790the Zone - my day job - puts out a "Guy's Guide to Football" every fall. I was asked to rank the Top 5 SEC Quarterbacks of all time to put in the "Guide." Here it is.
The SEC has been, is, and will continue to be the best conference in college football. Despite that, quarterback play has never been the hallmark of the league. Championships in the SEC have traditionally been won on the backs of great runners like Herschel, Bo and McFadden along with fast, physical defenses.
Almost every way you slice it, the SEC stands atop college football currently and historically, except quarterback play where the Pac-10 is easily the best. Nothing the SEC has can stack up with the likes of Matt Leinart, Carson Palmer, Jim Plunkett, John Elway, Dan Fouts, Warren Moon and a host of other legendary West Coast quarterbacks.
Much of that changed when Steve Spurrier brought his Fun-and-Gun offense to Florida and drug the conference into the modern, passing era of college football in the early 90s.
Here are the five best QBs in SEC history.
1. Danny Wuerffel, Florida
Wuerffel was the first SEC quarterback to win a Heisman Trophy and a national championship. Add to that four SEC titles and two first team All-American selections and Wuerffel stands well atop every other signal caller in the conferenceís history.
Wuerffel wasnít big, he wasnít fast, he didnít have a strong arm, but he always got the ball just where Steve Spurrier wanted it.
Wuerffel career numbers boggle the mind. He finished with 10,875 yards with 114 TD passes, the best in SEC history and second-most in major college history at the time. His career pass efficiency rating of 163.56 was the best in major college history. In 1995, his efficiency rating of 178.4 set a single-season collegiate record.
In 1996, he threw for 3,625 yards (an SEC record at the time) and 39 TDs (leading the nation and tops in SEC history) and his efficiency rating of 170.6 made him the first QB to ever post a rating of 170 or better in back-to-back years.
When contemplating those numbers, remember he did it against the best defensive conference in college football and a non-conference schedule that always included Florida State at the height of its dynasty.
Most important to remember, however, was that Wuerffel and the Florida offense he directed in the mid-90s was so good that SEC fans were actually afraid to play the Gators and didnít so much hope to win, but just not be embarrassed by them.
2. Tim Tebow, Florida
Iím doing some projecting here, but with a national championship and a Heisman already in his trophy case entering his junior season, I donít think itís a stretch to say Tebow will be remembered as an all-timer.
While he was the back-up on the Gatorsí 2006 national championship team, he was Floridaís heart and soul, its leader, and the tough yards he gained on the ground Ė especially against Tennessee Ė allowed them to win that title. And he did it as a freshman.
Tebowís 2007 will be remembered for 100 years as one of the greatest seasons ever by a college athlete regardless of sport. He set the SEC single season records for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns and became the first player in NCAA history to have more than 20 rushing and passing touchdowns in a season.
He DID things people never even THOUGHT of.
But true athletic greatness isnít measured by numbers, itís measured by moments and memories and from his heroic performance at LSU to the ďjump pass,Ē Tebowís building a catalogue of both.
Watching Tim Tebow is like looking into the future.
Heís part Danny Wuerffel, part Emmitt Smith, part Paul Bunyan.
He throws like a quarterback, runs like a fullback and looks like a linebacker.
Heís a cultural icon; a legend in his own time.
I consider him my generationís Herschel or Bo. I was too young to see those two play, and I always felt bad about that until Tebow came along. Tebow is the guy 20 and 30-somethings like myself will tell their kids they saw play. Watching Tebow I know Iím watching something no one has ever seen before.
He circumcises third world children in the off-season, he has a beautiful singing voice, he can calculate pi out to 46 digits in his head, he can turn water into Gatorade and heís this close to solving global warming.
We are all terribly inadequate compared to Tebow.
3. Pat Sullivan, Auburn
The SEC was anything, but a passing conference when Sullivan started for the Tigers between 1969 and 1971. Despite that, Sullivan was good enough to convince coach Shug Jordan to put the ball in the air and Sullivan would be awarded with the Heisman Trophy in í71.
Sullivan was a two-time SEC Player of the Year, a two-time All-American, he led the nation in total offense in í70 and tied an NCAA career record for most touchdowns responsible for.
4. Steve Spurrier, Florida
Spurrier has had so much success and influence as a coach, itís easy to forget he was a remarkable player. The 1966 Heisman Trophy winner was a two-time All-American and SEC Player of the Year at QB and a damn good punter for the Gators as well.
5. Peyton Manning, Tennessee
Manning is one of the few players who is actually better as a pro than he was in college. Itís easy to let what heís done in the NFL, which is nothing short of brilliant, influence our memory of what he was with the Vols, but truth be told, for all his greatness, Manning will most be remembered for what he didnít do at Tennessee.
He didnít beat Florida; he didnít win a national championship. The guy who replaced him did.
Manning claimed one SEC title, was the leagueís player of the year in 1997, and turned around the psychology of the Tennessee-Alabama rivalry, but while his college career was excellent, itís not close to as good as his NFL career has been.
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