It is all too easy to chalk up Jake Bentley's performance against Florida, which was lackluster only in comparison to his first three games, as a product of youth — the consequence of "freshman mistakes."
He made his first career road start. He threw his first career interception. He earned his first career loss.
It's natural to dismiss those "firsts" as normal freshman growing pains.
It's a fair analysis that Bentley is still adjusting to SEC defenses and developing as a young quarterback under a new system, but that refrain is demeaning to Bentley in the sense that his play has been anything but freshman-like this season. He hasn't just been good for a freshman. He's been good.
And he is not alone.
Four true freshman quarterbacks started this past Saturday in the SEC. Alabama's dual-threat star Jalen Hurts netted five touchdowns and 447 combined yards against Mississippi State.Jacob Eason played an efficient game to help Georgia upset No. 9 Auburn. In Chad Kelly's absence, Ole Miss lifted Shea Patterson's redshirt, and he responded by passing for 338 yards to help the Rebels deal No. 8 Texas A&M a crushing defeat.
When you look at the number in proper context, it is evident that we are witnessing a historic season for true freshmen quarterbacks in the SEC. This doesn't require any future projection on what these quarterback might become down the line — it is historic right now.
In 2015, the Times-Picayune did a statistical study of how first-year SEC quarterbacks evolved between their freshman and sophomore seasons. After crunching the numbers, they found that signal-callers who threw at least 10 passes in their true freshman seasons averaged a touchdown-interception ratio of just 1.24. The quartet of Bentley, Hurts, Eason and Patterson has posted a mark of 2.43 touchdown passes for every pick.
They have led their respective teams to a combined record of 20-5, impressive with or without that freshman handicap.
Don't look too far into the future when analyzing this group. Go ahead and dream on their potential, how they might form the next pantheon of great SEC quarterbacks, but be careful not to miss the historic precedent they are setting right now.