Quarterback chaos: SEC signal-callers have difficult springs

photo Alabama Coach Nick Saban looks on as quarterback AJ McCarron (10) delivers a pass down field during the fourth quarter of spring college football action at the A-Day game at the University of Alabama on Saturday, April 16. (AP Photo /The Tuscaloosa News, Jason Harless,)

MAD SCRAMBLESHow the SEC quarterback situations can be characterized on April 21:ABSOLUTE LOCKSGeorgia's Aaron MurrayKentucky's Morgan NewtonTennessee's Tyler BrayDECIDED FAVORITESArkansas' Tyler WilsonFlorida's John BrantleyLSU's Jordan JeffersonMiss. State's Chris RelfSLIGHT FAVORITESOle Miss' Randall MackeyVanderbilt's Larry SmithTOO CLOSE TO CALLAlabama with A.J. McCarron and Phillip SimsAuburn with Barrett Trotter and Clint MoseleyWHO KNOWS?South Carolina with Stephen Garcia and Connor Shaw

Florida's John Brantley and LSU's Jordan Jefferson failed to complete 30 percent of their pass attempts during recent spring football games, yet they were on target compared to Tyler Bray of Tennessee.

Bray connected on 5 of 30 attempts last Saturday in Knoxville, but at least he was competing. Stephen Garcia couldn't say that at South Carolina's spring game.

The Southeastern Conference has a plethora of quarterback questions in 2011, and this spring may have added to them. The troubled Garcia was suspended April 6 by South Carolina athletic director Eric Hyman for consuming alcohol before a mandatory leadership seminar, at which he was loud and offensive and was asked to leave.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said on Wednesday's spring teleconference that Garcia has guidelines to follow and a decision on his eligibility would be made this summer. The fifth-year senior is scheduled to graduate next month and has the option of playing his final season elsewhere.

"Hopefully it will work out that he will be back with us with maybe a lot better attitude than he's ever had," Spurrier said.

Connor Shaw, who played some as a true freshman last season when the Gamecocks captured their first SEC East title, is the starter for now. Spurrier has asked Shaw to spend the next few weeks and months throwing 100 balls a day five days a week in addition to "watching a little tape here and there."

Garcia wasn't the only SEC quarterback removed from the top of the depth chart this spring. At Ole Miss, Nathan Stanley was the only signal-caller who had played for the Rebels but decided to transfer after getting bypassed by the more athletic Randall Mackey and Barry Brunetti and the stronger-armed Zack Stoudt.

"These guys that we have are very accurate, and they're good runners as well," Rebels coach Houston Nutt said. "Competition is very, very tough, and all quarterbacks want to play, and I understand that. I wish Nathan nothing but the best."

Coaches who had quarterbacks post abysmal spring-game numbers rushed to their defense. LSU's Les Miles pointed out that Jefferson had his best spring, while Florida's Will Muschamp said new offensive coordinator Charlie Weis has given Brantley a lot to digest.

Jefferson and Brantley each completed 4 of 14 passes, with Jefferson suffering an interception and Brantley opening 0-for-6.

"I don't think in the spring game that John had much of a chance," Muschamp said. "We played well up front defensively and we had a lot of moving parts up front offensively. I was standing behind him, and I saw it coming pretty fast, too. I was very pleased with his spring and his command of what we're doing."

Tennessee's Derek Dooley said Bray struggled for a variety of reasons, most notably splitting up an offense he had worked with the previous 14 practices, and put a historical spin on his day.

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"I always get a little nervous about overvaluing a spring game," Dooley said. "I remember the year we won the national championship when I was at LSU, and Matt Mauck had six interceptions in the spring game. We were in a panic state all summer."

The two tightest races may be those of the past two BCS champions. Alabama's Nick Saban will not name a leader between A.J. McCarron and Phillip Sims, nor will Auburn's Gene Chizik with Barrett Trotter and Clint Moseley.

Saban wouldn't rule out using both once the season begins.

"Until somebody separates, I have no problem doing that," he said. "I really don't. I like both guys and have confidence in both guys, and I think our players do."

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