Monday, July 28, 2008

Football Factories: The Face Of The Franchise

One of the most recognizable names and faces on a football field is the quarterback. He is the field general, guiding his team from end to end with physical tools and mastery of a playbook. To lose your quarterback at any point in the season is often to lose all hope of a successful ending. NFL quarterbacks took a beating in 2007, and those without a capable replacement suffered the consequences. Each franchise will carry at least three, but where are the biggest names and largest numbers coming from? Where is the quarterback factory that strives on NFL supply and demand?

Pittsburgh Area High Schools

Terrelle Pryor was the most sought-after high school recruit in the nation, in 2007. He eventually committed his services to the Ohio State Buckeyes, and if he lives up to expectations, he will likely be remembered as a player from Ohio. But Pryor comes from a productive area for NFL quarterbacks, and one rich in legendary names.

Pittsburgh area high schools boast some of the greatest signal callers ever to play the game. This tiny spot on a larger map has been a Hall of Fame pipeline, giving us George Blanda, Johnny Unitas, Joe Namath, Joe Montana, Dan Marino, and Jim Kelly. Mark Bulger and Gus Frerotte are also Pittsburgh area products.

Pryor comes from a lineage, and the next step he takes will be for a community and city with high expectations. He bears the burden of carrying on a legacy, and inserting his smaller feet into bigger shoes, in hopes of watching them grow. More recognizable as a spread quarterback in high school, Pryor has chosen to develop in a conventional offense, which could possibly benefit him with a greater projection into the NFL.

The College Gridiron

The college game evolved from a variety of wishbones and options, but one conference appeared as a leader of change. The Pac 10 has always carried the reputation as a passing conference, with offenses presenting more of a professional scheme. This is the conference where Stanford coach Bill Walsh gave birth to the West Coast Offense. This is the breeding ground for NFL quarterbacks, and rarely does it disappoint in the production of new products.

While not all the names are big, some are Mega. John Elway, Jim Plunkett, and Troy Aikman piloted teams to Superbowl victories. Dan Fouts and Warren Moon piled statistics into NFL books. Pat Haden, Steve Bartkowski, Jake Plummer, Drew Bledsoe, Jay Schroeder, Rodney Peete, Tommy Maddox, and many others have come and gone. But just as quickly as they leave the game, new faces replace them. Pac 10 quarterbacks currently appearing on NFL rosters include (unsigned rookies omitted):

Carson Palmer- USC
Derek Anderson- Oregon State
Kyle Boller- Cal
Matt Cassel- USC
Kellen Clemens- Oregon
Trent Edwards- Stanford
Dennis Dixon- Oregon
Andrew Walter- Arizona State
Marcus Tuiasasopo- Washington
Isaiah Stanback (converted WR)- Washington
Aaron Rodgers- Cal
John David Booty- USC
Matt Moore- Oregon State
Matt Leinart- USC
Alex Brink- Washington State
Damon Huard- Washington
Joey Harrington- Oregon

From 1997 to 2007, 40 quarterbacks were drafted from the Pac 10, which is more than any other conference. With the exception of ’94, a Pac 10 quarterback has been selected in every draft since 1977. At least 2 were taken in 21 drafts. At least 3 were taken in 10.

2008 Outlook

In terms of big names and statistical expectations, the Big 12 currently has more high profile quarterback names than any other. But in terms of pro prospects, Chase Daniel, Todd Reesing, and Graham Harrell are not playing in traditional pro style offenses. That leaves Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford, who is but a sophomore. It’s the physical tools, and knowledge of a pro style offense that gives a greater NFL projection. It has absolutely nothing to do with collegiate statistics, as exemplified in the mid to late round selections of Troy Smith, Chris Leak, and Colt Brennan, with further proof provided in the undrafted Heisman trophy winning Jason White.

The Pittsburgh area high schools, along with the Pacific 10 conference, have proven over the years to be NFL quarterback factories. The only question remaining would be...Who's Next?

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