Play Fantasy The Most Award Winning Fantasy game with real time scoring, top expert analysis, custom settings, and more. Play Now
 
Tag:Elite 11
Posted on: July 20, 2011 2:30 am
Edited on: July 20, 2011 2:38 am
 

Winston evolving into complete QB at Elite 11

Posted by Bryan Fischer

MALIBU, Calif. -- With everybody settled into their picturesque surroundings at Pepperdine University during day two of the Elite 11, the throws were sharper, the completion percentage was up and - perhaps just as important - so was the level of competition.

"It's been good out here with all these great quarterbacks," Bessemer (Ala.) quarterback Jameis Winston said. "I'm just out here competing, that's the main thing."

The 6-foot-4, 185-pound signal-caller was the top performer Tuesday and was really spinning the ball well during a brisk morning throwing session. Despite the effort he put in on each throw, Winston understands that he's still evolving from an athlete into a quarterback and that there are several parts of his game that he can work on.

"Drops," he identifies immediately almost before the question is even asked. "I want to also work on my hips more. I have to get my hips open more so I don't hurt anything down low. So I just have to work my hips more and get open. I've got to get better everyday."

Winston was almost like a little brother on the field to college counselor E.J. Manuel out of Florida State. The two have similar builds (though Winston is much thinner) and a similar throwing motion. Often conversing between snaps, the college starter had no problem mentoring the high school star.

"E.J. helps me a lot on making sure I'm staying on top of the ball and not squeezing the ball," Winston said. "He's helped me a lot and he's at one of my final schools, Florida State."

Down to three schools in his recruitment, Maxpreps' second ranked quarterback and 21st overall player in the class of 2012 is considering the Seminoles and hasn't been shy about asking Manuel about the program.

"I've asked him about Florida State and their program," Winston said. "He's been pretty real with me. He's told me the ups and downs - there's not many downs but he told me some."

The other finalists for the five-star quarterback are both SEC powerhouses, one close to home and the other a few hours away by car. With distance not a huge factor for Winston, he's had to look closer at what each program brings to the table for him.

"Alabama is the home school," he said. "I mean, there's no place like home. I've been there a million times, just over and over. LSU, it's just a great competitive atmosphere and I want to be in that competitive atmosphere wherever I go, especially with baseball and football."

Winston is a top high school baseball player in addition to his success on the gridiron. While Florida State and LSU are perennial contenders at the College World Series, the success of the baseball program at any of the three schools he's considering is only a small factor in his decision.

"Yes," he says before cautioning," but Alabama's baseball program is coming up."

Projected by some to go as high as the first round draft in next year's MLB Draft, Winston knows it's possible he'll have to make a decision similar to Nebraska quarterback and Kansas City Royals first round pick Bubba Starling.

"Yes I've followed him," Winston said. "I'm going to consider (going pro). I don't know right now because I'm not as advanced as he is. He got there this year and I'm just considering it. Thinking about it but trying to have fun. It's in the back of my mind."

Slated to make one fan base very happy when he ultimately picks a school on August 3rd, Winston revealed that he's already decided where he'll play his college ball - football and baseball - but didn't offer any hints as to where that might actually be.

"I know where I'm going," he said. "The coaches know."

Kline reps the West Coast

Danville (Calif.) quarterback Zach Kline had one of the shortest commutes to the Elite 11 from the Bay Area and though he is used to going down to the beach or enjoying a cool summer day, the experience with 23 other top quarterbacks at the Elite 11 has been eye-opening for him.

"It's been awesome," Kline said. "Nothing is like it, ever. It's the best thing I've ever been to and you have the best players here."

The California kid was sporting a Rafael Nadal-like look on Tuesday with long hair and a headband. Though he was one of the most outgoing and relaxed players on the field, that masked his workman-like approach to learning as much as he could from the coaches and counselors at the event.

"A lot of things like making every throw count and the little things matter the most," he said about what he learned. "Even the smallest thing down to a drop, the fake on the play action matters more than anything and is the difference between a completion and an interception. And just kind of getting to know these guys and the things that they see."

In between meals and film sessions, the Cal commit has been able to take time to bond with his fellow campers, many of whom he is already close with.

"I know these guys real well," Kline said. "Connor Brewer I've been friends with for awhile, for a couple of years. Jake Rodrigues I've been friends with for a long time as well. Tyler Matthews same deal. Gunner Kiel, I was at the Elite 11 last year as a ball boy with him. He's the man, he's a great quarterback and just a cool dude to hang around with. Same for all of those guys, every single one of them."

Regarded by many as the top quarterback on the West Coast, the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder is confident in himself and showed that he can make all the throws on the field, going neck-and-neck with other highly ranked players like Winston and Kiel. Still, despite actually belonging with the best in the nation, Kline knows there's still something left for him to prove.

"Definitely," he says before identifying the biggest reason why. "Tanner Mangum is giving me a run for my money. He's good, a great quarterback and a great dude too. He's a good friend of mine as well and he's going to do big things at BYU, just an awesome quarterback, can't wait to watch him."

Appleby stars in the classroom

While Mangum wore a yellow jersey for being the winner of the Golden Arm competition on the field Monday, North Canton (Ohio) quarterback Austin Appleby sported a red jersey on Tuesday after taking home honors for best performance in the classroom. The chance to show off his quarterback IQ was a welcome one for someone who had prepared to do so for quite some time.

