Before the Tim Tebowless season began, there was a lively debate over which team in the Sunshine State had the best quarterback.
After Week 2, the answer is no one — unless we count Michigan’s Denard Robinson, a Deerfield Beach native who leads the country in total offense.
More intriguing is how Rich Rodriguez stole him from Florida and Miami because he was the only head coach that guaranteed Robinson he would play quarterback.
If we eliminate him, Florida’s John Brantley wins by default, though his hold on this mythical title of little distinction is precarious at best.
Never miss a local story.
Granted, he has an advantage over the others with a sidekick like running back Jeff Demps, the Gators version of a fast-forward button.
But Brantley didn’t start last season, and despite receiving mock cheers from Florida fans last week when he didn’t bobble his first snap, has yet to throw an interception.
Each of the other candidates had games last Saturday they just as soon put in the archives and light a torch to it.
FSU’s Christian Ponder, Jacory Harris from Miami and USF’s little engine that could and could not, B.J. Daniels, can be found in the bottom half of most of the NCAA passing statistics.
In pass efficiency, Brantley, Ponder and Daniels rank 66th through 76th and Harris is a misleading 44th despite soft openers that enabled them to pad their stats.
Daniels and Harris combined for eight interceptions and Ponder had two. The trio were involved in 13 turnovers in losses to Florida, Ohio State and Oklahoma, respectively.
Daniels and Ponder went a combined 16 of 48 for 197 yards while Harris threw four picks, was sacked twice and his only TD pass came in the fourth quarter with his team trailing 36-17.
It seems as if this race to be labeled the state’s best college quarterback has everyone running backward, but it’s still early.
It’s a given Daniels is the most athletic of the group, though he should wear a “ride me at risk” button stamped to his jersey.
In his defense, he had never thrown more than two interceptions in a game until he got stuck in the Swamp and perhaps heard voices of Steve Spurrier yelling at Doug Johnson or Noah Brindise and panicked. But he does lead state quarterbacks in net rushing.
Daniels, Ponder and Harris each needs his own prescription to cure their respective quarterback rating.
Daniels is operating an offense that for years relied on busted plays by the quarterback for most of its big-play yardage. New head coach Skip Holtz wants that to change and make Daniels a quarterback who is athletic instead of an athlete who plays quarterback.
Holtz said his Bulls had “five unforced turnovers” which might be a stretch, but not by much.
Daniels needs to realize there is a reason USF has a punter and punt team.
Harris and Ponder are being touted as Heisman candidates, which given their propensity for tossing passes to the team in the wrong uniform, might sound as preposterous as sending Boise State to the BCS title game.
Harris was second in the country with 17 interceptions last season and has thrown 28 in 28 career games. Against Ohio State, he got off to an early start with three picks in the first half that led to 20 points.
Ponder, who ranks 98th nationally in total offense, has 25 interceptions in 25 games. In last year’s loss to USF, he was sacked five times and had one of FSU’s four lost fumbles. That he is being sold as a serious Heisman candidate says more about the aggressiveness of the FSU media department than his talent.
Say all you will about Brantley, but he has 14 career TD passes with only one interception, albeit against less than stellar competition. Along with a stout defense, he is a key reason the Gators rank second nationally in turnover margin.
Just maybe those Gators fans don’t realize how good they have it.