By Chris Hays | Orlando Sentinel
6:53 PM EDT, May 2, 2013
It seems that with every top quarterback in the state of Florida there comes a certain comparison.
Former Oviedo Hagerty star and current Florida starting QB Jeff Driskel heard it.
And it’s no different for Zack Darlington. When Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer called to make a scholarship offer to the Apopka quarterback on Thursday, there it was … the Tebow Comparison.
“He hasn’t seen me in person yet, but he said from what he’s heard and seen on film that I remind him a lot of [Tim] Tebow because of my willingness to work and my will to win,” Darlington said. “He’s coached Heisman Trophy winners and numerous national champions and coached numerous guys to the NFL and for him to say that … it’s a pretty big compliment.”
It was difficult for Darlington, who gets a bit giddy with each offer he’s extended, to contain his enthusiasm for this one.
“It’s quite a big one. I was ecstatic,” said Darlington of his 11th NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer. His other offers are from Virginia Tech, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Minnesota, Arizona, NC State, Boston College, West Virginia and FAU. UCF also quietly offered the 6-foot-2, 210-pounder last week.
“That’s the one I’ve really been working for, Ohio State,” Darlington said. “I’ve gotten so much stronger and faster and when they came down I was just hoping I’d impress them, and I guess I did. In less than 24 hours, Coach Meyer called and offered me.”
Ohio State offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Tim Herman was in Apopka for the Blue Darters first spring practice Wednesday and liked what he saw.
Darlington, who led Apopka to a 13-2 record and the Florida Class 8A state championship last season, brushed off the Tebow comparison.
“Obviously I’m not going to be Tebow,” he said. “All I can do is be the best Zack Darlington I can be and if that’s good enough hopefully one day he’ll compare another kid to me.”
The offer, however, is not something he takes lightly.
“I think it puts them right up there. Obviously it’s a really huge one for me,” Darlington said.
He also said he’s not currently focused on making his college decision anytime soon, but he would like to get the process completed before the Darters open the 2013 season Aug. 24, in a nationally televised showdown at Duncan (S.C) Byrnes High on ESPN.
Darlington, the No. 1-ranked player in the Sentinel’s 2014 Central Florida Super60, has been working hard in the offseason on his speed and strength. He’s gained close to 10 pounds since last season, but more remarkably, he now has his 40-yard-dash times down in the 4.43-second range.
“I’m not gonna lie … the 4.43 kind of jumped out at me,” Darlington said. “I trained for it and I’ve gotten faster and stronger. I ran kind of like a practice 40 and ran a 4.5 and I wasn’t feeling my best. Then a week or two later we ran our team 40s and I ran four different 40s. I had a 4.43 twice, a 4.47 and a 4.45. I was surprised they were so consistent.”
For a player who already ran well, especially as a quarterback, it gives Darlington an added dimension about which teams will need to be concerned.
“I feel so much different in the pocket,” Darlington said. “When I drop back and something breaks down, I’m going and no one can catch me … it feels weird.”
Herman had told Darlington on Wednesday the Buckeyes might have even offered him without seeing him in person, they were so impressed with his film, but the Ohio State staff does not make offers without first meeting the player.
“I think I had a good practice,” Darlington said. “It think he was surprised by my speed and my size. He said a lot of times they’ll be thrown off by a kid’s size from what they were listed on paper, so he was surprised my size was what it was supposed to be.”
Last year, his junior season, Darlington passed for 1,725 yards and 19 touchdowns ran for another 708 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Chris Hays is the Sentinel's recruiting coverage coordinator and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Twitter at @Os_Recruiting and Facebook at Orlando Sentinel Recruiting and now on Pinterest at Orlando Recruiting.
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