As a junior, quarterback Matt Alviti led Maine South to the Class 8A championship.
As a senior, quarterback Aaron Bailey led Bolingbrook to the Class 8A championship.
Alviti is a better passer.
Bailey is a better runner.
Alviti is smarter.
Bailey is bigger, faster and a better all-around athlete.
Alviti is committed to Northwestern.
Bailey is committed to Illinois.
Both run a spread offense.
Who is better? Who will have a better college career?
"It's like comparing apples and oranges," said recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network. "The one who will excel is the one who gets a chance to play at his own pace, who is able to utilize his talents more."
For example, will Northwestern allow Alviti to be Alviti? Will Illinois allow Bailey to be Bailey.
"Remember Juice Williams at Illinois?" Lemming said. "He had the strongest arm in the country. Williams played right away but he wasn't ready. He had a rocket for an arm but he didn't improve over four years because he was put into the fire too early. There was always pressure to perform. He wasn't fully developed when he was thrown into the fire. He was asked to do to much too early."
Lemming also reminds that Williams came out of Chicago Vocational at the same time that the more highly touted Demetrius Jones came out of Morgan Park. Jones was 6-foot-4 with great potential. He needed time to develop as a passer in a pro-style offense but, like Williams, he had no patience. He committed to Notre Dame but wanted to play right away. He transferred to Cincinnati and was switched to linebacker, then transferred to Division II Central State and became a wide receiver and tight end. He is still hoping to play in the NFL.
"Alviti already is a passer," Lemming said. "But the best thing for any freshman quarterback is to red-shirt and get acclimated to the program and the campus, not thrown into the mix right away.
"But sometimes egos get in the way. Some kids want to start right away. Peyton Manning was ready. But not too many others are. They need a year or two to develop. Terrelle Pryor was thrown into the mix at Ohio State because he insisted on it and he never got better. But Cam Newton was given time to develop."
Maine South offensive coordinator Charlie Bliss said Alviti is the best passer he has produced in nearly 20 years, better than John Schnake, Tony Wnek, Shawn Kain, Sean Price, Tyler Knight, Charlie Goro and Tyler Benz.
Schnake led Maine South to a state championship in 1995. Price set several state passing records. Price and Goro were All-Staters. But none of them stood out at the college level.
Illinois has never been known as a state that produces outstanding high school quarterbacks. In the last 50 years, dating to Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke and Alex Agase and George Connor and Dave Butz and Mike Kenn and Clay Matthews, it has built a reputation for developing offensive linemen and linebackers.
Oh, there have been some gifted running backs along the way...Red Grange, Tony Canadeo, Buddy Young, Johnny Karras, Jim Grabowski, Billy Marek, Mike Alstott and Rashard Mendenhall to name a few. And who can forget Pete Pihos, Fritz Pollard and Kellen Winslow, all NFL Hall of Famers?
But quarterback? Otto Graham was the gold standard, of course, one of the best of all time.
Some of the best were Wheaton North's Chuck Long, a three-time All-Big 10 selection at Iowa who was runnerup to Bo Jackson for the 1985 Heisman Trophy and has been inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame; Mount Carmel's Donovan McNabb; and Mike Tomczak, who went from Thornton Fractional North to Ohio State to the Chicago Bears. Ironically, Tomczak edged Long for Player of the Year recognition in the Chicago area in 1980.
Some had good college careers...Tim Brasic, Brett Basanez, Kent Graham, Mark Carlson, Rich Weiss. Others disappeared...Ken Ferguson, Jeff Stewart, Jeff Lesniewicz, Tim Lavery, Mark Floersch, Jordan Tassio, Brad Bower, Quincy Woods, Mike Kerrigan, Corey and Casey Paus, Russ Rein, Jim Bennett.
Finally, Sean Payton, who was an All-Chicago Area quarterback at Naperville Central in 1981, might not have gone on to stardom as a college and professional athlete. But he has done very well as head coach of the New Orleans Saints in the NFL.