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August 18, 2012
Dallas Jackson is the National Columnist for Rivals.com. Email your comments or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.
For class of 2014 quarterbacks Robert Webber and Risaih Basurto, the chance to compete for a starting job at Corona (Calif.) Centennial is more than just an opportunity to lead the No. 63-ranked team in the nation onto the field. It is a chance to be front-and-center at a program that has been as successful as any in putting scholarship quarterbacks on BCS-level football teams.
Taylor Martinez is well entrenched at Nebraska; Matt Scott is the clear favorite to win the job at Arizona; and Michael Eubank is competing - and steadily improving his chances - to start at Arizona State.
All three got their start at Centennial.
The uniqueness of what may be unfolding was not lost on the program's head coach, Matt Logan.
"We were talking about this the other day as a staff," he said. "Centennial is usually more known around here as a place with offensive linemen and linebackers. For us to have these three guys potentially all starting is incredible."
Each has had to make his own path to this point.
Scott, a redshirt senior, was the No. 5-ranked dual-threat quarterback from the class of 2008. He saw playing time as a true freshman and increased his role in each of his next two seasons. Last year, after losing the starting quarterback position, he elected to redshirt and sit out the season.
Scott said that it was one of the hardest decisions he has ever had to make.
"It was real tough for me to sit on the sidelines and watch the team play," he said. "It was a real humbling experience for me. In high school, you come out to college as the guy; you've always been the starter."
With new head coach Rich Rodriguez installing the spread-option, Scott's ability to use his legs as a weapon gives him an edge in the quarterback competition. He has averaged 6.4 yards per carry in his 99 collegiate rushing attempts.
GoAZCats.com senior editor Tracy McDonald said that the starting job has been all but wrapped up for Scott.
"Matt Scott will be the starter," McDonald said. "He has drawn positive reviews from the new Arizona coaching staff since the spring, and head coach Rich Rodriguez said that Scott has grasped the spread-option system quicker than most quarterbacks in the first year."
He should have because it is the same system that Scott ran while in high school.
"The choice for Matt to redshirt was made with the intent to start this year," Logan said. "And I think this system will fit him perfectly."
During the last scrimmage of the fall Scott made quick, and correct, decisions while showcasing his quick release and legs. He completed 16 of 18 passes for 193 yards and scored on a 7-yard touchdown run.
Scott credited his high school coach for much of his comfort level in the offense.
"It is like a dream come true," Scott said. "Coach Logan runs a great system up there. He gets us prepared. He really teaches us about coverages and reads."
It was under Logan's tutelage that Martinez learned the ropes, as well.
Martinez, a redshirt junior, entered Nebraska as a three-star prospect in the class of 2009. He was not the top-rated quarterback that the Cornhuskers took in that class but pushed his way ahead of four-star and Rivals250 prospect Cody Green.
He earned the opportunity to play in 2010 and excelled, throwing for 1,631 yards and rushing for 965. Martinez improved his passing totals to 2,089 yards and continued to use his legs with 874 yards last season. He has cemented his place atop the depth chart entering this season and could make a bigger leap as the Huskers transition to a new offense similar to what he ran at Centennial.
Martinez, like Scott, said that could be very valuable.
"Coach Logan just taught me how to be a quarterback and run a fast-tempo offense and just being able to get the ball out there," he said. "It's just like our offense we are starting to run now. It's really fast paced."
Sean Callahan, the publisher of HuskerOnline.com and two-time Nebraska Sports Writer of the Year, said that Martinez has put in extra work this offseason to improve knowing he was returning to his roots.
"Martinez knows that in order to take this offense to the next level he needs to improve on his passing," Callahan said. "He's done all he can to get there over the offseason."
Part of the regimen was to work out with famed Armed and Dangerous quarterback coach Steve Calhoun as well as at the Manning Camp run by Archie, Peyton, and Eli Manning in Louisiana.
Nebraska will play its second season in the Big Ten this fall and the expectations are high with an experienced quarterback coming back.
"The goal has to be to win the division and get Nebraska to the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis," Callahan said. "This offense has the parts around Martinez to go a long way.
"Martinez is the guy that could bring that all over the top."
Eubank is the youngest of the trio from Centennial and is just a redshirt freshman. He was the No. 193-ranked player in the country in the class of 2011 and was the MVP at the NUC All-World Gridiron Classic before heading to college.
"I know Michael is competing," Logan said. "He has all of the tools and I am sure he will make the decision tough on those coaches."
Eubank told ASUDevils.com that his focus has been steady, across-the-board improvement.
"Every single throw has been a focal point," he said. "During the summer I just worked on everything: my shorts, my intermediates, my swings and my longs. Just everything that requires me to throw the ball, and it's helped a lot."
His teammates, especially those that on are on the receiving end of his passes, have taken notice to the improvements.
Junior wide receiver J.J. Holliday said that Eubank has one of the strongest arms he has ever seen and that his touch on deep passes is impressing many.
"Every time I'm running a deep route, I've got to make sure I'm going full speed, because I know it's going to be there," Holliday said. "It's great, I love the deep ball, that's why I play football."
In his senior season at Centennial, Eubank threw for 2,770 yards and completed nearly 70 percent of his passes. He also ran for 1,329 yards and 19 scores.
If he is able to earn the starting nod, he will lock Corona Centennial into college football history and add to the expectations on those still at the school.
"We have had a lot of good players come through Centennial," Logan said. "Our offense showcases the quarterback and allows them to succeed. It isn't pressure on them because sometimes it feels like there are height requirements to go Division I, but I would say with our track record there is an opportunity to get to the next level."