"I got a chance to get up in front on the board, in front of everybody, and impress Coach (Trent) Dilfer," Appleby said. "I put a lot of time and preparation coming into this. I've been hours upon hours into knowing this playbook and I take pride in being the most prepared at this camp."

With so much teaching on and off the field from instructors, Appleby made an apt analogy to schoolwork when talking about what specifically he'll take back to his high school.

"It's graduate level stuff," he said. "In my offense, I'm a little more advanced and making those checks and making those slide protections, or any audible I need too. So having this knowledge and understanding of how it's really supposed to work is really going to broaden my skill level from a mental aspect as well from the coaching we're going to get from a fundamental aspect."

The 6-foot-5, 230-pounder looks like he's physically ready to play on Saturdays and appears fully recovered from a knee injury he suffered last year. He throws a very catchable ball but can really put some spin on it if required. Even having the opportunity to showcase his quarterback skills alongside the other campers has been quite the experience for Appleby.

"It's awesome, there's no better place than to be here right now," he said. "The talent level is unbelievable. It's the top 24 for a reason and as the days go by and we get near the end, the elite will rise towards the top. Then we'll see who's number one and I have full intentions of being that number one."

Committed to Purdue, Appleby is in constant contact with the Boilermakers staff to keep them updated on his progress at the Elite 11.

"I'm going to be in contact with them and at the end of the day, I kind of update them with what's going on," he said. "It's kind of tough with the time zone, I keep forgetting how late it is over there. But I tell my high school coach as well and we're going to all together get better."

Clearly advanced mentally and physically, the senior to-be is undecided if he'll enroll early and take part in spring football with Purdue next year.

"I don't know at this point," he said. "We're looking into it but I don't know the details at this point."

Notes:

- Tanner Mangum won the Golden Arm competition for the second day in a row. After proudly sporting the yellow jersey on Tuesday, he will do so again during Wednesday's throwing sessions.

- Utah commit Travis Wilson has the frame to put on a few pounds of muscle but the 6-foot-6 quarterback has all the tools to make it at the next level. His release might be the best part of his game, as the ball comes out quickly and effortlessly.

- One of the surprises of day two was North Carolina commit Patton Robinette. He came in a close second behind Mangum in the Golden Arm competition but was sharp throughout practice. He did a good job hitting the receivers in the right spot and knowing just how much to put on the ball. Robinette also did a good job on throws to the outside and could really drive the ball on out routes.

- After a rough week at The Opening, Oregon verbal Jake Rodrigues has bounced back nicely at the Elite 11. It still seems like he gets a little bit too wide of a base but he was accurate and was able to get good power on just about every one of his throws.

- If there's anyone who could be labeled Mr. Consistent, it would be Bart Houston. He doesn't wow you out of the gate but he's got the perfect mix of arm strength, frame, throwing motion and accuracy to know he'll be a perfect fit at Wisconsin.

Posted on: July 19, 2011 3:16 am
Edited on: July 19, 2011 10:04 am
 

All eyes on Kiel as Elite 11 kicks off

Posted by Bryan Fischer

MALIBU, Calif. -- Perfection isn't something that is easy to come by but 24 of the nation's top quarterbacks found the conditions to be as close to perfect as you could be on a picturesque Southern California day to open the Elite 11 quarterback competition on the campus of Pepperdine University

Amid signal-callers who had succeeded in high school, college and the NFL, the one player that drew plenty of attention with every throw was Columbus (Ind.) star Gunner Kiel. One of the handful of uncommitted players at the event, he was slated to have already made a decision last month and again in the middle of July. But those dates came and went and so everybody wanted know just who was standing out and when the top-ranked quarterback would pull the trigger on a school.

"I just decided to go and check out my options again and what was out there," Kiel said. "I tried (to set another date). I tried that next week but that didn't really work out. I'm done putting dates on it and whenever I feel ready to commit, that's when I'm going to."

Wearing his familiar white and orange shoes, Kiel was sharp throughout the two hour workout overlooking the Pacific Ocean. He threw a tight spiral on just about every throw and was one of the few quarterbacks who stayed balanced throughout the throwing motion.

Because he often declines interview requests, Kiel knows that there's intense interest in his decision and though he had no trouble answering any question that came his way from a throng of reporters, the 6-foot-4, 215-pounder wouldn't offer up many hints as to which program he was leaning towards.

"I like to keep it kind of personal, I'm always a team player too," he said. "I like to focus my time on my team and school work. I think of college stuff all the time but at the end of the day, I'm not going to make it a big thing. I'll probably tell the team and my family and it will probably gradually get out.

"It takes a lot out of you for a teenager but I have a strong family that's always by my side." 

Kiel's older brothers are quite familiar with the ins and outs of the recruiting process. Dusty is Indiana's possible starter this season while other brother Drew is reading defenses and calling out plays at Illinois State. While the conversations between the Kiel brothers might not always be about football, the pair have been an invaluable resource for Gunner to lean on.

"It's huge, they know what's out there and what's not," said the youngest Kiel. "I couldn't be more thankful for more blessed with a better family or better team."

Oklahoma, Indiana, Missouri and Alabama have mostly been the four teams out front for the five-star quarterback and many believe the Hoosiers are only on the list because of his brother. Ask Kiel though and he'll dismiss talk that it would be a "shock" if he were to play for the local team.

