Backup quarterbacks play such a large role in their team’s success nowadays, they deserve the spotlight to themselves.
That said, with just about all of the backup quarterbacks who will get mentioned, the sample size simply isn’t enough to make and sweeping statements about their ability or potential.
Here’s a look at the SEC backup QBs who have been forced into action by injuries to the starters.
AJ Derby, Arkansas
Stats: 18-34, 173 yards, TD, 0 INT; 4 rushes, 6 yards
When Called Upon: QB1 Brandon Allen suffered an injury to his throwing shoulder during the Southern Miss game and had to leave early. The Razorbacks turned to Derby, but ran the ball almost exclusively on their way to a 24-3 win. Derby completed 4 of 6 passes for 36 yards in the win. The following week, however, Derby didn’t fare as well in his only start of the season. With Allen still out, Derby got the nod at Rutgers. His stat line doesn’t read especially poorly – 14 of 26 for 137 yards and a TD – but he couldn’t lead Arkansas’ offense down the field with any consistency. Rutgers dared Derby to beat its defense down the field by selling out on the run to take away RBs Alex Collins and Johnathan Williams. The strategy worked. The Scarlet Knights held Arkansas to just 101 rushing yards and won the game 28-24.
Jeremy Johnson, Auburn
Stats: 27-39, 393 yards, 6 TDs, 2 INTs; 7 rushes, 47 yards
When Called Upon: The true freshman went from potential redshirt to official backup quarterback when he started the Western Carolina game. The Catamounts were a preposterously horrendous opponent for an SEC team. Auburn took advantage, crushing them 62-3. Johnson played well in the glorified scrimmage, completing 17 of 21 passes for 201 yards, 4 TDs and an INT. Johnson got the call again this week against Florida Atlantic when QB1 Nick Marshall left with an injury to his throwing shoulder. Auburn led 21-0 at the time and Johnson threw a 36-yard touchdown pass on his first play. Johnson finished 10-for-16 for 192 yards with 2 TDs and an INT. He also ran for 21 yards.
Tyler Murphy, Florida
Stats: 69-110, 737 yards, 5 TDs, 2 INTs; 42 rushes, 77 yards, 2 TDs
When Called Upon: For three weeks, Murphy looked like one of the better feel-good stories in the SEC this season. When Florida lost QB1 Jeff Driskel for the season with a leg injury he sustained during the first quarter of the Tennessee game, coach Will Muschamp called upon Murphy. He responded by playing safe, responsible football, completing 8 of 14 passes for 134 yards and a TD and also rushing for 84 yards and another TD. The Gators easily downed the Volunteers. Over the next two games Murphy proceeded to complete 31 of 40 passes for 396 yards and 4 TDs against one INT – albeit against Arkansas and Kentucky, arguably the worst two teams in the SEC. He also ran for a TD. Tougher competition seemingly exposed Murphy. In a loss at LSU, he threw for just 115 yards. Missouri held Murphy to 92 passing yards and an INT.
Maxwell Smith, Kentucky
Stats: 69-126, 870 yards, 6 TDs, INT
When Called Upon: Smith and QB1 Jalen Whitlow have actually split the starting quarterback job, though Whitlow earned the nod before suffering an ankle injury against Alabama. Neither Smith nor Whitlow has had much luck in leading the Wildcats to victory. Smith started Kentucky’s most recent game against Mississippi State. The sophomore completed 18 of 34 passes for 160 yards and a TD. Smith had a chance in the final minute to give the Wildcats their first SEC win of the season, but the drive stalled inside the Bulldogs’ 30-yard line when his fourth-down pass fell incomplete.
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
Stats: 86-150, 1,158 yards, 5 TDs, 3 INTs; 80 rushes, 490 yards, 8 TDs
When Called Upon: Of all the players on this list, Prescott has received the most substantial playing time because he assumed the starting role while former QB1 Tyler Russell recovered from a concussion. Prescott took over for Russell during a Week 1 loss to Oklahoma State. The Bulldogs have gone 4-2 with the sophomore at the helm. In one of those losses, Prescott played well enough to lead State to a critical road win over Auburn. However, the defense let the Bulldogs down on the final drive, allowing the Tigers to steal the win. Though not the most polished passer, Prescott provides a physical running presence State otherwise lacks.
Maty Mauk, Missouri
Stats: 33-67, 585 yards, 2 TDs, 2 INTs; 21 rushes, 22 yards, TD
When Called Upon: Missouri first called upon Mauk when QB James Franklin separated his shoulder early in the fourth quarter of the Tigers’ win at Georgia. Missouri led at the time of Franklin’s injury, but it put the game away after Mauk entered. WR Bud Sasser hit WR L’Damian Washington for a 40-yard touchdown pass on a double pass and RB Henry Josey put the game away with a 7-yard touchdown run. Mauk didn’t get called on to do much in the win. He completed all three passing attempts for 23 yards. He also converted a critical third down by rushing for 6 yards. The third-down conversion set up Sasser’s touchdown pass. The following week against Florida, Mauk made his first start. He completed just 50 percent of his passes (18 of 36) but did so for 295 yards. Mauk threw for a first-possession touchdown and also threw an INT. The redshirt freshman also rushed for a fourth-quarter score to put the game away. Missouri scored a huge victory over the Gators to claim a chokehold on the SEC East race. However, this week against South Carolina, the Tigers blew a 17-point lead before losing in double overtime. Mauk helped Missouri build the 17-point lead – especially with a 96-yard TD pass to Washington. The quarterback only connected on 10 of 25 passes and threw an INT, though. Missouri managed just two first downs in the fourth quarter, enabling South Carolina to tie the game in the closing minutes.
