Predicting SEC’s 3,000-yard passers in 2016

What if I told you 2015 was a banner year for SEC quarterbacks?

You’d probably bolt immediately to the comments section and let it rip. Before you do, consider that Chad Kelly’s 4,042 passing yards were the third-most in conference history. And four SEC QBs topped 3,000 yards, a total the league hit or exceeded just five times in the past 12 seasons. Will Grier likely would have made it five in 2015, something done just once in that span.

So as much as we ripped quarterback play last season, it wasn’t all Treon Harris misfires, Greyson Lambert checkdowns and overwhelmed freshmen making rookie mistakes.

The highs were quite high.

Kelly also was one of three last season to throw at least 29 touchdown passes. In 2014, nobody reached that mark. Three was impressive, a total reached just two other times in that span: 2012 and 2007.

Year 3K QBs 29+ TDs
2015 4 3
2014 4 0
2013 5 1
2012 4 3
2011 2 1
2010 4 2
2009 1 1
2008 1 1
2007 3 3
2006 2 1
2005 1 0
2004 1 1

With all of the changes and uncertainty looming, if this fall is anything like we fear, we might wish for the glory days of 2015.

This fall, 10 SEC teams will break in new(er) quarterbacks. Three of the fab four from last season are gone. Only Kelly remains. If he’s healthy, he’s a lock to reach 3,000 yards and could become the first SEC QB in history to throw for 4,000 yards twice in a career.

Beyond Kelly? Questions. Lots of questions.

With matching last season being the goal — exceeding it doesn’t seem possible — here are three with the best chance to join Kelly in the 3K club.

Trevor Knight, Texas A&M: This man is no dummy. A graduate transfer, he could have gone anywhere and started at a lot of places. He was smart enough to realize the Aggies feature the best and deepest set of pass catchers in the league. Noel Mazzone’s system is designed to exploit pre-snap mismatches. Translation: Nobody is asking Knight to make pinpoint throws into double coverage. The offense is designed to get the ball to the open guy, quickly. Easy throws. An easy 3,000 yards.

Joshua Dobbs, Tennessee: Tennessee isn’t changing its offense; the Vols still will want to dominate the line and rely on their punishing run game. But expect Dobbs to throw more in 2016 than he did in 2015. He threw it just 26.5 times per game last season. If that number gets to 30 or more, and he complete more deep balls (UT had just 5 over 40 yards in 2015; even Auburn had 10), the numbers will jump.

Jan 1, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tennessee Volunteers quarterback Joshua Dobbs (11) throws the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during the first half in the 2016 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Dobbs threw for 2,291 yards last season. Extra passes, more deep completions, perhaps an extra game and 3,000 is within striking distance.

Brandon Harris, LSU: LSU isn’t changing its offense, either. But Les Miles has promised tweaks, as if getting the ball in the hands of game-breakers Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre are a sacrifice. In most offenses, they’d be targeted 20 times every Saturday. Miles has been cast as a run-first Michigan man, but the Tigers had a pair of 1,000-yard receivers as recently as 2013.

Yes, Leonard Fournette is a safe, reliable way to gain 6 yards. But it’s difficult to out-Alabama, Alabama. Ole Miss certainly doesn’t try to.

Harris, Dural, Dupre and the screen game are the way to go.

Nov 21, 2015; Oxford, MS, USA;LSU Tigers quarterback Brandon Harris (6) makes a pass during the first quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Harris is more than capable. LSU played just 12 games last season; he threw it just 23 times per game and still finished about 150 yards shy of Dobbs’ total. His 7.8-yards per attempt was just a tick below Dak Prescott.

The talent is there. And so is the talent around him.

Chris Wright is Executive Editor at SaturdayDownSouth.com. Email him at cwright@saturdaydownsouth.com.


Source: Saturday Down South

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