June 19, 2024

Ranking the SEC’s best quarterbacks of 2023

SEC's best quarterbacks of 2023

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels scrambles for a first down in the second quarter of the Cheez It Citrus Bowl against Purdue Monday January 2, 2023 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

It’s the almighty SEC, so the competition is always fierce.

The talent, speed, coaching and physicality arguably makes the SEC the most dominant Power Five conference. The Heisman winners, NFL Draft picks and National Championships back up those arguments. That means these gunslingers have very little margin for error, and have to keep their heads on a swivel this fall.

The league lost quarterbacks Bryce Young, Anthony Richardson, Will Levis, Hendon Hooker and Stetson Bennett to the NFL. However, the SEC returns plenty of firepower behind center for 2023.

14. Robby Ashford, Auburn: The former three-star prospect led the Tigers in passing yards and touchdown tosses last year. Ashford displayed breathtaking mobility, but had a mediocre completion percentage. He threw for a season-high, 337 yards against LSU, and 285 against Arkansas. Ashford went over the century mark in rushing yards against Mississippi State and Alabama. The Alabama native competed with T.J. Finley and Holden Geriner over the spring. Although Auburn’s spring game had sloppy weather, Ashford completed a 39-yard pass, which was the longest in the event. Finley threw for 431 yards in 2022, but was picked off four times, and Geriner only attempted three passes.

13. Connor Weigman, Texas A&M: The former five-star prospect threw for 896 yards and eight touchdowns as a true freshman last season. Weigman passed for 338 yards, and four touchdowns against Ole Miss, which were both season-highs. He started the Aggies’ final three games, and combined for 467 passing yards, and four touchdown tosses during that span. Weigman completed 17 of his 40 passes for 243 yards and a score in Texas A&M’s spring game. Max Johnson is competing for that top spot too. The former LSU Tiger has a ton of SEC experience, but only played in four games last year. Johnson completed 21 of his 37 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.

12. A.J. Swann, Vanderbilt: The Georgia native threw for 10 touchdowns and two interceptions as a true freshman last season. Swann passed for a season-high, 281 yards and two touchdowns against Ole Miss. He also generated two touchdown tosses against Wake Forest and South Carolina. Swann recorded 255 yards through the air, and a season-high, four touchdown passes in the victory over Northern Illinois. The former four-star prospect completed nine of his six passes for 115 yards and a score in the Commodores’ spring game. Ken Seals and Walter Taylor are still battling it out to be No. 2 on Vanderbilt’s depth chart. However, Swann has looked promising and should make strides in 2023.

11. Spencer Rattler, South Carolina: The former five-star prospect threw for 4,595 yards and 40 touchdowns at Oklahoma. Last season Rattler passed for 3,026 yards and 18 touchdowns in his first campaign with the Gamecocks. However, he was picked off eight times through the first six games. Rattler finished strong down the stretch though. The Arizona native threw for 438 yards and six touchdowns in the victory over Tennessee, which were both season-highs. Rattler recorded 360 passing yards in the win over Clemson, and 246 against Notre Dame. The 22-year old completed 12 of his 20 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown in the first half of South Carolina’s spring game.

10. Brady Cook, Missouri: The St. Louis native had a breakout season with the Tigers, and led them to a bowl game in 2022. Cook threw for 2,739 yards and 14 touchdowns. He passed for 221 yards, rushed for 106 and scored three touchdowns at Tennessee. The former three-star prospect threw for 242 yards, rushed for 138 and scored two total touchdowns in the victory over Arkansas. Cook threw for a season-high, 297 yards and three touchdowns against Abilene Christian. The 21-year old also generated three touchdown tosses against New Mexico State. Cook is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Miami transfer Jake Garcia and Sam Horn slugged it out over the spring.

9. Graham Mertz, Florida: The Kansas native spent the past four seasons at Wisconsin. Mertz threw for 5,405 yards during that span, which ranks sixth all time, and he’s sixth in completion percentage. Not to mention his 38 touchdown tosses is tied for fifth in program history. Mertz tallied 19 touchdown passes and was picked off 10 times in 2022. He battled Jack Miller during the spring, who started the bowl game for the Gators in Anthony Richardson’s absence. Miller threw for 180 yards against Oregon State. Mertz completed 18 of his 29 passses for 244 yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Meanwhile Miller passed for 144 yards and a score. Mertz has experience on his side.

