Top QBs gear up for Elite 11
From July 20 through 23, some of the top quarterbacks in the nation, including Nick Montana (Oaks Christian, Westlake Village, Calif.) and Jake Heaps (Skyline, Sammamish, Wash.), will get a chance to showcase their talents at Elite 11, a premier quarterback competition for prep athletes. Elite 11 evaluates more than 1,000 quarterbacks annually from ESPN RISE's Nike camp and EA Sports Elite 11 regional camps to determine which are the nation's most outstanding high school quarterbacks.
Fans also can get involved in Elite 11 this year. The four-day, closed-door event now will be open to fans via a dedicated Web site, an interactive online game, a series of webisodes and a one-hour telecast finale on ESPNU. The event's Web site, Elite11.com, launches Monday.
Current NFLers Mark Sanchez (Jets), Matt Cassel (Chiefs), Matthew Stafford (Lions), Josh Freeman (Buccaneers), Troy Smith (Ravens), Vince Young (Titans), Matt Leinart (Cardinals) and JaMarcus Russell (Raiders) all are past Elite 11 participants.
The Elite 11 quarterbacks will compete against each other. Colt McCoy (Texas), Daryll Clark (Penn State), Juice Williams (Illinois), Cody Hawkins (Colorado), Zac Robinson (Oklahoma State) and leading college counselors will be on hand to give them feedback.
Past collegiate counselors also include a host of current NFL players: Drew Brees (Saints), Carson Palmer (Bengals), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Jay Cutler (Bears), Matt Schaub (Texans) and Aaron Rodgers (Packers).
The 2009 Elite 11 quarterbacks:
AUSTIN HINDER, 6-foot-4, 180 lbs., Steamboat Springs (Colo.) Arguably the top quarterback prospect to emerge from Colorado in the past five to 10 years, Hinder is a charismatic gunslinger with great intangibles and leadership qualities who earned honorable mention all-state honors as a junior in 2008. Underrated athletically and throws very well on the move. Still raw as a pocket passer, but has a high ceiling as he continues to fill out his 6-4 frame. He had a solid showing at the Colorado Nike Camp, earning co-MVP honors. He threw for nearly 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns as a sophomore while also rushing for 600 yards and seven scores. He is the first quarterback from Colorado to be selected to the Elite 11 final competition. Hinder committed to Cal in late May over Stanford, Notre Dame, UCLA and others. 2008 Stats: Passed for 1,600 yards and 14 touchdowns with six interceptions while also rushing for 750 yards and 10 touchdowns.
BARRY BRUNETTI, 6-0, 205 lbs., Memphis (Tenn.) University School One of the nation's top dual-threat quarterbacks in the Class of 2010, there isn't much this Memphis native can't do on the football field. Brunetti is blessed with a strong arm and quick release as well as outstanding athletic ability and solid straight-line speed. Still a bit raw mechanically and needs polish, but has a chance to be something special down the road and when plugged into a spread system. Brunetti threw well in drills at both the Athens Nike Camp and EA Sports Elite 11 regional camp. He was a Tennessee Mr. Football finalist in 2008 and earned all-state and all-area honors after leading MUS to the Division II state title. Brunetti committed to West Virginia in June over offers from Tennessee, Penn State, Ole Miss and others. 2008 Stats: 76-of-142 passing for 1,251 yards and 18 touchdowns with just five interceptions. He also rushed 145 times for 704 yards and 18 touchdowns.
BLAKE BELL, 6-6, 210 lbs., Wichita (Kan.) Bishop Carroll Burst on the scene in 2008 in his first year as a starter under center and emerged as one of the Class of 2010's most intriguing QB prospects with his combination of size, passing ability and mobility. Bell led his team to a 9-2 mark last fall, earning all-state and all-metro honors in the process. He is an underrated athlete at 6-6 and the son of a former NFL tight end. He also has great upside as a passer in that he really has just begun to play the quarterback position. He had 376 yards and six touchdowns receiving while playing tight end as a sophomore in 2007. He impressed with his overall makeup and skill set at the Athens EA Sports Elite 11 regional camp in April and is the first prep quarterback from Kansas to be selected to the final Elite 11 in the event's 11-year history. Bell committed to Oklahoma in April over offers from Notre Dame, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Tennessee and many more. 2008 Stats: 255-of-401 passing for 3,240 yards and 37 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 11 games; rushed for 336 yards and 12 touchdowns.
