Two years ago, in what was the Year of the Quarterback across the country, I ranked Tim Tebow as the No. 2 player, behind running back Chris Wells, who went to Ohio State. I gave Tebow an edge over Mitch Mustain, who committed to Arkansas, then transferred to USC.
All of the nation's top quarterbacks were invited to attend the U.S. Army combine in San Antonio as juniors--Tebow (Florida), Mustain (USC), Matt Stafford (Georgia), Josh Freeman (Kansas State), Juice Williams (Illinois), Jake Locker (Washington), Pat Devlin (Penn State), Demetrius Jones and Zach Frazer (Notre Dame) and Jevan Snead, who went from Florida (after Tebow committed) to Texas and now is at Ole Miss.
It was the best year for quarterbacks since John Elway and Dan Marino in 1979. All were great athletes. Tebow and Mustain headed the class. Critics wondered if Tebow had played against enough top-notch competition But he was physical, a linebacker playing quarterback.
Mustain played against tougher competition as a senior. But I opted for Tebow because he flat out looked better in San Antonio. Both were impressive but Tebow ran better and threw the ball better than Mustain. College coaches agreed.
Tebow got better in college. He got stronger. You always worry about the level of competition in high school but what separated Tebow from the others was his tremendous work ethic, not his talent. He watched so much film to learn the game and lifted weights to get stronger.
The year before was the Year of the Running Back. Arkansas' Darren McFadden was a 5-star performer, a first-time All-American. Just as he did this year in finishing second in the Heisman voting for the second year in a row, he led a field that included Jonathan Stewart (Oregon), Tony Baker (North Carolina State), Kevin Grady (Michigan), Marlon Lucky (Nebraska), Rashard Mendenhall (Illinois) and Jamaal Charles (Texas).
This year is the Year of the Wide Receiver...Michael Floyd, Julio Jones, A.J. Green, DeAndre Brown. There are at least 20 wide receivers from coast to coast who have the potential to be difference-makers in college.
Next year? Once again, it will be the Year of the Quarterback. And it will be even better than the Tebow/Mustain/Stafford/Williams crop. Matt Barkley of Santa Ana, Calif., already is being singled out as the No. 1 player in the class of 2009. He and other top QB prospects, including Jordan Roberts of Aurora Christian, have been invited to attend the U.S. Army combine in January.