Do you need a 5-star QB to win a championship?

In recent days I’ve been asked two very interesting questions related to the NFL Draft and the SEC. I was being interviewed for a radio show in Arkansas and the host, Bo Mattingly, noted that there had been very few five-star quarterbacks signed by SEC schools in the past five years. He wondered if this was going to eventually be a problem for the league.

Another person asked me that if Tim Tebow falls out of the first round and goes late in the second or early third, will that be/should that be a problem for Urban Meyer and his staff at Florida? Will it be said that Florida’s staff had somehow let Tebow down?

The answers are no and emphatically no. Let’s take them one at a time.

First of all, I’m not a big believer in player ratings—too many variables. I’ve seen too many players who allegedly had five-star talent but a one-star work ethic. And I’ve seen WAY too many players who were assigned five-star skill but had only a half-star at best when it came to competitive fire and heart. I am a big believer in talent and that the team with the best players usually wins. But when it comes to winning championships, I am also a big believer in the intangibles. Look at Kentucky’s basketball team. Look at Duke’s basketball team. Yesterday five Kentucky players (four freshmen) said they would enter the NBA Draft and all will do well. But Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. Duke has really good players but not five NBA draft picks. The intangibles matter when it comes to winning championships.

I don’t believe the absence of highly-rated quarterbacks is that big a deal because history has shown us that you don’t need a five-star quarterback to win a national championship or an SEC championship.

Below are the last 10 national champions, their starting quarterbacks and where they went in the NFL Draft. I have no idea how many of these guys were five-star quarterbacks coming out of high school but I’m sure some of you can name them off the top of your head.  But I’m pretty sure most of them weren’t five-star recruits.

Year—–Nat. Champ——QB—————-Draft

2000—Oklahoma—–Josh Heupel————6th

2001—Miami———Ken Dorsey—————7th

2002—Ohio State—Craig Krenzel————–5th

2003—LSU————-Matt Mauck—————7th

2004—USC————Matt Leinart—————1st

2005—Texas———-Vince Young—————-1st

2006—Florida——–Chris Leak——————undrafted

2007—LSU————Matt Flynn——————7th

2008—Florida——–Tim Tebow——————?????

2009—Alabama——Greg McElory—————???


Everybody on planet Earth wanted Matt Leinart (USC 2004), Vince Young (Texas 2005), and Tim Tebow (Florida 2008). That’s a no brainer.

But look at some of the rest. Josh Heupel (Oklahoma 2000) was a junior college transfer. Craig Krenzel (Ohio State 2002) had an average arm at best but could manage a game. Matt Mauck (LSU 2003) was a minor league baseball player and was chosen in the seventh round. Chris Leak (Florida 2006) was not selected in the draft at all.  Greg McElroy (Alabama 2009) doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world but the guy is 29-0 as a starting quarterback in high school and college.

The point is that what’s required of a college quarterback is a completely different than an NFL quarterback. The NFL places a premium on the physical characteristics of a potential quarterback:  Height, weight, and arm strength. But to win a championship in college football, the quarterback has to be more of a manager of the game and a distributor of the ball. I believe that in college football a championship quarterback is not defined by what he does. He is defined by what he DOESN’T do (turn the ball over).  Both games are great. College football is just different. You can win a national championship with a less talented quarterback who makes good decisions.

That’s why I found the Tebow debate so interesting. First of all, it is the job of the college coach to take the talent on hand and develop it in the best way to win games for his team. His first loyalty is to the institution and to the rest of the players on that roster. Getting a player ready for the NFL is nice if you can do it, but it can’t be more important than the success of the team.

Florida and its coaching staff made every effort to help Tebow with his throwing motion, which we all knew was too loopy for the NFL boys, who tend to obsess over those kinds of things. That’s one reason Meyer brought in Scot Loeffler, who had coached five quarterbacks taken in the draft during his time at Michigan.

But if Tim Tebow is not a first round pick on April 22, you can’t say that anybody failed. Tebow walked away from Florida with two national championships, two SEC championships, a Heisman Trophy and enough awards and good will to fill up Ben Hill Griffin Stadium many times. He will be remembered as one of the greatest players and ambassadors in the history of college football.

