Posted: Wednesday July 20, 2011 12:25PM ; Updated: Wednesday July 20, 2011 3:11PM
Stewart Mandel

SEC quarterback crop, coaching satisfaction index; more mail

Story Highlights

The SEC is light on star quarterbacks now, but won't be by season's end

Only 27 percent of fan bases are truly satisfied with their head coach

Plus: Georgia Tech fallout, Longhorn Network backlash, TV challenge

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If John Brantley develops into an All-SEC caliber quarterback, Florida could challenge in a relatively weak SEC East.
If John Brantley develops into an All-SEC caliber quarterback, Florida could challenge in a relatively weak SEC East.
Danny Murphy/Icon SMI

The circus that is SEC Media Days began Wednesday in Hoover, Ala. A reported 900-plus media members have gathered for three days to play golf, gorge on barbecue and sit in a large hotel banquet room listening to 12 coaches stand behind a podium and talk about how "pleased we are with the guys' effort" and how "good we feel about our depth at that position."

It's a terrific publicity-generating event, drawing wall-to-wall coverage both regionally and nationally, but it rarely teaches us anything useful about the upcoming season. It seems to me we can have just as much fun bantering about SEC topics here in the Mailbag -- though sadly, we won't smell the Jim 'N Nicks pulled pork cooking down the street.

Stewart, this season the SEC seems to be lacking stars at the QB position. Aaron Murray is the preseason first-team QB for a Georgia team that few are picking to do well. What team in the SEC could have the biggest boost if its QB goes from either mediocre or unknown to great (relative to a watered-down SEC stable of QBs).
-- Dan, Hollywood, Fla.

I, too, cringed when that all-conference list came out. Not over Murray, who threw for 24 touchdowns against eight picks as a redshirt freshman and is a bona fide star in the making (albeit one on a team littered with questions). I cringed because Stephen Garcia -- yes, Stephen Garcia -- is the second-team quarterback. A dearth of proven quarterbacks often signals a down year for a league, and preseason all-conference teams are the most obvious indicator.

But something tells me the conference won't lack star signal-callers by year's end. Arkansas' Tyler Wilson may be a first-year starter, but he showed his potential by coming in for an injured Ryan Mallett and throwing for 332 yards and four touchdowns against Auburn last year. I fully expect Wilson to post Mallett-type numbers under Bobby Petrino's tutelage. Mississippi State's Chris Relf, who earned a third-team preseason nod, seemed to turn it on over the final three games of last season, and I'm interested to see if Dan Mullen will let Relf air it out more. And Tennessee's Tyler Bray, who performed admirably once handed the reins as a freshman, should continue to carry the Vols' otherwise average offense.

But without question, Florida's John Brantley best fits the description in Dan's question. I've expressed my skepticism before about Will Muschamp's decision to hire Charlie Weis as his offensive coordinator, but there's no disputing Weis' acumen for developing quarterbacks. Here, he's been handed the ultimate challenge: Take a guy who finished 89th nationally in pass efficiency last season while playing in an offense for which he was ill-suited and turn him into a savvy, productive senior leader after one offseason of work. Florida's offensive line and receiving corps remain dubious, but if Weis succeeds with Brantley, Florida can go from a 7-5 squad on paper to a challenger in a relatively weak SEC East.

As an aside, what the SEC lacks in returning quarterbacks it makes up for quite nicely in running backs. A first-team backfield of Trent Richardson and Marcus Lattimore would be awfully scary in real life -- and if they get tired, Knile Davis and Michael Dyer can come in off the second-team bench.

The Mandel Initiative
Stewart Mandel and Mallory Rubin preview the upcoming Big 12 season and answer your bonus Mailbag questions.

The Mandel Initiative | Find on

In your 2007 book Bowls, Polls & Tattered Souls you listed Florida's Urban Meyer, Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Texas' Mack Brown, USC's Pete Carroll, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops, Notre Dame's Charlie Weis, Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, Georgia's Mark Richt, West Virginia's Rich Rodriguez, Rutgers' Greg Schiano, Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer, Wake Forest's Jim Grobe, Cal's Jeff Tedford, Wisconsin's Bret Bielema and South Carolina's Steve Spurrier as the only major conference coaches whose school's fan bases were fully content and confident with their leadership. What a difference a few years make, as only four of those coaches (Stoops, Beamer, Bielema, and Spurrier) in my mind remain on that list. Which coaches would make your list heading into the 2011 season?
-- William, Arlington, Va.

It's amazing to think there was a time when Notre Dame fans were truly thrilled to have Weis as their coach -- and that time was only four years ago. Or to think that in four years' time, Rodriguez went from a revered coach at West Virginia to an unemployed coach scorned by both WVU and Michigan fans. Or that Meyer, Tressel and Carroll are no longer college coaches.

The theory I proposed in the book was that at any given time, only 25 percent of fans are completely satisfied with their current coach. That aforementioned list comprised 15 of the 66 BCS-conference schools (including Notre Dame) at the time: 23 percent.

What is that number today? I would agree with the four William chose (Oklahoma, Virginia Tech, Wisconsin and South Carolina) and add the following:

• ACC (0): Florida State fans are optimistic about Jimbo Fisher but not yet fully sold.

• Big East (1): Louisville (Charlie Strong). My sense is Syracuse fans need to see Doug Marrone follow up on last year's success before they buy in completely.

• Big Ten (3): Michigan State (Mark Dantonio), Nebraska (Bo Pelini) and Northwestern (Pat Fitzgerald). Iowa's Kirk Ferentz goes on and off this list every other year.

• Big 12 (4): Baylor (Art Briles), Kansas State (Bill Snyder), Missouri (Gary Pinkel), Oklahoma State (Mike Gundy). I do know some Missouri fans who still haven't embraced Pinkel. They are batty.

• Pac-12 (3): Oregon (Chip Kelly), Utah (Kyle Whittingham), Washington (Steve Sarkisian). Half the coaches in this conference are on the hot seat.

• SEC (3): Alabama (Nick Saban), Arkansas (Bobby Petrino), Auburn (Gene Chizik). LSU's Les Miles may have to win another national title to ever join this list.

• Notre Dame (0): Not yet, Brian Kelly.

All told, that's 18 fully content fan bases out of 67 schools (with Utah) , or 27 percent. The names have changed, but our collective mood remains about average.
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