Elite 11 finals Day 1 recap
Gunner Kiel and Nick Patti stand out, while Neal Burcham is a sleeper to watch
MALIBU, Calif. -- With Day 1 in the books of the new, revamped Elite 11 competition -- which now boasts 24 prospects who will be dwindled down to 11 by midweek -- here is an in-depth look at who impressed the first time out. Whether it was as a junior or now as a senior, these prospects have all participated in an Elite 11 regional camp in order to qualify, so there should not be any surprises in store for them in terms of what is expected out on the field.
In this environment, we look for who can adapt, apply what is taught and consistently place the ball within the strike zone from rep to rep and in each drill circuit. We look for the AAA in quarterbacks -- accuracy, aptitude and athleticism. Start with the feet and work your way up. The challenge of evaluating QBs at such a young age is there are so many unknown variables you can't account for yet. It is like putting together a puzzle and there are a few pieces missing. You think you can make out the picture, but you are not quite sure what you have.
This is exactly why it is not all about physical tools. Much of what you don't know yet is what manifests itself at the next level.
Austin Appleby (North Canton, Ohio/Hoover)
6-foot-4, 225 pounds
Appleby didn't have quite the day he put on when in Columbus, Ohio, back in May, but he is coming along. He is big, looks the part and possesses a strong arm, but must be more consistent on Day 2 with his feet, weight transfer and ball control. The ball can get away from him at times and he may have been pressing to some degree with first-day jitters. He is a pure pocket passer who is capable of making all the throws when he is balanced and utilizes his power source, which is not his arm, but rather his feet and hips.
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Connor Brewer (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral)
6-2, 190 pounds
After seeing Brewer live in a few combine settings, it is clear he is a guy who thrives on being in a competitive form of the game, not just going through drills. While he lacks an elite arm for the downfield passing game, he continues to compensate with timing and anticipation of routes, receivers and where the ball needs to be. He is consistent fundamentally and balanced with his feet, which is why he is an accurate prospect. We feel he may struggle to consistently make the deep vertical throws or tosses that require power to the sideline outside the numbers. However, some guys are gamers and some guys look great in a workout -- Brewer is the former. There is a bit of an "it" factor with him. He rarely missed the strike zone on Monday.
Neal Burcham (Greenbrier, Ark./Greenbrier)
6-2, 175 pounds
If there is a sleeper with huge upside that BCS schools have not done enough background on, it may be Burcham. You can't coach his release and he is smooth, sound and very consistent from the throw-to-throw. He displayed excellent overall touch and zip, and is only going to get bigger and stronger and really fill out. He is exciting because his best football is ahead of him. He had one of the better first-day performances of the entire group. His smooth stroke and accuracy to all levels stood out Monday.
Tyler Cameron (Jupiter, Fla./Jupiter)
6-3, 216 pounds
Cameron looks fantastic on the hoof -- big, strong and well-armed. For a lefty, he displayed high carriage with the ball and did not wind up even when he needed to get some mustard on the ball. He has the tools but needs refinement. Once he gets acclimated to what is asked of him in the drills, expect him to be significantly better by week's end.
Preston Dewey (Austin, Texas/St. Andrews)
6-2, 200 pounds
As expected, Dewey is still ahead of the curve when it comes to working exclusively from under center. He thrives on hitting that fifth step and getting the ball out with little to no wasted motion. He may have been the most sound and consistent player in attendance in regard to his feet, timing and overall accuracy with zip and a smooth, consistent stroke. There is little to no deviation in his methods from throw-to-throw, from the ground up, which is why he is so accurate.
Shane Dillon (El Cajon, Calif./Christian)
6-4, 179 pounds
Dillon is tall, lanky and still growing into his frame. The Colorado commit will show flashes of being a smooth rhythm and timing pocket passer, but not on a consistent basis in terms of ball control. He is a pure pocket guy who is only going to get bigger, stronger and more physically imposing with time in the weight room.
Bart Houston (Concord, Calif./De La Salle)
6-3, 200 pounds
If this kid was in a pass-friendly scheme, he would have far more attention placed on him than he has had to this point. He is big, strong-armed and considering his lack of experience in a sophisticated passing game, has a very good feel for anticipation and ball placement. His footwork is sound away from center as well, but we want to see more consistent accuracy from him on Day 2.
Chad Kelly (Buffalo, N.Y./Saint Joseph's)
6-2, 205 pounds
This environment is all about the passing game, and from the spring to this point, Kelly, one of the better athletes in attendance, has really upped his game. His footwork away from center is light-years ahead of where it was as a junior. On Monday he showed the ability to change ball speeds depending on the throw and was very effective on the move, which is what he is more than comfortable doing.
Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East)
6-3, 215 pounds
Kiel displayed the best combination of arm strength and accuracy on Day 1. He is very polished when working from under center, which is no longer the norm, but now the exception due to the invasion of the shotgun spread offense. His drop speed, setup and balance are sound regardless of depth and the ball comes out tight, compact and fundamentally consistently from rep-to-rep. He can be slightly tense in the upper body with his ball carriage, but is not robotic.
Zach Kline (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley)
6-2, 205 pounds
While we wish Kline did not prop the ball up so high in his carriage, there may not be anyone in attendance who consistently spins the ball as tightly as he does. Many prospects who prop the ball to ear level are "pushers," not passers. Kline is a passer. As we have mentioned in the past, he reminds us of a stronger-armed Jake Heaps with more natural wrist velocity.