Ain’t no failure in that.

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119 comments Add your comment


April 8th, 2010
7:20 am

You’re reaching with that Duke and Kentucky basketball analogy. As you said, 4 of those 5 UK players are Frosh. The NBA drafts on potential as well as talent. As obviously talented as those UK kids are, they haven’t yet come close to reaching their full potential. If they stayed around for a couple more years so they had the same level of experience as most of Duke’s primary players, UK would have taken Duke and everyone else to pieces. I’m not a fan of Duke or UK, but that’s just a fact.


April 8th, 2010
7:55 am

You need a manager but you also need a coaching staff which recognizes the quarterback’s abilities. His strengths and weaknesses. You cannot ask a mediocre quarterback to throw a ball 30 yards down the field into double coverage when they do not have the arm strength and their release is painfully slow. In addition, if you like to call bombs with little success, then you place the quarterback and the rest of the offense in a hole.

Michael S.

April 8th, 2010
7:57 am

Colt McCoy was a 3 star from a 2A school.


April 8th, 2010
8:11 am

David Greene did fairly well too…

[...] I enjoy reading Tony Barnhart as much as the next guy, and he certainly has his moments… but this isn’t one of them. … I am a big believer in talent and that the team with the best [...]


April 8th, 2010
8:18 am

you need a 4-5 star offensive and defensive Line and you need mental and physcial toughness-not sure the ratings can reflect those qualities


April 8th, 2010
8:26 am

Great coaches take good players and make great players from them. Teams win championships, individual players don’t. I’m like you Tony, I don’t pay much attention to the ratings of kids coming out of High School.

Tim Tebow

April 8th, 2010
8:34 am


April 8th, 2010
8:52 am

Greg you are right about the UK players, but your making Tony’s point for him In a perfect world the UK players reach their potential in college. This is the real world. Tony reports and bases his columns on facts (things that have really happened), not could have or should have happened. Think how different the college football landscape would be if the media was somehow required to report that way. The comment that has stuck with the most this week is Duke’s Coach K saying, “it isn’t possible to have a Butler with the BCS” and “the BCS is a monopoly”. I dislike Coach K but I respect the truth.


April 8th, 2010
8:56 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over


April 8th, 2010
9:13 am

The QB at a SEC school or any other major conference football school must have a certain level of skill to be productive. I submit that the skill level required to be successful and to guide a winning and/or championship team rises and falls with the level of talent which surrounds him.

A great team can overcome or disguise a QB’s weaknesses with superior play at other positions. Conversely, a great QB can appear to be fairly average without talented players supporting him.

Football, more than any of the other major sports, requires performance and cohesion from many players in order to be consistent and successful. The choreography required to sustain successful performance makes football the most difficult sport to coach and makes building and maintaining a successful team ( program ) a year round endeavor.

The sum of the parts is more important than one or two of the parts.


April 8th, 2010
9:24 am

Tim who? He never beat Auburn. War Eagle!

Woolly Butts

April 8th, 2010
9:28 am

I’m amazed at how Tim Tebow gets credit for winning two national championships, when he was a reserve as a freshman. Chris Leak won one, and Tebow won one.

OK, I'll ask again...

April 8th, 2010
9:29 am

…where is all of the moral disgust, righteous indignation, and front page coverage in the AJC, on Sports Center/TMZ/Inside Addition/CNN/MSN/NBC/ABC/CBS, etc minute by minute coverage of Tiki Barber leaving his pregnant wife for a 23 year old intern with whom he has been having outside of marriage relations?


April 8th, 2010
9:29 am

Biggest non surprise this year will be the play of Aaron Murray of Georgia. Three reasons, a big, experienced veteran Offensive line returning with depth, two ” above average running backs” and a pretty good passing game installed years ago by Mark Richt , a pretty good WR in AJ and two monster pass catching tight ends. 9 wins in 2010 on the downside and 11 on the up. Georgia will be fine at QB. The offense will be called different this year with a new DC and us not being behind 2-4 TD’s, thus making it playable to work the game plan vs. fire drill mode after the first quarter. GATA.


