It’s Thursday and a day for lists.
The only one of these players that I didn’t see in person was Harry Gilmer, but I defer to the late, great Jack Hairston, who said Gilmer would have been great in any era and given the wide open offenses of the 1990s and onward, might have proven to be the best of all time.
1. Tim Tebow, Florida: He threw for 88 touchdowns and ran for 57 more. He won the Heisman in 2007, should have won it in 2008 and was on the podium in 2009. He was a major contributor to a 2006 national championship and led the Gators to the 2008 national title. In his four years, Florida was 49-7. As a stater he was 35-6.
2. Archie Manning, Ole Miss: If you go by the stats you say no way. If you saw him play, you would say differently. He was a thoroughbred playing with donkeys. Bear Bryant said the game Archie had against Alabama in 1970 – 436 passing and 104 passing – was the greatest game he ever saw a quarterback play.
3. Danny Wuerffel, Florida: Florida won the SEC all four years he played. When he was the full time starter (1995-96), Florida played for the national title (1995) and then won it. Has anyone ever thrown a fade more perfectly? He threw 114 touchdown passes and the Gators went 45-6-1 in his career. He won the 1996 Heisman.
4. Peyton Manning, Tennessee: He was 0-3 as a starter against the Gators, 39-4 against everyone else. His inability to beat the Gators cost him the 1997 Heisman. He threw for 89 touchdowns and more than 11,000 yards.
5. Johnny Manziel, Texas A&M: He was considered a too-small, 3-star quarterback coming out of high school, but he was brilliant as a college quarterback, throwing for 7,820 yards and 63 touchdowns, running for 2,169 and 30 more in his two seasons as a starter. He had to be great. The Aggies had no defense: they gave up 283 points in 2012, 419 in 2013.
6. Steve Spurrier, Florida: His numbers were a reflection of the time – 36 touchdown passes and 4,800-plus rushing yards. He changed the way football was played in the SEC twice, first as a player from 1964-66, then later as a coach. He won the Heisman Trophy in 1966, a year in which the late, great Furman Bisher wrote that Spurrier would be favored to somehow escape his own execution.
7. Cam Newton, Auburn: Since he only played one year as a starter it’s hard to rate him higher. He began at Florida, spent a year as a backup, then was dismissed from school. After leading Blinn to the juco national title, he transferred to Auburn where he won the 2010 Heisman and led Auburn to the national title. He ran for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns, threw for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns.
8. Pat Sullivan, Auburn: Sullivan transformed Auburn from a power running team to a wide open (for the time) passing attack. He was 27-7 as a starter, 2-1 against Alabama, and won the 1971 Heisman. He threw for 53 touchdowns and ran for 18, incredible numbers for that era of college football.
9. Harry Gilmer, Alabama: Gilmer played both ways and was the best quarterback and best safety in the SEC. He was second nationally in total offense in 1947 (1,457 yards) and is 13 touchdown passes led the nation in 1945. His career numbers: 2,894 passing yards and 26 touchdowns, 24 rushing touchdowns. He also averaged 28.7 yards per kickoff return and 13.5 yards on punt returns.
10. Greg McElroy, Alabama: McElroy went from an obscure backup in 2008 to quarterback an undefeated national champion in 2009. After throwing only 20 passes as a freshman and sophomore, McElroy threw 37 touchdown passes (only nine interceptions) in 2009-10
Honorable Mention: Shane Matthews, Florida; Bert Jones, LSU; Jake Gibbs, Ole Miss; Joe Namath, Alabama; Babe Parilli, Kentucky; Kenny Stabler, Alabama; Condredge Holloway, Tennessee; John Reaves, Florida; Aaron Murray, Georgia; Connor Shaw, South Carolina.
(Tomorrow: The 10 best SEC running backs of all time)
1. Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, UCLA: UCLA won three national championships and went 88-2 in his career. He was so dominant that the NCAA banned the dunk from 1967-76. He averaged 26.4 points and 15.5 rebounds per game.
2. Pete Maravich, LSU: He scored 3,667 points in three years and averaged 44.2 points per game and this was when freshmen were ineligible and there was no 3-point shot. Pete was the greatest ball handler and showman of all time. In a game at Florida Gym in 1969 he scored a layup when he flipped the ball off his finger into the air and headed it into the goal. In the 1970 game he made a behind the back, through his legs pass that went through the legs of the Florida defender for a perfect assist to Al Sanders who ran the floor.
