Staver brings big hopes to UF

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- The band on Max Staver's wrist would lead you to believe he's a big fan of The Weather Channel.

The inscription -- "68 and breezy" -- certainly sounds like an ideal forecast. Not too hot, not too cool, with a slight wind. Couldn't ask for more perfect weather on a fall afternoon.

Or in a quarterback's head. That's the wristband's main purpose: to remind the Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy quarterback that success only comes when his mind is immersed in those ideal conditions. Nothing -- not his size or big arm or quick release -- is more important than being 68 and breezy in his head.

"What that really means is always staying calm and collected during a game," Staver said after last week's Friday Night Lights at Florida Field. "You've always got to have that perfect temperature in your mind. You can't get too heated. You can't get too off about some stuff. You've got to have a consistent path and always be level-headed."

He certainly proved he can do that off the field. Staver kept his cool over the summer despite watching his top three schools get commitments from quarterbacks, which meant he headed to the Will Muschamp Gators Football camp June 9 with scholarship offers from Mississippi State, Louisville, Memphis, Northern Colorado and Tennessee State.

Two days later, his spot at MSU was gone when the Bulldogs received a commitment from Cord Sandberg (Bradenton, Fla./Manatee).

However, Staver put together an impressive showing in Gainesville and said UF coach Will Muschamp told him he was their No. 1 target at quarterback for 2013 -- but the coaching staff needed to evaluate several other players over the next week before they extended a scholarship offer.

It came June 18 and Staver immediately accepted. Six weeks later, he still can't believe that he went from watching his recruitment seemingly fall apart to landing a spot in a class that ranks No. 3 in ESPN's team rankings.

"To sit back now and think I'm going to the University of Florida and how it all kind of came together is really amazing," Staver said. "How doors open and close -- it's something special."

Watching Staver go through that process was something special to watch, said Will Hewlett, the director of player development at the National Football Academies, where Staver has trained since he was 9 years old. He was 68 and breezy despite the setbacks.

"He actually handled it great," said Hewlett, who has coached more than 40 FBS prospects and quarterbacks over the past four years. "I wasn't surprised [at the way Staver handled it] but I'm surprised any time an 18-year-old kid can handle that kind of pressure.

"He took it pretty cool, calm and collected. He showed maturity beyond his years. I was freaking out more than him."

There could be some defensive coordinators in the SEC doing that in a couple years, Hewlett said, because the Gators have found a quarterback who is similar to Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Staver is big (6-foot-5, 235 pounds), has a strong arm, and has the ability to keep plays alive by moving around in the pocket. And like Roethlisberger, he's hard to bring down and is able to make throws with players hanging on to him, Hewlett said.

"You can't coach size, but there's more than that," said Hewlett, who also worked with walk-on quarterback Christian Provancha while Provancha was at Cocoa Beach (Fla.) High. "There's plenty of 6-5, 6-6 kids out there that never make it. What really separates Max from a quarterback standpoint is his leadership. Beyond that from a skill set, the kid throws the 18-yard comeback like I've never seen before. He's throwing that like college juniors are and beyond. He's got some serious arm strength and his release is probably faster than a guy who's a quicker, smaller guy.

"He's not a dual-threat quarterback, but we teach guys to extend plays in the pocket. He's a big guy. He's not going to take a sack. He does what he has to do with his lower body to put himself in position to succeed."

Provided, of course, it stays 68 and breezy in his head.