April 8th, 2010
9:33 am

Tony, You’d have to put Chris Leak in that 5 star grouping.


April 8th, 2010
9:35 am

I feel helpless to help in November. I have Zaxby Chamblis and Paul Broun as my senator and congressman, both great guys. I guess I will target a couple of high profile races elsewhere and send $$$……………..Please vote Nov. 2nd.

Pago Pago Trojan

April 8th, 2010
9:40 am

I could care less about an UGA qb going to the NFL. Just WIN the SEC once!!


April 8th, 2010
9:45 am

McDawg, Tell that to CMR. UGA has 3 Elite 11 QBs and an OL that is always being patchd up. CMR even signed another QB last yr to make it 4 QBs on the team.

% star QB needed? I agree with Tony on the ratings. Graham Harrell was grabbing all the headlines but went to the CFL. John Parker from Bama was a game manager but was signed by the Falcons. Greene may not have had a great NFL career but he was on a NFL team too.


April 8th, 2010
9:45 am

Worm is right. Chris Leak was as highly recruited as anyone outside of Tim Tebow over the last 10 years.


April 8th, 2010
9:54 am

ATL Dawg, ya dig?

April 8th, 2010
10:10 am

Matt Stafford- best QB arm of his generation, elite physical tools, 5 star all-american, first pick in the draft. Interception machine for two years and otherwise underwhelming in his third. There’s just no correlation b/w what the NFL wants (physical tools to master timing routes), Scouting services grade for (physical tools as measured by hght/wght/40 and performances at camps), and college qb’s need to do (manage the game and inspire their teammates)


April 8th, 2010
10:25 am

Tebow is a 4th or 5th round pick.


April 8th, 2010
10:30 am

You may recall when Tennessee won the National Championship in 1998 that their QB was Tee Martin (5th round).
Who was the Vols 1997 starter who did NOT win a National Championship? Some guy named Peyton Manning.



April 8th, 2010
10:32 am

Tebow and DJ Shockley each won only one SEC Title as a starting quarterback, and each also won only one SEC Title as a backup / part-time player. Is TEBOW really one of the greatest ever? If so, why did he go 1 of 3 in winning SEC Titles as a starter and mostly sit on the bench as a Freshman. The to-my-mind greatly underachieving Matthew Stafford was 1-1 versus Tebow in head-to-head match-ups – GEORGIA blew Tebow out the year he won the Heisman. BTW: UGA has never had a losing record versus UF in football. Mighty Gators … is it all over for you?

read n black

April 8th, 2010
10:36 am

ATL Dawg, you are right. Not only was Stafford responsible for alot of intercetions and subpar performances but he never won a National Championship or an SEC championship. He has one win against Florida as his trophy and that is all. However, he is extremely talented, probably more so on the professional level – although we have yet to see. Likewise, Tebow was an outstanding college quarterback for many reasons, including reasons outside his athletic ability. However, I have always said that he would never see a snap in the NFL. Now, I will most likely be wrong about that, I am still confident he will never be a starting quarterback in the NFL, and, most likely, will not start at anything. College and NFL styles are as different as honesty and O’bama.


April 8th, 2010
10:37 am

A team obviously doesn’t need a 5 star QB to win a championship. That list shows the two most impt components of a national champion is excellent defense and a good running game. Having said that, having a 5 star or a national QB recruit whose play on the field matches the expectations coming out of high school, only makes your team that much better. Anyway, Tony, you said you have no idea what type of recruits those championship level QBs were. Here’s a list I got from rivals and looking over the internet for the player who predated rivals:

2000 – Josh Heupel: not a big recruit at all. started at Weber state. Transferred to Snow Junior college then ended up at Oklahoma

2001 – Ken Dorsey: He was a national recruit that was named to several top 100 lists All America teams as a high School senior

2002 – Craig Krenzel: Wasn’t a big time recruit

2003 – Matt Mauck: Not a big time recruit at all

2004 – Matt Leinert: National Big time recruit

2005 – Vince Young: Top recruit in the country

2006 – Chris Leak: #2 ranked QB recruit in the country

2007 – Matt Flynn: 4 star 16th ranked QB

2008 – Tebow: 5 star QB recruit

2009 – McElroy: 3 star 11th ranked QB


April 8th, 2010
10:45 am

That’s what I thought, Gay-Turds? No Great White Bull Tebow or Spurrier-system tricks to save you from a pre-1990 regression. BAMA showed you what SEC is really about. Running game and defense.


