Commentary

Trio share MVP honors at Elite 11

Jameis Winston, Tanner Mangum, Neal Burcham prove to be best in show

Originally Published: July 23, 2011
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN Recruiting

MALIBU, Calif. -- The close of the Elite 11 finals brought Trent Dilfer to tears.

Dilfer choked up a few times Friday as he announced the final 11-man group, cut from 24 quarterbacks in attendance this week at Pepperdine University. Head coach at the five-day event, Dilfer, who quarterbacked the Baltimore Ravens to a Super Bowl title in 2001, emphasized the competition was fierce and that every quarterback performed well.

Of the 32 quarterbacks projected to start in the NFL this year, 22 came through the Elite 11 program, Dilfer said, as did four of the top 12 picks in the 2011 NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeElite 11 football
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comThis year's final Elite 11 can only hope to repeat the success of recent groups, four of whom were among the top 12 picks in this year's NFL draft.
"None of these men will be pushed more in the first week of [a college] training camp" than they were in Malibu, he told the participants and their families.

Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala./Huetyown), Neal Burcham (Greenbrier, Ark./Greenbrier) and Tanner Mangum (Eagle, Idaho/Eagle) shared MVP honors among the finalized Elite 11. Here are the others, in order: Jeff Lindquist (Mercer Island, Wash/Mercer Island), Chad Voytik (Cleveland, Tenn./Cleveland), Zach Kline (Danville, CAlif./San Ramon Valley), Shane Dillon (El Cajon, Calif./Christian), Chad Kelly (Buffalo, N.Y./St. Joseph's), Zeke Pike (Fort Mitchell, Ky./Dixie Heights), Bart Houston (Concord, Calif./De La Salle) and Austin Appleby (North Canton, Ohio/Hoover). ESPN will broadcast a pair of one-hour features on the event Aug. 12 and 19.

College QBs/counselors give own awards

The college quarterbacks who worked as counselors in Malibu devised their own list of awards, headlined by a top five of Mangum, Winston, Burcham, Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind./East) and Patton Robinette (Maryville, Tenn./Maryville).

Other counselor honors went to Connor Brewer (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) as the best for any system, Travis Wilson (San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente) for the quickest release, Voytik as the best leader, Kline for the strongest arm, Mangum for the most accurate arm, Appleby as the best in chalk talk, Pike as the most improved, Cyler Miles (Denver/J.K. Mullen) as the most athletic, Grant Rohach (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark) as the most coachable, Winston for best deep ball, Jake Rodrigues (Rocklin, Calif./Whitney) for the best feet, Preston Dewey (Austin, Texas/St. Andrews) for the best touch, Tyler O'Connor (Lima, Ohio/ Central Catholic) as the most poised and Nick Patti (Orlando/Dr. Phillips) as the Doug Flutie award winner.

A sampling of the gag awards: Kiel for wearing the tightest shirt, Robinette as the most likely to cure cancer, and Kelly as the QB who most needs to say "no comment." Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins named Houston as the most likely to experience culture shock in college and get homesick. Houston, from the Bay Area near San Francisco, is pledged to sign with Wisconsin.

If he needs help adjusting to the Midwest next year, Houston can call Cousins, the older quarterback said. Pretty nice for a Big Ten rival.

Mangum stays humble

Mangum has burst onto the national scene with strong showings in Malibu and at The Opening this month in Oregon.

"It's just the same guy getting noticed now," he said after the awards were presented Friday. "I've been working hard to be a good quarterback since I was a kid. It's good to have this hard work pay off for me."

None of it will change his plans to embark on a two-year LDS mission in the summer of 2012 after he graduates from high school. Mangum said he won't know of his destination until shortly before the trip.

"I know that's where I need to go, so none of this changes that," he said. "It obviously makes me excited to get out this year and work for a state championship. But as far as the mission is concerned, I'm still going."

He plans to start his career at Brigham Young in 2014.

Robinette turns WR

The final practice on Friday consisted of two-minute drills led by each quarterback. With a clock on the sideline, down markers and 60 yards of field to navigate, it made for some of the most serious work of the week.

But the quarterbacks had fun with it, too, even filling a few receiver spots for their fellow participants. Robinette snagged an underthrown Appleby pass over a defender to prolong a drive.

"I used to play a lot of receiver before I played quarterback," Robinette said. "This was my first year playing quarterback, so it was fun to get out there and be an athlete like that."

QBs impressed with one of their targets

Brewer and Burcham both threw long TD passes in the two-minute drill to receiver Chris Harper (Encino, Calif./Crespi Carmelite). Though the Elite 11 finals showcase the quarterbacks, Harper, at times during the week, turned the spotlight on himself with an impressive array of catches in seven-on-seven work.

"He's the real deal," Robinette said. "I don't know how he's not been more highly recruited. I have some good receivers, but I wish I had one like that."

Listed at 6-0 with 4.5-second speed over 40 yards, Harper said he has received offers from SMU, Georgia Tech, Cal Poly, UC Davis and Montana.

Numbers don't do justice his performance, which featured several acrobatic catches and a few extraordinary efforts that resulted in near misses. By Friday, the quarterbacks were pitching their college choices to Harper.

"I thought it was a great opportunity to come out here and work out with the best quarterbacks in the nation," Harper said. "Whoever tells their college coaches about me, that's what happens."

Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at mshermanespn@gmail.com.

Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter: @mitchsherman