High-SchoolFootball: North Carolina

Elite 11 Watch: Butler star Riley Ferguson

January, 20, 2012
Riley FergusonTom Hauck/ESPNHSButler (Matthews, N.C.) junior quarterback Riley Ferguson shined at last year's Elite 11 regionals.
Throughout this offseason, we’ll spotlight Class of 2013 quarterbacks who have a shot at making the Elite 11 finals in July. Last week we profiled future Wolverine Shane Morris. This week we profile Butler (Matthews, N.C.) standout Riley Ferguson.

While holding his own at the Champion Gridiron Kings in Florida last summer, Riley Ferguson made it clear where he hopes to be this July, saying "hopefully I will be at Elite 11 next year." The junior, who already has two 4AA state championships under his belt, made a strong case for an invitation this past season, throwing for 3,345 yards and 48 touchdowns. Ferguson took time to talk to us about the bad taste from his first playoff loss as well his strong desire to make the Elite 11 finals.

ESPNHS: After winning the last two state titles, this past season began and ended with rare losses. What's your take on why things played out like they did?
Ferguson: When we lost at the beginning of the season, I took it kind of hard because it was the first time I'd lost since being in high school. But everybody takes losses, so I thought we'd focus and come back stronger, and that's what we did. When we got to Page (Greensboro, N.C.) [in the 4AA quarterfinals], I think some of us were thinking it would be a cakewalk in the playoffs instead of having to work for it. And we ended up paying for it.

ESPNHS: How much does last season's outcome motivate you for your senior season?
Ferguson: It'll motivate me more than anything. Taking two losses in one season killed me. Last year was also the last time I will play with my brother Zach, so that hurt. But I'm just going to go hard and play for our team to get back on top.

ESPNHS: Do you think there will be the same target on your back next season even though you guys aren't the defending champs?
Ferguson: Of course we'll still have the target because of our program's history and all of the top prospects we have. But I don't like seeing it us as just a bunch of star players. I think of us as being a team and winning together. As long as we remember that and play together, we can overcome that target.

ESPNHS: After you finish playing basketball, what are some things you will work on in the offseason?
Ferguson: I need to get in the weight room and work on my strength. I also want to do a bunch of agility stuff. Pretty much, I'll be working on everything because you can always get better and there's always something to work on.

ESPNHS: What was the experience like to compete at the Elite 11 regionals last summer?
Ferguson: It helped a lot because it was invitation-only, so everybody there was a good quarterback and the best from their area. I talked to a lot of other quarterbacks and learned some good things from the experience. Going to the NFTC [Nike Football Training Camp] was a real challenge and helpful for me, too.

ESPNHS: If you are invited to the national Elite 11 competition, what would you hope to gain from the experience?
Ferguson: Oh man, it would be unbelievable to get invited there. It's an amazing opportunity to go to California and be in that atmosphere with great quarterbacks and coaches. I hear that NFL and college players are there, too, so I would be real excited to learn from them.

ESPNHS: You recently received some new offers from school. How many offers do you have and who are your favorites?
Ferguson: I've got offers from Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Louisville, Maryland and Notre Dame. At this point, I'm accepting all offers and it'll come down to whichever school feels the best. I haven't really narrowed the list down; I might do that sometime this summer. But whenever I feel like I've found the right school, which could be in the summer or fall or anytime, that's when I'll make my decision.

School: Butler (Matthews, N.C.)
Position: QB
Class: 2013
2011 Team Record: 11-2 (Lost in Class 4AA quarterfinal)

2011 Stats
Completions-Attempts: 184-279 (.659)
Yards: 3,345
TD: 48
INT: 8

Brandon Parker covers high school sports for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at brandon.c.parker@espn.com.

The Huddle: Finding the right fit for college

November, 21, 2011
The huddle is a sacred place in football, one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Senior quarterback Patton Robinette of Maryville (Maryville, Tenn.) discusses how he navigated the complicated recruiting process. A 6-foot-6, 205-pounder, Robinette chose the University of North Carolina over scholarship offers from Cincinnati, Memphis, Northwestern, Purdue, Southern Mississippi and the University of Central Florida.

