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A post-Tim Tebow history of Florida QBs succeeding after no longer being Florida QBs

An NFL MVP from Auburn, a Pro Bowl-quality tight end, and two 2016 NFL Draft picks are just a few of the players who were better off leaving the Gators' QB depth chart.

Cam Newton should soon be joined in the NFL by two more ex-Florida QBs
Cam Newton should soon be joined in the NFL by two more ex-Florida QBs

Two former Florida Gators quarterbacks could be selected in the 2016 NFL Draft. That would be cool for Florida, if Jacoby Brissett and Jeff Driskel weren't going to be described as NC State and Louisiana Tech passers.

If drafted -- both are considered among the top dozen QBs, so it's likely both will be -- the duo won't be the first former Florida quarterbacks to end up in the NFL since Tim Tebow was somewhat controversially taken in 2010's first round.

Neither will be changing positions to make the league like two other former Florida QBs did. And they can't go any earlier than Cam Newton, the first in this run of former Florida passers to leave Gainesville and still end up in the pros.

But their stories fit a larger narrative. Florida's had talent at quarterback since Tebow, but a series of round holes for square pegs and a rash of bad luck have limited its success. All but one of the Gators' primary QBs since Tebow has ended his career as something other than Florida's starting signal-caller.

Cam Newton, 2007-08, ended up at Auburn

It's hard not to think of the NFL's reigning MVP as a golden boy right now. The No. 1 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft made good on almost all of his promise with the Panthers last season, leading them to the second Super Bowl in franchise history.

When he was Tebow's understudy at Florida, though, Newton struggled. Newton was in Urban Meyer's 2007 recruiting class -- one that would add former Texas commit John Brantley -- and he may have been sold on the idea that he could compete with Tebow given that he committed long before Tebow's baby rhino impression helped the Gators win the national title in 2006.

He still played sparingly, planting a Tennessee defender as a true freshman, but Newton couldn't pair his arm strength with consistent accuracy and never came close to dislodging Tebow.

Newton's most prominent misstep was an arrest involving a stolen-then-defenestrated laptop, but he also slipped behind Brantley on the depth chart in 2008 and was academically negligent enough to have been in jeopardy even without the arrest.

He would transfer to Blinn College, star at the small Texas junior college, become perhaps the most coveted JUCO recruit ever and do some stuff at Auburn in 2010.

John Brantley, 2007-11, actually remained a Florida QB
Trey Burton, 2010-13, moved to wide receiver
Jordan Reed, 2010, moved to tight end

Meanwhile, the guy left behind failed to step out of the shadows of his predecessor and former rival. Brantley, a legacy Gator and local star, was never a fit for Meyer's spread-based, run-first offense, wide receiver Deonte Thompson's comments about Brantley being a "real" quarterback (unlike Tebow) aside.

Meyer and coordinator Steve Addazio stubbornly ran Brantley on options in 2010, then rotated him out for freshmen Trey Burton and Jordan Reed, who played quarterback as a mongoose with a trebuchet for an arm and an elephant throwing with its trunk would have. Burton started against Florida State, running wildcat plays as an exasperated Meyer lost to the Seminoles for the first and only time.

Will Muschamp's hiring gave Brantley a second chance. Muschamp's hotly debated tabbing of Charlie Weis to coordinate his offense seemed like a move that could benefit Brantley. For about a month, it worked. Brantley looked poised in the pro-style attack until a savage Alabama defense battered him, sideswiping Florida's 2011. Brantley didn't look healthy again until Florida's bowl win over Ohio State.

Brantley had few NFL projections entering college thanks to a relatively weak arm and lack of mobility. It was more surprising that the Ravens brought him in as a training camp QB in 2012 than it was when they cut him loose two months later.

Burton and Reed would end up in the NFL after changing positions. Burton played all over at Florida, finally settling at wide receiver, but was drafted by the Eagles in 2014 as a special teams ace. Reed became a tight end under Muschamp and is now one of the NFL's best at the position for Washington.

