From Champ to Chomp

In Will Grier, the quarterback committed to sign with Florida next February, the Gators have found someone with a big arm and a lot of athleticism.

Four-star QB Will Grier has had big success in high school. Will it translate to college?

They've also landed a winner.

In 2011, Grier threw for 3,785 yards and 49 touchdowns while leading Davidson Day (N.C.) to the state's Independent Schools Athletic Association Division III championship. Last fall, Grier -- and Davidson Day -- won the NCISAA Division II championship as he set state records with 5,785 passing yards and 69 touchdowns -- with only six interceptions.

Given the attention Grier has received (Arkansas became the latest to offer this week), it's pretty clear college coaches believe in his ability.

But does the fact the No. 2 pro-style passer in the 247Composite also has won big at the high school level make him more attractive as a recruit?

Per NCAA rules, college coaches can't comment about players until they've signed with a school, but speaking in general terms Florida coach Will Muschamp said someone's high school resume does matter.

"That certainly is something we look at in the recruiting process, not just for quarterbacks but all players," Muschamp said. "You want players that understand what it takes to be successful, that have been part of winning programs. It's not the answer-all. Obviously, it takes other good players for that to happen, but I think that's very critical.”"

At Florida, a trend has developed.

The most successful quarterbacks in school history have something in common -- they all won big in high school.

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier won the Heisman Trophy as a player at Florida in 1966.

*Among career passing yardage leaders in Gainesville, the top six players on the list all were state high school champions.

*Of the 11 Florida teams that have finished first in the Southeastern Conference (eight recognized champions), all but one were led by a quarterback that won state in high school.

*Three Gator squads have won national championships. Each had a high school state champ as its starting quarterback.

*Three Florida quarterbacks have won the Heisman Trophy. Tim Tebow and Danny Wuerffel were state champions. Steve Spurrier was not. But in Tennessee, where Spurrier played high school ball in the early 1960s, the playoff era didn't begin until 1969.

So, what does all this mean?

"[Winning in high school] is certainly something you look at," said 247Sports National Scouting Director Gerry Hamilton. "If you can recruit a talented quarterback that fits your system and has won at the highest level he can play for, which for a high school kid that's winning a state championship, it can be a huge plus. "

On the flip side …

Florida's current starting quarterback, Jeff Driskel, was not a state champion at Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty. However, in leading that school to the first winning season in its fourth year as a varsity program, he shined. And in the final game of his prep career, a playoff loss to perennial power Lakeland, Driskel produced 494 total yards.

Will Grier is the No. 2 pro-style QB in the 247Composite.

In other words, while Driskel, the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 247Composite for 2011, wasn't able to win a championship, he clearly did elevate his team.

"Some guys just don't play on good high school teams," Hamilton said. "Sometimes if you win a state championship, you play in a perfect situation. A calm situation. You play on a great team and even though you win state you've not had to play under great pressure. The only pressure is the pressure you put on yourself or from the community. You could be on a team where everything is a blowout. For a QB that hasn't won a state title, maybe you're on a team where you play under duress all the time. It's not the best team, not the best offensive line. You play with live bullets flying around you all the time. In some ways, that prepares you for the next level. Playing QB at the next level and beyond, you're under duress a lot."

According to Hamilton, there is another aspect to consider when it comes to factoring in a player's ability to win big in high school.

"Maybe a kid was a state champion in another sport," Hamilton said. "Like basketball or baseball. You look at winning as a whole. You'd love to have a guy that has shown he's a winner. He understands how to win. I think you can find it in other sports that [quarterbacks] play."

That leads us back to Spurrier.

While at Science Hill (Tenn.), he never lost a game as a starting pitcher and his team won two state titles with Spurrier as the ace.

Here is a look at the 11 Florida football teams that have finished first in the SEC, and the starting QBs of those squads.

YEAR, Primary starting QB
1984, Kerwin Bell
1985, Kerwin Bell
1990, Shane Matthews
1991, Shane Matthews
1993, Terry Dean (split starts with Danny Wuerrfel; Wuerrfel had more passing yards and TDs, but Dean started the SEC Championship Game)
1994, Danny Wuerrfel (split starts with Terry Dean; Wuerffel became full-time starter in Week 7)
1995, Danny Wuerffel
1996, Danny Wuerffel
2000, Rex Grossman (Jesse Palmer was the starter early in the year; Grossman took over midway through the season)
2006, Chris Leak
2008, Tim Tebow

NOTE -- The 1996, 2006 and 2008 teams were also National Champions.

*Kerwin Bell: The 1984 SEC Player of the Year (sandwiched between Reggie White and Bo Jackson), Bell led the Gators to first-place finishes in the SEC in 1984 and '85. The'84 title had to be vacated because of NCAA violations and Florida was not eligible for the title in 1985. During those two seasons, the Gators went a combined 18-2-2. In high school, Bell guided tiny Mayo (Fla.) Layette to the 1981 state Class A football title.

*Shane Matthews: Matthews was SEC Player of the Year in 1990 and '91. Florida finished first in the SEC both seasons but was not eligible for the title in 1990. The 1991 SEC championship was the first official SEC crown in Gators history. Matthews, who would last several seasons in the NFL, was fifth in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting after taking Florida to the Sugar Bowl. A few years earlier, Matthews led Pascagoula (Miss.) to a state championship in 1987.

Terry Dean: Although Dean was an outstanding QB at Naples (Fla.) Barron Collier, the program did not have any postseason success when he was there. Nonetheless, he became one of the South's top recruits and, in fact, was Steve Spurrier's first commitment at Florida in 1990. In Gainesville, Dean and Danny Wuerffel rotated back and forth during the 1993 and '94 seasons. Dean was the starting QB for Florida in a 1993 SEC Championship Game win over Alabama, and was game MVP. But after a bad outing against Auburn near the midpoint of the 1994 season, Dean was sent to the bench for good.

*Danny Wuerffel: One of the most successful players in SEC history, Wuerffel won the Heisman Trophy in 1996 and was third behind Eddie George and Tommie Frazier in 1995. In 1996, the Gators not only won the SEC championship, but defeated Florida State in the Sugar Bowl to claim the program's first national title. Wuerffel was part of four SEC championship squads. As a high school senior, he led Fort Walton Beach (Fla.) to a perfect season.

*Rex Grossman: Grossman was named MVP of the 2000 SEC Championship game as Florida defeated Auburn 28-6. A year later, he was SEC Player of the Year and was runner-up in voting for the Heisman Trophy after passing for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns. In high school, Grossman led Bloomington (Ind.) to a state title.

*Chris Leak: A four-year starter at Florida, Leak left Gainesville as the school's all-time leading passer, surpassing Wuerffel with 11,213 yards. More importantly, though, he helped Florida win the 2006 SEC title and 2006 national championship. Leak threw for 2,942 yards and 23 touchdowns that season. While at Charlotte (N.C.) Independence, he took his team to three straight state championships (2000, 2001, 2002) and 46 straight wins.

*Tim Tebow: Some believe Tebow is the greatest quarterback to ever wear a Gators jersey. In 2006, he played a key backup role on the program's second national championship squad. In 2007, he became the first college sophomore to win the Heisman. In 2008, he was third in Heisman voting, and helped Florida win both the SEC and national titles. In 2009, he was fifth in the race for the Heisman. Tebow finished as the school's fourth all-time leading passer and sixth all-time leading rusher. As a high school senior, Tebow led Nease (Fla.) to its first state championship.

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