The signal-caller led Maryville to last year's Class 6A state title with a mark of 14-1, and through 13 games his Rebels haven’t lost and are the No. 20 team in this week's POWERADE FAB 50 ESPNHS Team Rankings.

Finding the right fit for both a program and the college experience was paramount to Robinette. As far as electing to attend North Carolina?

"Three things did it for me," said Robinette, “the overall feel, the academics and the atmosphere."

"At the end of the day, if you don't like the feel of the place that you're going or the campus, the coaching staff and the people that you meet there, then it's just not going to work," he added. "You've got to go to the campus and be around the players. Make sure to visit classes and try to go through the college experience in its entirety to feel what's best for you."

Robinette is considering a major in the medical field. "Probably chemistry, and that fit really well with me, because I think North Carolina has a medical program that is ranked No. 4 in the nation," he said. "They do a lot of research medicine and sports medicine and those are things that I'm very interested in. That really appealed to me, because football is going to end sometime, and you need something to fall back on. There is nothing better to fall back on than a great degree from a top quality school."

Robinette also felt at ease with his campus surroundings at North Carolina, from the campus size to its general facilities and his teammates.

"You've got to like the people who are on the team and to get along with them and be able to interact with them positively," said Robinette. "Also, there are the guys who are coming in with you, so you've got to have a positive relationship with them as well."

Of course, none of that would have mattered to Robinette if he didn't feel as if he could contribute on the field.

"They do a lot of Pro-Style stuff with progression reads, and that appealed to me and the ball-control aspect of it," said Robinette. "North Carolina hasn't really been known for football for a while. It’s always been a basketball school. But they've started to move things in the right direction and they're not a program that you can overlook."

ROLE MODEL: Peyton Manning, Indianapolis Colts "I've seen all the things that he's done for the University of Tennessee. That's all people talk about around here is what he's done. He puts his offense into the correct calls and knows how to make plays. He's definitely someone to look up to."

The Huddle: Composure and confidence

October, 10, 2011
The huddle is a sacred place in football; one where the team and game are the only things that count. We’re going inside the huddle by talking to football players on the POWERADE FAB 50 teams to find out their most valuable lessons learned -- on or off the field -- that contribute to their success.

Junior quarterback Riley Ferguson of No. 36 FAB 50 team Butler (Matthews, N.C.) discusses maintaining composure, poise and humility as a team leader. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has scholarship offers from Clemson, Louisville, LSU, Michigan and Virginia Tech, and has drawn interest from Alabama, Arkansas, California, East Carolina, Miami, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

Ferguson guided last year's Bulldogs through a Class 4AA state title-winning, 16-0 season, totaling nearly 3,000 yards in the air and passing for 24 touchdowns.

Already this year, Ferguson has tied last year's mark for touchdown passes with 24 to go with nearly 1,500 yards in the air and two rushing scores, pacing the Bulldogs to victories in their past five games after having lost their season-opener.

But even with those gaudy achievements on his resume, Ferguson realizes that his ability to deal with the pressures of being the focal point of the program are critical both to himself and his teammates.

"When it comes to leading the team, everybody needs somebody they can focus on and count on to remain under control," said Ferguson. "Your response has to be composed. Composure can be can be anything from throwing the big touchdown to staying calm under pressure to making sure that the team is under control in tough situations."

Ferguson's attitude was a critical component following the Bulldogs' loss in their first game of the year.

"When we lost our first game, everybody was hurt by that. I looked at it as a loss, accepted it, and then tried to get everyone ready for the next week. It's about being a good example when everybody else is looking at you," said Ferguson.

"So you can never get too down, too excited or too nervous," said Ferguson. "They need somebody to look up to. That's probably one of the biggest things that I try to represent to my team. I think that's what helped us to move on from that first loss."

ROLE MODEL: Brett Favre "I like everything about the way Brett Favre plays. I've watched him ever since I was like a 4-year-old. He extends plays and he's one of the toughest quarterbacks to every play the game."