"I wouldn't say that," he said. "Indiana has a great coaching staff and they're definitely going to win football games. Coach (Kevin) Wilson is a fiery guy. My brother is going to be playing quarterback for them, which is awesome. I'll be at games and cheering him on. When I talk to him, I know they're going to win football games."

Kiel said that he does not plan to take any other visits and that he has already taken a trip to see all of his final schools. One notable thing he mentioned Monday was the fact that he would not go to a school that is looking to take two quarterbacks in the class of 2012. That would seem to rule out Oklahoma and Missouri, who both picked up players at the position in the past few weeks, but MaxPreps' top signal-caller wouldn't let on about any of his finalists in too much detail.

"There's some schools out there, i just kind of try and keep it low-key," he said. "I think everyone's great that I'm interested in. They have great facilities, great football teams, it's just kind of hard to make a decision right now.

"I'll probably decide before school."

Performing at events like the Elite 11 are one of the few times players get a chance to gauge how they stack up against competition nationally. Ranked as the second best player in the country overall, the red haired quarterback isn't feeling the heat from others and is focused only on improving himself throughout the rest of the week.

"There's always pressure out there," Kiel said. "At the end of the day, you've got to have fun and let it sling and not care. I know it's out there that I'm the number one quarterback in the nation but that's just a number."

Mangum continues to impress

As the camp counselors announced who won the final drill of the day, it was no surprise to hear them call out Eagle (Idaho) quarterback Tanner Mangum's name after the BYU recruit continued to show off his accuracy and strong arm on the final stop of the camp circuit.

"It feels good to come out on the first day and do well to start the week off right," Mangum said. "I know there's a lot of talented quarterbacks out here so it feels good to kind of get your name out there within the group."

Mangum was the top quarterback at last week's The Opening in Oregon and he picked up right where he left off in Malibu, winning the Golden Gun award for best accuracy during the final drill of the day.

"I'm trying to keep the momentum going," he said. "I'm playing well right now and hopefully I can keep it up the rest of the week. It definitely feels good to come out here and play well."

As the one of the few players from Idaho to receive much attention nationally, competing with the top players from around the country - and more often than not beating them - has been welcome preparation for the next level.

"You've only been here a few hours but you can already feel the competitive nature that these guys have," he said. "They're here for a reason. It's good to get to know these guys on a level other than football."

The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder will get to wear a special gold jersey throughout Tuesday as a result of being the top performer in the final drills.

Pike loving the experience

Auburn commit and Edgewood (Ky.) quarterback Zeke Pike has already been around the country for 7-on-7 competitions but walking off the field at Pepperdine was an altogether new, and very welcome, experience for the 6-foot-5, 230-pound football player.

"It's great just coming out here and competing with the top guys in the country," Pike said. "Even better than that is to be out here in California and Malibu. It doesn't get much better than this."

Pike is still recovering from minor shoulder surgery but was throwing the ball well at the end of the day after starting a bit slow. As someone who is a bit raw, picking up tips and tricks from the instructors has been vital to becoming a better quarterback. 

"It's fun to come out here with guys who know what they're talking about and be able to pick up teaching points," he said. "It's a lot different but it doesn't get much better than this, practicing football with the ocean in the background."

With camp counselors such as Florida State's E.J. Emanuel and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Pike has dedicated himself to soaking up anything and everything they and others have to offer as advice.

"You just try to take anything you can get back," Pike said. "You're working with Trent (Dilfer) and Jordan Palmer was in our group, he's five minutes from where I live. It's kind of good to come out here and meet him, we'll probably work a little when I get back. You just try and take something to improve your game."

Posted on: July 11, 2011 8:04 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 8:18 pm
 

The Opening: the good & bad of an all-star event

Posted by Bryan Fischer

I'm glad I wasn't alone.

In talking with most of my colleagues at The Opening, we all pretty much had the same thought: This. Is. Great.

One of the biggest reason why Rivals, Scout, ESPN, 247Sports and CBS Sports/MaxPreps send reporters all over the country to cover camps and competitions, such as the one held on the Nike Campus this past week, is access. For four days, nearly 100 of the top players in the country were measured, tested, put through drills, played in 7-on-7 games, photographed, filmed and available to be interviewed. There should be over 20,000 words and hours of video from a majority of the players at The Opening on the Eye on Recruiting Blog alone.

As a media member, the event could not have been better.

As a media member, I also see why some people have serious concerns about events like The Opening.

The event was a collaboration between ESPN and Nike, who run most of the Nike Football Training Camps and Elite 11 quarterback competitions around the country. Nike paid players' travel costs and - depending on their respective state football association - gave them some free Nike gear. Just about every player was part of a group that saw a Nike presentation about their upcoming products and why said products are better than their competitors.

When people talk about "AAU Football," it's not necessarily all-star 7-on-7 events that come closest to that term, it's actually something like The Opening.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'm a fan of Nike's products (and Under Armour's and adidas'…) and jumped at the chance to go to the Nike Employee Store when offered. I don't think that any of that clouded my judgement of what I wrote or did, I was there to cover the event to the best of my abilities and I think that I did. There's a lot of good people involved with running The Opening and associated events, people who I believe have the best interests in the kids at heart. All that said, there's something at least a little unsettling about a company - even one as reputable as Nike - putting on this type of event.