Jeff Lindquist (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island)
6-3, 225 pounds
Big and physically imposing, Lindquist can really spin it. We would like to see him on Day 2 throw with a newer ball and get rid of the worn-in ball that feels great, but won't be available to use once he gets on campus at UW. He has a very strong arm and is a strong player overall. He is capable of making all the necessary throws to intermediate deep levels of the field. He will cup the ball slightly in his delivery, but nothing alarming. Overall, he had a consistent first day.
Tanner Mangum (Eagle, Idaho/Eagle)
6-2, 190 pounds
Mangum continues to impress with his calm, cool demeanor and excellent results from throw-to-throw. He is consistent, can work from under center and has a quiet confidence that radiates. He did not have the consistent ball control he showed last week at The Opening, but the accuracy and methods were the same.
Tyler Matthews (McPherson, Kan./McPherson)
6-2, 195 pounds
Matthews looked good on Monday and put on a similar display to the one he showed in Columbus, Ohio, back in May. His release and wrist snap are two of his best traits. His overall accuracy must continue to improve, as this was something we liked about him on tape. He is a good prospect who matched up nicely with the level of competition around him on Day 1.
Cyler Miles (Denver/J.K. Mullen)
6-3, 210 pounds
Physically, Miles looks awesome. He is a bigger version of Kiehl Frazier from the 2011 class. As an athlete, his physical tools are excellent and as we expected to see from what we saw on tape, he is further ahead as a runner than he is as a passer, and this environment is really good for him from a competition standpoint. He has good arm strength and a high, over-the-top delivery. He showed real flashes of being able to hum it when he drives off his back foot and follows through, but he can also aim the ball some and looks indecisive, which may be a result of this foreign environment. We fully expect him to be even better on Day 2.
Tyler O'Connor (Lima, Ohio/Lima Central Catholic)
6-2, 205 pounds
College: Michigan State
This is a great environment for O'Connor, who does not play in a pass-happy scheme, but is going to get so much better this week because he has the physical tools. He looked raw at times and lacked consistent accuracy, but at times looked very impressive with the arm strength and anticipation to make all the throws. He also displayed some ballhandling skills as well.
Nick Patti (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips)
5-10, 185 pounds
College: Boise State
Good things come in small packages, and that is what Patti is all about. He would be a nationally recognized recruit if he were taller. His release and natural wrist snap is his best attribute. Everything he does is quick and he plays with a sense of urgency -- you can't help but like him, and he belonged Monday.
Zeke Pike (Fort Mitchell, Ky./Dixie Heights)
6-4, 233 pounds
It is hard not to like Pike on the hoof; he possesses ideal measurables and a strong arm for the position. This is the fourth time we have seen Pike live and this is also the best performance he has turned in. He appeared more relaxed and comfortable and displayed more consistent accuracy on Monday. Ball control and placement are the keys to his success.
Patton Robinette (Maryville, Tenn./Maryville)
6-4, 200 pounds
College: North Carolina
He is big and strong-armed and really looks good on tape, but there is a lot of room for development here. Robinette can be somewhat methodical in his ball carriage and delivery, but the ball comes out fairly quickly and in the same manner each rep. He has a very nice frame to get bigger and stronger.
Jake Rodrigues (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney)
6-2, 210 pounds
There is no doubt Rodrigues possesses one of the stronger arms of this group of 24 prospects as the ball really jumps off his hand. He is a really good player in a workout setting. He can plant and hit the deep out route with no hesitation and excellent zip. He posted one of the better physical performances of Monday's workout.
Grant Rohach (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark)
6-2, 185 pounds
College: Iowa State
Rohach showed many similar qualities to Burcham, only not quite as consistent. He showed real flashes on Monday of being a guy who is going to be accurate, concise and smooth in his methods. He has good feet and showed some anticipation skills, too. You could see he spent some time taking in the surroundings and seeing how he measured up. On Day 2 we expect him to just let it all out.
Patrick Towles (Fort Thomas, Ky./Highlands)
6-4, 230 pounds
Raw is the best way to describe Towles. His playmaking ability and penchant for keeping plays alive cannot be quantified in this setting, however, this environment gives him a picture of how much he will need to refine and smooth out his mechanics if he wants to be a potent passer, not just a thrower playing street ball. He has the frame, feet and athleticism to flourish in a spread setting.
Chad Voytik (Cleveland, Tenn./Cleveland)
6-0, 195 pounds
Although taller than Patti, but still average in terms of height for the position, Voytik has the goods. He is very similar to former Clemson QB Kyle Parker in many ways in terms of swagger and skill set. Voytik continues to add bulk and strength to his frame and looks the best we have seen of him physically. He has a great stroke and one of the top three or four deliveries in this group.
Travis Wilson (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente)
6-7, 215 pounds
With Norm Chow now leading the offense for Utah, we can see how Wilson fits for the Utes. He's tall with good feet and is a pure drop-back guy who can play from under center. Wilson was a night-and-day improvement from when we saw him in Los Angeles this past spring. We would like to see him relax and loosen up some. He shows a bit of a quirky delivery, but also a compact and quick one. He, too, is a guy who is impressive on tape and can make all the throws you want.
Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala./Hueytown)
6-3, 195 pounds
The more we watch Winston, the more he reminds us of a taller Charlie Ward -- confident, but quiet and mild-mannered. There is so much upside with his frame and the ability to hone and sharpen him fundamentally. He has a smooth, but whip-like delivery that as we noted back in May has tightened up since last year at this time. He has the best combination of arm strength and athleticism in this group.
Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting.
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