Trio receives invites to Elite 11 finals
Cooper Bateman, Malik Zaire and Luke Del Rio latest to earn honor
Malik Zaire expressed disappointment after the Columbus Elite 11 regional on May 4. It's not as if the Archbishop Alter (Kettering, Ohio) junior played poorly -- the Notre Dame commit shined throughout the competition.
But the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior was edged out for a spot in the Elite 11 finals by De La Salle (Warren, Mich.) standout Shane Morris, who took home MVP honors and a ticket to California.
Well, Zaire didn't have to wait long to learn he'd be joining Morris out in Redondo Beach in July. On Friday, Zaire, Luke Del Rio of Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) and Cooper Bateman of Cottonwood (Salt Lake City) were all added to the Elite 11 finals roster.
"It was tough losing to somebody else for a spot that you thought you won," said Zaire of the Columbus regional. "But I'm excited to compete at the actual finals for the No. 1 spot. I'm looking to prove I'm one of the top guys. I want to prove to myself that I can compete with these guys."
Rated the nation's No. 10 dual-threat quarterback by ESPN, Zaire passed for 729 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 1,093 yards and 15 scores last season in a run-oriented offense. But he clearly impressed with his passing ability in Columbus.
Del Rio, the son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, was the surprise star of both the Columbus regional and the Columbus Nike Football Training Camp, and he was named the QB MVP at the NFTC. Del Rio enrolled in Valor Christian in February after throwing for 2,530 yards and 20 touchdowns last season at Episcopal (Jacksonville, Fla.).
"It means everything," said Del Rio, who holds offers from Colorado State and Oregon State. "I've been working my butt off the past two years. I love the advantages that come from my dad, but you end up being a label, 'Oh, you're Jack Del Rio's son,' instead of just Luke Del Rio. I'm proud of being my dad's son, but I don't want to be just a name."
Meanwhile, Bateman impressed at the Dallas Elite 11 regional in March, though he ultimately lost out to DeVante Kincade of Skyline (Dallas) for the MVP award. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder threw for 2,484 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior. He's being recruited by the likes of Auburn, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama, Boise State and BYU and is rated the nation's No. 61 recruit in the ESPN 150.
The selections of Zaire, Del Rio and Bateman brings the list of Elite 11 finalists so far to 10. They'll join Morris, Kincade, Tyrone Swoopes of Whitewright (Texas), J.T. Barrett of Rider (Wichita Falls, Texas), Anthony Jennings of Marietta (Ga.), Kevin Olsen of Wayne Hills (Wayne, N.J.) and Brice Ramsey of Camden County (Kingsland, Ga.).
The next Elite 11 regional will take place in Oakland, Calif., on May 18.
ESPN TOP HEADLINES
- Accuser lawyer blasts Winston investigation
- Fight leads to stabbings after Broncos game
- Packers' Rodgers won't play vs. Cowboys
- Yanks not angry at Cano, 'feel bad for him'