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Dual Threat: Stephen Garcia
Oklahoma hoping to ink top prep QB prospect in Florida

Not all that long ago, Stephen Garcia had whittled down his list of prospective college football programs to an elite handful. Noted destinations like South Carolina, Florida, Auburn, Georgia and Mississippi were among the projected frontrunners vying for the young quarterback’s future services.

Oklahoma wasn’t even on Garcia’s outermost radar.

The truth be known, the Sooners had no real interest in the Tampa, Fla., product either, despite the fact he is considered one of the top prep signal callers in the country.

But some well-documented circumstances — involving OU’s dismissal of quarterback Rhett Bomar and lineman J.D. Quinn in early August — literally changed everything overnight. With Bomar gone, the Sooners went from having a guy who was expected to start through the 2008 season to a team with a lot of question marks at quarterback.

Bob Stoops’ coaching staff wasted little time scouring the country for the type of player who would have the talent, confidence and maturity to potentially come in next fall and immediately contend for the starting QB job.

Garcia’s reputation as a big-game player pushed him right to the top of OU’s want-list. And while coaches like Steve Spurrier at South Carolina and Florida’s Urban Meyer already had a huge head start in courting Garcia, the situation at Oklahoma definitely piqued his curiosity.

“First of all, Oklahoma has a helluva program,” said the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Garcia, a three-year starter for Jefferson High School in Tampa. “Then you look at the fact they are going to be without (an established) quarterback after this season, and that makes them even more appealing.”

Paul Thompson, who has stepped in and played very well in Bomar’s absence this season, is one of only nine OU seniors. Behind him is an unproven group of contenders hoping to fill that void at QB in 2007.

According all of the scouting reports, Garcia possesses all of tools to play his way into that starting role. Having been described a cross between Brett Favre and Tom Brady — part gunslinger, part technician — Garcia has worked his way up the national rankings chart and into ESPN.com’s No. 49 spot overall.

More importantly, he is the No. 7-ranked QB prospect in the land. And despite the gaudy numbers he has put up during his first two prep seasons — including 56 touchdown passes and more than 6,000 yards of total offense — many expect Garcia to further improve his stock with what they believe will be an even more productive senior campaign.

Through his first four games this fall, Garcia had thrown for seven scores and found the end zone twice on the ground.

“(Garcia) is confident, poised and has a knack for creating a play out of nowhere when things break down. Once he becomes even more polished, he could be a heckuva player at the college level,” writes ESPN.com’s Craig Haubert.

Colleges began to take notice of the kid with a cannon-like arm and long flowing locks during his sophomore season, when he threw for 25 touchdowns while leading Jefferson to the state title game. A season later, Garcia’s encore performance included 28 TD passes and more than 2,800 yards through the air. He also ran for 700 yards and scored eight times, making him the type of dual threat the Sooners would love to have at their offensive helm.

Garcia, who bench-presses 315 pounds and owns a 34-inch vertical leap and 4.7 speed in the 40, is also the type of kid who is not about to rest on his laurels.

“I do everything I possibly can to keep improving every day,” he said.

Besides the physical ability and athleticism he brings to the table, Garcia is equally skilled in the classroom. His two older brothers, Gary Jr. and Brian, are Harvard graduates, and that would probably be where little brother might attend if not for his football credentials.

As recently as early September, Garcia was thought to have narrowed his potential schools down to either South Carolina or Florida. But after a few more recent conversations with OU quarterbacks coach Josh Heupel, Garcia finds himself in no rush to make a commitment.

“Right now, South Carolina is still on top and Florida is still right up there. But Oklahoma is definitely on the rise,” offered Garcia. “I’ve talked to Coach Heupel on the phone a couple of times and he came up for our game with Alonso (High). I know he was the quarterback for Oklahoma’s (2000) national championship team. That’s pretty cool.”

Garcia is well aware of the Sooners’ great football tradition. He is, after all, a history buff who has a passion for studying aspects of the Roman and Greek empires. As part of his pregame routine each Friday night, Garcia listens to the movie soundtracks of “Troy,” “Braveheart” and “Gladiator.”

For now, Garcia is focused on finishing out his senior season and then making a decision. But of course, he has no choice but to deal with the frenzied recruiting process as he goes.

“It’s every kid’s dream to be recruited like this, by all of the major Division-I colleges at once. It’s been crazy,” Garcia added. “I’m probably going to wait until after the season to decide, but it could happen before then. It will depend on when I feel the timing is right.

“I’m definitely going to take all five of my official visits.”

That bodes well for the Sooners, who despite a controversial loss to Oregon on Sept. 16, are more than ever focused on the Big 12 title and beyond. They would obviously love to bring Garcia to Norman and show off the Switzer Center, Memorial Stadium and the entire campus.

Make no mistake, the Sooners are running strong on Garcia’s radar these days. And of course, there are plenty of reasons why Garcia’s name sits atop the Sooners’ 2007 recruiting list.
“He reminds us of Brodie Croyle as far as build, arm strength and delivery. However, he is a much better athlete,” writes ESPN.com’s Haubert. “(Garcia) has a swagger about him, the kind that is infectious. Overall, he is fun to watch as a playmaker in the passing game and with his feet.”

An impressive performance at the Gainesville Nike Camp this summer helped earn Garcia an invitation to play in the annual U.S. Army All-American Bowl next January. If he hasn’t made a decision by then, he’ll have an opportunity to showcase his talents and impress scouts one final time as a prepster.

That obviously won’t be necessary for Oklahoma and most of the other big-time college football programs in the country. They already know what Garcia can do on the field — and they are ready to see him strap it up and do it for them.

Editor's Note: This story appears in the Week Four issue of Sooner Spectator.