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August 10, 2007

The Battle for No. 1: QB

Is there anything better than a great quarterback debate?

No matter what recruiting year it is or how much distance one quarterback puts between himself and the competition, there's always someone to argue the other side of things.

Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell breaks down this year's battle for the top spot at the premium position.

  • Pryor/Manuel/Gabbert: Who is the top quarterback prospect?

    Battle for No. 1: Quarterbacks
    Terrelle Pryor vs. E.J. Manuel vs. Blaine Gabbert

    Last year, Jimmy Clausen was clearly the top quarterback in the nation and finished as our No. 1 overall prospect. But this didn't stop fans of Ryan Mallett or Tyrod Taylor from making their case. Willy Korn made a strong early push at Clausen until he began to struggle with his mechanics.

    At this point it's a three-horse race when trying to determine the top thoroughbred at quarterback in the 2008 class. Jeannette, Pa., dual-threat Terrelle Pryor is currently ranked as the No. 1 player in the country. Obviously, he is also the No. 1 overall quarterback.

    Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside standout E.J. Manuel checks in as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback and is the No. 10 overall player in the class. Ballwin (Mo.) Parkway West gunslinger Blaine Gabbert isn't far behind at No. 14 in the Rivals100.

    So what makes Pryor No. 1? It's clearly his athletic ability. When Pryor is trapped in the pocket in a 7-on-7 tournament, he looks average. But try to hem him in like that when the pads are on, I dare you.

    Pryor is a game-changer because of his ability to move. You can attempt to shadow him with a linebacker and keep proper lane discipline with your defensive ends, but he'll still make you look silly. Pryor's ability to get outside the pocket often lures linebackers and defensive backs up closer to the line of scrimmage. When that happens, Pryor dumps the ball over their heads.

    And if they don't pinch up to the line of scrimmage? He'll use his open-field running ability to Vince Young you to death. Oh yeah, he can also throw the ball sixty yards in the air from his knees - so arm strength is certainly not an issue.

    Manuel and Gabbert are more refined pocket passers and certainly boast better mechanics when throwing the football.

    Manuel has the height to see over everyone, and he has the frame to play at 235 pounds by the time his college career is finished. His accuracy is impressive, and his leadership and poise can't be taught. He's not stuck in cement when it comes to getting outside and making things happen, although he's not nearly as explosive as Pryor when it comes to running the ball.

    Gabbert is similar to Mallett. Gabbert has a cannon for a right arm, although his arm strength is still a tick below Mallett's. Gabbert is much more mobile than Mallett, and can throw on the run much better. His strength isn't getting outside of the pocket, but he can do it and looks comfortable doing so.

    Gabbert throws with excellent accuracy and hits his wideouts in stride. He can throw every pass needed - the slant, the comeback, the skinny post, etc. - and his on-field vision is excellent.

    So pick your poison. Do you want a great athlete who can throw the ball or a great passer who can run around a little bit? Right now we'll take Pryor, but this will continue to be hotly debated.

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