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.)
2011 Team Record: 11-2 (Lost in Class 4AA quarterfinal)
Completions-Attempts: 184-279 (.659)
Brandon Parker covers high school sports for ESPNHS magazine and ESPNHS.com. Follow him on Twitter @brandoncparker or email him at email@example.com.