TAMPA — The 40-year-old photo, snapped during the 1982 Miami football team’s media day, features five quarterbacks flanking their position coach. Three of the five would go on to lengthy — and in one case, legendary — NFL careers.
Several decades later, the image remains equal parts astounding and anachronistic.
In the transfer portal era, such images have been rendered as obsolete as Howard Schnellenberger’s pipe. As the developments earlier this week at USF reminded us, proven quarterback depth on any team is a fleeting luxury. A highly recruited guy who falls to No. 2 on the depth chart Monday morning can seek other opportunities by Monday afternoon, with minimal repercussions.
Of course, free agency wasn’t always free, and scholarship limits weren’t so stringent. Back when transferring required someone to sit out a year (in most cases) and “trusting the process” was a concept to be lauded, college quarterback rooms looked a lot different.
Heck, some of them looked daunting. It’s a safe bet Florida never again will see quarterback depth charts like these five we’ve dug up.
Jim Kelly, Bernie Kosar, Vinny Testaverde (1982), Miami
Arguably the greatest quarterback room in college football history. Collectively, the trio would combine for nine Pro Bowls, 244 wins as a starter, 636 touchdown passes and one gold jacket in the NFL. Kelly, who helped resuscitate Miami’s once-foundering program, had an injury-besieged senior year in 1982, while Kosar redshirted and Testaverde attempted 12 passes. Fortunately for the Hurricanes’ championship legacy, Kosar and Testaverde bided their time in the pecking order before earning their respective opportunities (imagine that). Also lurking on the depth chart was Mark Richt, who later would coach his alma mater.
Brad Johnson and Casey Weldon (1990-1991), FSU
Having spent the previous two years waiting behind established starters, these two juniors battled for the No. 1 job when the 1990s dawned, with Johnson winning at first. Each started six games in 1990 (combining for 2,736 passing yards) as the Seminoles (10-2) finished fourth nationally. Weldon won the job in 1991 and mostly shined (2,527 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, five interceptions) as FSU won its first 10 games before consecutive losses to Miami (Wide Right I) and Florida. Both ultimately would play multiple seasons for the Bucs, with Johnson — who had a far more notable NFL career — starting in Super Bowl 37.
Danny Kanell and Charlie Ward (1992-1993), FSU
Even by a prior era’s standards, Ward’s patience bordered on biblical. He waited three full years — even punting as a freshman, and playing hoops for the Seminoles — before getting a starting opportunity in 1992. By the following year, he was helping give Bobby Bowden his first national title and winning a Heisman. Backing up Ward was Kanell, who earned the starting job in 1994 — his third year on campus — and led FSU to consecutive 10-win seasons. Kanell spent six seasons in the NFL; Ward played a decade in the NBA.
John Brantley, Cam Newton, Tim Tebow (2007-2008), Florida
Fifteen years later, this Gators depth chart seems downright surreal. In the wake of the program’s second national title, Urban Meyer had stocked his quarterback room with two eventual Heisman Trophy winners. A crown jewel of the Gators’ top-ranked 2007 recruiting class, Newton backed up Tebow — then a sophomore — in 2007, when Tebow won the Heisman. The following November, Newton was suspended following an arrest (see stolen laptop) and ultimately transferred to Auburn, leading the 2010 Tigers to the national title and winning a Heisman of his own. To Brantley’s credit, he persisted and started for two seasons (2010-11).
B.J. Daniels and Matt Grothe (2008-2009), USF
We’ll give a nod to the best quarterback room in Bulls history. When Daniels arrived from Tallahassee in 2008, Grothe already was en route to folk-hero status as a fearless, free-spirited dual threat at USF. Daniels stayed the course, however, and was ready when Grothe’s knee ligaments shredded in Game Three the following season. In his first college start, against No. 18 FSU in his hometown, he totaled 341 yards and two scoring passes in a 17-7 upset. Today, Grothe and Daniels still rank second and third, respectively, on the school’s career total-offense list.
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