Best of the SEC: Quarterbacks kick off positions series as we rank all 16 conference teams

After years of discussions, negotiations and preparation, Texas finally joins the SEC on July 1. But how do the Longhorns stack up as they enter the toughest conference in college football?

We're ranking each SEC position by position, assigning points for each team — 16 points for first place, one point for 16th, etc. We'll update the totals for each installment, giving a sense of which teams will contend for the SEC title and College Football Playoff spots.

Ranking the SEC schools on the strength of their quarterbacks heading into the summer:

More: Texas making exit from Big 12 after decades of excellence, dominance, consistency | Golden

Texas quarterbacks Arch Manning , left, and Quinn Ewers warm up ahead of the spring game in April. No team in the country has a more well-known if not more talented quarterbacks room than Texas, which welcomes back Ewers as well as touted backup Manning.
Texas quarterbacks Arch Manning , left, and Quinn Ewers warm up ahead of the spring game in April. No team in the country has a more well-known if not more talented quarterbacks room than Texas, which welcomes back Ewers as well as touted backup Manning.

1. Georgia: Carson Beck a top NFL prospect

There’s a reason NFL scouts rank Carson Beck as the top quarterback prospect in the 2025 draft. He boasts prototypical size (6-4, 220) and matched those measurables with plenty of production last season, throwing for a conference-high 3,941 yards with 24 touchdowns and six interceptions. Better yet, Beck's a senior entering his second season as a starter and should get even better in his second full season under touted Georgia quarterbacks coach Mike Bobo. Gunnar Stockton, a sophomore who inherits the backup spot after Brock Vandagriff's transfer to Kentucky, drew praise during spring football.

2. Texas: Quinn Ewers boasts experience, numbers

No SEC quarterbacks room boasts a better combination of production and potential than Texas, which has Quinn Ewers back for this third season as a starter and heralded redshirt freshman Arch Manning waiting in the wings. Ewers (6-2, 210) threw for 3,479 yards and 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in 12 games while leading the Longhorns to CFP semifinals. He’s packed on a few pounds to try and avoid the nagging injuries that have marked his first two seasons at Texas, and he also has a firm grasp on head coach Steve Sarkisian’s intricate pro-style offense. Manning, a scion of football’s most famous quarterback family and the nation’s top recruit in 2023, threw just five passes last season but impressed in spring workouts.

More: Texas athletics wins third Directors' Cup in four years as nation's top college program

Georgia quarterback Carson Beck returns for presumably one more season before he enters the NFL draft. He's already being projected as the top quarterback prospect for the 2025 draft.
Georgia quarterback Carson Beck returns for presumably one more season before he enters the NFL draft. He's already being projected as the top quarterback prospect for the 2025 draft.

3. Alabama: Jalen Milroe is a dangerous dual threat

No quarterback does more for his offense than returning starter Jalen Milroe, who gives new Tide coach Kalen DeBoer one of the country's top dual threats. Milroe threw for 2,834 yards and 23 touchdowns with six interceptions in his first season as a starter, and the sturdy 6-foot-2, 220-pounder added 531 yards and 12 more touchdowns on the ground while essentially serving as Alabama’s short-yardage back. His match with a new offensive coordinator and play-caller in Nick Sheridan could determine whether the Tide contend for a spot in the expanded CFP. Five-star freshman Julian Sayin transferred to Ohio State following Nick Saban's retirement, which means sophomore Ty Simpson serves as a talented but unproven backup.

4. Ole Miss: Jaxon Dart is on the mark

The Rebels welcome back the most experienced quarterback in SEC play in 6-foot-3, 210-pound Jaxon Dart, who has 28 career starts, including 25 over the past two seasons with Ole Miss. He earned the trust of head coach Lane Kiffin last season after throwing for 3,364 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions and adding 389 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground. Kiffin also has depth at quarterback with Walker Howard, a former four-star recruit for LSU who transferred to Ole Miss prior to last season.

5. Missouri: Brady Cook is a steady veteran

The last of five returning conference quarterbacks with starting experience for a winning team, senior Brady Cook enters his third season in complete control of coach Eli Drinkwitz’s offense. Cook may lack the physical tools of some of his peers, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pound former three-star recruit gets the ball out on time and has enough athleticism to make plays when things break down. The Tigers bolstered their depth with the portal arrival of Drew Pyne, a former blue-chip recruit who started 11 total games at Notre Dame and Arizona State. Former Southern starter Harold Blood Jr. also joined Missouri as a graduate transfer.