8. Devin Leary, Kentucky: The 23-year old spent the past four seasons at NC State. Leary broke the Wolfpack’s single-season record with 35 touchdown passes in 2021. Last year he threw for 1,265 yards, 11 touchdowns and four interceptions through the first six games. Leary even led NC State to a 5-1 start. He threw for 238 yards and a season-high, four touchdowns in the victory over Charleston Southern. Not to mention he had four touchdown tosses, to go along with a season-high, 320 passing yards against Connecticut. His experience, production and leadership is what Kentucky needs, considering Will Levis is in the NFL now. Leary should make an immediate impact in the SEC.

7. Jaxson Dart, Ole Miss: The former USC Trojan had a solid campaign during his first season with the Rebels in 2022. Not only did Dart generate 2,974 passing yards, but he also added 614 rushing and scored 21 total touchdowns. He threw for a season-high, 448 yards and three touchdowns in the victory at Vanderbilt. The Utah native went over the century mark in rushing yards in wins over Tulsa and Auburn. However, Dart threw at least one interception in eight games. Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders pushed Dart over the spring. Sanders ranks second in career passing yards with the Pokes. The two combined for 567 passing yards and four touchdown tosses in the Grove Bowl.

6. Will Rogers, Mississippi State: The 21-year old is already the school’s career leader in completions, passing yards and touchdown tosses. Rogers ranked second in the SEC, and ninth nationally with 3,974 passing yards in 2022. He led the conference, and was seventh in the FBS with 35 touchdown tosses. Not to mention he led the Bulldogs to a nine-win campaign, which included a bowl victory. The former three-star prospect generated a season-high, six touchdown passes in the victory over Bowling Green. Rogers picked up where he left off in Mississippi State’s spring game, and threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Zavion Thomas. Now he’s poised to break more passing records this fall.

5. Joe Milton, Tennessee: The former Michigan Wolverine was arguably the nation’s best backup last season. Milton threw for 971 yards and 10 touchdowns. He generated two touchdown tosses against Akron. Not to mention Milton recorded a touchdown pass against Ball State, Vanderbilt, Missouri, South Carolina and Tennessee-Martin. The former four-star prospect started the Orange Bowl against Clemson, and threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, which were both season-highs. Milton battled true freshman Nico Iamaleava over the spring. The 23-year old completed nine of his 13 passes for 79 yards and a score. Meanwhile Iamaleava completed eight passes for 112 yards.

4. Carson Beck, Georgia: The former four-star prospect appears to be the torch-bearer to two-time National Champion Stetson Bennett. Beck threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns last season. He had a touchdown pass against Oregon and South Carolina. Beck completed eight of his 11 passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns against Vanderbilt. He’s the most experienced quarterback on the Bulldogs’ roster, and completed 15 of his 22 passes for 321 yards and a score in the spring game. Beck battled Brock Vandagriff and Gunner Stockton throughout the spring. Vandagriff threw for 175 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game, while Stockton had 144 and an interception.

3. K.J. Jefferson, Arkansas: The Mississippi native has been the Razorbacks’ starter for the past two seasons, and led them to two bowl victories during that span. Jefferson recorded 24 touchdown tosses, and ranked second in the SEC and eighth in the FBS in passing efficiency last year. The 21-year old finished 13th nationally in completion percentage. Jefferson threw for a season-high, five touchdowns in the victory at BYU. Not to mention Jefferson went over 100 yards rushing against Texas A&M and Kansas. He has 7,245 career yards of total offense, and needs 1,148 this fall to break the school record. Jefferson completed nine of his 18 passes for 131 yards and two scores in the spring game.

2. Jalen Milroe, Alabama: The former four-star prospect was Bryce Young’s backup last season, and still made his presence felt in the almighty SEC. Milroe completed eight of his 10 passes for 76 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the opener against Utah State. He filled in for the injured Young in the victory at Arkansas, and threw for 65 yards, rushed for 91 and scored two total touchdowns. Milroe started in the victory over Texas A&M, and passed for 111 yards and three scores, which were both season-highs. The Texas native completed 19 of his 37 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. Ty Simpson and Dylan Lonergan are battling Milroe for that top spot.

1. Jayden Daniels, LSU: The 22-year old racked up 7,312 yards of total offense in three seasons at Arizona State, which ranked sixth all-time. Daniels made an immediate impact during his first campaign in the SEC last season. He led all FBS quarterbacks in rushing yards, with 885 on the ground.  Daniels finished second in the SEC and ninth nationally in completion percentage. The four four-star prospect eclipsed the century mark in rushing yards against Florida State, Ole Miss and UAB. Daniels guided the Bayou Bengals to the SEC Championship Game and 10 victories. The Californian picked up where he left off. Daniels completed 10 of his 11 passes for 168 yards, and two touchdowns in the spring game.