3. David Thompson, North Carolina State: It’s unfortunate that he played in the no dunk era. He had a 44-inch vertical and could score at the rim almost at will. He led North Carolina State to a 27-0 season in 1973 and a 30-1 national championship season in 1974. He scored 2,309 points, averaged 26.8 per game and 8.1 rebounds.
4. Bill Walton, UCLA: His performance against Memphis State in 1973 – 21-22 from the field and 43 points – is still the greatest performance ever in a national championship game. The Bruins won the national championship in 1972-73 and lost to North Carolina State in double overtime in the 1974 semifinals. For his career he averaged 20.3 points and 15.7 rebounds per game and dominated both ends of the floor.
5. Michael Jordan, North Carolina: He hit the game-winning shot against Georgetown to give Dean Smith his first national championship in 1982 and spent the next two seasons stuffing the box score. There is no question he could have led the nation in scoring had he played somewhere other than UNC, but Dean Smith’s team-first system helped to turn MJ into the player he would become in the pros. His Carolina numbers are 1,788 points, an average of 17.7 per game with 5.0 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.7 steals.
6. Christian Laettner, Duke: Kentucky people in particular still hate Christian Laettner. They will never forget the shot in the Elite Eight game in 1991. It’s hard to argue with Laettner’s results. He took the Blue Devils to four Final Fours, the national title game as a sophomore and back-to-back national titles in 1991-92 while averaging 16.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals per game for his career.
7. Phil Ford, North Carolina: He is the greatest point guard in Carolina history. He led the Tar Heels to the ACC championship as a freshman and was a 3-time All-American and a 2-time national player of the year. Some say he is still the fastest player ever dribbling a basketball from one end of the floor to the other. Ford scored 2,290 points in his 4-year career, averaging 18.6 points per game.
8. Magic Johnson, Michigan State: Everybody remembers Magic and the Spartans beating Indiana State for the 1979 national championship. He was brilliant that game, but better two nights before when he posted at triple-double (29 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) to lead Michigan State to the championship game. For his 2-year career, Magic averaged 17.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game.
9. Larry Bird, Indiana State: The Hick from French Lick couldn’t handle Bobby Knight’s style of coaching at Indiana so he headed back home and drove a garbage truck for a year. When he re-surfaced took Indiana State on a 3-year ride from obscurity to the 1979 national championship game. He scored 2,850 points in his career, averaging 30.3 points, 13.3 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game.
10. Patrick Ewing, Georgetown: He got Georgetown to the 1982 and 1985 national championship games and was the MVP in 1984 when the Hoyas won it all by beating Hakeem Ojajuwon and Houston in the championship game. Other than Alcindor, he is the most intimidating player of the modern era. He averaged 15.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocked shots per game. John Thompson kept a stat for altered shots and it was better than 10 per game.
Honorable mention: Austin Carr, Notre Dame; Artis Gilmore, Jacksonville; Dave Cowens, Florida State; Neal Walk, Florida; Bernard King, Tennessee; Chris Mullin, St. John’s; Keith Wilkes, UCLA; David Meyers, UCLA; Sidney Wicks, UCLA; Elvin Hayes, Houston; Hakeem Ojajuwon, Houston; Grant Hill, Duke; Bobby Jones, North Carolina; Rick Barry, Miami; Kenny Anderson, Georgia Tech; Dominique Wilkins, Georgia; Al Horford, Florida.
If Geno Auriemma of UConn pulls off another national championship this year, it will be his 10th, tying him with the great John Wooden for the most in college history whether men or women. Heading into this weekend’s women’s Final Four, Geno has a career mark of 915-134, an astounding 87.2 winning percentage.
With scoring down in the men’s game and the powers that be trying to figure out how to excite the fan base and make the game more interesting, Geno chimed in earlier in the week.
Speaking of the men’s game, he said, "I don't coach it. I don't play it, so I don't understand the ins and outs of it. But as a spectator watching it, it's a joke. There's only like 10 teams, you know, out of 25, that actually play the kind of game of basketball that you'd like to watch."
He also offered this: "The bottom line is, nobody can score. And they'll tell you that it's because of great defense, great scouting, a lot of teamwork. Nonsense, nonsense. College men's basketball is so far behind the times it's unbelievable."
Who would you have in your top five SEC quarterbacks of all time?
It only took the O’Jays 14 years to become overnight sensations. They were considering breaking up as a group in 1972 when they hit it big with “Backstabbers” which made it to #3 on the Billboard charts. That was followed by “Love Train” which made it to #1 in 1973. For the next five years, they were a staple of the Philadelphia scene which was at least Motown’s soul music equal during that time frame.