The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

QB Index: Where does AJ Swann rank amongst the SEC’s best?

With two SEC quarterbacks emerging as legitimate Heisman candidates and Vanderbilt having a dazzling young freshman, we decided to rank each of the SEC’s signal callers.
Alexa White
Where does AJ Swann rank amongst the league’s best quarterbacks? (Hustler Multimedia/Alexa White)

The College Football season is eight weeks in, and the playoff landscape is starting to shape up. Contenders and pretenders are revealing their true colors, underdogs are starting to spoil their rivals’ seasons and everyone is arguing over who deserves the second spot in the country behind Georgia. Already, the season has been chock-full of surprises (who would’ve thought Tennessee would have a chance to run the table?) and disappointments (looking at you, A&M). 

With about half of the SEC slate left to be played, we figured that it’s time to look at the most important position in football and rank, from last to first, the starting quarterbacks in the SEC.

Tier Eight: Not that good at football

14. Brady Cook, Sophomore, Missouri Tigers

Brady Cook is limited to say the least. His 6:7 touchdown to interception ratio is skewed because three of those touchdowns came in a game against Abilene Christian. He did play well in a win over South Carolina, but given his tools at receiver, he should arguably be putting up much better stats. Five-star prospect Luther Burden III has not disappointed with the ball in his hands this year, and Dominic Lovett is also a legitimate piece. Regardless, Cook has more or less just been there—his team wins and loses despite him. He also only managed 17 points against a porous Vanderbilt defense. In short, he is not the most talented or disciplined quarterback and is probably going to stay in the cellar unless someone else’s play drops drastically.

13. Robby Ashford, Freshman, Auburn Tigers

Hopefully, after the firing of coach Bryan Harsin, Robby Ashford and the Auburn Tigers will start to turn things around. Ashford has had a tumultuous year, taking the starting job from TJ Finley and then supposedly getting benched prior to the Arkansas game for true freshman Holden Geriner in a game Ashford then started. Ashford’s stats leave much to desire, with 4 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, but he has proven to be an adept scrambler and has led Auburn in competitive games against ranked teams in the SEC. His main problem is that he doesn’t complete passes, which can be a big problem when you are a quarterback in the SEC. His 52.6% completion percentage is 120th in the nation, and his QB rating is 20th from the worst in FBS. He has not played well enough to warrant a spot any higher than 13th, especially considering his starting spot is up for conversation.

12. Spencer Rattler, Junior, South Carolina Gamecocks

In the age of 247Sports and social media recruiting, there is now such thing as a college bust. Spencer Rattler has defined that. After getting benched at Oklahoma for Caleb Williams, his transfer to South Carolina was supposed to be a welcome change of scenery. Thus far, he’s been…underwhelming. He was supposed to be a mobile quarterback, but aside from a 31-yard effort on the ground against South Carolina State, he would have 41 attempts for -23 yards, thanks to his 18 sacks taken. He also has a 5:9 touchdown to interception ratio, and he leads the conference in turnovers. There have been some signs of the skill he showed in 2020 when he accounted for 34 touchdowns and threw only 6 picks, but they have more or less been flashes in the pan. There is a reason Rattler was so touted coming out of high school, and his potential is still intriguing. However, based on his performance so far and the South Carolina team winning often despite his play, he cannot be considered a top-10 quarterback in the SEC.

Tier Seven: Definitely maybe better than Haynes King and Max Johnson…hopefully

11. Connor Weigman, Freshman, Texas A&M Aggies

I guess Weigman is the quarterback for the Aggies now? Even so, Haynes King and Max Johnson would both end up here anyways. Whatever way you slice it, the quarterback play has largely been limiting the potential of this Aggies team. The three signal-callers have combined for 1,887 yards, 13 touchdowns and 6 interceptions, which isn’t necessarily terrible. However, when you consider this team came into the year ranked 6th in the nation and is now 3-5 and on a 4-game skid, the quarterback play cannot be blameless. Wiegman actually played very well in the loss to Ole Miss, throwing for 338 yards and 4 touchdowns, but it’s still too early to see if he is the long-term answer here.

Tier Six: Running for his life

10. AJ Swann, Freshman, Vanderbilt Commodores

AJ Swann was the youngest quarterback to start in the SEC this season, and the first true freshman to take a starting job. After taking over for Mike Wright at the end of the Wake Forest loss, he has performed admirably. The true freshman probably has the worst surrounding cast in the SEC and is playing behind the worst offensive line in a conference that constantly over-matches Vanderbilt athletically. In spite of his age and schedule—starting against three top-10 teams—Swann has avoided mistakes. He has taken only 7 sacks, thrown only 1 interception, and lifted his team in games against Ole Miss, Northern Illinois and Wake Forest. It would be hard to justify him being any higher with a completion percentage dipping below 55% in 3 of his last 4 games. Nevertheless, Swann is still a bright spot moving forward for a Vanderbilt team still searching for its first SEC win in three years.

