Sunday, June 30, 2013
QBs impress as Elite 11 begins
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Through two days of competition at the Elite 11 finals, Trent Dilfer identified Deshaun Watson (Gainesville, Ga./Gainesville) as among the most impressive of the 18 quarterbacks in attendance at Nike headquarters.
No surprise there, as the Clemson commit is the nation's top-ranked quarterback, No. 15 overall in the ESPN 300.
Texas A&M pledge Kyle Allen (Scottsdale, Ariz./Desert Mountain), the third-ranked pocket-passer QB and 99th overall prospect, also caught Dilfer’s eye.
“[Allen] does a great job of playing in the moment,” said Dilfer, coach of the Elite 11 program and an ESPN analyst. “He used to be really hard on himself.”
Dilfer’s overwhelming message Saturday was this: The whole group was more prepared and more skilled than any other with which he had worked.
DeShaun Watson, the No. 15 player in the country, has impressed Trent Dilfer early on at the Elite 11.
“What you just watched was the greatest two and a half hours of high school quarterbacking that I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I had no idea this could be done with high school quarterbacks.”
The quarterbacks received their playbooks less than three weeks before the event opened Friday. The playbook touches 29 concepts, Dilfer said, with a possibility to create approximately 200 plays.
Essentially, he said, the training mimics an NFL regimen.
“They went out and did stuff that my backups in the NFL couldn’t do,” he said.
Dilfer praised the quarterbacks for their readiness. They showed up for the finals more prepared than ever, in part because of the TV element, he said. For the third consecutive year, ESPN is televising the finals.
“The TV show has changed this thing,” Dilfer said. “They don’t want to come here and be embarrassed.”
The Elite 11 finalists in Beaverton, Ore., will be joined Monday by the non-quarterbacks selected to participate in The Opening. -- Mitch Sherman
Allen, Chryst consistently strong
Coming into the event, Allen was one of the most talked about prospects. The No. 3-ranked quarterback impressed at the Chicago Nike Football Training Camp and earned high praise from Dilfer after his performance.
There were big expectations coming into the Elite 11 for the Texas A&M commit, and he started where he left off in Chicago. He took well to coaching and made some very difficult throws on the day. He was one of the Saturday standouts and has a chance to make his mark on this competition if he continues to perform well.
Allen was joined by No. 1 pocket passer Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) in terms of consistency. Chryst, a new Stanford commit, stands tall at 6-foot-4, 220 pounds and looks every bit of his listed size.
Chryst looks as though he would have a rocket arm and would be a prospect who tries to gun every throw as hard as he can. He displayed great touch and accuracy, though, showing why he is the top dog at his position. -- Tom VanHaaren
Not that anyone who is invited to the Elite 11 is much of a surprise, but there were some under-the radar quarterbacks who threw the ball very well Saturday.
Four-star uncommitted quarterback Sean White (Fort Lauderdale, Fla./University School) drew praise from Dilfer after a solid afternoon showing. Dilfer went as far to say White threw five NFL-caliber passes on the day.
White has offers from Cincinnati, USF, Syracuse, West Virginia and Houston, but if he continues his impressive performance throughout the week, he could see his offer list increase.
Four-star quarterback Kyle Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Berlamine College Prep) also had a strong showing. The Vanderbilt commit drew several compliments from the camp instructors throughout the day.
Purdue quarterback commit David Blough (Carrollton, Texas/Creekview), like White, received high praise from Dilfer.
"He's about as technically sound as you're going to find," Dilfer said of Blough in a Saturday-evening media session.
Purdue fans are hoping Blough will have success similar to that of another former Texas high school quarterback who played at Purdue -- Drew Brees.
Dilfer also noted Cal commit Luke Rubenzer (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro) and Stephen Collier (Leesburg, Ga./Lee Co.) have been the most improved quarterbacks throughout the first two days of drills. -- Derek Tyson
Heard making major strides
Dual-threat quarterback Jerrod Heard has impressed with his accuracy at the Elite 11.
At events such as the Elite 11, dual-threat quarterbacks often struggle because they’re not truly in their element in which they can showcase their running ability. But don’t tell that to Texas commit Jerrod Heard.
When asked who surprised him the most through the first two days of competition, Dilfer was quick to point out Heard, the nation’s No. 5 dual-threat quarterback from Denton (Texas) Guyer.
It’s not that Heard -- who committed to the Longhorns over Arizona State, Baylor, LSU and Nebraska -- doesn’t belong. He is one of the most dynamic run-pass threats in the nation and can take over a game with his big-play ability. It was mainly a surprise that Heard impressed with his passing because the 6-1, 193-pounder struggled with his accuracy at times during the regional competition.
“I was concerned about Jerrod coming in,” Dilfer said. “I didn’t know how he would handle this and the pressure he would be [facing] throwing the ball as much as we ask guys to do. But he was the biggest surprise through the first two days.
“You can tell he really spent some time with his playbook when he got it. He was prepared for about everything we threw at him. You can also tell he has been really working hard on improving his game. He’s greatly improved from when we saw him in Dallas.”
Heard also has taken it upon himself to show he’s not just a spread quarterback.
“He didn’t want to take a single shotgun snap,” Dilfer said. “He wanted to get up under center and show that he’s greatly improved on his drops, footwork and mechanics. That’s the type of thing that you want to see with a competitor. I can’t wait to see how much more improvement he’s got in him. He’s got a big upside.” -- Jeremy Crabtree
No experience? No problem
None of the Elite 11 finalists had more to prove here than Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic), the Oregon commit who has never started a varsity football game, and Alabama pledge David Cornwell (Norman, Okla./North), who has played just one year at the varsity level.
Both have impressed Dilfer. He said Mahalak recognized plays in a classroom setting Saturday faster than any other QB. And that’s a huge part of the quarterbacks’ training at this level. They work to “train the brain” before taking any of the new knowledge out to practice.
As for Cornwell, the No. 2-rated pocket passer and 34th overall prospect, it’s been a mix.
“His best is as good as anybody’s,” Dilfer said. “When he does it right, it’s scary how good he can be.”
But because of his large frame and many moving parts, Dilfer said, the 6-foot-5 Cornwell struggled with consistency and body control. -- Mitch Sherman
More from Dilfer:
He praised recent Georgia commit Jacob Park (Goose Creek, Calif./Stratford) for his versatility and intelligence. “Immensely talented,” Dilfer said, “and he gets stuff.” But Park gets away with mistakes because of his skill level, according to Dilfer, who has encouraged Park to rely less on his athleticism.
Florida commit Will Grier (Davidson, N.C./Davidson Day School), No. 53 in the ESPN 300, might have found a new skill. “He killed yoga,” Dilfer said. “He destroyed yoga. He found his happy place about two minutes in and just dominated.”
No “alpha dog” has distinguished himself in this group, Dilfer said. That’s not to say the quarterbacks are staying quiet or refusing to take on leadership. In fact, Arizona State commit Manny Wilkins (Novato, Calif./San Marin), after the announcement of the finalists, started a group text message that grew too large to confine to a single conversation.
The quarterbacks are back on the field Sunday morning for a workout that will incorporate more complex decision-making. Dilfer and his coaching staff also plan to taper the practices to help the quarterbacks achieve top condition when seven-on-seven play begins Tuesday. -- Mitch Sherman