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FIRST-RATE QBS HAVE PLENTY OF COMPANY

County is flush with signal callers who are getting Division I-A looks.

Alonso coach Mike Heldt vividly remembers a time when Hillsborough County produced few major college quarterbacks.

"In the 1980s you'd be lucky to have one or two come out in a year," Heldt said.

Compare that with today.

The county's Class of 2009 could have as many as four quarterbacks sign with Division I-A programs (some could play other positions in college). And the junior class might record similar numbers. Two of its quarterbacks already have I-A scholarship offers, and Florida Gators coach Urban Meyer was in town last week to watch another.

"Almost a third of our whole county has people that can play at the next level, which is unbelievable," longtime Hillsborough coach Earl Garcia said.

Some of the best include:

- Plant senior Aaron Murray, a heralded Georgia commit rated by a handful of analysts as being the state's best high school player. Before sustaining what he said is a season-ending foot injury last week, he had thrown 78 touchdown passes in 19 starts.

- Chamberlain senior Dontae Aycock, a sensational run-pass threat who is being courted by several schools. Aycock might play running back in college, but Georgia Tech, which runs the option, projects him as a quarterback.

- Armwood senior Mywan Jackson, a dual-threat signal caller who holds scholarship offers from programs such as Auburn and Purdue, both of whom say they would give him a shot under center.

"There's not only talent, there's a variety of quarterbacks, too," Tampa Catholic coach Bob Henriquez said. "You've got drop-back passers and you've got athletic guys."

How good is the current crop?

"I think you could make a case with Aaron Murray being so good and Christian Green (of Tampa Catholic) having such a high ceiling for next year that Hillsborough is up there with a lot of counties in the country," Rivals.com national recruiting analyst Jamie Newberg said. "Without breaking out any maps, I think that's safe to say."

How'd it happen, and why now? Area coaches have their theories.

Here's one: "A lot of it has to do with the emphasis on seven-on-seven (passing leagues) in the spring and summer," Heldt said. "They're getting out there throwing the ball more. It's a year-round deal now."

And another: "It says something about the coaches county-wide," Garcia said.

Given all the talent at the position the question is, is this the best quarterback group ever? When asked if he could recall a more talented one, Henriquez, who was a player at Tampa Catholic, replied, "No, I don't."

Top guns

A look at some of Hillsborough County's best QBs

Player..................School...............Yr............Comment

Tarean Austin.......Hillsborough.......Jr.............Already has USF offer; boasts 4:1 TD-to-INT ratio

Dontae Aycock.....Chamberlain......Sr.............4-star recruit has 871 passing yards, 700 rushing yards and 24 total TDs

C.J. Bennett.........Alonso...............Jr.............20 TDs, 3 INTs; a strong-armed player with great command of offense

Andrew Burdick....Lennard.............Sr............Only drawback is size, but should play somewhere in college

Andrew Clifford....Wharton.............Sr............Talented prospect could eventually land with Division I-A program

Josh Grady...........Freedom...........So.............Already a two-year starter, shows great promise

Christian Green.....Tampa Cath.......Jr.............Big-time talent has most major programs interested

Mywan Jackson.....Armwood...........Sr.............Dual-threat standout has accounted for 25 scores (15 passing)

Aaron Murray........Plant.................Sr.............Georgia commit has 78 career TD passes, arguably nation's best QB

Cullen O'Brien.......Sickles..............Sr.............Excellent athlete who could play QB or DB in college

Quentin Williams....Jefferson ...........So............Has drawn comparisons to Dragons legend Stephen Garcia

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