Elite 11 kicks off at Cowboys Stadium
Eight ESPNU 150 Watch List QBs to take part in first Elite 11 regional
The road to becoming the nation's top quarterback begins Saturday in Arlington, Texas, when the first Elite 11 regional of the 2012 season takes place at Cowboys Stadium.
ELITE 11 PRIMER
Tom Luginbill, ESPN's national director of football recruiting, on the Elite 11 regionals:
Why they matter
Events such as these help under-the-radar prospects more than anyone else, especially if they have a good showing, because it likely will lead to instant online exposure.
Why you should pay attention
High-profile prospects competing against one another can give you a pretty good barometer on whether the early recruiting offers and hype are warranted. This event provides a showcase for the top prospects and a chance for under-the-radar passers to develop and get better at the fundamentals and mechanics of the position.
What he looks for
For evaluators, it's about the eye test in terms of measurables: Is a guy as tall as he says, and does he weigh as much as he says? I spend a ton of time studying feet and release mechanics. It's all about feet; it's the essence of accuracy. I want to see whether the guys who spend all their time in the shotgun can take a three-step or five-step drop and get the ball out. You'd be stunned by how many can't. Often, arm strength is the last thing I'm concerned about.
Now in its 14th year, Elite 11 is the nation's pre-eminent quarterback competition. Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck and Tim Tebow are just some of the quarterbacks who've participated in the event.
The Dallas regional is the first of six Elite 11 regionals. Top performers in the regionals will earn a spot in the Elite 11 finals this July in California.
And there will be plenty of star power on hand in Dallas -- eight of the 31 signal-callers on the ESPNU 150 Watch List are scheduled to participate.
Leading the way is De La Salle (Warren, Mich.) star Shane Morris, who shined at last year's Elite 11 regional in Columbus, Ohio. A Michigan commit, Morris threw for 1,684 yards and 16 touchdowns and ran for another six TDs as a junior.
Once his junior season ended, Morris started working on the fundamentals, from three- and five-step drops to even how he hands the ball off to the running back. The 6-foot-3 190-pounder is leaving nothing to chance to make sure his Elite 11 experience will be a memorable one.
"I'm looking forward to just going out and competing with some of the best QBs in the nation," Morris said. "I'm really excited to work with some of the great QB coaches they have on the Elite 11 staff. What I'm looking to prove is that I can go out and compete with the best and prove that I am the No. 1 QB in the nation."
Morris certainly will have plenty of talent to compete against on Saturday. The other Watch List quarterbacks making the trip to Cowboys Stadium are: Cooper Bateman of Cottonwood (Salt Lake City); Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright (Texas); Kohl Stewart of St. Pius X (Houston); J.T. Barrett of Rider (Wichita Falls, Texas); Anu Solomon of Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas); Austin Allen of Fayetteville (Ark.); and Chris Johnson of Bryan (Texas).
Swoopes, who is committed to Texas, passed for 1,394 yards and 15 touchdowns and rushed for 2,267 yards and 27 TDs this past fall. Stewart, a Texas A&M pledge, aired it out for 3,167 yards and 30 TDs. And Bateman, who has offers from the likes of Florida, Arkansas and Auburn, threw for 2,484 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Allen -- who has offers from Arkansas, Ole Miss, North Carolina and South Florida, among others -- tossed a touchdown pass and the game-winning two-point conversion in overtime to lift Fayetteville to an upset win over Bentonville (Ark.) in the Class 7A state championship.
Meanwhile, Solomon threw for 41 touchdowns and just two picks on the season while guiding Gorman to a state crown and the No. 8 ranking in the POWERADE FAB 50. Arizona, Colorado, Illinois and UNLV have proffered offers to the 6-1 205-pounder.
Overall, the Lone Star State will be well represented at the event. Besides Swoopes, Stewart, Barrett and Johnson, who's a Baylor commit, there's also Kenny Hill of Southlake Carroll (Southlake, Texas), DeVante Kincade of Skyline (Dallas) and Baker Mayfield of Lake Travis (Austin, Texas).
Barrett accounted for 3,119 yards and 23 touchdowns as a junior, and Johnson shared quarterback duties at Bryan and scored 12 total touchdowns.
Hill, who holds offers from Baylor, Texas A&M, TCU, Texas Tech and Ole Miss, lifted Southlake Carroll to the Class 5A, Division I, state title and the No. 6 final ranking in the FAB 50. He accounted for 345 total yards and four touchdowns in the state championship.
Kincade completed 70.7 percent of his passes this season for 3,270 yards and 32 touchdowns and fell to Hill's squad in the state semifinals. He has gotten offers from Notre Dame, Kansas State, Illinois and Colorado.
Meanwhile, Mayfield, who has an offer from Rice, passed for 3,788 yards and 45 touchdowns and ran for 754 yards and 10 TDs to lead Lake Travis to its state-record fifth consecutive state title.
So, there will be plenty of bragging rights on the line with the Texas quarterbacks for who's the state's best signal-caller.
"I love to compete," said Barrett, who has offers from schools such as Texas Tech, Nebraska, Baylor, Ohio State and LSU. "And knowing those guys are going to be there -- that's definitely motivation."