Though I know what most of the NCAA enforcement staff looks like, I didn't see anyone in Beaverton but was told someone from the organization was on hand to look around. Everyone always asks me if I see "shady" people at recruiting events and to be honest, there was really only one person who I saw around the sidelines that looked out of place.

If Under Armour or adidas came to CBS Sports wanting to do something similar, I'd tell them to jump at it to be honest. Events such as The Opening are the future of football recruiting like it or not.

Do they contribute to a sense of inflated egos on the part of the players? Absolutely. Are they great events full of good competition? Absolutely. Do they lead to players getting scholarship offers based on their performance? Yes indeed.

Outside of banning events in the first place - something the NCAA could do quicker than you might think - the current model is actually pretty good right now. It's much better and cleaner than basketball and, despite what some might tell you, not headed down that slippery slope too quickly. In fact, I'd invite the conference commissioners and senior athletic administrators to come out and take a look at the events before the speak ill about them and casting all of them into one generic "bad for the game" category.

Are things perfect? Nope.

But it is the future as far as I can tell.

Posted on: July 9, 2011 1:17 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 4:33 pm
 

The Opening: Day 3 -- Pads and 7-on-7

Posted by Bryan Fischer

BEAVERTON, Ore. – Day three of The Opening could not have turned out any better for the assembled campers as wall-to-wall 7-on-7 action and a lineman challenge took place on a picturesque day at the Nike campus.

After NFL players and Nike coaching staff members drafted teams from the nearly 150 players at the event on Thursday night, the pressure was on to gel quickly during round-robin play all day Friday. One of the consistent playmakers at the event with his blazing speed, fluid routes and soft hands was Tampa (Fla.) athlete Nelson Agholor.

A threat at multiple positions on the field, the talented Floridian was a touchdown threat every time he touched the ball on offense. Despite standing out on the field, it was hard to get him to talk about himself off it as he personified the definition of a team player.

"Yeah, I hope we have a good one the next day. We're ready to go and play hard," Agholor said. "We've got a great team."

NFL stars Josh Freeman of Agholor's local team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Kansas City Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe were the honorary coaches of “Team Alpha Talon.” The 7-on-7 setting provided the players they picked a chance to spread the field and allow players such as Agholor to go up and make plays.

"We were blessed with two great coaches that put a bunch of athletes on the team," Agholor said. "We're going to do well. There's not one bad guy on our team. Everyone on our team is really good."

Featuring quarterback Chad Kelly (committed to Clemson), receiver Bralon Addison (Texas A&M) and  running back Duke Johnson (Miami) among others, Agholor's team was one of the best in the field. Boasting players from 10 states, the all-star squad was an opportunity for Agholor and others to bond with players they had only heard about.

"These are guys you want to compete against everyday,” he said. “They say everyone around the nation is getting better, these are the guys that they're talking about. Now we're all together having fun and winning together."

Ranked 22nd overall in the MaxPreps Top 100, schools such as Florida, Florida State, Miami, Texas and USC are heavily pursuing the talented athlete as both a receiver and defensive back. With so much attention on the recruiting trail, Agholor is almost to the point where he narrows his list down to a more manageable five to 10.

"I have sort of an idea of a shorter list," he said. "That's between me and my coaches and parents right now. We're going to work something out and hopefully narrow it down soon.

"There's many things I'm looking for. When I first started recruiting, it was all about people and their morals, that was always number one. Academics is number two because I feel like there's a degree out there for everyone, it's up to you to go get it."

In terms of a decision, that will be awhile for the five-star athlete.

"I think I want to sign on National Signing Day," Agholor said. "I really want to think this all through. Schools know, who I'm in contact with, they know what type of interest is coming in and if not, I'm going to make it a little bit clearer soon."

Miller enjoys getting some pad work

While most of the skill position athletes were playing games, the big fellas down in the trenches were also having some fun and it came in something unique to The Opening: pads.

"It was fun, I haven't put pads on in awhile since I didn't play in the spring game," West Palm Beach (Fla.) offensive tackle Patrick Miller said. "It was sweet, I got a little hitting time in."

Armed with full shoulder pads and helmets, the one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive linemen were one of the highlights of the camp. For some players, such as Miller, who have largely been without contact, it did take a bit of an adjustment.

"Definitely, you're getting the cob webs out," he said. "You kind of forget how to pass set or something like that. But you're with all these great coaches and stuff and you get your technique back to where it was and everything. It's just part of getting ready for the season."

Working with former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley among others, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Miller has been able to pickup plenty of small tips and tricks that should serve him well going into his senior year.

"There's just so many small, miscellaneous things," Miller said. "I mean a pro tells you, and you're like, alright and you listen to him then. The only people I like to listen to is my head coach, my position coach but obviously, if an NFL player says it, you know it's right."

As one of the top offensive tackles in South Florida, Miller has offers from just about every SEC school, as well as Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami and others. He has taken several unofficial visits recently and will likely take a few more between now and trimming his list down.

"I think I'm going to narrow it down in the middle of the season," Miller said. "I know I'm going to visit Oklahoma and North Carolina. I've already visited Auburn, LSU and Tennessee and Florida too. I liked them all a lot, I liked Auburn a lot obviously. After taking these visits, I definitely was thinking I wanted to commit somewhere but now I realize I just want to wait and weigh my options. There might be something better out there for me."
 
