The EA SPORTS Elite 11 kicks off this Monday, July 25th in Southern California and will be attended by a dozen of the top quarterback prospects in the Class of 2006. This year's class of quarterbacks include a few firsts; with Mitch Mustain being the first ever quarterback from Arkansas to qualify for the event. Also, Cody Hawkins is the first to qualify from Idaho.
The event also will mark the first time in the event's history that no quarterbacks from traditional quarterback breeding-ground California are invited. Past Golden State invites include Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, former Tennessee great Casey Clausen, Stanford quarterback Trent Edwards, UCLA's Drew Olson and Miami (Fla.) quarterback Kyle Wright A pair of Texans, Georgia-bound Matthew Stafford and Florida-bound Jevan Snead) and Keystone Staters, Pat Devlin (committed to Miami (Fla.) and Zach Frazer (committed to Notre Dame) make up a third of the roster this year (the Elite 11 actually has 12 invitees).
Quarterbacking isn't the only thing that goes on at the event, two quarterbacks have made verbal commitments while at the event during the past two years - Rhett Bomar (Oklahoma) and Drew Weatherford (Florida State) in 2003 and Rob Schoenhoft (Ohio State) and Jonathan Garner (Florida) last summer. Though Garner ended up signing with Georgia Tech after Urban Meyer and staff took over in Gainesville, Fla. Word has it that there is a good possibility that streak will continue at the 2005 camp.
The high school quarterbacks were selected for the event after an exhaustive evaluation process which includes both film research, an in-person workout (whether at a NIKE camp or EA SPORTS Elite 11 regional workout) and a telephone interview. All told, when totaling both the NIKE Camps and EA Workouts, more than 1,000 quarterbacks were evaluated in person this year, not to mention many more on tape.
Here's a quick scouting report on each of the quarterbacks, compiled by StudentSportsFootball.com staff writers Greg Biggins and Brian Stumpf.
Neil Caudle - Caudle, who committed to Auburn last Monday, attended the EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout in Atlanta and the NIKE Camp in Athens the following day back in May. He was impressive on film and our staff was anxious to him in person and see if he was recovered from a torn ACL suffered as a junior. Caudle had a strong day at the Elite 11 workout showing a live, accurate arm and didn't appear hobbled by the knee. The following day, Caudle wasn't as strong as the previous day but he was still an easy call to make the cut. The 6-1, 191 pounder out of Birmingham (Ala.) Spain Park is the third Alabama signal caller to qualify for the EA SPORTS Elite 11, joining Brodie Croyle (2000) and JaMarcus Russell (2002).
Pat Devlin - Devlin first appeared on the radar a year ago at the NIKE Camp in State College when he was just a rising junior and he was one of the best kids in the camp that year. The 6-3, 200 pounder came back to the camp at State College this year looking bigger, stronger and much more confident. The Miami commit has plus physical tools and is impressive with his makeup and the way he carries himself. The Downingtown (Pa.) East signal caller is a natural leader and someone his teammates will follow in the huddle and to us, that is almost as important as any quality a quarterback can possess.
Zach Frazer - Like Devlin, Frazer first gained notice a year ago at the NIKE Camp in State College following his sophomore season. With his size, arm strength and toughness, most were expecting Frazer to put on a show at the same camp this year and felt he would be a stone cold lock to make the EA SPORTS Elite 11 after a record-setting junior season at Mechanicsburg (Pa.). Unfortunately, Frazer injured his foot and never got to throw. He came back to the final EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout in Las Vegas and still look hobbled and wasn't able to participate in all the drills. After watching his film a second and third time and knowing what kind of kid Frazier was, it was clear the Notre Dame commit belonged.
Josh Freeman - Following the EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout and NIKE Camp in Ann Arbor, Freeman's chances to make the final camp didn't look so good. The 6-6, 230 pounder definitely struggled in Ann Arbor with a tired arm and was looking more like a future athlete than a quarterback to many. To his credit, the Grandview (Mo.) standout didn't make excuses but just said he had a bad day and came to Las Vegas for one last chance. It's very difficult to recall a player making a more dramatic improvement than Freeman did from Ann Arbor to Las Vegas. The Nebraska commit's arm was strong and accurate, he knew where to go with the ball, his feet were quick and he showed he belonged.
Cody Hawkins - With his size (5-11, 175 pounds), where he comes from (Boise, Idaho) and lack of big-time offers, Hawkins is probably the quarterback on the list who the casual fan probably assumes doesn't belong. That is understandable, but anyone who saw Hawkins throw at the NIKE Camp in Stanford or the EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout the following day at Cal, they know this isn't a reach. Simply stated, at any of the 12 NIKE Camps, Hawkins had the most impressive workout of anyone on the list with the possible exception of Mustain. The Idaho native has a live arm, great feet, an incredible head for the game and his intangibles like leadership and the ability to rally players around him are off the charts.
