Will the SEC’s 2017 starting quarterbacks be better than the 2012 group?

It could be argued that, top to bottom, there hasn’t been a better season for quarterback play in the SEC than 2012. Among the highlights from that season: Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel won the Heisman Trophy as a freshman, setting an SEC record with 5,116 total yards, and Georgia’s Aaron Murray became the third player in SEC history to have consecutive seasons with at least 35 TD passes.

Other notable quarterbacks from the 2012 season included Alabama’s AJ McCarron, who led the Crimson Tide to a second straight national championship. Tennessee’s Tyler Bray threw 34 TD passes, the second most in a season in school history.

There was also a freshman at Mississippi State who saw limited time but would end up becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks in SEC history: Dak Prescott.

The 2017 season is shaping up to challenge that 2012 season, with 12 of 14 teams returning their starting quarterback from last season.

Here are some of the superlatives the 2012 QB class produced, and predictions on whether the 2017 group will surpass those numbers.

2012: Nine QBs had 2,500 passing yards
2017 will have: More

Three returning QBs – Austin Allen, Drew Lock and Jalen Hurts – had at least 2,500 passing yards last season, but three more were just shy of 2,500 (Jacob Eason, Nick Fitzgerald and Kyle Shurmur each surpassed 2,400 yards).

To reach 2,500 passing yards over a 12-game season, a quarterback needs to average about 210 passing yards per game. Sophomore Shea Patterson average 293 in his three-game audition last season, and fellow sophomore Jake Bentley nearly averaged the 210 YPG needed (202.9). Danny Etling averaged 202.3 over his final 10 games.

But the quarterback who could lead the entire conference in passing yards this season hasn’t even played since 2015. Auburn’s Jarrett Stidham averaged 311.3 in three starts as a freshman with Baylor in 2015.

2012: Seven QBs had 20 TD passes
2017 will have: More

Four quarterbacks – Allen, Lock, Hurts and Fitzgerald – topped the 20-TD mark last season, and back in 2015 with the Bears, Stidham had six TD passes in his three starts.

If Eason, Patterson and Bentley can progress from their freshman seasons, they should each get to 20 TD passes. And one more quarterback to keep in mind for 2017 is Florida’s Malik Zaire. Over his three seasons at Notre Dame, Zaire had just six touchdowns passes. But those TD passes came over 98 career pass attempts, an average of one TD pass every 16.3 attempts.

By comparison, Lock averaged one TD pass every 18.9 pass attempts. And for Allen, it was one TD pass every 16.0 pass attempts. If Zaire can match his career averages, he should also surpass the 20-TD mark.

2012: Seven QBs had a 60 percent completion rate
2017 will have: Fewer

For all the quality quarterbacks returning for 2017, only three – Hurts, Allen and Bentley – completed 60 percent of their passes last season.

Of the other returning quarterbacks, Etling was the closest at 59.5 percent. Stidham did have a completion percentage of 62.9 in his three starts in 2015. But no other returning quarterback had a completion percentage that surpassed 55 percent last season.

Source: Saturday Down South

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