Is the SEC on the verge of becoming a passing league in 2012?

The Tennessean makes the case:

  • Six of the conference’s top seven passers from 2011 are back, including a leading preseason Heisman candidate in Arkansas senior Tyler Wilson.
  • Two years ago, the SEC had a record four 3,000-yard passers. That number could be matched or even exceeded this season by a group of quarterbacks that includes Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Tennessee’s Tyler Bray, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and Missouri’s James Franklin.
  • First-year Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze has installed an up-tempo, spread offense.
  • LSU will air it out more with ex-Georgia QB Zach Mettenberger, something it couldn’t do with Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee.
  • Mississippi State is tailoring its offense to Tyler Russell’s ability to throw in the pocket.
  • Vanderbilt’s Jordan Rodgers and South Carolina’s Connor Shaw should post better numbers after assuming starting roles during the 2011 season.

Very impressive, no?  Some of it I’ll buy.  Rodgers and Shaw will start all season, so their numbers should improve.  Ditto for Bray, if he and his receivers stay healthy.  Ole Miss will probably be better at throwing the ball, never a Houston Nutt area of strength.  And then there are the two newcomers from the Big 12, right?

But it’s not as strong as it sounds.  TAMU was a good passing team last year (#18 nationally) and Sumlin certainly likes to throw the ball.  But Missouri was 62thnd.  For context, that’s fourteen spots behind Georgia.

As for all these 3,000-yard passers suddenly expected to sprout up – where were they in 2011?  The SEC only had two of those last year – and both have lost significant chunks of their receiving corps to the NFL and/or redeployment (Malcolm Mitchell).  Mettenberger’s got a big arm, but everyone seems to forget that Jarrett Lee didn’t throw badly at all last season and still lost his job.  And, sure, Nutt is gone, but so is Bobby Petrino.

Besides all of that, there’s this:  the SEC boasts four of the top ten teams in passing defense from 2011 and ten in the top thirty.  (By comparison, the Big 12 had none #19 Nebraska.)  Add to that serious quarterback questions at Florida, Auburn and Kentucky and I can’t say the optimism is justified.

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13 Comments

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13 responses to “Is the SEC on the verge of becoming a passing league in 2012?

  1. I had to think about it for a minute so I don’t blame ya Senator, but Nebraska played in the B1G last year. Texas was the highest rated passing defense from the Big XII at #41.

  2. Keese

    Enter Willie Martinez pass defense as trump card Senator

  3. Cojones

    Opine that many are developing short pass strategies somewhat like Boise throws. It’s quick, effective and you can’t get to the QB in time. Qbs, ends and WRs are working on timing patterns (as we type) to offset the air D. You can rack up a lot of air yards with that kind of O weapon.

  4. Macallanlover

    I may be the only one who feels this way but Bray is just no that impressive to me. Aside from his personal issues, he seems to only throw well when able to set up and experience no pressure. I must be wrong because so many sing his praises but i wonder if he just looks that good to everyone because QBing at TN has been so bad so long. Time will tell….if he stays eligible.

  5. Jarrett Lee didn’t throw badly at all last season and still lost his job.

    Not true. Lee handled the same kind of managed gameplan that LSU ran with Jefferson as well, but he was hardly a good passer. Couldn’t come off a second read, couldn’t make a throw with any pressure in his face, or look anything off over the middle. Neither guy was any good, ultimately.

    I don’t know that Zach Mettenberger is going to be all that great (I feel pretty good about it but I’m not gonna go off and say he’s gonna be awesome or anything outlandish), but at the very least he’s going to be able to handle the basic benchmarks that most people would take for granted at quarterback.

    • You watched the guy a lot more closely than I did, so I’ll defer to your judgment, but it’s worth noting that Lee ranked tops in the conference in passer rating for all quarterbacks with at least 100 passing attempts.

      • That he did, but again, it was running one of the more limited gameplans I’ve ever seen a QB run. Sometimes with one or two-WR looks with his reads being “one-two-throw it away” because the coaches didn’t trust him. Not that they did Jefferson either really, I think they just viewed him as fitting the team strength (running the ball) much better.

        Regardless how how good or bad Mettenberger plays this year, I feel pretty good in saying LSU will at least have a “normal” looking passing game.

  6. Saint Johns Dawg

    Jury is still out on Mettenberger … Spring Practice heroes don’t usually make for SEC royalty in the regular season, and I still suspect that despite Mark Richt’s consistentcy in dismissing guys who act stupid in public, he would have found a way to keep Mett if he thought the kid could be No. 1.