6. LSU: Tigers must replace the Heisman winner

The 6-2, 200-pound Garrett Nussmeier must replace Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels, but he's certainly paid his dues. The redshirt junior finally gets his first chance as the full-time starter after more than 200 career pass attempts. The local favorite from Lake Charles, La., isn’t a running threat, but boasts a quick release, pinpoint accuracy and a palpable sense of confidence; he’ll try to squeeze the ball through the smallest of windows, as evident by his seven career interceptions to go along with 11 touchdowns on 219 pass attempts. The Tigers also lured former Vanderbilt starter AJ Swann in the portal, and he's the conference’s most experienced backup with 394 career pass attempts for 2,731 yards.

7. Tennessee: Is Nico Iamaleava the next star pupil?

Head coach Josh Heupel, a former All-American quarterback for Oklahoma, has earned his reputation as one of the premier developers of talent at the position. He has an intriguing project in Nico Iamaleava, a redshirt freshman who impressed in his lone start a year ago in the Citrus Bowl against an elite defense in Iowa. The 6-foot-6, 195-pounder from Southern California has drawn some comparisons to former Clemson star Trevor Lawrence with his lanky frame, smooth delivery and quick feet. Fifth-year senior Gaston Moore is a veteran backup whose familiarity with Heupel’s offense goes back to their time together at Central Florida in 2020. True freshman Jake Meklinger also has plenty of recruiting bona fides, but Tennessee would prefer a redshirt for the former four-star prospect.

8. Florida: Could DJ Lagway push for starting job?

Head coach Billy Napier’s seat has grown hot in Gainesville, and he’ll need his quarterback to play well and cool things down. But will that be veteran Graham Mertz or heralded recruit DJ Lagway, a five-star Texan from Willis? Mertz, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound fifth-year senior in his second season with the Gators, has started 42 games at Wisconsin and Florida and has an NFL skill set based on his draft projections for 2025. He threw for 2,903 yards, 20 touchdowns and just three interceptions last season, but the Gators lacked offensive punch while going 5-5 in his 10 starts. Fans will clamor for Lagway, a physical specimen at 6-2, 230 who's the Gators' most touted quarterback recruit in more than a decade.

More: Report: Texas, Oklahoma will kick off annual football rivalry at 2:30 p.m. in 2024

9. Oklahoma: New era features a familiar face

Sophomore Jackson Arnold, a former blue-chip recruit from Denton, steps into the starting role after Dillon Gabriel transferred to Oregon. If Arnold stumbles in his first season as a starter, the Sooners can turn to a familiar face for Texas fans in Casey Thompson, a former Longhorns' starter and an Oklahoma native who’s completing a six-year career arc. But Oklahoma fans probably would rather not see Thompson even though his father, Charles, served as a legendary wishbone quarterback for the Sooners in the 1980s. The 6-1, 210-pound Arnold has a big arm with good mobility and can make every throw, and he’s flashed the star power that seems to characterize most signal callers for the Sooners.

One of the highest-rated recruits in the 2022 class, Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman hopes to have a breakout season under new coach Mike Elko.
One of the highest-rated recruits in the 2022 class, Texas A&M quarterback Conner Weigman hopes to have a breakout season under new coach Mike Elko.

10. Texas A&M: Aggies need a healthy Conner Weigman

Who is Conner Weigman, the Aggies’ redshirt sophomore that will enter the season as the team’s undisputed starter? Is he the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder with a golden arm and quick feet who was rated as one of the nation’s top prospects in the 2022 recruiting class? Is he a promising but unproven quarterback who has endured injuries and coaching instability while throwing just 251 passes over his first two years? Texas A&M fans will soon find out since he seems to have a firm grasp on the starting job. New head coach Mike Elko and new offensive coordinator Collin Klein have options behind Weigman; Jaylen Henderson finished last season as a starter before suffering an injury in the bowl loss to Oklahoma State, and slick redshirt freshman Marcel Reed threw for 361 yards after replacing Henderson against the Cowboys.

