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OCVarsity Rankings: O.C.'s top 10 quarterbacks
Maybe it is the climate that allows for year-round training. Or maybe it is the availability of expert coaching in high school and private settings.
But whichever explanation one picks, there is no doubt Orange County produces blue-chip high school quarterbacks seemingly every year. The county has built a reputation for success at football’s glamour position by turning out future Heisman Trophy winners and top NFL picks.
The latest group of quarterbacks set to roll out this fall appears cast in that tradition, especially when it comes to accuracy.
Seniors Jack Sears (San Clemente), Chase Garbers (Corona del Mar), Nick Sipe (Villa Park) and Tyler Lytle (Servite) have already committed to major colleges, while JT Daniels of Mater Dei might be the best sophomore in the nation.
“There’s always going to be good quarterbacks coming out of Orange County,” said Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for Fox Sports and Scout.com.
“A lot of things dictate it. You have good high school football. Really good high school coaches. The weather allows year-round training.”
Here is a look at the top quarterbacks to watch this season:
1. Jack Sears, San Clemente, Sr: Sears (6-3, 200) might have surprised some by recently shunning USC and UCLA to commit to Duke. But don’t be stunned to see more huge offensive numbers from Sears. The Elite 11 selection completed over 70 percent of his passes last fall for 2,697 yards and 37 touchdowns. He was intercepted only twice and rushed for 862 yards. “He’s under-rated nationally,” Biggins said.
2. Chase Garbers, Corona del Mar, Sr.: Count the Cal commit among the most improved players in the county, and he was outstanding last season. “He went from kind of an under-the-radar guy to QB MVP at the Nike camp to literally being the last guy to get cut for the Elite 11,” Biggins said. Garbers (6-3, 210) completed 69 percent of his passes for 2,715 yards and 33 touchdowns last season. He was intercepted only three times.
3. JT Daniels, Mater Dei, So.: Daniels (6-1, 195) showed the poise of a senior last fall, and the production followed. He passed for 3,042 yards and 33 touchdowns. He was intercepted just four times. In July, he guided Mater Dei to the title at Edison’s 7-on-7 passing tournament while calling his own plays. “He’s years ahead of where he should be in terms of being a sophomore,” Biggins said. Daniels has been offered by Notre Dame, USC and UCLA among others.
4. Nick Sipe, Villa Park, Sr.: The strong-armed Sipe (6-4, 205) is another improved senior. The Purdue commit passed for 2,842 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. He was intercepted only six times. “He’s like having a coach on the field,” Spartans coach Dusan Ancich said.
5. Tyler Lytle, Servite, Sr.: A hamstring injury slowed Lytle (6-5, 210) last season, but he’s poised for a breakout season. The Colorado commit led the Friars to a 4-0-1 record at the Redondo passing tournament in July. “He improved a lot this offseason, too,” Biggins said.
6. Matthew Robinson, JSerra, Jr.: The brother of former All-County quarterback Nick Robinson showed his skills last season. Matthew (6-1, 175) helped the Lions close their season with victories against Mater Dei and Orange Lutheran. He showcased his athleticism and speed against Mater Dei by avoiding six tackles en route to a spectacular 28-yard touchdown run. Robinson has been offered by Florida International.
7. Matt McDonald, Mission Viejo, Sr.: The former Mater Dei quarterback has big shoes to fill in replacing the Register’s offensive player of the year, Brock Johnson. But McDonald hails from a football family and combines a strong arm with athleticism. Tustin coach Myron Miller was impressed by McDonald’s play during the summer. “Best quarterback I’ve played against in passing league,” Miller said of McDonald.
8. Ryan Hilinski, Orange Lutheran, So.: The transfer from JSerra is from a family of quarterbacks and unites with the Lancers’ new offensive coordinator, Matthew Hatchette. Hatchette is a former NFL receiver and coach with the B2G 7-on-7 passing program. Be prepared for strong numbers from Hilinski, who has been offered by Montana State.
9. Kevin Brown, Capistrano Valley, Sr.: Brown (6-4, 192) could emerge as one of the county’s breakout passers. He threw for almost 1,700 yards and 19 touchdowns last season and is coming off a strong offseason in which he received a scholarship offer from Cornell. “He had a great offseason,” Cougars coach Ernie Bucher said. “Arm strength and decision-making are excellent.”
10. Richard Wagner, Santa Margarita, Sr.: Wagner (6-5, 212) looks to take the reins now that KJ Costello is at Stanford. Wagner passed for 332 yards last season in relief of Costello. He is competing against sophomore Brendan Costello, no relation to KJ. Wagner has been offered by Cornell and Columbia. “He’s got some skill,” Biggins said of Wagner.
Others to watch: Bowen Blake, Edison, Sr.; Quinn Commans, Whittier Christian, Jr.; Blake Culbert, Rancho Alamitos, Sr.; Zach Fogel, La Habra, Jr.; Joey Gutierrez, Brethren Christian, Sr.; Deshaun Harvey, Buena Park, Jr.; Cade Henjum, Saddleback Valley Christian, Sr.; Joe Hernandez, La Habra, Sr.; Bryan Ibarra, Godinez, Sr.; Cooper Jones, El Toro, Jr.; George Krantz, St. Margaret’s, Sr.; Josiah Norwood, Troy, Jr.; Griffin O’Connor, Edison, Jr.; Kyle Paskwietz, Laguna Hills, Sr.; JD Rafkin, Buena Park, Sr.; Jason Wilkinson, Santa Ana Valley, Jr.
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