Barry Brunetti, Ole Miss
Stats: 15-27, 177 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs; 35 rushes, 174 yards, 3 TDs
When Called Upon: Unlike the other 10 backup quarterbacks on this list, Brunetti gets called upon in certain situations. QB1 Bo Wallace underwent surgery on his throwing shoulder during the offseason, but has remained healthy(-ish) throughout the year. Brunetti adds a stronger running element to the Rebels’ offense when he enters the lineup. Now he gets called upon to pass as well.
Dylan Thompson, South Carolina
Stats: 44-78, 643 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs; 14 rushes, 33 yards, 2 TDs
When Called Upon: Thompson is one of the few players on this list to have been called upon previously. He excelled last year in leading the Gamecocks to a win at Clemson. He also threw the game-winning touchdown in the Outback Bowl victory over Michigan. This year, Thompson has been forced into action because of injuries to QB1 Connor Shaw twice. The first time, during a 28-25 win over UCF, Shaw suffered a shoulder injury during the first quarter. Thompson came in and completed just 15 of 32 passes with an INT, though he did throw for 261 yards. He also ran for a 2-yard touchdown. RB Mike Davis ran for 167 yards and 3 TDs in leading the Gamecocks past the Golden Knights. Against Missouri this week, Thompson struggled, going 15-of-27 for 222 yards and an INT. South Carolina failed to score with Thompson at the helm. Midway through the third quarter, coach Steve Spurrier turned to an injured Shaw, who in turn led the Gamecocks to a 17-point comeback and a double-overtime victory.
Josh Dobbs, Tennessee
Stats: 5-12, 75 yards; 3 rushes, 19 yards
When Called Upon: Like Jeremy Johnson at Auburn, Dobbs seemed to be on path for a redshirt during his true freshman season. QB2 Nathan Peterman is already out with a hand injury and QB1 Justin Worley suffered a thumb injury two weeks ago during the win against South Carolina. Worley tried to gut out this week’s game at Alabama, but the pain became too much in the second half. Coach Butch Jones turned to Dobbs, who led Tennessee to its only 10 points. Still, the talented freshman showed the inconsistency expected of someone playing against high schoolers a year ago.
Matt Joeckel, Texas A&M
Stats: 22-37, 293 yards, 2 TDs, 0 INTs; 1 rush, 0 yards
When Called Upon: The much-discussed suspension of QB1 Johnny Manziel led to Joeckel starting the season opener against Rice. Joeckel played well in his start, completing 14 of 19 passes for 190 yards and a TD. He also led the Aggies to 28 first-half points. Manziel returned for the second half. A&M again turned to Joeckel two weeks ago against Auburn when Manziel left with an injury to his throwing shoulder. The junior connected on 1 of 3 passes for 12 yards. His two incomplete passes were keys in the Tigers’ victory. The first came on a third-and-goal from the Auburn 2-yard line after Manziel suffered the shoulder injury on a scramble. Joeckel missed an open receiver in the end zone, forcing the Aggies to settle for a field goal and settle for a 10-point lead rather than taking a controlling 14-point advantage. Following an Auburn touchdown, Joeckel led A&M’s next drive. He completed his first throw of the drive, but missed on a third-and-6 pass. The three-and-out gave the ball and momentum back to the Tigers, who scored to take the lead. Manziel returned and put A&M back out in front, but Auburn answered with a go-ahead score of its own to upset the Aggies.
Patton Robinette, Vanderbilt
Stats: 15-28, 216 yards, TD, 2 INTs; 27 rushes, 64 yards, 3 TDs
When Called Upon: Vanderbilt turned to Robinette when QB1 Austyn Carta-Samuels suffered a knee injury during the second quarter of the Georgia game two weeks ago. The Commodores came back by scoring 17 unanswered points to upset the Bulldogs. Robinette rushed for a touchdown and helped Vandy move the ball, connecting on 9 of 15 passes for 107 yards. He also threw an interception. Two Georgia special teams gaffes opened the door for the Commodores to steal the win. Robinette made his first start this week at Texas A&M. Vanderbilt quickly fell behind 28-0 partly because of two three-and-outs on its first three possessions. However, Robinette bounced back from his slow start, leading the Commodores to 17 unanswered points to close the first half. Robinette also played a key role in A&M pulling away. S Howard Matthews intercepted Robinette’s first pass of the second half and returned it for a touchdown. Vanderbilt managed just one third-quarter first down. Texas A&M, meanwhile, extended its lead to 49-17 on its way to a 56-24 win.
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