Mangum sharp again in 7-on-7 setting

If you wanted to have a good 7-on-7 team at an event like this, you needed to pick a good quarterback. Noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., who has worked Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton among others, was in charge of drafting “Team Vapor Carbon” with rookie Patrick Peterson. It's no surprise that Whitfield's acumen was on the money as Eagle (Idaho) quarterback Tanner Mangum was the top signal caller throughout the day.

"I'm just doing my best to make them look good," Mangum said. "I know they're talented, they're playmakers, so I'm just doing my best to make good decisions and keep up with them. It's an honor to be playing with them so I don't want to make them look bad."

Mangum team featured Notre Dame-bound receiver Deontay Greenberry, Florida-bound running back Mike Davis and plenty of other impressive skill position players. Being able to throw to such a talented group was nice for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback but that wasn't the biggest take away from the event.

"There's so many things but I think it's forming relationships with these guys," Mangum said. "These are the top players from across the country and you wouldn't have any other chance to meet them but here. It's an honor to be considered among them and it's been even better getting to know them."

As a BYU commitment for several months, Mangum is one of several players who are already dead-set on their college of choice. With 11 players on his team who have not made a commitment and plenty more at the event, there has surprisingly not been many conversations asking him for advice on the recruiting process.

"Not too much," he said. "Everyone here is pretty set in where they're going, there's a few guys that aren't committed. There aren't any here, but I'm doing my best to recruit some guys to get to the "Y." Dylan Collie and I are working together to get some guys to BYU. There's some big recruits that have committed there and I think that 2012 recruiting class will be pretty good."

The recruiting class that the pair is apart of is the Cougar's first as a football independent. The opportunity to go out on their own and the advantages with that are a big draw for several recruits according to Mangum.

"I think it's helping a lot, it's a big positive," he said. "It allows us to play some big time teams on national television and I think guys draw to that and want to play for that. It's helping out a lot."

The Opening is not the only national competition Mangum is taking part in. He will head down to Pepperdine in a little over a week for the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp, something he lights up when asked about it.

"I'm very excited," Mangum said. "I've grown up watching that since I was a kid and it's always been a dream of mine. So it's a dream come true for sure."

Dawson sees two recruiting him hard

One of the more physically imposing defenders on the field was 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker Nick Dawson. Flying across the country from Charlotte (N.C.) to the Nike campus was no problem for the talented athlete as he's having a blast so far at The Opening.

"Everything's great," Dawson said. "It's so unique it doesn't make sense. And every day it gets better and better. I'm just out here to compete with the top 150 and I'm doing going good."

Like many players, the opportunity to interact and learn from NFL players has been a moment that often leaves Dawson in awe as he receives tips from the best of the best.

"I'm just getting coached up, you can't ask for any more than this,” he said. “Aaron Curry is out here coaching the linebackers Ray Rice with the running backs. Dwayne Bowe with the receivers, there's just so many unique athletes out here."

Holding offers from schools such as Arkansas, Auburn, Miami, USC and others, Dawson is trying to begin the arduous task of narrowing down his list of programs he is considering.

"Everything is going great with my recruiting," he said. "I'm trying to narrow it down but I don't really have a top five right now."

Just because it's tough to limit his options going forward, doesn't mean a few schools aren't standing out.

"Louisville and Clemson are recruiting me the hardest," he said. "I went to Clemson's camp and Louisville's also. They were great, everything was great. Both of the schools were perfect. I'm just trying to figure out which one is the best, best, best for me. I'm in the process of doing that right now."

Dawson had entertained thoughts of committing during The Opening but could not decide on a school enough to give his verbal pledge. He said he was unsure when he would eventually pull the trigger and commit.

Notes:

- It wasn't a great day of football for USC commitment Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. He banged his head against another player while making a play for a ball and ended up having to sit out most of the day (against his wishes it should be noted) after receiving stitches above his eye.

"Four. It wasn't too bad," Cope-Fitzpatrick said before getting to the bad news. "If football doesn't work out, I'm trying to be a model for Nike."

- Oregon commit Jake Rodrigues struggled mightily during 7-on-7, tossing more interceptions than touchdowns and misreading the defense a few times. He was able to throw the ball better as the day went on but he just wasn't as sharp as he was yesterday.

- USF-bound tight end Sean Price has performed well in 7-on-7 events before and did so once again Friday afternoon. He was able to use his big frame and speed to create mismatches and was a nice target in the red zone.

- All-around athlete Cedric Dozier is really rangy as a defensive back. He grabbed quite a few interceptions, including a nice one off Cal commit Zach Kline. Top ten defensive back Landon Collins also impressed in the secondary.

-  Number one ranked running back Johnathan Gray is a special back. Known for his rushing skills, he was explosive out of the backfield and displayed some soft hands. He lined up next to future Texas teammate Connor Brewer and the pair definitely had some chemistry out on the field.

- Tight end Taylor McNamara, headed to Arizona, had a really nice day and went up and caught some throws that very few people could get to. Ray Rice jokingly started calling him Todd Heap after making so many plays.

- The play of the day came from receiver Jaydon Mickens. The USC-bound athlete took a short pass and turned it into a 40+ yard touchdown by traversing the field three times and leaving several defenders unable to move. Even speedy Dwayne Bowe was impressed and quite excited about the play.

