition in regards to experience and understanding the offense.
 
 Kenny Hill, a sophomore, was solid in very limited action in 2013 (16-of-22,
 183 yards, TD), and top recruit Kyle Allen will try to become the rare true
 freshman to start under center from Day 1. Considering head coach Kevin
 Sumlin's past success with signal callers -- with Manziel as well as with Case
 Keenum at Houston and Sam Bradford as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma --
 expect whoever wins this battle to have every chance to succeed.
 
 Alabama - If there's one thing Nick Saban needs out of his quarterback, it's
 the ability to take care of the football, and A.J. McCarron excelled in that
 regard during his three seasons as a starter with a mere 15 interceptions over
 the course of 1,026 pass attempts. McCarron was a lot more than just a game
 manager, however, and the Tide will be hard-pressed to replace his elite 2013
 production (67.3 completion percentage, 3,063 yards, 28 TDs).
 
 Alabama's search for a new signal caller isn't a foregone conclusion, but the
 early advantage goes to Florida State transfer Jake Coker, who won't arrive in
 Tuscaloosa until graduating from FSU later this spring. Saban and new
 offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin also will give last year's backup, Blake Sims
 (18-of-29, 167 yards, two TDs), and freshman David Cornwell a fair shot at
 winning the job.
 
 Georgia - Aaron Murray had an unfortunate end to his college career when he
 suffered a season-ending knee injury against Kentucky on Nov. 23 --  an injury
 that has caused his NFL Draft stock to sink -- but his on-field production was
 some of the best the conference has ever seen. Murray finished his four-year
 career with the Bulldogs ranking as the SEC's all-time leader in completions
 (921), passing yards (13,166), touchdown passes (121) and total offense
 (13,562) while starting a school-record 52 games.
 
 Filling in admirably for Murray at the end of last season was Hutson Mason,
 who completed 67-of-110 passes (60.9 percent) for 968 yards with six touchdowns
 (one rushing) and three interceptions. As a senior on a squad that expects to
 compete for an SEC East crown, Mason is pretty much a lock to win the job in
 2014, but the Bulldogs have a slew of underclassmen (Christian LeMay, Faton
 Bauta, Jacob Park and Brice Ramsey) who they'll want to examine closely this
 spring as their backup and their leader for 2015 and beyond.
 
 LSU - Zach Mettenberger took incredible strides during his senior season in
 Baton Rouge, setting career highs in passing yards (3,082), completion
 percentage (64.9) and touchdowns (22). The gun-slinger was starting to creep
 up NFL Draft boards before he, just like Murray, suffered a season-ending knee
 injury in late November.
 
 Mettenberger's departure at the end of the 2013 season was inevitable, but at
 least his unfortunate injury opened up an opportunity for Anthony Jennings
 late in the year. Despite the Tigers' 21-14 victory over Iowa in the Outback
 Bowl, Jennings failed to impress, completing just 7-of-19 passes for 82 yards
 with an interception, although he did lead the team on the game-winning
 touchdown drive late in the fourth quarter.
 
 With another year of seasoning under his belt, Jennings hopes to put his dual-
 threat abilities to task in 2014 as the full-time starter, although incoming
 freshman Brandon Harris will have his say in the quarterback competition as
 well.
 
 South Carolina - Connor Shaw may not have the name recognition as the other
 quarterbacks on this list, nor does he have as a high-ceiling future in the
 NFL as Manziel or McCarron (or even Murray or Mettenberger providing
 recovery), but he was nonetheless outstanding for the 11-win Gamecocks. He was
 responsible for more than 3,000 total yards and 30 touchdowns while throwing
 just a single interception over 284 pass attempts, and he showed great
 toughness by playing through several injuries to appear in every game.
 
 Luckily for South Carolina, it often worked in backup Dylan Thompson last
 season, and he threw for 783 yards and scored seven total touchdowns (1,027
 passing yards, 11 TDs in 2012). Possessing a similar dual-threat skill set as
 Shaw, Thompson appears poised to step right in as the full-time starter as a
 senior in 2014, but not without a little spring competition from Brendan
 Nosovitch (sophomore) and Connor Mitch (freshman).
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 03/18 07:07:16 ET

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