Kyle Wright Can't Go Wrong With Final Five

When cannon-armed California quarterback Kyle Wright proclaims his choice of schools in approximately two weeks, it will be the shot heard around the college football world or at least the upper crust of that high-profile world.

Wright, who is among the consensus top three quarterbacks in the country, and rated the No. 1 overall prospect by at least one scouting service, will select from an elite list of national title contenders that includes: Miami, Florida State, Tennessee, Texas and Oklahoma along with home-state USC.

Wright returned Sunday night from an exhaustive, but productive, 15-day tour of the five aforementioned finalists. He was accompanied by his father and they were joined by his mother for the last leg in Austin. If the names on his short list sound familiar, it's not surprising.

"I went, in order, to Miami, Florida State, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Texas," said Wright in an interview earlier today with Inside Tennessee. " The trip was really great. I had an amazing time. It was kind of funny, the day after I left the college polls came out and the five schools I was going to see were the top five in the nation."

After getting an up close look at football's fantastic five, Wright realized that they aren't where they are by accident.

"It was a given at that high class of an atmosphere there were great coaches, great players," he said. "They're going to surround you with talent and they were great guys. They were all great, well-run programs. That was evident at all the schools."

The fact these select programs were drawn to Wright is no accident, either. In all likelihood he's the best pro-style, classic drop-back passer in the Class of 2003 and the cream of college football's crop all favor a pro system built around the quarterback and I-back. That's the type of system Wright runs at Monte Vista High School and he appreciates the importance of a balanced attack.

"I threw for 3,100 yards and the running back rushed for 1,600 yards," he said of Monte Vista's production last season. "We have a very balanced attack. We have a lot of athletes you've got to respect and attempt to stop. They've got several guys to look out for."

Having weapons of choice means Wright often makes choices at the line of scrimmage along with a lot of defensive reads.

"I'm able to read defenses pretty well and in my offense I'm forced to read the defense and make adjustments," he said. "My intangibles are also pretty good."

To say nothing of Wright's confidence.

But we haven't finished covering his big-time tangibles yet. In addition to possessing prototypical QB qualifications like a strong arm and sharp mind, he also has size (he measured 6-4, 200, at football practice on Tuesday) and an unexpected bonus of speed and quickness.

"Kind of the stereotype for a 6-4, 200-pound quarterback is immobility," Wright said, "but I'm able to get out of the pocket if I need to and make some plays. I'm an athletic pro-style quarterback."

Wright's outstanding out-of-pocket experiences are aided by exceptional lateral quickness (he runs a 4.25 shuttle) and a superb 4.6-second cruising speed.

In addition to quick feet, he has a rapid release and excellent technique. His mechanics are as solid as his genetics are splendid.

"My dad played at a junior college in southern California," Wright said. "He was a cornerback. I couldn't beat him in a race until my freshman or sophomore year and that was when he was 40 years old. He's a really good athlete. But I'm 6-foot-4 and he's 5-10."

Wright may be fortunate to stand 6-foot-4, but he doesn't need luck when challenged to rise to the occasion. During his sophomore season alone, he led Monte Vista on three game-winning drives in the last two minutes to overcome deficits. As a junior, he came out on top in a 1000-yard total-offense shootout leading Monte Vista to a 38-35 victory over its cross-town rival before 10,000 fans in Danville which is the Bay area of California.

"We were winning the whole game and then they went up 35-31 in the fourth quarter," Wright recalled. "But we came back and won it."

Leading comebacks is something Wright has grown used to during a football career that saw him compared to former NFL great John Elway at a very early age.

"I believe at 11 they compared me to John Elway," he said almost apologetically. "A coach actually said I looked like a smoother Dan Marino. Those are pretty big words. I try to emulate my game after those type of guys, and Peyton Manning. I'm a big Peyton Manning fan. I would say Peyton Manning and John Elway are the ones I identify with most. You know Peyton Manning is a perfect role model for a young quarterback. He was what first drew me to Tennessee when I was younger." Manning was also mentioned as an initial draw for another California QB, Casey Clausen, who has gone on to challenge some of Peyton's school passing marks.

"Casey and I talked," Wright said of his visit to Knoxville. "We spoke about what it's like to be away from home and stuff like that. He just said that they're such a tight knit group that it's like home away from home. He said it's a great atmosphere and everybody is really close."

Speaking of close, Wright roomed with North Carolina quarterback Chris Leak while at the Elite 11 Camp sponsored by Student Sports in California earlier this month. Leak is also known to be considering Tennessee and Wright indicated they have a good relationship.

"Chris and I were roommates," he said. "we get along really well. I was kind of hoping to room with him because I heard a lot about him."

Wright, who plans to be a business major, is fully qualified with a 3.3 grade point average and a 1000 score on his SAT. Wright said that he plans to announce his choice of schools in the next two weeks, which means he'll take no official visits and will have the recruiting process concluded before his high school season begins on Sept. 13.

"I'm going to try and make it the first week of September," he said. "I want to make it before my senior year. Tha's the most important thing. That and my school work are something I don't want any outside influence controlling."

Some analysts figure if Wright leaves the west coast defending champion Miami might be his favorite. Others have pointed to Florida State or Texas. Wright insists he doesn't have a favorite at this point and indicates it would be wrong to dismiss Tennessee's chances.

"My interest is definitely high in Tennessee," he said. "I was impressed with the facilities and Neyland Stadium. You know it's what a college football program should be like with the fan support and big games, walking down the Vol Walk and playing in front of 110,000 people. That's what college football in my mind should be. Every kid would love to play in front of that many people. The coaching staff was great. School-wise it's a very good school and Knoxville is a pretty area I like how it's settled on the river there. There's a lot to do... hunt or fish or whatever your specialty is. I was very impressed."

If that impression is enough to lure Wright to Big Orange Country, the Vols will land a critical component needed to remain a title contender.

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