Posted on: July 3, 2011 1:55 am
Edited on: July 3, 2011 11:54 am
 

Badger Sports 7-on-7 Nationals Day 1 Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

DALLAS – The sun was out, the weather was hot and the games were fierce at SMU's Gerald Ford Stadium Saturday afternoon for the Badger Sports 7-on-7 National Championship tournament. Teams from across the country rolled into town with high expectations as round robin play began and while no one made it through the day undefeated, the competition level was high from goal line to goal line.

The most talked about player at the event was easily Westlake Village (Calif.) receiver Jordan Payton. After becoming USC's first commitment for the class of 2012, the savvy wide out spent most of the spring and summer worried more about his own game than the recruiting game. However, since decommitting from the Trojans last week, he's been checking his phone a lot more often for information from college coaches.

“I've been 'monitoring' it,” Payton said with a laugh. “That's what I call it. I've been emailing back and forth with Michigan and several other schools.”

It should be noted that Payton was still out on the fields in the Texas heat running the same routes, making the same great catches and finding the end zone when he wasn't moonlighting as a safety for his 1925 All-Star team. Still, things were just a little bit different now that he was no longer committed.

“All of the schools, it's weird because they offer you and then they didn't talk to me as much because I was committed,” he said. “Now, Michigan, Cal, Arizona State, Florida (are talking to him). I'm interested to hear what Florida State's going to say.

“It's like I'm in a different area, I don't know what to do. I've only been committed. But I'm feeling good and I'm happy and taking it slow.”

The MaxPreps Top 100 receiver is still considering the local team, USC, and will meet with coaches next week to discuss his options. The biggest reason in pulling his verbal pledge back was to give the staff a chance to figure out their limited scholarship numbers and Payton knows that having to sit across from the coaches and talk with them about his place in the program going forwards is going to be a bit awkward when it happens.

“I'll be down there to talk with them so we'll see how that goes,” he said. “I have no idea what to expect to be honest with you.”

Kind of like talking with an ex-girlfriend?

“Exactly,” he said.

Payton does have a short list of schools he's considering and there tends to be a common theme as he tries to figure out where he'll eventually wind up signing with.

“All the schools I'm talking with all have great business schools,” he said. “Second, I just want to feel comfortable. I'm not saying I didn't feel comfortable with USC but I just felt it was that time. I'm just not sure that I want to be in LA.”

The 6-foot-2, 195-pounder will likely play most of his recruitment close to the vest before announcing and one of the key reasons why is the fact that he's trying to orchestrate a few other players to join him at his eventual destination.

“I'm going to tell you this, it's going to be interesting the next couple of weeks for in recruiting,” Payton said. “You're going to see a lot of changes. Just think Fab Five.”

Knowing how the comment would sound, Payton was quick to clarify “like” the Fab Five and that it didn't mean they were for sure headed to Michigan.

Treggs burning up on and off the field

On the field and off, two of the most polished players on any team were Payton and Bellflower (Calif.) receiver Bryce Treggs. The two are friends and with Payton no longer a lock to go to USC, the two have started to explore the possibility of playing together at the next level instead of against each other on the turf at SMU.

“We're actually talking about that,” Treggs said. “That'd be pretty good. I mean, if me and Jordan go to the same school, it'd be pretty much unfair.”

When asked about Payton's 'Fab Five' remarks, the 5-foot-11, 175-pounder opened up a little bit more about the prospect of them playing together.

“Well you have all those players that went to Michigan and made it the program they are today,” Treggs said. “He's basically saying that we might be able to do that. Not necessarily that we're going to do it at Michigan but that's his idea. Him, me, Shaq Thompson, Ishmael Adams, a lot of guys.”

“The Cali Five, I guess.”

Treggs said he unofficially visited Oregon, Oregon State, Cal, UCLA, Arizona State, Stanford and Notre Dame over the past few months. Many observers have read the tea leaves and believe that he will eventually end up playing for his father's alma mater, Cal, though. It's easy to see why they believe that whenever Treggs is asked who is recruiting him the hardest.

“Probably Cal... definitely Cal,” he said. “It's not a lock, I'm going to look at all of my other options. I'm pretty sure I'm going to make a decision before the season so I can get it out of the way and focus on having a good senior year. I hope I can lead my team to a CIF championship.”

Treggs was blowing by corners with ease despite the sweltering heat, scoring several touchdowns by utilizing the fade route along the numbers Saturday. Running routes in 101 degree heat was a bit of an adjustment for someone used to ocean breezes and Santa Anna winds however.

“It was very hot,” Treggs said. “In California, we've got that breeze from the beach and stuff like that. After the first two games we adapted to it so we're fine right now.

“I would say I'm in the zone right now. We have so many receivers on our team, you never know when you're going to get the ball with so many weapons. There's not really one go-to guy so I just run my route hard every time and when Troy (Williams) picks me, I'm ready to make a play.”

Williams, a 2013 player who was one of the sharper quarterbacks at the event, and Treggs easily had the best timing at the event and it was not limited to deep routes. The connection between the two runs deep and was developed over years of playing together.

“The timing has been there since forth or fifth grade,” Treggs said. “We used to play Pop Warner for the Carson Colts together. So the timing is definitely there and it's good to be out here with somebody you know.”

Treggs, it seems, knows just about everybody and it will be interesting to see what coaching staff gets to know him the best through the recruiting process.