Jeff Driskel, 2011-14, transferred to Louisiana Tech
Jacoby Brissett, 2011-12, transferred to NC State

Brantley's injury forced both Driskel and Brissett into action.

Driskel, the nation's top prep quarterback in 2011, had been a Meyer commitment. He was thought of as the fleet, big-armed mirror image of Tebow. But he, too, got hurt by the Tide, and that helped Brissett, a more traditional drop-back passer, become Florida's 1B to Brantley's 1A.

Brissett became the first Florida freshman to start at QB since Chris Leak. He played in eight games that fall, usually handing off. Still, that was more work than Driskel got. He didn't see the field after the second half of a snoozer loss to Auburn.

Brissett probably would have entered 2012 as Florida's presumptive starter, except Weis bolted for Kansas, leaving Muschamp in need of a second offensive coordinator before the first year was up. He tabbed the spread-friendly Boise State's Brent Pease, whose hiring leveled the playing field for Driskel and Brissett.

Driskel didn't do much that fall, managing an offense that needed to do little more than not screw up. When he blew up, he did so spectacularly, accounting for nine turnovers in Florida's two losses.

Brissett didn't hear what he wanted when speaking to Muschamp after the season and chose to transfer to NC State. It was an an ugly affair that saw his high school coach and former teammate Matt Elam vehemently take Brissett's side.

Driskel's season as unquestioned starter ended three games in, as he broke his leg against Tennessee in 2013. When he returned in 2014, it was in Kurt Roper's offense, thought to be friendlier to his skills. He looked like a shell of a game manager, gun-shy and turnover-prone.

Brissett would rebuild his career at NC State, where he posted gaudy stats (43 TDs and 11 INTs in two years) and led the Wolfpack to exactly two wins over winning teams.

Driskel would do virtually the same at Louisiana Tech, throwing for over 4,000 yards and compiling a 9-4 record with two wins over winning teams in 2015.

Tyler Murphy, 2010-13, transferred to Boston College
Skyler Mornhinweg, 2012-13, transferred to Columbia
Max Staver, 2013, ended up at Houston Baptist

Driskel's 2013 injury forced Florida to turn to untested Tyler Murphy, a Meyer recruit who had never thrown a pass. He looked like a savior for almost three whole weeks. Then he suffered a shoulder injury that became chronic and Florida hit the meat of its schedule.

Eventually, he ceded the starter's role to Skyler Mornhinweg, whose limitations were so dramatic that Florida tried its damnedest to avoid him throwing the ball in its final three games of 2013. This strategy yielded no wins and helped get Pease fired.

Murphy decamped for Boston College, where he ran well and threw less well for Addazio. His athleticism has been enough to get him a foothold in the NFL. He spent 2015 as a wide receiver and emergency quarterback with the Steelers before signing a practice squad deal with the Dolphins this January.

Mornhinweg would never see the field again at Florida, transferring to Columbia after 2014. Staver didn't even wait that long, bolting for Tyler Junior College after his freshman year and landing at FCS Houston Baptist in 2015.

Treon Harris, 2014-??, seems to be moving to wide receiver
Will Grier, 2014-15, transferring to West Virginia

The next two Gators QBs to succeed elsewhere might be the two who shared the starter's role in 2015.

Grier appeared to be the best Florida passer since Tebow, but an NCAA suspension ended his 2015 and led to his eventual transfer to West Virginia, where he hopes to be the starter in 2017.

Harris has all but formally moved out of the quarterback picture at Florida, though a reported position change to wide receiver is on hold while he's indefinitely suspended.

And that has produced maybe the greatest irony of all in the Gators' sad saga.

All but one of Florida's scholarship quarterback recruits since Tebow has finished his collegiate career as something other than a Florida quarterback, with the verdict still technically out on Harris.

But now, the Gators are seemingly going to turn to a transfer quarterback as their starter given former Alabama and Oregon State backup Luke Del Rio's success in spring practice.

Given that Del Rio has already transferred twice, he's at least not a flight risk.