Clearly, no position is more important to winning a championship than quarterback. Most teams that go into seasons with new quarterbacks go in with some nervousness. Even Auburn coaches weren’t sure what to expect last season from Cam Newton.
Senior Editor Phillip Marshall
But how important is it to have a returning starter? Maybe not as important as you think. Southeastern Conference teams have won the past five national championships, and three of those teams had first-time starters at quarterback.
We’re not talking about all super-duper blue-chippers, either.
Florida won it all in 2006 with senior and four-year starter Chris Leak. Florida won it again in 2008 in Tim Tebow’s second season as a starter. But LSU won it in 2007 with fifth-year senior and first-time starter Matt Flynn. Alabama won it in 2009 with junior and first-time starter Greg McElroy. Newton, of course, led Auburn to the 2010 national championship in his first and only season as a Tiger.
So what does it take for a quarterback to lead a championship?
Obviously, he has to be efficient and productive even if he’s not a great talent. Just as importantly, he must be a leader who stands tall in the toughest times. It’s one thing to make a perfect throw or perfect read in the first quarter and quite another to do it with the game on the line in the fourth quarter. It’s one thing to inspire confidence in your teammates in the locker room and another to do it on third-and-10 with two minutes left in the game.
In the SEC, Auburn, Alabama, Arkansas, Ole Miss and Kentucky will have new starters at quarterback in 2010. Arkansas’ Tyler Wilson has shown he can play at this level, but he hasn’t been called on to do it week in and week out. The other four teams face much more uncertainty.
There has been much fretting about Auburn’s quarterbacks. Who will be the starter? It’s still anybody’s guess. Junior Barrett Trotter and sophomore Clint Moseley came out of spring practice neck-and-neck. True freshman Kiehl Frazier will get his chance in August.
Are any of them ready to do the things it takes to lead a championship? All of them? Can sophomore AJ McCarron or redshirt freshman Phillip Sims do it at Alabama?
None of them, of course, can do it alone. Quarterbacks are important, but not all-important. Someone has to block. Someone has to catch. Someone has to run. The defense has to do its part. But it all starts under the center.
Who will have what it takes? That question can only be answered on the pressure-cooker Saturdays of an SEC season.