Rippy growing as a linebacker

It's often become common place for top recruits to come to camps or combines to be seen and heard but sit on the sidelines when it comes to competition time. MaxPreps Top 100 linebacker Deaysean Rippy, despite being from McKees Rocks (Pa.), was not one such player and battled the heat and humidity of Texas to focus on getting better against some of the best players in the country.

“We played some good teams, they were competitive,” Rippy said. “I'm working on everything, from being a linebacker to playing like a corner or strong safety in coverage. The drops, the backpedal, being aggressive, all of it.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound Rippy holds offers from programs such as Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee. With so many options to choose from, narrowing down the list is becoming a difficult task and one he's not sure when he'll wind up cutting down to a more manageable ten or fewer.

“I don't know to be honest,” he said. “I've got all these schools and don't get me wrong, they're all great schools and you're bound to go pro from whatever school. People go pro from IUP up in Pennsylvania so any school, it's just about playing.”

Like many recruits nowadays, Rippy has hit the road over the spring and summer to visit schools and see what the coaching staffs are like in person.

“Had a lot of unofficals up till now and I'm about to take a couple more visits,” he said. “I don't know where yet and that's the thing. One of the big things I've learned in the recruiting process is that when you get those first 10 offers, you want all of that attention. Then, once you get 20 or 30, you don't want that attention any more.”

“It's going to be hard to pick a school, it's going to be very hard.”

For a time, there was one program that stood out from the pack but as the attention has increased on his college choice, he's actually broadened his outlook instead of narrowing it down.

“At first, people knew that I favored Florida a lot,” Rippy said. “I came to realize that I'd rather keep it wide open. I'll go to Alabama or Auburn or wherever. Between now and August, I'm just going to going to weigh my options.”

Thompson looking at four

Yet another top 100 player who performed well at SMU was Sacramento (Calif.) safety Shaq Thompson. While he mostly was batting away balls that had too much air on them, day one of the tournament also allowed him to show his offensive attributes. Playing both ways was just one way the talented athlete showed off his love for the game.

“It's too hot out here. The turf is hotter, less wind, it's just a hot day,” Thompson said. “But it's a great day to play football and that always makes it a great day.”

Easily the most impressive defensive back on the field from a physical standpoint, the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Thompson has a host of programs who are heavily pursuing him ever since he decommitted from Cal awhile ago.

“I'd say Washington and Cal and Notre Dame,” he said. “Mainly Washington, they've been calling me, hitting me up and see how I'm doing. They're getting there but I'm still open. I'm ready for anything.”

Though it appears there will be no more unofficial visits for the four-star safety, he's already moved on to figuring out who will receive an official visit as the calendar inches closer to the date prospects can begin visiting in a formal capacity.

“During the season I'm probably going to take a trip to Washington,” he said. “Cal, UCLA or Notre Dame, one of those too.”

Thompson said his top four schools were – not surprisingly - Cal, Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame. The distance from home for the two non-California schools likely won't be a huge factor but is still something he's considering.

“Not really, I've got family basically all over,” Thompson said. “It's just the people I grew up with are the people that I'm most comfortable with. So I'll probably stay closer to home.”

Notes

- The most anticipated game of the day matched up B2G and 1925, who have played against each other several times in championship settings like Saturday. There was a little bit of trash talk and a lot of plays being made. Notre Dame commit Deontay Greenberry would probably had taken home an award for most swagger and was nearly unstoppable in the red zone for 1925. Receiver Gabe Marks and Arizona State soft verbal commitment Kenny Lawler starred for B2G.

- Quarterback Jeremy Liggins was the primary signal caller for Team Louisiana and he stood out for his size (6-foot-3 and about 260-pounds) and the ability to get rid of the ball quickly when he wanted to. He was able to get the ball downfield to several speedy receivers as well. Darion Monroe, a Texas A&M commit, was a standout on the defensive side of the ball.

- Five-star quarterback Zeke Pike was a bit inconsistent on intermediate routes but made several nice tosses down the field. He looked better than he did at the Ohio State Nike and Elite 11 camps and had plenty of targets to throw to. Fellow Auburn commit Darrion Hutcherson looks like he could suit up on the Plains tomorrow and tight end Jesse James, who's headed to Penn State, were both big mismatches due to their size and ability to find an open spot on the field. Also on the team was receiver Jason Croom, who said he's nearing a decision and will announce next month.

- It's easy to overlook Detroit (Mich.) athlete Dennis Norfleet when you're walking by him on the sideline but it is not, however, easy to overlook him when he steps on the field. The 5-foot-9 (maybe) scatback was simply a playmaker on Saturday, catching everything thrown his way and making defenders miss often.

Posted on: July 1, 2011 5:40 pm
Edited on: July 1, 2011 5:47 pm
 

Utah, Colorado seeing effects of Pac-12 move

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Utah and Colorado officially make the move to the Pac-12 today but you wouldn't know that if you took a looked at their commitment lists or talk to the players they're recruiting in 2012. Ever since it was announced that they were transitioning West last summer, both programs have been selling recruits on the chance to play for a conference that has plenty of momentum behind it.

With the Pac-12 known for producing quarterbacks, both schools have already snagged verbal commitments from two very good California signal callers in their upcoming classes. San Clemente (Calif.) quarterback Travis Wilson has great size at 6-foot-6 and a big arm that should fit in well in offensive coordinator Norm Chow's pro-style attack. Wilson was recently selected to the Elite 11 quarterback competition and held offers from most of the Pac-12, so it's clear the Utes move to the new conference already has them competing for comparable talent.

