Posted by Bryan Fischer
PALO ALTO, Calif. -- Some of the most talented quarterbacks from up and down the West Coast descended upon the beautiful campus of Stanford and in the process, turned the 2011 edition of the Bay Area Elite 11 into the circuit's best stop. While most of the quarterbacks in attendance were already committed to a school, several under the radar players managed to make an impression on observers as well.
The headliner of the group was Cal commitment Zach Kline. The 6-foot-2, 210 pound quarterback had a slow start to the day but finished strong and was easily one of the top performers.
"I actually started the camp out a little shaky," Kline said. "The coaches started to get on me and say I'm better than that. I started to put 100% focus into every throw and you have to do that on every single one at the next level. If you don't, that's when the picks and incompletions happen and that separates the Andrew Luck's from all the other guys. Once I started (focusing better), I had a great camp from then on."
One of the camp instructors was former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer. Although Kline won't get to work with Cal head coach Jeff Tedford - known in the past for quarterback development - for a few more months, being put through the paces by Dilfer at the camp was quite the learning experience.
"He's an intense guy but when he's yelling, it's for a reason," Kline said of Dilfer. "You kind of learn to listen to what he's saying and not how he's saying it. When you listen like that, that's how you get the best things out of when he's coaching you. You listen to what he has to say and then you use it. It helps leaps and bounds."
Normally the Bay Area Elite 11 is held at Cal's Memorial Stadium. Kline preformed well there last year and though he had to throw the ball around in enemy territory at rival Stanford, he did manage to see the bigger picture.
"Well, I'm happy that Cal is getting a new stadium for sure," he said with a smile. "But it's good having the camp here and doing well might mean having a good game in future years. Either way, both places have great facilities."
Kline displayed the strongest arm at the camp and can really throw the ball wherever he wants. He generally throws a tight spiral with plenty of force on the ball and should continue to be in contention for the top quarterback on the West Coast.
Rodrigues makes an impression
While there were plenty of commitments on hand, several of the quarterbacks who held offers but hadn't yet pulled the trigger wanted to show that they had what it takes to compete at the next level. One of the real surprises of the camp was how well Rocklin (Calif.) quarterback Jake Rodrigues threw and he might have ended up the top guy at the entire event as a result.
"I'm ecstatic right now," Rodrigues said after the camp. "I've been wanting to play college football since I was three years old and this is just another step in my long journey I have. It means the world to me."
Like most of the campers, the time spent learning from a Super Bowl-winning quarterback like Dilfer was a great opportunity for Rodrigues to learn from the best.
"It's surreal. You grow up watching him on TV and then you're talking to him and he's coaching you up," he said. "What more can you ask for as a quarterback? Coming out here and competing is the best thing you can do. They're all good out here and to have Dilfer watching us, analyzing us and getting in our faces like how it is in a real game situation; everything out here has been just phenomenal."
The 6-foot-2, 215 pound signal caller even managed to get a personal lesson and help correct a small flaw in his footwork.
"Coach Dilfer said work on my drive step," Rodrigues said. "When you're done with your three, five, seven-step drops, that last step I need to stay off the tips of my toes and really drive it into the arch of my foot. I'll get more power coming off and I got that out of it today which is great."
Rodrigues has a very quick release and compact throwing motion but can still spin the ball well. He already holds offers from Colorado, Michigan, Utah, Oregon State and Washington but is receiving attention from several other big time programs.
"Standing out I would say USC and Oregon but all of them are going hard right now," he said. "They're all doing a great job and I'm open to everything still. I don't even have a top five or top three, I'm just taking it all in. "
Planning on graduating in December, Rodrigues is hoping to settle on a school by July and then concentrate on his senior season. He's already visited Washington and Oregon and will attend USC's Rising Stars Camp later in the summer. A trip to unofficially visit Tennessee might also be in the cards.
Baker the touchdown maker
The coaches seemed to enjoy calling Fresno (Calif.) quarterback Mike Baker the nickname they bestowed upon him while going through drills, particularly the accuracy challenge.
"Mike Baker, the touchdown maker!" they'd shout once he hit a target.
The nickname was apt as the Central California star was among the best performers at the camp, showing off a strong arm and very good mobility.
