|ESPN.com: 2012||[Print without images]|
NEW YORK -- The beauty of the Elite 11 regional camps is that stats don't matter. Neither do rankings. It's not always the competitor with the best offers or the family pedigree who earns the golden ticket to the Elite 11 finals in Redondo Beach, Calif. In fact, many times it's a fresh face with nothing to lose and everything to prove.
Of course, sometimes a top-rated recruit snags the honor, too.
That was the case at Saturday's New York City Elite 11 regional at Randall's Island Park in Manhattan, where Wayne Hills (Wayne, N.J.) junior Kevin Olsen took home top honors and earned a trip to the competition in July.
Olsen, rated the nation's No. 7 pocket passer and No. 77 overall recruit in the ESPN 150, was the top-rated quarterback at the event and the only signal-caller among the 60 competitors from 17 states and the District of Columbia who boasted an ESPN 150 rating.
Olsen also comes from a family of high football acumen. His brother Greg is a tight end for the Carolina Panthers, his brother Christian was a quarterback at Virginia and his father, Chris, is a successful coach for Wayne Hills.
Kevin Olsen is the fifth athlete to earn an invitation to the Elite 11 finals. Other finalists include Anthony Jennings of Marietta (Ga.), DeVante Kincade of Skyline (Dallas), Tyrone Swoopes of Whiteright (Texas) and J.T. Barrett of Rider (Wichita Falls, Texas).
When coaches at the event called his name as the MVP, Olsen simply grinned. He said he didn't know what else to do.
"There was nothing going through my mind," he said. "I didn't really know how to react. I just said, 'Thanks, Coach.' I couldn't stop smiling after that."
After the announcement, Olsen shrugged off cameramen and reporters to give his mom and dad a hug. He scolded his father for talking on the phone, then took a call from Greg before posing with his new prize in hand -- a ticket to California.
Olsen, who said right now he's considering Wisconsin, South Carolina, Miami and Auburn among a boatload of offers, was pleased with the result but felt he could have done better.
"I think I did OK," said Olsen. "There were some throws I'd like to have back right now, especially in the two-minute drill. But for the most part, I guess I did well enough for them to think that highly of me to bring me to California."
One of those coaches, former Boise State and University of Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins, an Elite 11 coach, praised Olsen, but said there are still areas for improvement.
"He did a nice job," Hawkins said. "You can tell he's very comfortable, and that's his edge. I'm this way with every guy, so don't take this the wrong way, but I think he can still improve. I think he can still improve on his footwork. To me it all comes down to footwork. You just cannot work on that stuff enough."
Still, Hawkins praised his attitude and his ability to make throws under pressure.
"I think it's his moxie," Hawkins said. "He's clearly very comfortable out here."
Mitch has two leaders
Wakefield (Raleigh, N.C.) junior Connor Mitch, who was a finalist at the event, says he is down to two schools in his recruitment.
"My top two right now are LSU and South Carolina," he said.
Mitch, rated the nation's No. 13 pocket passer by ESPN, threw for 3,832 yards and 51 touchdowns in his junior season. He's also been offered by the likes of Alabama, which has been showing him a lot of interest lately.
"I talked to [Nick] Saban yesterday," Mitch said. "He told me that he's very interested, but that he has a process he goes through with quarterbacks and he wants me to come down, I think it's June 3 or 8, and go throw for him. He told me about Phillip Sims transferring and said that was a great opportunity for quarterbacks that are in my class to come in and start right away."
Mitch said that not getting an invitation to the Elite 11 finals might not be such a bad thing.
"It could be a good thing to fuel my fire to get better," he said. "I definitely could have done a couple of things better, a couple of technique things."
Another one of the finalists at the New York City Elite 11 regional, junior Brogan Roback of St. John's (Toledo, Ohio), had nothing but kind words for eventual champion Olsen.
"He's a great player," Roback said. "I'm really happy for him. He and I developed a good relationship out here and I'm sure we'll carry that on going forward. He and I were neck and neck throughout the day, and it was fun being out here and competing against him."
Roback, who has earned offers from Ohio, Bowling Green and Toledo, said he enjoyed his time at the event.
"I'm glad I got out here and competed," he said. "It was fun. I'm glad I got to come out here to New York to experience all of this."
Roback also said he expects to hear from Boston College shortly. He completed 54.1 percent of his passes for 1,645 yards and 14 touchdowns last season, and he threw for better than 2,100 yards and 25 scores in his sophomore season. He's rated the nation's No. 38 pocket passer by ESPN.
While a brisk wind carried on throughout the event, Roback said he was used to it being from Ohio and having dealt with similar conditions while working out at Boston College earlier this week.
"It was windy all week," he said. "It was more windy than this when I was working out for Boston College with 30 mile per hour winds, so today wasn't as bad."
Long way from home
In all, 17 states were represented in this Elite 11 regional. Representatives hailed from states such as Florida, Georgia, Wisconsin, Illinois and South Dakota.
The South Dakota representative, Jakeb Sullivan of St. Thomas More (Rapid City, S.D.), said he enjoyed his opportunity to shine in the Big Apple.
"It's a big city and there were a lot of big kids [here]," he said. "I came out here and wanted to surprise some people."
One of Maryland's top signal-callers, junior Shane Cockerille of Gilman (Baltimore), was an impressive performer at the event. Cockerille, who was one of six finalists, showed great accuracy and an ability to make all the throws, which helped him advance to the finals.
"Throughout this whole day I competed," he said. "I was pretty happy with my performance. I felt good."
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder, who's rated the nation's No. 22 dual-threat QB by ESPN, recently committed to Maryland over Navy, Temple and Michigan. He said having a commitment in tow helped him relax at the Elite 11 regional.
"It's a big relief to know where you're going to be able to come out here and compete and do your best," he said.