For Colorado, they've built a smaller recruiting class so far but also managed to get a good quarterback to verbally commit in Shane Dillon out of El Cajon (Calif.). He was offered early in the process by Ohio State and is trained by noted quarterback guru George Whitfield. While Dillon needs to continue to add weight to his frame, he's a good option for a Buffs team that has not had consistent play from the most important position on the field.

Both schools are also keenly aware of their current recruiting pipelines and are not shying away from them. Colorado has always recruited the state of California well and since they also mined Texas for players in the Big 12, it appears they will continue to focus on both states going forward. Looking at their current class, they have two players each from Colorado and Texas to go along with one from California and it wouldn't be all that surprising if their class on Signing Day doesn't have a similar ratio.

Despite having to battle rival BYU for in-state prospects, Utah has the added benefit of selling recruits on playing in a conference, which, obviously, BYU cannot do as an independent. Winning a conference championship is a draw for some kids and one other thing they can sell for a program that has won multiple BCS bowls. Add in the fact that the Pac-12 Network will likely face fewer distribution issues and more access than BYUtv and it could be Utah that ends up with more exposure over the next couple of years.

The one thing that both programs have to do to gain traction and start to get top-tier recruits is win on the football field. If Colorado posts a similar record to what they did under Dan Hawkins (19–39), the benefit of being on television more often will be negated. If Utah can sneak into the Pac-12 title game (given injuries to Arizona State and issues at USC, not out of the realm of possibilities this season), they could see a lot more players considering the school in Salt Lake City. If they can't withstand the week-to-week challenge, the recruits will go elsewhere.

Utimately, it remains to be seen exactly how the two will do in their new conference. The situation is unique at both schools and they each have disadvantages as the "new guys" to the club. Based on the way things are going so far however, both Colorado and Utah are enjoying the benefits of calling themselves Pac-12 schools.
Posted on: July 1, 2011 11:18 am
Edited on: July 1, 2011 11:28 am
 

Elite 11 Roster Unveiled

Posted by Bryan Fischer

The roster for the 2011 Elite 11 quarterback competition has been released, and it features some of the top signal-callers in the country. There are a few changes to the event itself, which expands the roster from 11 to 24 and goes from a four-day event to five. The annual competition will be held at the picturesque Pepperdine campus in Malibu, Calif.

Notable alumni at the event include Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, Troy Smith, Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Tim Tebow and Blaine Gabbert. This year's lineup features the following players from the class of 2012:

Austin Appleby (North Canton, Ohio)
Committed to Purdue

Connor Brewer (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Committed to Texas

Neal Burcham
(Greenbrier, Ark.)

Tyler Cameron (Jupiter, Fla.)

Preston Dewey (Austin, Texas)
Committed to Miami

Shane Dillon (El Cajon, Calif.)
Committed to Colorado

Bart Houston (Concord, Calif.)
Committed to Wisconsin

Chad Kelly (Buffalo. N.Y.)
Committed to Clemson

Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind.)

Zach Kline (Danville, Calif.)
Committed to Cal

Jeff Lindquist (Mercer Island, Wash.)
Committed to Washington

Tanner Mangum (Eagle, Idaho)
Committed to BYU

Tyler Matthews (McPherson, Kan.)
Committed to TCU

Cyler Miles (Denver, Colo.)
Committed to Washington

Tyler O’Connor (Lima, Ohio)
Committed to Michigan State

Nick Patti (Orlando, Fla.)
Committed to Boise State

Zeke Pike (Fort Mitchell, Ky.)
Committed to Auburn

Patton Robinette (Maryville, Tenn.)
Committed to North Carolina

Jake Rodrigues (Rocklin, Calif.)
Committed to Oregon

Grant Rohach (Moorpark, Calif.)
Committed to Iowa State

Patrick Towles (Fort Thomas, Ky.)
Committed to Kentucky

Chad Voytik (Cleveland, Tenn.)

Travis Wilson (San Clemente, Calif.)
Committed to Utah

Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala.)
Posted on: June 7, 2011 11:42 am
 

Michigan State adds elite quarterback

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Coming off one of the best seasons in school history last year, Michigan State is finally starting to see a bounce in their recruiting. The program added a big pickup to their 2012 class late Monday night when Lima (Ohio) quarterback Tyler O’Connor committed to the Spartans.

“I’m proud to be a Spartan,” O’Connor told SpartanTailgate.com. “I love everything about (MSU).” 

Recently named a finalist to the Elite 11 quarterback competition and invited to participate in the camp in Southern California, O'Connor selected Michigan State over scholarship offers from Northwestern, Boston College, Louisville and West Virginia among others.

"(Mark Dantonio) was very excited and was glad I trusted him and the team," he said. "He said they were ending any other communication with other QB's and looked forward to getting more recruits along my side." 

The 6-foot-3, 200-pound O'Connor not only has a good arm but enough speed to escape from the pocket. He threw for over 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns last season as a junior. He also rushed for 470 yards and 13 touchdowns.

O'Connor is the fifth commitment for Michigan State's class of 2012 and as he said, will be the only quarterback Dantonio takes this class. The school took just one quarterback in 2011 as well.
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com