COLUMBUS, Ohio -- On a consistent basis, the Elite 11 stop in Columbus is one of the most talented gatherings of quarterbacks anywhere in the country and the 2012 edition on Friday was no exception. A year after hosting the top two quarterbacks in the class of 2012, several players in the next crop of talented passers headed to Ohio Dominican University to prove they had what it takes to earn an invite to the final in Southern California this summer.
Warren (Mich.) signal-caller Shane Morris was the only five-star player at the event this year and he more than lived up to expectations after a down performance at the Dallas Elite 11 earlier in the spring. The Michigan-bound lefty was one of the more accurate passers at the event and ran the two-minute drill at the end extremely well to capture MVP honors that were in the making for some time.
"It means everything, it's such a huge honor and a blessing," Morris said. "It's something I've dreamed of since I was little, the Elite 11 on TV. Going to California, it's huge. It's going to be an awesome experience and I'm just going to go out there and do the best I can.
"And coming down to Ohio and being 15 from the campus of Ohio State to win the Elite 11, it doesn't get much better than that."
The Elite 11 is normally held on the Buckeyes' practice fields but because of a new NCAA rule it was moved a few miles south this year. Though Morris couldn't pick up his first win on his arch rival's campus, he did get the first of what he hopes are several more victories in Columbus. Grabbing the golden ticket to the finals was also made sweeter when you consider he beat out several other major commitments at the camp that he'll like see down the road, including ones from Ohio State, Michigan State and Notre Dame.
"They're awesome kids, we competed throw for throw," said Morris. "Everybody in the first group was great and going at it every throw. We all did our best and had a great time."
"You came in knowing he was probably going to be the MVP," Ohio State pledge Jalin Marshall said. "But it was fun to come out and compete against him. We were talking a little smack but it's always fun."
Morris was sharp on rollouts during the early part of the camp and continued to spin the ball well as the day progressed. He completed several nice touch passes during the throwing session and even managed to catch a nice over the shoulder pass while running a route as time wound down.
"Every throw wasn't perfect but I want it to be," he said. "That's something I'm going to keep working on. If I'm not satisfied then I'm going to keep working until every throw is perfect and I have a long way before that."
The 6-foot-3, 190-pound quarterback will return for Saturday's Nike Camp where he should have several Michigan commits and targets to throw to. As one of the top recruiters for the Wolverines, Morris is looking forward to adding other top players into what is the consensus top recruiting class in the country.
"You really never know, it could be one the next day," Morris said. "There's a lot of kids that are thinking about coming and there's great players everywhere. I'm definitely (recruiting) Laquon Treadwell, Christian Lacouture, Kendall Fuller, all those guys. They're great kids and great athletes and hopefully they become a part of the number one recruiting class in the nation."
Morris was took in the Michigan spring game last month and had nothing but rave reviews, including about the quality of recruits that stopped by. With an Elite 11 invite in his back pocket after Friday and a top 25 ranking in the class of 2013, just about the only thing the talented signal-caller has left to do nowadays is recruit.
Marshall represents Ohio State well in top group
Though a Michigan Man took home MVP honors, Ohio State did just fine at the Elite 11 thanks to Middletown (Ohio) athlete Jalin Marshall. A little bit of a do-everything player in high school, the dual-threat quarterback went throw-for-throw with commitments from across the country and more than held his own at the two-hour throwing session.
"It's always fun to come out and compete," Marshall said. "I definitely had something to prove. You go places and people always say that I can't throw or I can't do this or that. I came out here today and proved a lot of people wrong."
The 6-foot-1, 190-pounder showed off solid footwork and was extremely accurate on intermediate passes and out routes. Though he didn't start out in the top group, Marshall showed constant improvement as the afternoon went on and ended up as one of the top players in the final group.
"This is my school, this is my hometown for the next four years so I definitely had to come out and represent," he said. "I think I did that."
Marshall was one of the first commitments for the Buckeyes in the class of 2013 and is expected to head to the program as a wide receiver. Based on his performance at the Elite 11 however, it's likely that he sees at least a few snaps as a backup quarterback should the need arise.
"Once (Urban Meyer) gets the news of how well I did out here, he's going to get excited," Marshall said. "Because Braxton (Miller) is still going to be there, (the coaches) want me to get on the field as soon as possible. I'll probably be a wide receiver but anything to help the team win."
Several of his fellow commits, such as defensive lineman Billy Price, will be in attendance at tomorrow's Nike Camp. The opportunity will also allow for Marshall and his future Buckeye teammates to bond and do a little recruiting together.
"I think we can get the top class in the nation," he said. "The guys we have committed are real good. Even the low stars are really good. We're coming together to be a family and we'll be alright."
Zaire zips it during impressive day at Elite 11
Notre Dame is no stranger to finding their quarterback recruits do well at the Elite 11 and Kettering (Ohio) quarterback Malik Zaire is the latest to add his name to the list after a terrific day that saw him show off his arm and mobility to many of the players he'll eventually square off against in college.
"The final group was exciting," Zaire said. "A lot of hard work paid off and I thought I did a good job but I didn't finish the job. That's something I'll look forward to and hopefully get a spot in the Elite 11.
"I need to work on being a little bit more consistent, especially down the stretch. Toward the end I was getting a little bit tired and cramping up. I fought through it to get to the final group though. I just have to follow through and that goes for the game too, like it's a big 4th quarter."
Electric with the pads on, the camp setting is a different one for Zaire. Though he wasn't able to show what he could do running the ball, the Irish commit showed off a strong arm and a tight spiral all day long. Accuracy wasn't an issue on all but a handful of throws as he represented his school well while wearing a pair of Notre Dame shorts.
"I'm trying to show off the school a little bit," he said. "We're here and we're thriving. We're coming to make a big impact on college football and it's important to come out here and see the competition you'll face in the coming years. It was good to show off with the Notre Dame gear on."
The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder definitely had the most fun out of any of the campers, flashing a big grin all afternoon long and being vocally supportive of his wide receivers whether they made a good play or a bad one. With a commitment behind him and the recruiting process over, Zaire is focused only between the lines because he knows South Bend is the place for him.
"I'm not going to take any more visits," he said. "I made the decision because it's something that is right for me at the time and it still is. I just think it's important to me."
Notre Dame has had no shortage of quarterback news this week and while almost all of it has been bad, Zaire's performance will no doubt be a pick-me-up for head coach Brian Kelly. Searching for the right triggerman for the Irish spread offense, Kelly thinks he's found the perfect fit with his 2013 signal-caller.
"(Kelly) said I'm the complete package and a guy he has a lot of guys that are half of what he wants but I'm exactly what he wants," Zaire said. "That gives me a lot of confidence going in and competing for that starting job."
Given the skills that he flashed at the Elite 11, it's not hard to fathom that Zaire's confidence could actually turn out to be an accurate prediction once he's gets onto the field for the Irish.
News and Notes
- Morris, Zaire, Max Staver, Luke Del Rio, Ryan Burns and Danny Etling were the top six quarterbacks according to the camp coaches.
- The surprise of the camp? That's an easy one: Luke Del Rio. The son of former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio, the quarterback showed off a strong arm and was the most accurate passer during the throwing session and ran a flawless two-minute drill. He has solid height at 6-foot-2 and all the intangibles you want as an easy going kid. Though he doesn't have any offers yet, he will likely be a stop for college coaches as they head through Denver, where he transferred to this year. The summer for Luke Del Rio might consist of sitting in the back of Broncos quarterback meetings so he has that going for him too. It was also somewhat funny to see the longtime NFL coaching veteran with a mini camcorder trying to get a good shot of his son from behind the fence, just like any other parent.
- Stanford commit Ryan Burns was hot and cold all day. He's solid mechanically and might have been the biggest guy at the Elite 11 in terms of size but had a few passes sail on him as he struggled with accuracy. He didn't do anything to dissuade you from thinking he's one of the top quarterbacks in the country but it wasn't his best showing on Friday.
- Massillon (Ohio) quarterback Kyle Kempt was the star underclassmen at this event last year and had a strong performance. The Cincinnati pledge didn't throw a perfect spiral every time but was very accurate and got the ball where it needed to be every pass even if he did have a few hitches in his motion.
- Purdue-bound signal-caller Danny Etling was really sharp, as well as Northwestern commit Matt Alviti. Louisville commit Kyle Bolin didn't make the final group but probably should have as he turned it up during the second half of the camp.
- Manvel (Texas) quarterback Shane McCarley is no stranger to the camp circuit and made it into the final group at the Elite 11. He guided his 7-on-7 team to a tournament win last weekend and is seeing increased interest from schools with the Evaluation Period well underway. He said Alabama stopped by his school recently and that Iowa, Iowa State and New Mexico are showing a lot of interest in the past week or so.