"I did good, competed well," Baker said. "It's just about seeing what I can do to get better and competing. Then have some fun."
The 6-foot-3, 190 pound signal caller came to the camp excited to play against some of the best quarterbacks in the country but did have one thing he wanted to work on with the instructors.
"My footwork," he said. "Just get all the coaching they offer and there's a lot of good coaches out here. I just want to take their coaching points and try to make me a better QB."
With the Evaluation Period in full swing, several schools are stopping by Central High East but so far Baker holds just one scholarship offer.
"Just San Diego State right now," he said. "I'm waiting on a few other ones. USC wants me to go down to their camp. Just a lot of colleges want to see me live and in person on their campus before they offer.
"I'm going to the Arizona camp and will be at Washington. I want to go to North Carolina because they keep calling."
Receiving interest from several other out of state schools, Baker is focused on evaluating his future schools primarily on two factors. He already has a top five and if one of the schools on the list extends an offer, a commitment will likely follow it.
"I want to go somewhere where I know the coaches are going to stay and go to a pro-style (offense), because I know there's a better chance of going to the pros from there," he said. "If it's one of my top five, then I'm going to commit. If not, I'll let it go through my senior year and make my decision."
Baker is teammates with cornerback Tee Shepard, who is one of the top defensive backs in the nation. With so much attention on Central East High thanks to Shepard, Baker is benefiting from the added attention of having a top player in the same locker room.
"It's great because a lot of college come by to see him and they also know I go to school with him," he said. "They watch film so they call me or talk to me too. The people that are looking at him are basically looking at me too so that's nice."
What can Browne do for you?
The Elite 11 is always a chance to see some up and coming quarterbacks and the Bay Area stop was no exception. Class of 2013 product Max Browne was the top underclassman at the event and displayed a very strong arm and was accurate at all three levels.
"I felt I did good, my feet were real good," Browne said. "It was a good day and great weather."
The Sammamish (Wash.) native is the latest in a long line of top quarterbacks at Skyline High. A legitimate 6-foot-5, 200 pounds, Browne looked more like a rising senior throwing the football around the Farm.
"You can't look at it as an underclassman, everyone is here to compete," he said. "You just have to push yourself, whether the guy's a freshman or going to be a senior, it doesn't matter. Every throw, every drop back you do."
Browne already holds an offer from nearby Washington and is receiving a lot of interest from other Pac-12 schools early in the process.
"No other offers but I've had some contact from schools and some guys stop by my high school," he said. "I'll be making a few trips this June and maybe in July. I don't know where I want to go."
Despite receiving a lot of attention from college coaches at an early age, Browne is guided by a high school staff who has been through the process with a host of Division I players.
"It helps because not only have I seen it happen, but my coach knows what to expect," Browne said. "It's not a new process for him so he can help me out. With all of this stuff, I can ask questions and he can provide the answers."
- Recent Utah commitment Travis Wilson was the most physically imposing quarterback at the event. Every bit of 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. He can spin the ball but does tend to drop his arm angle which is a bad habit.
- Austin Bray, the younger brother of Tennessee starting quarterback Tyler Bray, competed at the camp.
- Lefty Matt Morin out of Temecula (Calif.) followed up his MVP performance at the LA Nike Camp with another strong showing. Morin has a very strong arm and appears on the verge of receiving his first offer in the next few weeks.
- Washington commit Jeff Lindquist was another top thrower at the event. Although he doesn't have the strongest arm in the class, he throws a very accurate ball that still arrives in the receiver's hands quickly. His footwork and throwing motion are also very good.
- Scottsdale (Ariz.) quarterback Connor Brewer was very accurate throughout the three hour camp and though he doesn't have elite arm strength, you can see why Texas coaches made him their quarterback for this recruiting class. Brewer is really a passer and is similar to BYU quarterback Jake Heaps.
- Speaking of BYU, commit Tanner Mangum showed why he was the top prospect out of the state of Idaho with a good showing. He doesn't have prototypical size at about 6-foot-1 but he has a good arm and really drives off his back foot.
- Yet another commit who preformed well was Idaho State pledge and Moorpark (Calif.) quarterback Grant Rohach.