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February 22, 2006

The year of the quarterback

If the recruiting class of 2007 is going to be known for anything, it's most likely going to be known for the quarterbacks. With so many top prospects, led by California stud Jimmy Clausen, programs looking for a quarterback should have little trouble landing a good one. And with most signal-callers looking to decide before their senior season starts, it will be an eventful summer for slingers.

The conversation starts with Clausen, the 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from Wetslake Village (Cal.) Oaks Christian who will be the most hyped player under center since Ron Powlus. Clausen has all the tools to be a star in college and an early recruiting battle between Southern Cal and Notre Dame is brewing. He's as advanced as any high school quarterback in recent memory.

But beyond Clausen, there is a ton of talent nationally. The biggest argument this entire year when it comes to rankings could be regarding who's No. 2. There are many candidates.

Clemson commitment Willy Korn from Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes plays beyond his years and is as poised as they come. He has a strong arm, tremendous accuracy and excellent leadership ability. He's also very mobile and can throw on the run. Clemson has their quarterback of the future.

Appropriately, the Lone Star State is home to the biggest quarterback prospect out there this year. Texarkana (Tex.) Texas High big man Ryan Mallett has drawn early comparisons to Drew Bledsoe and Ben Roethelisberger based on his size (6-foot-6, 230 pounds), ability to hang in the pocket to complete passes and his strong arm. The Longhorns will try to keep Mallett in state but will get a tough battle from many others.

Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic quarterback John Brantley has very quick feet and a strong arm as well as a good feel for the pass rush. The 6-foot-2, 175-pounder has programs like Miami, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee hoping to keep him in the Southeast.

When it comes to pure athletic ability, it's hard to beat Hampton, Va. speedster Tyrod Taylor who looks to be the next great quarterback from Hampton Roads. Taylor has a whip-like release and is as dangerous with his feet as he is with his arm. He's essentially a defensive coordinator's nightmare and both Virginia and Virginia Tech would love to keep him home.

Masnfield (Tex.) Summit stud John Chiles rivals Taylor in athleticism and could play wide receiver at the next level as well. Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M have all offered early and Chiles is getting plenty of other looks. Fellow Texas quarterback G.J. Kinne is a hot prospect as well with his linebacker mentality under center and a rifle arm. Baylor fans are hoping he follows in his father's footsteps (former linebacker and current assistant coach Gary Joe Kinne) but the rest of the Big 12 as well as some SEC schools might have something to say about it.

Moving north, Michigan State has to be excited about the early commitment from star quarterback Keith Nichol from Lowell, Mich. Nichol is the best quarterback prospect in Michigan since Drew Henson eight years ago and has an effortless motion. The 6-foot-2, 180-pounder is mobile and throws one of the best long balls in the country.

Pennsylvania has always been a breeding ground for top quarterbacks and Lancaster (Pa.) Manheim Township's Pat Bostick has the early edge as the Keystone State's top slinger. The 6-foot-3, 196-pounder has a superior arm and gets the ball out in a hurry. Pitt is the early leader for his services with fellow Big East schools Louisville and UConn also offering.

Moving out to the West Coast, big quarterback Jason Munns from Kennewick (Wash.) Southridge will surely draw comparisons to Bledsoe and Ryan Leaf (the college version) due to his size (6-foot-5, 228 pounds) and strength. Munns has good feet for a big man and is an excellent athlete. Washington, Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State all covet signal-callers like Munn so it should be an interesting battle.

Back to the East Coast, what Greensboro (Ga.) Greene County quarterback Josh Nesbitt lacks in mechanics he more than makes up for in athletic ability. Nesbitt flicks the ball with great velocity and little arm motion and is hard to stop when he's out of the pocket. In addition to quarterback, Nesbitt could play wide receiver or safety in college. Georgia and Georgia Tech are trying to keep him in state while Florida State and North Carolina are pushing hard early.

Springfield (Va.) West Springfield gunner Peter Lalich is the last of 12 quarterbacks in the Rivals 100, but not the least. Virginia, Miami and Pitt have already offered the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder who has size, good mobility, excellent feet and a cannon of an arm. Lalich has all the skills to be a three-year starter for someone in college.

Perhaps the best evidence of the strength of this year's quarterback class is who's not in the early Rivals 100. Big names such as Stephen Garcia, Chris Forcier, Mike Paulus, Chris Sims, Logan Gray and Chris Smith fell short of the 100 this time but all will be pushing for entry in future editions. Garcia is a tough dual-threat kid who reminds some of a smaller Tim Tebow, Forcier is much more developed than his brother Jason (Michigan) at the same stage and Paulus has blown up in recent weeks with double-digit offers. Simms has the big name to go with a strong arm and great mechanics, Gray is one of the best quarterbacks to come out of Missouri in the last five years and Smith is Ohio's top player under center.

And obviously there will be some names with little early buzz that will blow up big-time. Watch out for guys like Chris Whitney, Rodney Cox and Justin Siller among others. Whitney will push Bostick for top honors in Pennsylvania, Cox has been compared to poor man's Vince Young with his eye-popping numbers and Siller junior season has Big Ten schools buzzing.

Whether the quarterback class of 2007 pans out overall or not, it will be what most think of when looking back in a few years. Better grab a quarterback now, because this is the year.





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