Florida Football: 10 Best Quarterbacks in School History

Nick de la TorreCorrespondent IApril 5, 2012

Florida Football: 10 Best Quarterbacks in School History

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    The Gators have had their fair share of productive college quarterbacks. They are not nicknamed "Quarterback U," but they have more Heisman winning quarterbacks than Miami. 

    The list of the top 10 quarterbacks in school history is a diverse one. The list includes a throwin' Mayoan, a preacher, the ol' ball coach and the greatest player to ever play college football. 

    Let's take a look at the best signal-callers in Florida history. 

Wayne Peace (1980-1983)

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    Wayne Peace came in after the worst season in Florida history. The Gators went 0-10-1 in 1979, but would improve on that mark largely due to improved quarterback play. 

    Wayne Peace, along with offensive coordinator Mike Shanahan—yes, that Mike Shanahan—devised an offense that relied heavily on quick, short passes. The new offensive strategy worked and turned the program around. They went 9-4 in 1980, including a bowl victory over Maryland.

    Peace was a bridge from the dark days of Florida football into their new era of prosperity and should be remembered as one of the greatest in school history. 

Kerwin Bell (1983-1987)

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    The aforementioned "Throwin' Mayoan," Kerwin Bell was one of the greatest success stories in Florida history. 

    After graduating from Lafayette County High School in Mayo, Fla., Bell decided to walk on at Florida and was the eighth quarterback on the depth chart as a freshman.  

    Bell was redshirted his first season on campus, but was given an opportunity to start in 1984 and never looked back. Bell would lose his first start to defending national champion Miami, but he would lead Florida to a 9-1-1 record in his first season as a starter. 

    Bell went on to become the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, All-SEC in 1985 and an All-American honorable mention in 1985 and 1986. Bell was also named a "Gator Great" in 1997. 

Doug Johnson (1996-1999)

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    Doug Johnson grew up in Gainesville with aspirations of playing quarterback for the University of Florida. Johnson's dream would be come a reality when he accepted a scholarship to play under Steve Spurrier. 

    Johnson's claim to fame is a 460-yard, seven-touchdown performance against Central Michigan, which set a record for most passing touchdowns in a single game in SEC history.

    As the starting quarterback, Johnson led the Gators to a 29-8 record, including two bowl wins.  

John Reaves (1969-1971)

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    John Reaves is most known for the very controversial "Gator Flop." 

    In the final game of the 1971 season, Reaves was picked off late in a blowout win over Miami, at the time the Gators were winning 45-8. Reaves was just 14 yards shy of passing Jim Plunkett as the leading passer in NCAA history, but the Gators had no timeouts and Miami had the ball. 

    On the next snap, the entire Gators defense laid down, allowing Miami to score so that Reaves would have another opportunity to break the record. He did, and the "Gator Flop" remains a sore subject to many Miami fans. 

    In just three seasons, Reaves set the NCAA record for career passing yards and an SEC record for touchdowns. 

Rex Grossman (1999-2002)

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    Rex Grossman did not have the easiest path to becoming Florida's starting quarterback. Arriving on campus in 1999, Jesse Palmer was the returning starter and the Gators would sign the top high school quarterback, Brock Berlin, in 2000. 

    Grossman split time with Palmer as a freshman and came onto the national scene as a sophomore. 

    In his sophomore season, Grossman completed 259 of 395 passing attempts for 3,896 yards and 34 touchdowns. He surpassed 300 passing yards in 10 of the 11 games played that year and finished as a runner-up for the Heisman. At the time, the 62 votes that Eric Crouch won by was the closest vote ever. 

    Grossman would play one season under new head coach Ron Zook before declaring early for the NFL draft. 

    Grossman ended his Gator career with a 23-8 record, 9,164 passing yards and 77 touchdowns. 

Shane Matthews (1990-1992)

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    Shane Matthews was the first starting quarterback under Steve Spurrier and led the Gators to their first ever SEC championship. 

    Matthews earned plenty of awards and broke several records while at Florida, including finishing fifth in Heisman voting in 1991 and was First-Team All-SEC from 1990-1992. Matthews also broke the all-time career passing record (later surpassed) in his junior season. 

Chris Leak (2003-2006)

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    Chris Leak was a four-year starter at Florida who played two seasons for Ron Zook and two for Urban Meyer. Along with playing for two different head coaches, Leak played for three different offensive coordinators while at Florida. 

    Leak came to Florida as a 5-star recruit from North Carolina and made it public knowledge that he and the Gators intended on winning a national championship before he graduated. 

    Leak made good on that statement in his senior year, when the Gators would win the 2006 BCS National Championship by beating Ohio State, 41-14. After going 25-of-36 for 213 yards and a touchdown, Leak was named the game's MVP. 

    Leak finished his career at 37-14 with 11,213 passing yards and 88 touchdowns. 

Steve Spurrier (1964-1966)

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    Steve Spurrier has done as much for the University of Florida as any other person that has ever been involved with the program. 

    Spurrier became the Gators' first ever Heisman winner in 1966. That same season, Spurrier gained fame by waiving off the starting place-kicker and booting a 40-yard field goal to beat Auburn, 30-27. 

    Beyond being the first Heisman winner in school history, Spurrier was also named to the All-American team in 1965 and 1966. 

    Spurrier finished his playing career at Florida with a 23-9 record and 32 touchdowns. 

Danny Wuerffel (1993-1996)

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    Danny Wuerffel is not only one of the best quarterbacks in Florida history, but will go down as one of the best quarterbacks in college football history.

    Wuerffel became the first and only,player to win the Heisman while being coached by a former Heisman winner. 

    In his career at Florida, Wuerffel led the Gators to four consecutive SEC championship games and two national titles, including the school's first ever national championship. 

    In his senior year, Wuerffel won nine postseason awards (including a Heisman), an SEC championship and a national championship. 

    Wuerffel would have been the most decorated and beloved Gator quarterback and player of all time if not for the player who comes in atop this list. 

Tim Tebow (2006-2009)

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    Finally, coming in atop this list, probably the only player in Gators history more popular than Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow. 

    Tebow came to Florida as the No. 3-rated high school quarterback and left college as the best player to ever play college football. 

    (Yeah, I said it, go ahead and debate it, I won't move off of that stance.)

    In four years at Florida, the Gators went 13-1 three times and won two National championships. Tebow was a Heisman winner, All-American, SEC Player of the Year and First-Team Academic All-Amercian.

    In his sophomore season, Tebow accounted for 51 touchdowns and won a combined 22 awards. 

    After becoming the first sophomore to win the Heisman trophy, Tebow led the Gators to their third national championship, where he was named offensive MVP. 

    Tebow returned for his senior season and led the Gators to a 12-0 record and a berth in the SEC championship game. The Gators would lose the game to Alabama, but would still earn a berth in the Sugar Bowl. 

    Tebow had the best passing day of his college career in his final game. Tebow threw for 482 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for 51 yards and another score. 

    The game was a perfect ending to a storybook career for the greatest player and quarterback in Florida Gator history. 

     

    That is my list of the top 10 quarterbacks in Gators history. Let me know how you would rank the top quarterbacks in Florida history in the comment section.