April 8th, 2010
10:56 am


I agree with you somewhat. I think teams have been able to win championships without stud QB’s in the past. But I’ll also tell you that knowing that you have a great QB works wonders for a team. To give you an example, the Baltimore Ravens for years were carried by the defense while they had crap to work with at QB( Trent Dilfer, Kyle Boller etc.) Sure the won a Super Bowl with their stud defense, but then they became one dimensional. When one side of the ball has to carry an entire team, those teams eventually get exposed. Now that the Ravens have Flacco( who is young but super talented), it takes some of the pressure off the defense. Now they can win games in a variety of ways as oppossed to playing a field posession game.In the NFL, the teams that go deep in the playoffs on a regular basis are the teams that have solid QB play( Colts, Pats, Steelers etc.).And the teams that get inconsistent play from the QB position are the teams that get eliminated in the first couple of rounds( Cowboys, Eagles, Chargers etc.)

This is why I think Bama will get exposed if they don’t get a better QB than McElroy. He had one decent game against Florida, but other than that he’s a manager. John Parker Wilson was no Joe Namath, but he could at least get the ball 40 yards down field. Julio Jones is just too big of an offensive weapon for Saban to just utilize him as a down field blocker.

You can win championships without a top notch QB, but for consistent success, you have to have great play from the QB position.


April 8th, 2010
11:02 am

What the heck is a hanDAWG?


April 8th, 2010
11:09 am

No need for a five star QB. College footbal is the ultimate team sport and it is about the running game, defense, coaching and team speed. Discipline plays a big part account of the age of the players. You need your QB to be a winner and a game technican who can carry out a game plan. Bama is a poster child for this formula. RTR

[...] of Tebow, if the former Gator quarterback isn’t a first-round draft pick, this writer says it doesn’t mean that anyone at Florida “failed.”8.  Billy Donovan said he isn’t worried about the fact that five transfers in two years might [...]

help, I live in Ga

April 8th, 2010
11:33 am

Phat Phil Phulmer had a 13 year stretch that included 3 Four year starters at QB–Manning, Clausen, and Ainge. Their first names don’t matter because they all had famous families. That left one year, that he had a one year starter, and he won the national championship. Two points can be drawn from this. One–it takes a little luck to win a national championship. And two–I think you have to have a string of strong quarterbacks to build a national powerhouse. You can’t be a national power, and have a bad quarterback for more than a year or two. Michigan has always had quarterbacks with tons of potential, but no real passing attack type offenses. But they’ve always taken care of the football enough to walk over the Big Weak Ten and be in the big picture. Last note on Phat Phil. When his run of good QBs ran out, so did his luck and the programs prestige. The rest is history. Ugly history.


April 8th, 2010
11:38 am

Colleges recruit QBs that fit their systems. UGA will not lose many QB recruits to UF or GA Tech because they run different systems. If Tebow would have committed to Alabama there would be no way we are talking about him being one of best college FB players of all time. That said, if Tebow sees himself as an NFL caliber QB, and Meyer brought in Loeffler to help him, then what does that say about Tebow not making an effort (until AFTER he graduates) to change his throwing motion or improve his timing & accuracy? After being a starter for 3 years and with UFs soft NC schedule there really is no excuse. Loved him as college player, but he’s really a 4th or 5th rnd pick at best, but he’ll get overdrafted.


April 8th, 2010
11:45 am


Your comments about BAMA make absolutely no sense. Bama will get exposed? When? We just went 14-0 and won the BCS and SEC championships with McElroy. The previous year we were 12-2 with JPW. It doesn’t seem like an underwhelming QB is really an issue for us.

But since you’re worried about my QB situation, there are three four-stars (AJ McCarron, Phillip Sims, and Star Jackson) sitting behind McElroy. Each is more physically gifted than McElroy. I hope that makes you feel better.