Tier Five: Enjoy it while it lasts because ‘Bama is coming

9. Jaxson Dart, Sophomore, Ole Miss Rebels

The transfer from USC (the real one) has played pretty well in the red, white and blue thus far. His best game came in a 448-yard explosion against Vanderbilt, which makes sense because, you know, Vanderbilt, but he has been solid in the rest of their games as well. He does have 7 interceptions on the year, but his 14 touchdowns make up for it. The knock on him is his off game against LSU, where he did not muster up a touchdown pass against the unranked Tigers and spoiled the Rebels’ unblemished record. Dart is very mobile, has 3 games with over 90 yards rushing and throws the ball well, but he can be inconsistent. Ole Miss has also had an easy schedule thus far, which is about to change when they host the Crimson Tide after the bye week.

8. Jayden Daniels, Junior, Louisiana State Tigers

The transfer from Arizona State has more or less righted the ship for an overachieving 6-2 LSU team. Although they’ve only played two ranked teams, they split those matchups 1-1, and are now 15th in the latest AP Poll. Much of this success can be attributed to Daniels, who has a 12:1 touchdown to interception ratio in 8 games this year, which is a definite improvement from a rocky 2021 season in Tempe. Even in their loss to Florida State, Daniels played very well, and that loss looks much better in hindsight. As for the loss to Tennessee? It was a bit of a clunker, but the loss was by no means on his shoulders. Daniels relies largely on his legs and has 524 yards and 9 touchdowns on 113 rushing attempts, but he’s proven to be an adept passer in games against weaker defenses. However, when Tennessee held him to 38 yards on the ground, they held the Tigers to only 13 points. Is Daniels the real deal? We’ll see this weekend against Alabama in a game where Nick Saban will undoubtedly game plan against Daniels’s legs the same way the Volunteers did. It will be interesting to see how he can perform against tougher competition that clamps down on his running ability.

Tier Four: You can’t teach athleticism, but maybe somebody should teach them consistency

7. Anthony Richardson, Sophomore, Florida Gators

Anthony Richardson has had a bit of a rollercoaster season thus far. He started off the season spotless, with 3 rushing touchdowns and 274 total yards against the 7th-ranked Utah Utes. He then followed that up with back-to-back duds, combining for merely 255 yards on 24-of-53 passing with no touchdowns and 4 interceptions in those two games. After that, he threw for 453 yards and accounted for 4 touchdowns in a close loss to the 11th-ranked Tennessee Volunteers. Then, he got injured against Eastern Washington and was mostly limited in a win over Missouri, throwing only 14 attempts for 66 yards. He was fine in losses to LSU and Georgia, but his inconsistency all season has been infuriating. Yet, Richardson is ranked in the top half of the SEC, because his freakish athleticism is tantalizing. The guy is 6’4” and 232 pounds, runs a 4.40 second 40-yard dash and has one of the biggest arms in the country. Much like Levis, you could argue that his performance has been underwhelming and his accuracy leaves a lot to be desired, but he is sure to hear his name called in the NFL Draft come May.

6. Will Levis, Senior, Kentucky Wildcats

The golden-armed Penn State transfer stumbled last week in a blowout loss to Tennessee, failing to reach the century mark in passing yards and tossing three picks. Regardless of this horrific effort, Levis is still a projected first-round pick and is currently the second-ranked quarterback (behind Alabama’s Bryce Young) and third overall prospect for the 2023 NFL draft. Looking at him, you can see why—he has an NFL frame at 6’3” and 232 pounds with great arm strength and good mobility. Concerns about negative plays have been raised—he is second in the SEC in both interceptions and sacks taken, but his physical abilities are without question elite. Has his performance been the pinnacle of SEC quarterback play? No. Is he top 6 in the conference? Yes. Does he have the potential to be the best quarterback in the conference, if not the nation? According to NFL scouts, undoubtedly.

Tier Three: These guys are so fun

5. Will Rogers, Junior, Mississippi State Bulldogs

The hometown gunslinger out of Brandon, Mississippi has put together another strong season thus far. The SEC record holder for all-time completions in a season is leading the conference this year in most major categories. He has 2 more touchdowns and 106 more yards than the next leading passer and leads the conference in completions by 77. These video game numbers come partially due to coach Mike Leach’s Air-Raid scheme, which has Rogers airing out the ball more than anybody in the country, with 380 attempts through 8 games. However, Rogers is fairly one-dimensional, and in a college football landscape where mobile quarterbacks are a dime a dozen, this can hurt the Bulldogs. Additionally, this offense relies so much on the arm of Rogers that an off day can spell their doom, which happened against LSU and Alabama. Even an average day from Rogers can mean trouble, which was exemplified in the loss to Kentucky. Regardless of those days, Rogers has long been underrated and is just getting the nationwide recognition he deserves.

