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Thursday, January 12, 2012
Updated: January 17, 12:14 AM ET
Let the quarterback debate begin

By Mark Tennis
ESPNHS

Quarterback is the most glamorous position in all of sports, and this year signal-callers have been front and center more than ever.

Thanks to the prolific passing of Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees, the late-game heroics of Tim Tebow, the polished skills of likely No. 1 draft pick Andrew Luck and the all-around brilliance of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, it was a historic season for quarterbacks.

But it's also becoming increasingly obvious that there's no single prototype for quarterbacks anymore. Successful QBs these days can come in any style, size and background. And from any locale.

That got us thinking: Where do the best quarterbacks come from? Which state -- from the current crop of high school signal-callers all the way back to Hall of Famers hailing from that state -- has proved the best at growing big-time QBs?

And with that, welcome to the Great State Debate for quarterbacks.

The criteria we considered in this debate were Pro Football Hall of Famers, Heisman Trophy winners, current NFL quarterbacks, top college quarterbacks during the 2011 season and Class of 2012 high school quarterbacks ranked by ESPNU.

We've narrowed the field to five, and we'll break down each of the five states in a different category each day this week. You also can vote for which state you think is the best.

But first, let's meet the finalists.

If you're talking quarterback history, many fans probably would think of Pennsylvania first in such a discussion. After all, the state leads the way in Hall of Famers and has numerous others who've been stars in the NFL.

But in recent years, bigger states like California and Texas have churned out NFL starters at a rapid clip. California's depth at the position is hard to beat, while Texas has been catching up quickly from its roots in the conservative, rush-first offenses of its past.

Ohio might not have the history of Pennsylvania or the depth of California and Texas, but it easily made the cut as the fourth state.

Tim Tebow
Not even Tim Tebow could get Florida into the Great State Debate.
For the fifth state in this debate, it came down Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Louisiana.

Although Louisiana counts Peyton Manning, Eli Manning, Terry Bradshaw, Bert Jones and Joe Ferguson among its all-time best, the state is lacking in Heisman Trophy winners and current college starters and high school standouts.

Florida had a number of topflight college stars this season, including Denard Robinson of Michigan, Geno Smith of West Virginia and Aaron Murray of Georgia. And in the pros, of course, there's Tebow. But the Sunshine State has no Hall of Famers, and its highest-ranked high school quarterback this year is Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.) senior Faton Bauta, who's rated No. 29 at the position by ESPNU.

Meanwhile, Georgia has two Heisman Trophy winners (Cam Newton, Charlie Ward) and one Hall of Famer (Fran Tarkenton) but, like Florida, doesn't have a high school quarterback rated among the top 25 by ESPNU and has hardly any current college stars.

That left Alabama as the recipient of the fifth and final spot in the Great State Debate. The Yellowhammer State can count one Hall of Famer, one Heisman winner, several current NFL starters, the starting quarterback of the newly crowned national champs and the No. 1 quarterback in the ESPNU 150, Jameis Winston.

With the five states in place, it's time to go no-huddle and air it out.