Matt Barkley of Santa Ana Mater Dei, a starter since his freshman year and the Gatorade national player of the year as a junior, is the choice as the top quarterback in Southern California.
But when he committed to USC on Jan. 23, college recruiters immediately focused on identifying the second-best prospect.
By the end of April, few had mentioned Richard Brehaut of Rancho Cucamonga Los Osos as a viable candidate.
He had two scholarship offers and wasn't considered a national recruit.
Behind the scenes, though, Brehaut was laying the groundwork for a stampede of offers. On Sunday mornings, while others slept, he'd be on the field practicing his footwork and working on his accuracy. After baseball practice during the week, he'd sneak in more football throwing sessions.
When May arrived, Brehaut was ready for a series of combines and workouts that opened the eyes of recruiters.
"Everything exploded," he said.
His scholarship offers quickly rose to 15.
Then came May 22, the day UCLA offensive coordinator Norm Chow drove to the Inland Empire to watch Brehaut during a spring practice. Chow, tutor of Heisman Trophy-winning quarterbacks Ty Detmer, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart, was there to make a final judgment.
Brehaut knew the pressure was on.
"That was an awesome experience," he said. "How many quarterbacks can say they threw in front of Norm Chow? I thought I did real well."
A couple of days later, Chow made a phone call to Brehaut and offered him a scholarship to UCLA. Brehaut quickly accepted. "That was my dream, to play at UCLA," he said. "I remember the things Troy Aikman could do. I want to emulate that and take them back to the top."
Whether the judgment of Chow and first-year UCLA Coach Rick Neuheisel proves correct remains to be seen, but the 6-foot-2, 210-pound Brehaut is entering his senior year ready to build upon his spring and summer success.
"If I keep working hard, what can't I achieve?" he said. "When no one else is working, you have to get better."
After watching Brehaut complete 65% of his passes, throw for 2,248 yards and 22 touchdowns and rush for 556 yards and five touchdowns last season, Los Osos Coach Tom Martinez can't wait to see what his quarterback can accomplish with a stronger arm.
"The first knock was they didn't think he was 6-2, but now he's almost 6-3," Martinez said. "He wants the ball in crunch time. You could tell in the huddle how the kids responded to him as a sophomore. There was a difference when he took over."
Steve Clarkson, a renowned quarterbacks coach, started working with Brehaut this year and already is predicting a bright future.
"I've seen him compete with the best kids," Clarkson said. "He's done it more than one day. He's done it time after time. He's certainly worthy of being considered one of the top quarterbacks coming out. I think he's a tremendous quarterback and has a Sunday-type of future if everything plays out."
For Brehaut to raise his level of excellence in football last spring while also playing catcher for the baseball team and taking Advanced Placement classes in English and history demonstrated an ability to pull off a balancing act while thriving under pressure.
"I knew they were evaluating me," he said. "I had to do my best when coaches came out."
And so Brehaut has his scholarship to the school he always wanted to attend, and he's on course to one day face Barkley in a USC-UCLA game, which will produce the expected talk about who's best.
However, that's for another day.
"You can't worry about the future," he said. "You have to focus on now."
* Next up: running backs.
(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)
How the quarterbacks rank:
1. Matt Barkley, Mater Dei, 6-3, 230, Sr.: Enters fourth year as varsity starter.
2. Richard Brehaut, Los Osos, 6-2, 210, Sr.: Has arm strength and can run.
3. Josh Nunes, Upland, 6-4, 216, Sr.: Has 4.6 GPA, committed to Tennessee.
4. Allan Bridgford, Mission Viejo, 6-4, 215, Sr.: Committed to California.
5. Clark Evans, Los Alamitos, 6-5, 225, Sr.: Committed to Colorado.
6. Brandon Connette, Cor. Santiago, 6-3, 205, Jr.: Top QB prospect in 2010 class.
7. Caleb Herring, Citrus Hill, 6-4, 175, Sr.: UNLV commit passed for 2,418 yards.
8. Corey Nielsen, Gahr, 5-11, 185, Sr.: Region's top passer in 2007 (4,363 yards).
9. Keith Price, St. John Bosco, 6-3, 185, Sr.: Committed to Washington.
10. Cameron Deen, South Hills, 6-3, 190, Sr.: Athletic, smart and makes big plays.
-- Eric Sondheimer