CHANDLER WHITMER, 6-1, 183 lbs., Downers Grove (Ill.) South Whitmer is an accurate passer with a quick release and outstanding work ethic but not a blazer in terms of straight-line speed. However, he has terrific feet in the pocket and the agility to make a first defender miss. He began his high school career in Georgia, where he split time as a freshman before moving to Illinois, where he's passed for 31 touchdowns and just seven interceptions in two years as a starter, leading his team to a 16-4 record. He impressed at both the Orlando EA Sports Elite 11 regional camp and the Champaign Nike Camp, where he earned MVP honors over fellow Elite 11 selections Robert Bolden and Devin Gardner with a consistent and impressive outing. He served as an underclass ball boy at the 2008 Elite 11 and is the fourth QB from Illinois to make the Elite 11. Whitmer committed to Illinois in May over offers from Stanford, Arizona and Iowa State. 2008 Stats: 103-of-184 for 1,494 yards and 13 TDs with four interceptions. Also rushed for three touchdowns in 10 games last fall.
DEVIN GARDNER, 6-4, 198 lbs., Inkster (Mich.) A dynamic dual-threat quarterback who ranks among the nation's best, Gardner emerged as a rising junior when he accounted for nearly 1,500 yards of offense and nine scores in just five games and impressed at the Columbus Nike Camp. He led Inskter all the way to the Division 3 state title game in 2008, earning all-state honors, and then took the basketball team to the state semifinals in the winter. He is a developing passer and dangerous when he pulls the ball down, and is the only Elite 11 selection who both ran and passed for more than 1,000 yards last fall. Gardner had a solid outing this spring at the Champaign Nike Camp and is a hard-worker with a desire to be great. He's the sixth quarterback from Michigan to earn an Elite 11 finals spot and third this year, joined by fellow Detroit-area standout Robert Bolden and Saline's Joe Boisture. He committed to Michigan in March over Michigan State, Notre Dame, Nebraska, West Virginia and a host of others. 2008 Stats: 98-of-170 passing for 1,886 yards and 26 touchdowns with seven interceptions; also rushed for 1,401 yards and 22 scores.
JAKE HEAPS, 6-2, 198 lbs., Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline One of the nation's most polished and prolific pocket passers with superb accuracy and decision-making ability, Heaps is 28-0 in his two-year career as a starter, leading Skyline to back-to-back state titles and earning state offensive player of the year honors last fall as well as EA Sports Junior All-American honors. He is a cerebral passer with great awareness and presence on the field; he knows his reads and gets the ball out very quickly. He has passed for more than 6,000 career yards and 69 touchdowns to this point. Heaps stood out this spring among a deep quarterback group to earn QB MVP honors at the Stanford Nike Camp and is the third quarterback from Washington to be selected to the Elite 11, joining current Washington starter Jake Locker and Seattle Mariner prospect Matt Tuiasosopo. He committed to BYU in early June over Tennessee, Washington, Cal and Notre Dame. 2008 Stats: 203-of-312 passing for 2,910 yards and 38 touchdowns with just four interceptions; seven rushing scores in 14 games.
JESSE SCROGGINS, 6-2, 189 lbs., Lakewood (Calif.) Scroggins is a strong-armed pocket passer who ranks among the best in the Class of 2010. He is a two-time all-Moore League selection at Lakewood High and hopes to help the Lancers overtake traditional power Long Beach Poly in the league this fall. He impressed at the USC Nike Camp with one of the tour's top performances, taking home QB MVP over a deep field of passers, and passed for 1,517 yards and 17 touchdowns with just three interceptions as a sophomore starter in 2007. He is one of the better pure passers in this year's class with a strong, accurate arm, quick release and consistent spin. He is the 30th California QB to make the Elite 11 in its 11 years. He hasn't decided on a college but has narrowed his choices to USC, Florida and Tennessee. 2008 Stats: 179-of-314 passing for 2,565 yards and 23 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
JOE BOISTURE, 6-6, 201 lbs., Saline (Mich.) A poised pocket passer with one of the nation's strongest arms in the Class of 2010, Boister emerged as a rising junior when he impressed at the Oregon EA Sports Elite 11 regional, making the trip all the way from Michigan. He has a terrific combination of size, arm strength and calm demeanor in the face of pressure that could be something special at the next level, and earned QB co-MVP honors at the Colorado Nike Camp this spring and stood out at the Champaign Nike Camp earlier in the tour. He is the fourth quarterback out of Michigan to make the Elite 11 in its 11 years and is part of an outstanding trio of Michigan signal-callers in the Class of 2010 to qualify for this summer's event. He committed to Boston College back in March but withdrew that commitment in June and now is bound for Michigan State. 2008 Stats: Passed for 1,721 yards and 15 touchdowns in 11 games at Goodrich High, helping the Martians to a 10-1 record.
NICK MONTANA, 6-2, 185 lbs., Westlake Village (Calif.) Oaks Christian Montana is an emerging talent with all the tools and intangibles to be a star on the next level. He burst onto the scene last fall at Oaks Christian in his first year as a starter, leading the Lions to a 14-0 record and California Interscholastic Federation section title while earning all-state and all-area honors. He is an underrated athlete, just as his Hall of Fame father, Joe, was, and throws very well on the run and should only get stronger as he continues to physically mature. He impressed at the Berkeley EA Sports Elite 11 regional camp in May, showing good feet and an accurate arm. Montana is the 29th California QB to make the Elite 11 in its 11 years and committed to Washington in early June over offers from Ohio State, Notre Dame, LSU, Stanford, Georgia and many more. 2008 Stats: 133-of-241 passing for 2,404 yards and 33 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. He also rushed for three scores in 14 games.
PHILLIP SIMS, 6-1, 218 lbs., Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith A strong-armed, super-productive pocket passer who should finish his storied prep career as the leading passer in Virginia state history. Sims has been a standout since his freshman year at Oscar Smith, when he threw for 1,700 yards and 16 touchdowns, and enters his senior season with 7,597 career passing yards. He earned EA Sports Junior All-American honors and all-state honors last fall after leading Smith to a 15-0 record, the No. 6 national ranking in the ESPN RISE FAB 50 and the first state title in school history. He passed for more than 3,000 yards and 33 touchdowns as a sophomore as he led the Tigers to a state semifinal spot. Sims impressed at the Virginia Nike Camp, where he showed great consistency and accuracy despite a constant downpour. He is the seventh Virginia QB to make the Elite 11 and committed to Alabama in April over Virginia, Virginia Tech, Georgia, FSU, Tennessee and others. 2008 Stats: Passed for 3,167 yards and 38 touchdowns with just four interceptions in 15 games.
ROBERT BOLDEN, 6-4, 199 lbs., Detroit (Mich.) Saint Mary's Prep Bolden is an athletic signal-caller with emerging passing skills who possesses a wealth of physical tools. He broke out in 2007 as a sophomore starter at one of the top programs in Michigan, accounting for more than 1,500 yards of offense and 14 scores, and has a bright future as he continues to develop. He earned all-area and all-league honors last fall as a junior. He showed well as a rising junior at the '08 Columbus Nike Camp and then impressed this spring at the Champaign Nike Camp, displaying a strong arm and good footwork. Bolden joins fellow Detroit-area quarterback Devin Gardner in the 2009 Elite 11, and the Detroit duo represent only the fourth and fifth QBs from Michigan to ever make the Elite 11. Bolden has committed to Penn State. 2008 Stats: 72-of-113 passing for 951 yards and seven touchdowns; 260 yards and three scores rushing in nine games.
TYLER BRAY, 6-6, 189 lbs., Kingsburg (Calif.) A big-time sleeper out of the Golden State who emerged late in the process, Bray is a strong-armed pocket passer who draws favorable comparisons to former NFL standout Drew Bledsoe. He throws a great deep ball and has outstanding feet for a quarterback of his height. He is a small-school, three-sport star who really has a chance to be something as he begins to focus 100 percent on football in college. He was an all-area and all-league MVP selection last fall as a junior, and impressed everyone at the final EA Sports Elite 11 regional in Las Vegas with his strong arm and quick release. He also showed well at the Stanford Nike Camp, despite pitching the night before. He is the 28th quarterback from California to be selected to the Elite 11 in the event's 11 years. A new name on the recruiting radar, Bray currently holds offers from Fresno State and San Diego State but should have his choice of schools later in the process. 2008 Stats: 155-of-297 passing for 2,624 yards and 26 touchdowns with 10 interceptions, as well as four rushing scores while leading Kingsburg to an 11-2 record.
Note: Paul Jones of Pittsburgh (Pa.) Sto-Rox High School was selected to the 2009 Elite 11 but cannot attend due to an ankle injury suffered in early July.