April 8th, 2010
11:50 am

@ help, i live in Ga:

Take I-75 north or south, I-20 west, or I-85 north. Keep driving….your problem will be solved!
You are welcome!


April 8th, 2010
11:51 am

Bama #1 said it best good running game and very strong defense wins a lot of football games. The 1992 NC Alabama team had the best defense in the SEC and country and boat raced Miami in the
Sugar Bowl 34-13!! The crimson tide had a qb named Jay Barker who was a game manager who become a very good qb in 94 and who helped beat the dawgs in the last minute of the ball game!!


April 8th, 2010
11:56 am

HanDAWG, Tebow and the “gaytors” sure owned your leg humping asses.


April 8th, 2010
11:59 am

AJ McCarron is going to be the best qb Bama has had since Namath and Stabler. I may have the crimson glasses on to much but the kid is going to be a stud!! RTR


April 8th, 2010
12:00 pm

Part of the reason players get 5 stars is because lots of schools are after them. People get it reveresed: Prospects aren’t chased by schools because or gives them 5 stars. It’s the other way around.

Oh, and Chris Leak was a 5 star recruit.


April 8th, 2010
12:05 pm

who care how go a pro a QB will be? just win at college that’s most important!!!


April 8th, 2010
12:05 pm


April 8th, 2010
12:13 pm

Everybody has to realize that winning a nation championship requires a TEAM….There, i said it!!!! Example…Gino Toretta…He was a Heisman trophy winner and SUCKED as a pro quarterback…What are my exampoles of good QB’s…Jow montana and Tom Brady, who BOTH were picked in the 6th round…Brady didn’t win a NC…Joe MAY have…Can’t remember…But both of them were EXCELLENT Field Generals….Let it be known that although QB’s are good, they are not the WHOLE TEAM…. Let’s really be focused and realize that if a QB has talent, it can be used…But if you don’t have the correct pieces, Doesn’t matter…Remember Barry Sanders!!!!!!!!


April 8th, 2010
12:13 pm

“Look at Kentucky’s basketball team. Look at Duke’s basketball team. Yesterday five Kentucky players (four freshmen) said they would enter the NBA Draft and all will do well. But Duke cut down the nets in Indianapolis. Duke has really good players but not five NBA draft picks. The intangibles matter when it comes to winning championships.”

What a horrible point, Tony. Kentucky had how many freshmen playing??????? 1st year at Kentucky for Calipari, I’d say Kentucky did pretty well.

Let’s see….Duke had done absolutely nothing in the tournament for how many years before this one? I guess they overachieved with their “intangibles” just to get that far, huh?

Duke has probably more All-Americans on its roster than any team in the country on an annual basis.

That was a HORRIBLE analogy.


April 8th, 2010
12:24 pm

Your article lost credibility when you started talking about Tim Tebow. Here’s a guy who isn’t going in the first round, may not even go in the second round, and will never amount to anything in the NFL. Why did you even mention him


April 8th, 2010
12:33 pm

JASon, he probably mentioned him because Tony is a Dawg and knows Tebow owned your humping Dawgs.


April 8th, 2010
12:35 pm

Help, Phat Phil rose and fell when he had a good OC mostly Cutcliff.

Salinsa, McElroy was a bit under rated out of High School mostly thanks to only starting his Senior year. Chase Daniel was the starter he sat behind. Good job recruiting by Bama.


April 8th, 2010
12:58 pm

Alabama’s last two National Championships were won with no-name quarterbacks, Barker in 1992 and McElroy in 2009. It appears, in the college, it is much more important how they play as a team than individual ability. I recall sometime during last season in an interview Julio Jones said “If they double team me, that leaves someone else open and we move the ball.” That is the kind of attitude that wins in college ball, and do doubt it will not hurt Julio as a pro prospect.


April 8th, 2010
1:01 pm

agreed bamaguy, Tebow was a freak, but what you really need is a manager at QB and McElroy proved it. Good job.


April 8th, 2010
1:10 pm

Half of the QB’s on that list were 5 stars coming out of highschool. Chris Leak was a 5 star. I like the point you are trying to make with this article… But you don’t make a point at all.