THE CREWCUT-TOPPED high school junior blew away the field at a camp in Tallahassee, Fla., in May 2005. He ran the 40 in 4.69 seconds and the agility shuttle in 4.16 seconds. He bench-pressed 185 pounds 38 times, and he jumped 32 inches from a standstill. His Sparq Rating—a statistic that combines measurements of speed, strength and power—was 96.9, off the charts for a quarterback.
Some 31 months later Tim Tebow was holding the Heisman Trophy, the result of a sophomore season at Florida during which the 6'3" 235-pounder accounted for 55 touchdowns (32 passing, 23 rushing). On national Signing Day, evidence of the Tebow Effect was everywhere.
Four programs anxiously awaited a decision from Jeannette (Pa.) High's Terrelle Pryor. At 6'4", 220 pounds, signee MarQueis Gray of Ben Davis High in Indianapolis had Minnesota coaches envisioning touchdowns through the air and by land. Other schools were also beaming at having landed strong-armed quarterbacking behemoths who can drop their shoulder and bowl over a defender. Dayne Crist from Notre Dame High in Sherman Oaks, Calif., stands 6'5", weighs 228 pounds and runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds. After a year in the weight room Crist will probably be bigger than most linebackers he'll face while playing for Charlie Weis at Notre Dame.
At Florida State, offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher would love for E.J. Manuel of Virginia Beach to emulate JaMarcus Russell, whom Fisher coached at LSU. Manuel has the size (6'5", 220) and the arm, and he averaged 9.5 yards a carry as a senior at Bayside High.
Coaches are already looking ahead to next year, scouring the nation for a big, agile speedster with a rocket arm and the strength of an ox. The search has led some to Los Alamitos (Calif.) High, where 6'4", 210-pound Clark Evans throws from the shotgun and runs single-wing plays. It has taken others to Western Branch High in Chesapeake, Va. Meet Kevin Newsome, a 6'3", 215-pound premier hurdler with a bazooka for an arm.
As a freshman backup, Newsome ran single-wing plays out of the shotgun in short-yardage situations. Before last season newly promoted coach Scott Johnson installed the spread, and Newsome accounted for about 50% of the Bruins' offense.
Sound familiar? Tebow played linebacker and tight end as a freshman at Trinity Christian Academy in Jacksonville. Then he transferred to Nease High in Ponte Vedra, where coach Craig Howard saw him as the perfect quarterback for his spread attack. As a freshman at Florida, Tebow often spelled Chris Leak in short-yardage and goal line situations.
Newsome already has scholarship offers from Virginia Tech, Penn State and other schools, and Johnson entertained Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer two weeks ago. "Most [college coaches] are saying they're looking for two quarterbacks—a drop-back and a dual threat," Johnson says. "A lot of it revolves around Tim Tebow. They saw what you can do with a player like that."
SIMON BRUTY (NEWSOME)
STRONG ARM In his first year directing the spread, the versatile Newsome threw for 13 touchdowns and rushed for 12 more in '07.