Has there ever been a rising junior quarterback in the state of Florida who has had the skill level, knowledge and coaching (Kerwin Bell) Ocala Trinity Catholic's John Brantley does? In the better than four decades of covering football in this state, that answer would be a solid NO.

I have had the pleasure, throughout the years, to watch some pretty impressive football talent come through this state. From the 1960s and 70s, when Miami, Florida and Florida State were average programs at best, to 2005, when the football talent we produce has a direct impact on some of the top programs in the country.

While we have had our share of quarterbacks come through the Sunshine State, for the most part there are few who have left a mark at the next level - and beyond. So, when we have a prospect or prospects like we do this year, you have a tendency to want to brag a little.

The rage in recruiting is not only about the upcoming senior class, but when you have 15,500 youngsters competing in the sport statewide, you start looking at rising juniors, sophomores and even a few freshmen who are being promoted.

With the departure of North Fort Myers running back Noel Devine to Texas, the "freak" of the 2007 class now belongs to a quarterback. At a time when Tim Tebow is the talk in the state with his gaudy passing numbers for Nease High, there is a rising junior at Ocala Trinity Catholic who has simply captured the imagination of every football fan - from Pensacola to Key West and beyond.

John Brantley
John Brantley, a 6-3, 190-pounder, who has a family background that traces back decades to his uncle Scot Brantley, a former Florida Gators and Tampa Bay Bucs linebacker as well as his father,John, cousins and uncles who have helped to blaze a trail.

While there is always hype surrounding a future star, Brantley is the real deal. He is that national recruit at the position that very few Floridians have been able crack.

Having watched every great Florida-bred quarterback since the late 1960s, I can honestly say that none of them came close to having the potential, understanding and throwing mechanics that Brantley has. He is, for no other words, a can't miss prospect!

Behind every great quarterback is a system. The system that Brantley has every single day of his career is one of Florida's all-time fan favorites, Kerwin Bell. It's Bell, who was impressive at Mayo-Lafayette High School and the University of Florida, who has taken Brantley and has spent hours and hours teaching.

Last weekend at the University of South Florida Sling & Shoot event, it was Brantley, a class of 2007 prospect who caught the eyes of every player who attended the yearly event in Tampa. His throwing accuracy, arm strength and field awareness is so far superior than anyone I have ever watched here in this state.

Having lived in Las Vegas and watching some of the athletes who grew up in that community, the only player I can compare him to, at this stage of his career, is former University of Nebraska standout David Humm (Las Vegas Bishop Gorman), who was a star after his sophomore season in high school and beyond.

As Brantley fills out, his numbers will be absolutely head-turning. With Bell, his head coach, standing with him on the sideline, talking and teaching over the next 24 months, it's a given, barring any kind of injury, that this is an elite national quarterback.

"I just work hard," Brantley said. "Attend camps, combines, workouts and make sure that I don't repeat my mistakes."

As I do with the IN THE HUDDLES, I like to take an athlete and break down his every positive and negative. With Brantley, the positives are so easy. He has tremendous poise in the pocket, throws the ball low or high enough where interceptions are not a problem.

Negatives? He needs to get stronger and continue to progress into the athlete most feel he will be over the next few years.

And, what does Bell, the head coach, quarterback coach and offensive mind think about his young phenom?

"John needs to continue working hard and everything will work out just fine," said Bell, with a big smile.

While I don't make it a habit of focusing on such young athletes here in Florida, because of all the rising senior talent, watching Brantley play, and knowing his fabulous family history, I just couldn't "pass" up the opportunity.

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