Starling is Some Kinda Fast

Dual sport star Bubba Starling can throw the long ball on the football field, and he's also got a heck of a fastball. Offers seem to be flowing in for the speedster, and Starling shares his initial impression of some of the schools he's had a chance to visit.

Marvin Diener knows a little something about speed.

As the head football coach at Salina (KS) Central High School for 19 years, Diener built a dynasty in the heartland – including 11 league Championships, 16 playoff appearances, 14 regional Championships, three state runner-up finishes and six Kansas Class 5A state titles.

During that time, Diener coached a number of exceptional athletes. Residents of the Sunflower State are well-familiar with at least two former Mustangs of recent memory, for their post-high school performances at Kansas State University and the University of Kansas respectively: Terence Newman and Jake Sharp.

Newman, of course, has found a home at cornerback in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys, and Sharp recently completed a stint as one of the key cogs in the most successful season in the history of Kansas Jayhawks football.

Even in high school, Diener said, both of them were the very definition of explosive, athletes capable of outrunning everyone on any given play. They were weapons the Mustangs opponents simply couldn't match.

But Bubba Starling is faster, he said.

Diener is now the head coach at Gardner-Edgerton (KS) High School, where the program is fresh off its first ever Class 5A state championship game appearance. One of the prime reasons for the Trailblazers' recent history of success is the play of Starling, a 6-foot-5, 200-plus pound junior quarterback.

"He is the fastest player I've ever coached," Diener said. "He runs hand-held 4.3 (seconds in the 40-yard dash) and electronic 4.4s. And when he's on the field, the real key is on the field Friday night he is just way faster than the game. But even on Saturday afternoons he'll still be fast. No question."

Last season, Starling rushed 124 times for 1,381 yards and 19 touchdowns, though his coach stressed that his legs are far from his only asset.

Starling's name has been turning heads in northeast Kansas for years, thanks to his performances on the baseball diamond. With a fastball that now sits comfortably in the mid-90 miles per hour range, Starling is also seen as one of the midwest's elite baseball prospects, and a prime candidate for next year's major league draft.

On the gridiron, that arm strength translates into an ability to throw a football more than 70 yards downfield, meaning no receiver is ever out of his range.

"He can throw it 55 yards with both knees on the ground," Diener said. "Which is something I've never even remotely seen."

With his speed and agility, Starling has become an expert at using his athleticism to buy more time when the pocket breaks down, his coach added, at which point that arm strength becomes an incredible weapon. In 2009, Starling completed almost 60-percent of his passes for 1,433 yards and 18 touchdowns.

As one might imagine, word of Starling's ability has spread rapidly in recent months, and some of the biggest names in football are scrambling to stake their claim in his recruitment. Already the junior – recently named Scout.com's #3 quarterback prospect in the Midwest region – has received offers from the likes of Alabama, Arizona, Baylor, Kansas, Kansas State, Louisville, Miami (FL), Nebraska, Notre Dame and Texas Tech.

The rush of interest caught him a little off guard, Starling said, but the process has been a lot of fun thus far.

"It's exciting, traveling to all these places, just seeing the facilities and meeting all the coached, building relationships with them," he said. "It's been fun."

Having an experienced voice like Diener's to help him through the process has been a huge asset, Starling added.

Though he hopes to make a number of visits before he begins the task of narrowing down his list of schools, Starling has had the opportunity to take unofficial visits to four programs to date – Kansas, Kansas State, Nebraska and Notre Dame.

He shared his initial impressions of each with Scout.com:

KU - "They were actually my very first Junior Day. Automatically, just the coaching staff just jumped out at me, (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Chuck) Long especially. I've been e-mailing him every week and built a good relationship with him. Just touring everywhere, going to the basketball game, he was just right there with me and I really enjoyed being there with him. And Also Coach Gill, he shared the process of what he had to go through when he was in high school, because he was a baseball player, too. He said even if I really don't end up going there he's always going to be a person that will help me out in the future."

KSU - "I liked K-State. Honestly, I don't know if I'm that interested maybe in them as much as some of the other places. But I did like it there. It's close and everything. Coach (Bill) Snyder, he was actually one of the first people to come up to my basketball games and watch me play. Getting my first offer (from KSU), that's pretty cool. But I'm not sure about them being in my top five or whatever."

NU - "When I first got there, (Offensive Coordinator) Coach (Shawn) Watson is the quarterbacks coach. I got in there and I started talking to him a little bit, and then Coach (Bo) Pelini came in. We just started talking about the process, and they were telling me how they're going to have a plan for me playing both sports and keeping up with the academics part. We had a good talk with both of them. I really enjoyed talking to (former Husker quarterback Joe Ganz) and he talked to me about the offense they run, and talked to me about the atmosphere there, and what it's like to be a Nebraska Cornhusker. It's cool.

ND - "I was there a couple weeks ago, and it was tremendous. Just the atmosphere, everything is close together. Everything is nice. It's old and everything, but it's just the tradition there. It's crazy. (Offensive Line) Coach (Ed) Warriner was actually, he came from KU and now he's up at Notre Dame. We've been in contact a lot, and he's a real cool guy. He actually has kids that live in Lawrence. We were just talking about family and everything. He just said 'Bubba, it would be nice if you came up here, because we could win a championship with you up here.'"

"He took me over to the baseball staff and I met all of them, because they were actually playing Michigan State that day, and I just got to talk to them. They said I'd fit in well there. It was just exciting. THey gave me examples of Jeff Samardzija, Golden Tate and a few other people that played both sports there and have been successful. It was just kind of cool hearing all that."

For now, Starling is focused on the start of the Trailblazers' baseball season and the summer ahead. Showcase events and summer league play will give him a better idea of where he might go in next year's MLB draft.

In the immediate future, at least, becoming a professional athlete isn't on his mind.

"Right now, I'm just looking to find a good college to get a good education from, and go the college route to play both sports," Starling said.

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