Vegas hosts last Elite 11 regional
Top-ranked QB Christian Hackenberg among those set to compete
There's just one final chance for the nation's top quarterbacks to earn a berth in the Elite 11 finals, and the challengers will do so under the backdrop of the Las Vegas skyline on Saturday.
The final regional competition is sure to be hotly contested as chances are quickly dwindling for athletes to prove their mettle and show the skills needed to take on the nation's top signal-callers.
So far 11 QBs have made the final cut. Following Saturday's MVP announcement, another 12 will be named to the final competition in a televised show, The Elite 11 Selection Special, which will air on June 21 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPNU.
The nation's No. 1 quarterback in the ESPN 150 will be in attendance, and he's viewed by many as the odds-on favorite to cop the final invitation. Christian Hackenberg of Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, Va.), rated the nation's No. 10 overall recruit in the ESPN 150, has had his sights set on earning a spot in the finals for quite some time.
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.
"I think that the intensity that coach (Trent) Dilfer brings to the situation is great and how he puts quarterbacks in awkward situations under a lot of pressure," Hackenberg told ESPNHS back in March. "It makes you better, and clearly you are a top quarterback if you make it out there, but I really look forward to being tested and pushing my game to improve."
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Hackenberg, who has committed to Penn State, completed 50 percent of his passes last season for 2,164 yards and 20 touchdowns despite his team's 4-6 record.
Hackenberg may be the most high-profile quarterback scheduled to attend the event, but there are plenty of other outstanding signal-callers vying to unseat him and claim a spot in California.
Troy Williams of Narbonne (Harbor City, Calif.), rated the nation's No. 5 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 178 recruit in the ESPN 300, will also be looking for a spot in the Elite 11 finals. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Williams considers himself a pass-first QB, and the numbers certainly reflect that -- he tossed for 3,247 yards and 34 touchdowns while running for 587 yards and 11 more scores last fall.
Williams said he's looking forward to the challenge of the Elite 11 event.
"I'm excited," he said. "I saw a lot of it on TV last year, and I want to be that guy on TV this year and show everyone my promise. It's a lot of good competition. You're going against the best quarterbacks in the nation, and I want to show up and represent."
Williams committed to Washington earlier this month.
Hackenberg and Williams will headline the event, but there are signal-callers who may emerge as sleeper candidates. One of them is Davis Webb, a Texas Tech recruit. Listed at a towering 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, the Prosper (Texas) junior threw for 2,199 yards and 23 scores this past fall. He helped the Eagles to a 9-3 record and a berth in the UIL 3A Division 2 playoffs.
Another talented signal-caller expected to be in attendance is Trent Hosick of Staley (Kansas City, Mo.). Hosick came out of nowhere this past fall to lead his Falcons to an undefeated record and a Class 5 state championship. The 6-foot-1, 217-pounder threw for 1,422 yards and 10 touchdowns, but he really made his mark on the ground by rushing for 2,403 yards and 31 scores.
And as if that wasn't enough, the Missouri recruit also won a heavyweight state title in wrestling, going 29-0 in the process.
"What I hope to show at the camp is that I am one of the top throwing quarterbacks in the country," he said. "I have confidence in that. Our offense doesn't always showcase that, and that's fine because we won a state title, which is most important. But whatever doubts people had about me throwing, I plan on changing them and making them say, 'Wow, this kid is a great thrower.'"
Shane Cockerille is another athlete with a great arm but the ability to make plays outside the pocket as well. The Gilman (Baltimore) quarterback and Maryland commit checks in at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds. Cockerille made the finals of the Elite 11 regional in New York back in April.
In the fall, Cockerille helped his team finish 10-1 and win the MIAA A Conference title. He threw for 1,100 yards and piled up 1,300 more on the ground, scoring a total of 26 times.
"It's special to have that opportunity to get my name out there (at the regional events)," Cockerille said. "All the coaches at these events have really helped me."
Fellow junior Zack Greenlee of Lincoln (Stockton, Calif.) has similar hopes to get his name out there. After all, the talented 6-foot-2, 187-pound QB has yet to field an offer despite a tremendous fall in which he threw for 2,340 yards and 22 touchdowns, completing 59 percent of his passes.
"It would mean a lot (to get a finals invite)," Greenlee said. "I've been working all summer to get there. That has been my goal since my sophomore year, and I'm looking forward to it. I just have to show the coaches that I can continue to keep competing."
Make sure to catch The Elite 11 Selection Special live, airing June 21 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPNU.