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Elite 11: Day Three

I initially wasn’t going to write a Day 3 recap of my amateur observations at the Nike/ESPN Elite 11 (HS QB camp) finals, but then I realized a lot happened, so it’d be wise to make people a little dumber for having spent six minutes reading The Solid Verbal.

• The day started with me receiving a text (while driving around cliffs in Malibu Canyon) that the morning workout session would be held across the street from Pepperdine at some park that overlooked the Pacific Ocean. This was fine, other than the fact that it was a foggy Malibu morning and if an errant cargo ship or battlecruiser misread a map or didn’t hear a foghorn, multiple ESPNU 150 QBs would’ve been in obvious danger.

The morning session was highlighted by QBs going through drills — first the college guys, then the Elite campers. Former Jets QB Ken O’Brien ran an Eliminator-type drill that had a sole purpose of weeding out the future asthmatics in the bunch. Florida State QB E.J. Manuel went down (just got really tired) and Boise State QB Kellen Moore looked like he could’ve gone twice more. Take that for what it’s worth.

The other notable drill was the group throwing various routes to receivers on an open 40 yard area of the field. Not surprisingly, most of the college guys (Cousins, Manuel, Lindley, Weeden) were breaking the hand bones of innocent 10th graders running 12 yard comebacks, guest staff member and Kansas City Chiefs QB Matt Cassel may have shattered four and a half sternums, Kellen Moore threw perfect pillowy-soft balls wherever he wanted, and the high school guys mainly looked pretty good. Cassel then went out for deep passes himself, but refused to lay out for the tough ones. Take that for what it’s worth.

There’s almost nothing Head Elite 11 coach Trent Dilfer won’t get excited about. He may not make to August.

• I should mention that during the entirety of Day 3, I was filming everything (a limited amount of things) for a video that should (hopefully) be up later today. If you’ve seen any of the Solid Verbal videos, you probably already know that I get a little bit weird with these things.

After the morning session, I needed to kill about three hours so I ate lunch with media friends. I got some good scoops and, while I can’t directly tell you about any of them, expect somewhere between 83 and 86 teams to receive notices of NCAA allegations before the season begins.

The afternoon session was four hours of 7 on 7 with the QBs breaking into three groups/sessions of eight, and then throwing to and being defended by local high school players. Good HS players. ESPN RISE has a list of how everyone did, but it’s pretty much simulated football featuring QBs running Trent Dilfer’s version of a west coast offense, something most of these kids aren’t used to. So there’s that.

Within six plays, we had an injury. A safety came over the top to defend a deeper pass and collided with the WR. I’m not sure which was more injured, but it certainly was a bummer of a start. No pads, no helmets, and (hopefully!) no contact. Oops.

It didn’t take long for defenses to start noticing the same plays and indicators over and over again, so QB success varied. Offenses made some adjustments, defenses made some adjustments, and passes were completed (mostly underneath crossing patterns or check-downs. Beyond that, there were some nice short slants, some good touch on seam routes, and a few deep posts. It was everything everyone hates about conservative offense. There was some anonymous talk of printing up new shirts that read “Nickel and Dime 11,” though I don’t think anyone went through with the silkscreening.

Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins was exceedingly polite and helpful while explaining things to me. I’m upset at myself for getting too close to a player that I need to be able to talk about objectively, so after the next sentence, I’ll revert to a non-biased approach to evaluating Michigan State‘s offense. Until then, let us all remember that the only thing that shines brighter than Kirk Cousins‘s football mind is the beaming sparkle that catches his bright blue eyes in the warm Malibu sun. Ok, now I’m done.

• A giant camera jib (crane) was filming the action directly behind the “line of scrimmage” and came within three to four feet of possibly breaking some big-time right arms. Tune in to the Year of the Quarterback special whenever it airs to find out which highly-touted QBs may never play again.

• There was a very specific play and seam route in the 7on7 playbook that coaches Yogi Roth and Trent Dilfer both talked about in an almost sexual way. It’s both inspiring to see that level of football love and terrifying to know that two grown men are sexualizing football plays. I think at one point, Trent Dilfer was laying on the grass after celebrating a touchdown and took an extra second to think about that seam route. It was uncomfortable for everyone.

• While doing the thing I like to do most in this world — commiserating with others about people I can’t stand — I was told I looked like a development executive at a major cable network. I politely said thank you before being told I shouldn’t be happy about it because the executive was kind of an asshole. I’m still not sure how to take it.

• It doesn’t take much for Trent DIlfer to FREAK THE F OUT after something marginally good happening. The man takes positive reinforcement very seriously.

• The high school QBs tend to take something as big-picture-insignificant as an afternoon of 7-on-7 really hard. I don’t know any of these kids personally, but if you’re on a message board trying to interpret the insta-evaluations of “experts” … don’t. I’ve just reached my daily moralizing quote, by the way.

• The guys filming the camp from XOS Digital are absolute monsters. It’s basically two younger guys filming from two different angles and they have all the footage ingested, cut-up, synched, and ready for coaches to look at within 30 minutes of play ending. It takes me a half hour to just sync my phone and get an address book imported.

• They’re eliminating 13 kids at some point (or they already have) to award the final grouping of 11. It’s certainly an honor to be selected, but ultimately being the best for a week without helmets/pads or a pass rush means very little. That said, it was genuinely very cool to see so much talent and future talent assembled in one place, coached by the best the quarterbacking the world has to offer.

*****

That’s all I’ve got, look for a video coming soon. As always, I apologize for my lack of effort in evaluating the technique and football futures of 16-year-old QBs. They’re (mostly) all giant humans with cannons for arms. The majority of them will be household names in three years. Make up your own minds then.

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