John Clay

QB spot unsettled around the SEC

OK, so you're a Kentucky fan, and you're worried about the road trip to hated Louisville on Sunday and all that Papa John's heat likely to fall on your wet-behind-the-ears quarterback, making his first college start.

Not to fret.

You have company.

Why, just look around at your billionaire buddies — don't forget to send those thank-you cards to ESPN and CBS — in the nation's best college football conference, formally known as the $EC.

To be sure, Tim Tebow is back to haul his Heisman Trophy around Florida. And exit polls show voters believe junior signal-caller Matt Stafford could bring home the BCS national title trophy for Uga VII to play with at Georgia.

Meanwhile, Alabama's John Parker Wilson, he of the great Southern name, returns at Alabama. And after a surprise bowl season, Wes Carroll returns under center at Mississippi State.

As for the rest of the league, well, Mike Hartline, isn't alone.

Take Auburn, where ex-Kentucky assistant Tony Franklin, now the Tigers' offensive coordinator, can't even decide on a starting quarterback. Franklin says he'll wait until just before the coin toss Saturday, when Auburn meets Louisiana-Monroe, to decide whether Kodi Burns or Chris Todd will trot out on the field with the first-team offense.

Isn't this the same Tony Franklin who cut his college coaching teeth under one Hal Mumme, who believed you play one quarterback and only one quarterback until that quarterback's arm falls off?

"I've never been in it before," said Franklin of the situation down on the Plains.

It's a mystery at Louisiana State, too, where just when educated observers thought the Tigers would name Harvard transfer Andrew Hatch as the starting quarterback, Coach Les Miles pulled a hold-your-horses.

Wednesday, on the SEC coaches' teleconference, Miles addressed nearly everything but who will be at quarterback when LSU plays Appalachian State on Saturday.

Even schools who know, or think they know, their quarterback this weekend are not sure how that quarterback will play.

The Commodores are in just such a boat. Vanderbilt Coach Bobby Johnson named Chris Nickson over ­Mackenzi Adams as starter for Thursday's opener at Miami (Ohio).

But Wednesday, Johnson said he wouldn't hesitate to play Adams, adding, "The great thing is that we don't have two different game plans. Both can execute the same game plan."

That's not the case at Arkansas where holdover quarterback Casey Dick inherits an entirely new game plan. Last year, with Houston Nutt as coach, Dick turned and handed off to Darren McFadden or Felix Jones. This year, with Bobby Petrino as coach, Dick is to turn, fake the handoff and fire the ball down the field.

"He's doing a nice job for us," Petrino said. "A lot of times now he knows before he's corrected by the coaches when he does make a mistake."

Same at Mississippi, where Texas transfer Jevan Snead makes his debut at Memphis on Saturday.

Same for Tennessee's Jonathan Crompton, the former backup who succeeds Erik Ainge.

"Jon is a very confident young man in his abilities," Coach Phil Fulmer said. "And that confidence spreads to our offensive team."

Of course, no one is more confident than the ol' ball coach, Steve Spurrier down at South Carolina, who swears on his golf clubs that this season he will abstain from his annual habit of yanking and discarding quarterbacks like Kleenex whenever they toss an interception.

Why, Spurrier has even turned over the play-calling duties to his son, Steve Jr., which may be good news for Tommy Beecher, a lightly used backup who gets the start Thursday night when the Gamecocks meet North Carolina State on ESPN.

"We don't know what's going to happen," Spurrier told the Carolina media Tuesday.

Plenty of his fellow conference members, including Kentucky, share the sentiment.