11. Auburn: More experience than production

The Tigers boast plenty of continuity with the return of senior starter Payton Thorne as well as backup Holden Geriner. But is that a good thing, considering Auburn ranked last in the SEC with 162.2 yards passing a game last season? The 6-2, 200-pound Thorne, who started two seasons at Michigan State before arriving on the Plains prior to last season, gives the Tigers a respected locker room leader who can make plays with his legs. Hank Brown also returns, but head coach Hugh Freeze may want to throw true freshman Walker White into the deep end of the SEC if the passing game remains stuck in neutral.

12. Kentucky: Will a former Georgia quarterback shine?

One of the nation’s top quarterback recruits in 2021, Brock Vandagriff arrives from Georgia with hopes of finally getting steady snaps. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder saw limited action in the Bulldogs’ loaded quarterbacks room but has plenty of raw talent for new offensive coordinator Bush Hamdan, the former Boise State quarterback coach and offensive coordinator picked by head coach Mark Stoops to guide the Wildcats’ attack. Stoops completed the position rebuild in May by reeling in former Rutgers starter Gavin Wimsatt, who struggled for the Scarlet Knights but was a four-star recruit out of nearby Owensboro, Ken., in 2021.

13. Mississippi State: Former Baylor player seeks a new start

Senior Blake Shapen started 23 games for Baylor over the past three seasons and flashed some intriguing potential, which makes him the leading candidate to start for the Bulldogs. But it’s not like new coach Jeff Lebby has many options while attempting to jump-start a passing offense that ranked second-to-last in the SEC. The 6-foot, 205-pound Shapen has endured his share of injuries, which means senior backup Mike Wright could be needed to call on his wealth of experience, including 14 career starts and 38 games at Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

14. Vanderbilt: New faces, same concerns

Question marks aren’t uncommon for the Commodores, but there’s a big one behind center. The top two quarterbacks from last season are gone, which means head coach Clark Lea must decide between Utah transfer Nate Johnson, a 6-1, 195-pound junior who played in seven games with three starts last season for the Utes and can make plays with his arms and legs, or grad transfer Diego Pavia, who led New Mexico State to a 10-5 record last year after completing 60.4% of his passes for 2,973 yards and 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions while adding 923 yard and seven more scores on the ground.

15. Arkansas: Razorbacks are starting fresh

The offseason came with lots of upheaval, especially at quarterback. KJ Jefferson left after starting 39 games over the previous five seasons, along with backup Jacolby Criswell. In addition, head coach Sam Pittman brought in star-crossed veteran play-caller Bobby Petrino to revitalize the offense as well as redshirt junior Taylen Green, a 6-6, 225-pound dual threat from the Dallas area who started 22 games for Boise State over the past two seasons. Redshirt freshman Malachi Singleton seems to be the backup by default; Pittman and his staff will need a big year from Green to calm the calls for his job from some Hog backers.

16. South Carolina: Who's replacing Spencer Rattler?

How can head coach Shane Beamer replace the mercurial Spencer Rattler, who’s now in the NFL? That’s one of several questions at the position for the Gamecocks, who leaned heavily on Rattler a year ago. Redshirt freshman LaNorris Sellers, a burly 6-foot-3, 240-pounder and a home state hero from Florence, S.C., seized the job in the offseason and gives the team a dangerous dual threat with big-play ability. Beamer also added some insurance in transfer Robby Ashford, who has starting experience in previous stops at Auburn and Oregon.

About this series

This summer, the American-Statesman is ranking each SEC football team position by position. We will assign points for each team at each position, with 14 for the leader and one for 14th place. We’ll update the totals with each installment, giving an idea of which teams will contend for the conference title and a possible College Football Playoff spot.

The lineup: (Week 1) quarterbacks, (2) running backs, (3) receivers, (4) offensive line, (5) defensive line, (6) linebackers, (7) defensive backs, (8) coaching and intangibles

Current team standings

  1. Georgia, 16

  2. Texas, 15

  3. Alabama, 14

  4. Ole Miss, 13

  5. Missouri, 12

  6. LSU, 11

  7. Tennessee, 10

  8. Florida, 9

  9. Oklahoma, 8

  10. Texas A&M, 7

  11. Auburn, 6

  12. Kentucky, 5

  13. Mississippi State, 4

  14. Vanderbilt, 3

  15. Arkansas, 2

  16. South Carolina, 1

This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: Who has the best QBs in the SEC? The Statesman ranks all 16 schools