Jake Locker - Heading in to the camp next week, Locker is one of the guys that is expected to have a dominating showing. This 6-2, 210 pound athlete has great film and was always high on the Student Sports staff's board, but exceeded even their high expectations at the final EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout in Las Vegas with a superb showing. The Ferndale (Wash.) signal caller plays in a veer, run oriented offense and doesn't have the as much traditional drop-back passing background as most of the other quarterbacks. That made it even more impressive that Locker was a top performer in Vegas, showing off a rifle arm with a quick release, not to mention his tremendous athleticism that is probably only rivaled by Tim Tebow in this class.
Mitch Mustain - This 6-3, 200 pounder out of Springdale (Ark.) comes into the camp with as much hype as anyone but it's definitely deserved. The talented signal caller has every tool a coach could want in a quarterback and is destined for stardom in college. He has a great quarterback body, a cannon for an arm with a nice tight release and throws a great deep ball. On top of his physical tools, Mustain is just a great kid, personable and someone who will have no problem gaining the respect of his teammates at the next level. At the NIKE Camp in Oxford, Mustain put on a show in what might have been the best workout this year at any of the 12 NIKE Camps.
Kevin Riley - Riley came out of nowhere this spring and is one of those guys that just gets better and better every time he workouts. The Beaverton (Ore.) standout was only behind Hawkins at the NIKE Camp in Stanford, putting forth a very impressive showing. He attended the Elite 11 workout at Cal the following day and again shined. The 6-1, 192 pounder really stepped up in Vegas where, at a loaded camp, he out-threw every quarterback in the camp not named Matthew Stafford. Riley has a very live arm and gets rid of the ball very quick. He has great feet and is a player that could be the surprise of the camp and at the next level playing for the Cal Bears.
Jevan Snead - Like Frazer, Snead missed the NIKE Camp earlier in the year because of injury. He tore meniscus in his right knee and still wasn't 100 percent at the time of the final workout in Vegas. Still, the Stephenville (Texas) star gutted it out and still had a very good camp. He's a big, strong kid at 6-2, 210 pounds, who throws a nice ball and can move around very well for a big man. Where the Florida-bound quarterback was able to seal the deal was on film. In comparing Snead's film to other top quarterbacks nationally, he has a lot of upside to him and should do very well in Urban Meyer's system at Florida.
Matthew Stafford - Heading in to the EA SPORTS Elite 11 next week, Stafford is the top pure passing quarterback on StudentSports.com's board. The Dallas (Texas) Highland Park gunslinger has been on that board since he was a freshman in high school and has been in the news ever since. The Georgia commit wasn't able to make it to the NIKE Camp in Fort Worth and needed a solid showing in Vegas to make the final cut. Stafford definitely delivered, showing arguably the strongest arm of any quarterback in the nation this year with great mechanics and college-ready build. This quarterback can make all the throws, he's smart and also has a great personality for the position.
Tim Tebow - Tebow wasn't at his best at the NIKE Camp in Tallahassee, but has upside off the charts. The Jacksonville (Fla.) Nease quarterback is a freak athletically whose 96.92 SPARQ Rating is the best this year from a quarterback. The Florida native was still trying to knock off the rust when StudentSports.com saw him at the NIKE Camp as he had been playing baseball for the previous three months and hadn't even picked up a football. After watching his film, however, Tebow was a slam dunk choice for the EASPORTS Elite 11 and the first player invited this year. He has a strong arm and throws a nice deep ball. He's tough and physical and runs like a fullback in the open field. He's also a has a great personality and his teammates will love playing with him at the next level, wherever he ends up. Isiah Williams - The Chicago (Ill.) Vocational standout is still somewhat raw but has great upside with an arm comparable to Stafford's in terms of it's strength. At the NIKE Camp and EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout in Ann Arbor, Williams impressed onlookers with not only his arm strength but how quickly he improved in the drills and how fast he learned the drills. Williams is just as impressive on film and although he didn't put up great numbers as a junior in a run-oriented offense, his obvious physical tools and his high ceiling at the next level made him a player StudentSports.com locked in early ahead of several other higher-rated quarterbacks.
StudentSportsFootball.com will be the exclusive home to around the clock coverage of the EA SPORTS Elite 11, including workout recaps, photo galleries, video presentations, any breaking recruiting news and other fun items. A one month membership is only $5.95 and you'll get all the exclusive Elite 11 information there. In addition, Brian Stumpf and the staff at Student Sports will be on the EA SPORTS Elite 11 message board each day, answering questions and posting additional tidbits from the event.