4. KJ Jefferson, Junior, Arkansas Razorbacks

Even though he is not the best, KJ Jefferson may very well be the most entertaining quarterback in the SEC. Regardless of the loss of Treylon Burks, his top target from last year and now Tennessee Titan, the junior signal caller had sky-high expectations coming into the year. Those expectations were met early, but Jefferson hit a skid in losses to Alabama and Texas A&M where he combined to go 25-for-43 for only 326 yards, before getting injured prior to a clash with Mississippi State. And where Jefferson goes, the whole Razorbacks team goes. His rushing support is elite, as Raheim (Rocket) Sanders has over a thousand yards through eight games, but his receiving corps leaves much to be desired. Jefferson still sports a 15:1 touchdown to interception ratio and has rushed for 389 yards, but to rise on this list, he would need the Razorbacks to sport a record better than 5-3.

Tier Two: Started his college career when AJ Swann was 12

3. Stetson Bennett, Senior, Georgia Bulldogs

The SEC’s resident grandfather quarterback is enjoying a great season leading the nation’s top-ranked team. The field general of the defending champions shot out of a cannon in Georgia’s first game against a ranked Oregon team, throwing for 368 yards and 2 touchdowns with only 6 incompletions. Since then, Bennett has largely been solid, avoiding crippling mistakes but not putting up necessarily groundbreaking numbers. That was exemplified by a three-game stretch where he failed to throw a single touchdown (although he scored two with his legs). Bennett has the luxury of not having to do as much, as the defense behind him is the best in the country, and it could be argued that Georgia would be better with guys like Jefferson or Levis under center. With that being said, you cannot discredit the guy who has consistently won games and played solid football, still having accounted for 14 touchdowns to only 3 turnovers this year. You can call him a game manager, and many do, but he still deserves credit. There is no doubt Bennett, a former walk-on and no-star recruit, is a great story, but it would be a stretch to put him ahead of guys like Hendon Hooker and Bryce Young. He does have an opportunity to prove everyone wrong yet again in a matchup against Hooker’s Volunteers this upcoming week.

Tier One: Heisman candidates

2. Bryce Young, Junior, Alabama Crimson Tide

Alabama’s superstar quarterback has been no disappointment a year removed from becoming the first Alabama quarterback to win the Heisman trophy. Though Young has battled injuries this year, his numbers have still been solid when healthy. Other than in the Arkansas game, where he went down with his initial injury, he has not dipped below 200 yards in a game and sports a glistening 18:3 touchdown to interception ratio. There was something left to be desired in the wins over Texas and Louisiana Monroe, where Young led an offense that mustered only 20 points against the Longhorns and threw 2 picks against the Warhawks. However, with his freakish athletic skillset and experience in big games, there is arguably nobody you’d rather have running your offense than this projected top-10 pick.

1. Hendon Hooker, 7th-year Senior, Tennessee Volunteers

Hooker is not only the quarterback of the No. 2 ranked team in the country, but he is also the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman trophy. The dual-threat quarterback out of Greensboro, North Carolina, has thrown 52 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions since transferring to Tennessee from Virginia Tech before last season. This year, he has thrown for 21 touchdowns and just 1 interception and has 338 yards on the ground with 4 scores. The knock on Hooker is his age—he will be 25 in January of 2023, making him older than 8 starting quarterbacks in the NFL (including Trey Lance). Regardless of age, however, he is performing at the highest level in the SEC, if not the nation, and leading his team in a historic season that included a marquee win over Alabama in Week Six. Any rank other than first would be disrespectful.

Leave a comment
About the Contributors
Noah Roslin, Former Staff Writer
Noah Roslin ('26) is planning to double major in human and organizational development and economics in Peabody College. When not writing for The Hustler, you can usually find Noah at the hockey rink, at the tennis courts or at home looking for new Soundcloud remixes.
Alexa White
Alexa White, Former Graphics Director
Alexa White ('23) is from Traverse City, Michigan, and is double-majoring in secondary education and English. When she isn't writing for The Hustler, she is probably teaching, reading or creating art. After graduation, Alexa plans to be an English teacher and hopes to inspire kids to love reading, writing and exploring their creativity in all forms. She can be reached at [email protected].
More to Discover

Comments (0)

The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
All The Vanderbilt Hustler picks Reader picks Sort: Newest
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments