|Stanton, from Rancho Santa Margarita, thinks he fits Nebraska's offensive system. (Getty Images)|
REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- There's pressure being an Elite 11 quarterback, of this there is no doubt. The event itself is designed to make sure the top 25 players in the country can handle being a college signal-caller. Heck, there's an entire session devoted to the two-minute drill staffers have dubbed the pressure cooker.
There may not be 100,000 fans in the stands but each recruit understands that media is watching every throw they make, coaches are yelling things -- good and bad -- on every other rep and the competition isn't with themselves but every guy throwing in line behind them. Count Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) quarterback Johnny Stantonas one of those aware of the pressure but soaking it up and enjoying every minute of the competition.
"It's very fun. It's cool to be able to compete with these guys and I'm happy to be out here," Stanton said. "It's a lot of work. People think you get tired out here [on the field] but you don't even know how taxing it is in the meeting rooms. You're always working, you always have to be on your game and ready with an answer -- if not coach [Trent] Dilfer will get on you. We're ready for that and luckily he's been very happy with us so far and hasn't gotten on any of us. That just keeps the pressure on though because he's ready to push us to the next level.
"I think all of us have done really well so far and it's a tough competition."
The No. 19 dual-threat quarterback in the country, he qualified for the event at the Bay Area regional that ended up producing six players for the Southern California final. As one of the local players, Stanton didn't have to travel extensively or deal with time changes at the Elite 11 so he has eased into things better than others even if he is somewhat dismissive of the advantages he has living close to the competition site.
"I don't even know if the guys know if I'm a local kid," he said with a smile. "It's not that big of a deal, there isn't any advantage or anything like that. I've never been to [Redondo Union] High School before but it is nice to be close to home."
Off the field work hasn't been a struggle for Stanton but he allowed that there was something that is, well, different at the Elite 11 that has taken some getting used to.
"Everyone knew to work on the playbook and everything like that," he said. "One of the toughest things was just trying to get used to this [Nike] football. A lot of the guys worked with it a lot so I think it's definitely something that goes unnoticed by a lot of people. Most of the guys have done a good job overall."
The 6-foot-2, 225-pounder looks like a linebacker and has earned the nickname "Johnny Tebow" due to his stocky build and somewhat elongated throwing motion. As someone who won a CIF championship last year using his legs to keep a play alive as much as his arm, he's improved noticeably as a passer and kept pace with other highly ranked quarterbacks without any issue. At the same time, the Elite 11 offers the opportunity to throw the ball around hundreds of times a day and the affable Californian is prepared to deal with wear and tear on his arm the best way he can in order to get the reps he needs to improve.
"There have been guys that have gone through it before so it's not a huge deal," said Stanton. "Coaches were saying that [icing your arm] is mandatory. I think that helps us a lot and we know what to do. The guys have done it and been in the same position so we trust them to guide us.
"Once we get to college it's going to be so different from what we've done in high school that I think the Elite 11 jumps us into that atmosphere."
After a relatively quick recruiting process, Stanton decided to commit to Nebraska in early July after camping and unofficially visiting campus to meet with the coaching staff. Although he held offers from Pac-12 schools closer to home such as Oregon, Washington and California, the budding quarterback simply felt at home while in Lincoln and is excited to play at the next level for the Cornhuskers.
"Overall I was just a really good fit for the school," he said. "I knew I could fit really well into their system. They obviously offered me so I knew I'd fit in and they were willing to use me. I think it just came down to where I felt I fit in at a school best and with the great academics they have and great family atmosphere with the team, there were several reasons why I chose Nebraska."
The program already has a dual-threat quarterback from California at the helm in Taylor Martinez. While the offense is a definite plus for Stanton, the coaching staff didn't see him fitting into it exactly as their current starter does and remain excited to mold plays around what he does well.
"I don't think they're modeling me after Taylor. He's a great runner but I don't think I'm even close to the runner he is," said Stanton. "I obviously have to work on my passing, work on my running, to be able to keep up with the Nebraska offense."
Given his progress at the Elite 11, perhaps it's the Nebraska offense that will have to keep up with Stanton's progression as a passer first.