Elite 11 Finals: What to watch for

Competitors ready for a grueling test to find the nation's top QBs

Updated: July 19, 2012, 2:10 PM ET
By Christopher Parish | ESPNHS.com

Throughout this spring, more than 300 Class of 2013 high school quarterbacks competed in Elite 11 regional events across the country. They traveled to Dallas and Atlanta, New York and Columbus, Oakland and Las Vegas, all with the hope of being considered the top high school quarterback in the country.

In doing so, they joined a prestigious list of quarterbacks who have taken part in an Elite 11 competition. The event, dating back to 1999, has evaluated thousands of quarterbacks and sent dozens of signal-callers to Southern California for the Elite 11 finals.

It's a list that includes current NFL signal-callers such as Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, Matt Cassel, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman, Vince Young, Jake Locker and Tim Tebow. Plenty more are sure to follow. And this year's class of 25 hopefuls, who earned a spot in the finals based on their performances at the regional camps, will look to eventually join their predecessors in the pros.

A strong performance at the Elite 11 finals, which begins Wednesday in Redondo Beach, Calif., will be a good first step. The finals will be later shown on ESPN in two parts, with the first show airing on Aug. 7 and the second on Aug. 14 (both 7 p.m. ET).

The competition is usually a great starting point for colleges that want to land the quarterback prospect who can take them to big things at the next level. But this season, 24 of the 25 Elite 11 finalists have already committed to colleges. Only one -- Zack Greenlee -- remains undecided. Greenlee, who won the Las Vegas Elite 11 regional, didn't have an offer until late June (from Fresno State, which is still his only offer). Other colleges will surely be watching closely.

But even if the overwhelming majority of athletes don't need to worry about wowing coaches, there's still plenty on the line in what is the final tuneup for many of them before the high school football season begins next month.

This summer, the competitors will be tested in a variety of ways with drills that measure footwork, arm strength, accuracy, touch and instincts. The athletes will compete in 7-on-7 competitions and two-minute drills.

It's not just on-field ability, either. Athletes will be graded on video sessions and play recognition. ESPN analyst and former Super Bowl-winning QB Trent Dilfer, who serves as the event's head instructor, sent out a playbook to each competitor before the event began. The book contains plays that Dilfer will call out during practices. Knowledge of the playbook and the ability to execute those plays on the fly is a major component of the camp.

Through the event, some of the athletes are ranked on a list for everyone to see, so everyone knows where they stand. It's a stark reminder that this isn't just an informational session. It's a competition to determine which quarterbacks are the best in the country. From the time the quarterbacks arrive on Tuesday afternoon until the final decision is made on Sunday evening, they're being evaluated on everything.

These athletes will be learning from the best, too. In addition to Dilfer, several other high-profile college QBs will be on hand to help guide the high school athletes through the drills, offering advice on everything from footwork to release points to mental makeup.

This year's class of counselors includes Matt Barkley of USC, Garrett Gilbert of SMU, Mike Glennon of NC State, E.J. Manuel of Florida State, Aaron Murray of Georgia and Geno Smith of West Virginia.