NEW YORK -- Just across the East River from where a former Elite 11 alumni - Andrew Luck - went No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft on Thursday, several of the nation's top high school quarterbacks headed to Randall's Island in New York City to compete in the latest stop for the tour and a rare foray into the Northeast.
Coming in the Wayne Hills (N.J.) signal-caller Kevin Olsen figured to be the headliner in a smaller than normal group of quarterbacks and he no doubt lived up to the top billing by taking home MVP honors and receiving an invite to go to Southern California to compete to be the best in the country at the position.
"It was a great feeling to know that I was picked to be the MVP at this camp out of a lot of good, cool quarterbacks. There were some elite guys that we had here," Olsen said. "It was great to know that these coaches think that highly of me.
"All of these coaches have great experience and I can take a little bit from all of them and develop my own unique way to play."
While the 45 minute drive from home went by quickly on the way to the competition, the 6-foot-3, 195-pounder will no doubt enjoy the one back much more. Getting the invite to the national Elite 11 competition has been in the making for a long time for Olsen, who was already ready for what was thrown at him on Saturday.
"I can't wait," he said. "Ever since I watched the Elite 11 and was at the regional camps as a sophomore, I set one of my goals to make it out there to California."
The five-star quarterback had a very good day at the Elite 11 and was one of the most accurate passers during drills and a two-minute drill at the end. What separates him from others is his delicate touch and he tossed several fade routes that were on the money despite some wind. Recruited by just about everyone in the country because of those attributes, Olsen is currently narrowing down his school options and is trying to keep pace with a sometimes hectic process. Luckily for him he has plenty of support from his family to bounce things off of - from father and high school coach Chris to older brothers Chris and Greg.
"I get a lot of advice from them since they both went through it - both at different times too," the quarterback said. "Chris and Greg really give me the little tips like getting to know the coaches and get a feel for the locker room, all that kind of stuff."
Family is one reason why many have pegged Olsen as a Miami lean because the program is not only one of his finalists but because older brother Greg was a star tight end for the Hurricanes before heading to the NFL. While the familiarity with staff and campus undoubtedly give the program a leg up for the quarterback's services, the youngest Olsen is just trying to keep an open mind about all of his schools.
"Obviously Miami is a little closer to me than the other schools are but it doesn't really play a big role," he said. "It's not really going to effect my decision much. I really like Coach (Jedd) Fisch and really, really like Coach (Al) Golden and had prior relationship with him because of when my brother Chris played there. I really think they have the program going in a great direction."
Things are a little bit different in Coral Gables from when Olsen's brother was catching passes a few years ago, most notably because of the looming NCAA sanctions that will stem from the Nevin Shapiro investigation. School officials took a one year bowl ban in 2011 to help stave off the worst and the highly regarded quarterback is at ease with what might happen in the future.
"I've talked to them about it and they've told me this is what is going to happen and we're going to go from there," Olsen said. "They said there shouldn't be much more (sanctions), everybody knows they took a self-imposed bowl ban last year. I guess they're hoping that it's just a couple of scholarships and that will be it."
The number five quarterback in 2013 according to Maxpreps visited Wisconsin last week for what is almost certainly his final unofficial visit before making a commitment. The Badgers are on the shortlist for Olsen and running high in the pecking order after getting to know the program better.
"It was great. I didn't really know a lot about them before coming out," he said. "I got a chance to meet with coach (Bielema) and coach (Matt) Canada, I really enjoyed my visit there. Wisconsin has a great type of offense there, they really develop guys. They're a true pro-style, run the ball first and throw it second type of offense. To be an elite team in college football you need to have some type of run game so you can do play action, deep balls and stuff like that."
South Carolina and Auburn are also getting strong consideration from Olsen to round out his top four. The Gamecocks are able to offer something unique and have certainly pitched him on playing for a former Heisman winning quarterback and national championship coach.
"Obviously being a quarterback under Steve Spurrier would be a great experience and is something not a lot of people get to go through," Olsen said. "They have great talent period and they have a great talent at running back in Marcus Lattimore. They also have great talent at wide receiver and a great defense. And they play in one of the best leagues in the country."
