Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

State of Florida has QB issues when it comes to NFL draft

When the NFL draft holds its first round Thursday, two players have a chance to join a surprisingly select list:

Florida-raised quarterbacks who became first-round picks.

Since the draft began in 1936, only three Florida high school players have become first-round quarterbacks: John Reaves (1972), Daunte Culpepper (1999) and Tim Tebow (2010). That total lags far behind California (32) and Texas (18), plus smaller states such as Indiana (five).

"Seems like there would have been more," said Reaves, a Robinson High alumnus and former Gator star.

Although UCF's Blake Bortles (Oviedo High) and Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater (Miami Northwestern) likely will increase that number to five, the state's lack of elite quarterbacks continues to puzzle Florida-based analyst Jamie Newberg. "I think it's mind-blowing, considering all the talent the state's produced for eons," said Newberg, who covers recruiting and the NFL draft for Scout.

A survey of quarterback and recruiting experts resulted in several theories:

Old reputation

College coaches traditionally flock to California or Pennsylvania for golden-armed quarterbacks; Florida is for speed, not passers.

The stereotype has some truth. When Andy Bark started running football combines decades ago, he had to throw during drills in parts of the state; he didn't have enough quarterbacks for the stable of receivers who showed up. "Florida has remained low forever," said Bark, who later founded the Elite 11 competition.

The state's reputation stuck among some college recruiters, which influence players' NFL prospects.

Since Rivals began evaluating recruits in 2002, it's ranked 884 quarterbacks. Only 97 came from Florida, compared to 132 from California and 144 from Texas. Although Florida produces 15 percent of Rivals' top prospects, it's responsible for less than 11 percent of its top quarterbacks.

"We're trying to shed that we're just a skill-position-player state only," said Ken Mastrole, a former NFL quarterback who has worked with Bridgewater at his South Florida-based Mastrole Passing Academy.


Darin Slack was jeered when the former UCF passer started working as a private quarterback coach near Orlando 26 years ago.

"I got mocked for doing what I'm doing," Slack said.

Now he's considered a trailblazer. Because the position is so specialized — Bark compares it to brain surgery — it requires specific training for reads and techniques.

Quarterback gurus have been working with elementary schoolers in California for decades, but Florida has only had a recent surge in private coaches.

"Florida's been behind the times," said John Kaleo, a former Maryland and Tampa Bay Storm quarterback who started the Kaleo QB Academy in Tampa five years ago.

It's also behind in coaching salaries. Florida teachers get paid a few thousand dollars to coach, while Texas' coaches have no teaching duties and six-figure contracts. That, Kaleo said, gives area high school coaches less time to innovate and develop players.

High school offenses

Most large Texas high school programs run the pass-happy spread offense, which helps explain its three first-round quarterbacks in 2012 alone.

The trend hasn't conquered Florida, which still focuses on defense and rushing with its speedsters. Apopka topped Plant in last year's Class 8A state semifinal with a century-old single-wing offense, while Mitchell is only now scrapping the Wing-T this spring.

Last fall, Florida had none of the nation's top 25 high school passers and only three of its top 150, according to MaxPreps. That trails Texas (30), California (27) and even Mississippi (six).

"That's not going to develop a quarterback," said Bark, whose Elite 11 alumni includes first-rounders Andrew Luck and Matthew Stafford.

Other options

Although Florida's not known for quarterbacks, its warm climate is famous for producing baseball players and athletes.

Strong-armed, accurate throwers can choose early between a future in the huddle or on the mound. In the past five MLB drafts, Florida high schools have produced six-first round pitchers, plus nine others who were outfielders or shortstops — positions where powerful arms are prized.

Florida coaches often put their top athlete at quarterback and let him run, even though his skill set might translate better to another position in college or the NFL.

Jefferson's Deiondre Porter was the state's No. 3 passer in the fall but will play defensive back at Florida. Anquan Boldin was an All-America prep quarterback at Pahokee before becoming a Pro Bowl receiver and Super Bowl champion.

"It's unfortunate a lot of those type of guys think they are quarterbacks," Newberg said. "Maybe they are in high school. Maybe they can be in college, but they aren't going to be on Sundays."

Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

NFL first-round QBs raised in Florida

John Reaves (Robinson): Former Gator was drafted No. 14 overall by the Eagles in 1972; started 17 games over nine NFL seasons with the Eagles, Bengals, Oilers and Bucs.

Daunte Culpepper (Ocala Vanguard): UCF product went No. 11 to the Vikings in 1999; three-time Pro Bowl player passed for 149 TDs over 11 seasons.

Tim Tebow (Nease): Broncos chose the Florida legend with the No. 25 pick in 2010; took Denver to the 2011 playoffs and is now a college football analyst for ESPN.

State of Florida has QB issues when it comes to NFL draft 05/03/14 [Last modified: Sunday, May 4, 2014 12:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rowdies settle for draw at home


    ST. PETERSBURG — The good news for the Rowdies is that they still haven't lost a game at Al Lang Stadium since late April. The bad news is they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against Ottawa on Saturday night in front of 6,710 sweaty fans.

  2. Bats come to life, but Rays' freefall continues (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG —The six runs seemed like a ton, just the second time the Rays had scored that many in a game during their numbing two-plus-weeks stretch of offensive impotency, and amazingly, the first time at the Trop in nearly two months.

    Lucas Duda connects for a two-run home run in the sixth, getting the Rays within 7-5. A Logan Morrison home run in the ninth made it 7-6, but Tampa Bay couldn’t complete the comeback.
  3. Rays journal: Cesar Puello, who has one major-league game, claimed off waivers

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Looking to add punch to their right-handed lineup, the Rays claimed OF Cesar Puello off waivers Saturday from the Angels.

  4. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Saturday's Rays-Mariners game

    The Heater

    SS Adeiny Hechavarria doesn't always look like he's going hard, but he showed impressive reactions Saturday in reversing field to catch a ball that clanked off the catwalk then firing to second to double up Guillermo Heredia on an attempt to tag up.

  5. Bucs journal: Simeon Rice gives master class on sacks to defensive ends


    TAMPA — As the Bucs seek their first 10-sack season from a player since Simeon Rice in 2005, who better to help that cause than Rice himself?

    Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers great Simeon Rice works with defensive end Noah Spence (57) after practice at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017.