Saturday, May 18, 2013
Lessons Learned: San Francisco Elite 11
By Erik McKinney
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The penultimate Elite 11 Regional brought some of the West region’s top quarterbacks out to the San Francisco 49ers practice facility on Friday evening. Though no quarterback earned MVP honors or walked away with an invitation to the Elite 11 Finals, RecruitingNation learned plenty about those in attendance.
Until Friday evening, ESPN 150 quarterback Keller Chryst (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto) had been neither seen nor heard this spring in as large a setting as the Elite 11 provided. Chryst doesn’t participate in 7-on-7 tournaments and spends even less time speaking with the media, so Friday provided Chryst with an opportunity to make a statement, and he delivered. Though the 6-foot-4, 225-pound quarterback wasn’t completely pleased with his day, it was easy to see why several top programs have made him a priority in this class. Chryst was one of eight quarterbacks selected to compete in the final pressure-cooker drill and said after the camp that Alabama, Pittsburgh, Stanford and USC are the four schools he is focused on at the present, though he has no plans for which summer camps he will attend or when he will make a final decision.
Northern California quarterbacks defend their turf
In addition to Chryst, it was a strong showing by the regional quarterbacks. California is always a strong state for signal-callers, but Friday went a long way toward proving that the strength of the class in state could be up north. Of the eight quarterbacks selected for the final drill, five made the short trip to the event, including Chryst, K.J. Carta-Samuels (San Jose, Calif./Bellarmine Prep), Manny Wilkins (San Marin, Calif./Novato), Keaton Dunsford (Santa Rosa, Calif./Cardinal Newman) and Morgan Mahalak (Kentfield, Calif./Marin Catholic).
“We get the credit, but I think there’s always something to prove,” Wilkins said of the impressive performances.
The three quarterbacks to round out the final eight were Brad Kaaya (West Hills, Calif./Chaminade), Cade Apsay (Canyon Country, Calif./Canyon) and Curtis Ladd (McKinney, Texas/McKinney Boyd).
Speaking of Mahalak, a verbal commitment to Oregon, there aren’t many quarterbacks at these Elite 11 regionals who are slotted with the first group despite never having started a varsity football game at that position. But the fact that Mahalak was, and was more than capable of holding his own in an extremely strong group, shows what a good job Ducks head coach Mark Helfich did in identifying Mahalak while recruiting his former teammate and 2013 Cal signee, Jared Goff. Mahalak was impressive throughout the day and didn’t have any trouble standing up to the scrutiny that comes with being a BCS commitment at this stage.
If the 2014 crop of California quarterbacks is stronger up north, the 2015 group down south will have an opportunity to quickly even things out. No sophomore was called upon to perform in the final drill, but three of Southern California’s best were on display in Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) and Tyler Hilinski (Upland, Calif./Upland).
Not to be outdone, a couple of even younger quarterbacks showed they will be players to watch over the next few years. Dakota Miller (Tempe, Ariz./Marcos De Niza) is a 2016 lefty who put together a great Elite 11. And Lindell Stone (Southlake, Texas/Carroll), a 2017 quarterback who wasn’t shy about standing out with bright yellow shoes and neon green shorts, held his own with the older quarterbacks.
No push to commit for quarterbacks
With so much fanfare surrounding quarterback commitments and the fact that each school seldom takes more than one in each class, it can often feel like there is extra pressure on quarterbacks to find their school quickly and commit early. But several in attendance said that isn’t the case.
Kaaya, who recently committed to Miami, said part of the draw to committing early as a quarterback is to help recruit the rest of the class, but that’s not the reason he committed early.
“I actually wanted to commit right off the bat when they offered,” Kaaya said, adding that it was more about when the offer came rather than holding himself to a sped-up timeline. “That is a school I’ve paid attention to for a long time.”
Rosen, a 2015 quarterback with early offers from Akron, Fresno State, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, had a similar view, though he admitted that there is still some extenuating circumstances to the position.
“I think it all depends on the person,” he said. “The issue with quarterbacks is there’s only one on a team. But it’s not as much how early you commit, it’s once one does, then the others fall into place. I think it’s all predicated on who commits first and where to. But it all varies from class to class and person to person.”
Rosen said he’ll have his eyes on his fellow class of 2015 members, but added that with the confidence in his ability to beat out any other quarterback, he won’t let someone else’s decision affect his own.
“I’m definitely going to pick the school where I’m happy to get up from my dorm and say, ‘I’m happy I go to blank university,” he said.