With Elite 11 MVP in his pocket and a trip to California on the docket, all Olsen has to do the next few months is focus on school work and finally pull the trigger on a commitment. The date isn't set yet but it is something the quarterback is looking to get things over with very soon.
"I would be shocked if it went far into the summer," he said. "I think that by the time my school ends, sometimes in June, it will probably be decided by then."
Mitch makes the most of New York trip
Raleigh (N.C.) quarterback Connor Mitch was one of several players at the Elite 11 who racked up a few frequent flyer miles to come to the event but the affable signal-caller had no problems with that and spun the ball well over the two hour session. Though he didn't nab MVP honors he still made it to the final group and looked sharp throughout the overcast afternoon.
"It was fun, I really loved running the two minute drill because that's how I'm used to playing in high school," Mitch said. "It was my comfort zone today. I've been doing this all my life so I guess you could say it's just another tryout to show what you're like and how hard you've been working. I just had a fun time."
The trip to the city that never sleeps is a favorite one for Mitch, who grew up in Washington, D.C. and always enjoys coming back to see the sights. The fact that he got to play a little football as well on Saturday naturally made it even sweeter.
"This is where me and my mom want to live," he said. "I've been up here so many times, I love this place. It was so much fun to play in a place I love."
Showing off a strong arm and solid mobility, it's easy to see why the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder is one of the most heavily pursued quarterbacks in the Southeast but even that isn't enough for him.
"I've got to keep working everyday," he said. "You can't believe that you're the best, every time you're not working out someone is and getting better than you. You have to use that as fuel."
While Mitch has close to 15 offers already with the evaluation period just starting, the sharp rising senior knows what he is looking for in a program and, unlike several of his peers, has criteria not normally found on recruits' checklists that he has to check out before finally making a decision.
"The thing that matters the most that I'm starting to learn, especially with quarterbacks, is the strength and conditioning coach," he said. "In the offseason, you're spending more time with them than with the coaches. So I've been checking those out, some kids don't care about that and only focus on the coaches. Playing time is also a factor, I'd like to get in there and compete right away."
Mitch will take several visits over the upcoming months and plans to meet with as many coaches as possible as they roll through Wakefield High over the coming weeks. Though his top five is starting to solidify, some late offers have him pausing to consider them rather than rush into a decision.
"There are still a couple of offers that have come in lately that I still need to check out first," he said. "Before I announce a top five or top three I need to go check a couple of schools out.
"Some coaches have a process where they have don't just throw offers out and they have to go meet you first and see you throw."
Alabama, LSU, North Carolina, N.C. State and Tennessee are a handful of the programs that have already offered but it appears that another that came in the last week from the SEC is really on his mind.
"The latest offer was Auburn and I want to go check that out some more," Mitch said. "I went to a game this year and I had a good time so I want to go and get to know the coaches better.
"Coach (Scot) Loeffler knew I was getting down to the end (of the recruiting process) and he offered. He just likes to go through the whole process and I like that and respect it from coaches, they just don't throw them out."
Though he's not quite ready to put the Tigers somewhere on his shortlist, Mitch is feeling closer to two other conference rivals.
"My two favorites right now that I'm really close with the coaches are South Carolina and LSU," Mitch said. "I love coach (Steve) Kragthrope and Coach (G.A.) Mangus too. The head coaches are easy to get along with too and that's what you're looking for."
Although plans may change it looks as though Mitch will make his decision sometime before the season and likely later this summer.
- Baltimore (Md.) quarterback Shane Cockerille, Toledo (Ohio) quarterback Brogan Roback and Tinton Falls (N.J.) quarterback Jeff Farrah also made the final group.
- Others that stood out were Boca Raton (Fla.) quarterback Kevin Anderson and Elizabeth (N.J.) quarterback Phillip Walker.
- Noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr. continued to coach at the Elite 11, coming out to this stop after seeing one of his pupils (Andrew Luck) picked No. 1 overall in the draft for the second year in a row. He had previously tutored Cam Newton who was the top pick in 2011.