Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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

RECOMMENDED READING


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.

Coaching

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 [email protected] or on Twitter @MattHomeTeam.

Comments
McCoy is only Bucs player in Pro Bowl voting top 10s

McCoy is only Bucs player in Pro Bowl voting top 10s

The Bucs aren't faring well in early Pro Bowl fan voting, with DT Gerald McCoy as the only Tampa Bay player ranking in the top 10 at his position.McCoy, seeking his sixth straight Pro Bowl selection, ranks seventh among NFL defensive tackles, one wee...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macyís parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.ííItís a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Koetter says Bucs not distracted by Jameis Winstonís off-field issue

The Bucs are 1-0 since news broke last Friday of Jameis Winston being accused by an Uber driver of groping her during a ride in March of 2016.That's really all the evidence coach Dirk Koetter needs to say the issue has not been a distraction to the t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

NFL Week 12: Tampa Bay Times staff picks

Happy Thanksgiving! It's already week 12 of the NFL season, and the football feast is set to begin. It all starts at at 12:30 p.m. Thursday, when the Lions try to win their fifth straight Thanksgiving Day game against a Minnesota team out to bec...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Cannon Fodder podcast: Examining the Bucsí Hall of Fame semifinalists

Cannon Fodder podcast: Examining the Bucsí Hall of Fame semifinalists

Times Bucs writer Greg Auman takes a closer look at the three former Bucs who are semifinalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.He also looks at the constant churn on the Bucsí practice squad and why Julio Jonesí stats have dropped off this season,...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Bucsí Barber, Lynch, Rice among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Bucsí Barber, Lynch, Rice among Hall of Fame semifinalists

Ronde Barber, John Lynch and Simeon Rice — teammates on the Bucs' 2002 Super Bowl championship team — are among the 27 semifinalists to be considered for this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame class.Lynch is a semifinalist for the sixth st...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

Rick and Tom podcast: USF vs UCF is the biggest game in Florida this weekend

Itís a Thanksgiving Football Wednesday as Rick Stroud and Tom Jones preview the Bucs-Falcons game, USF-UCF, Alabama-Auburn, Ohio State-Michigan and more.The guys agree on the Bucs game outcome with Rick saying they canít win. They also agree that Tha...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Itís time to start believing Miko Grimes

Bucs-Falcons: Itís time to start believing Miko Grimes

TAMPA ó The most valuable player for the Bucs is Brent Grimes.It felt odd typing that, but itís time to say it.In Grimesí two seasons in Tampa Bay, the Bucs havenít won a game without him. This season they are 4-3 when he plays, 0-3 when he doesnít.H...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

Bucs journal: Defense struggling to get off the field on third and long

TAMPA ó Third and long, normally an ideal situation for an NFL defense, continues to be a problem as the Bucs try to get opposing offenses off the field.In the second half of Sundayís game, the Dolphins converted six third downs when they needed 8 ya...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

Bucs-Falcons: Has this former Buc become a pass-rushing force?

TAMPA ó The Bucs face the defending NFC champions twice in their final six games. As they prepare to go to Atlanta on Sunday, former Tampa Bay first-round pick Adrian Clayborn is enjoying quite a two-week run.Clayborn, 29, had six sacks Nov. 12 in a ...
Updated: 4 hours ago