MALIBU, Calif. – One aspect of this year’s Elite 11 competition that spectators and followers may not realize is that this isn’t just an event in which players wake up in the morning, go out and throw to some targets and call it a day. The participants were given playbooks to study weeks in advance, each night they go over coverages and progressions that they are expected to understand and many of the players are staying up late hours of the night studying playbooks in preparation for the following morning’s competition.
Tanner Mangum has had arguably the three best throws of the entire week and continues to be one of the top players in Malibu.
The competition is grueling both physically and mentally. On Thursday, the fourth day of competition, some fatigue on both the mental and physical side started to show. Each quarterback was given one five-play series of 7on7 with some challenging reads to make. Unlike Wedneday, most of the quarterbacks struggled. A few persevered.
With only one more day of competition remaining, we take a look at the top performers on day four.
1. Tanner Mangum – BYU commit
No one else had a performance that was in the same stratosphere as Mangum on Thursday. While many prospects were dragging, struggling with their reads and physically lethargic, Mangum stepped under center and immediately brought energy, confidence and excitement to the huddle. Following his 5-for-5 showing, Trent Dilfer remarked, “That might have been perfect. We may have just had our first perfect session.” Included in the session was a deep out route that was one of the best throws of the entire event. In fact, Mangum has been the arm behind arguably the three best throws throughout the entire week.
2. Zach Kline – California commit
Similar to Mangum, Kline is still bubbling with energy and there has certainly been no drop off in arm strength. Kline came out and made all the throws fitting his passes into some tight windows that very few quarterbacks would be able to hit. One of his best throws of the day came on a perfectly placed ball on a vertical route off of a double move. Though the receiver dropped the football, hurting Kline’s completion percentage, the throw was on the money and he showed natural leadership by immediately picking the receiver up and praising the route.
3. Jameis Winston – Uncommitted
Heading into the fourth day of competition, Winston had taken over the No. 1 spot on the Elite 11 running ranking by the camp’s staff. His 7on7 performance Thursday was once again very strong, he made some great throws and good decisions but at the No. 1 spot the microscope is that much more intense and Winston likely will take a step back in favor of Mangum when the rankings are updated before Friday. Regardless, Winston continues to state a strong case to be considered the nation’s top quarterback.
4. Shane Dillon – Colorado commit
Dillon hasn’t been a quarterback that has received a lot of mention this week and hasn’t made a Top 11 on 247Sports but that is not to say that he hasn’t had a good week of work. Dillon has been solid and consistent throughout the camp and he put together another quietly strong 7on7 session on Thursday. He has good size and one of the stronger arms in Malibu and he is hanging around as a constant competitor.
5. Travis Wilson – Utah commit
Phillip Rivers has an unorthodox throwing style but the ball gets out quick and it is on target. Rivers’ college quarterback coach, Norm Chow, clearly saw something in Rivers that he liked and Chow may have seen the same thing in Travis Wilson. Like Rivers, Wilson’s mechanics are unorthodox but he has one of the quickest releases in Malibu and he also has one of the best frames at the event.
6. Neal Burcham – uncommitted
The sleeper of the camp just keeps hanging around. Burcham, whose only offer is from Central Arkansas, put together his second straight solid day of 7on7. He has good size and is gaining confidence with every rep. Burcham doesn’t make many mistakes and delivers the ball quickly and decisively. There is a reason that he has been a mainstay on the Elite 11 staff’s top 11 list through the first four days.
Travis Wilson has a quick release and a great frame.
7. Patrick Towles – Kentucky commit
Towles continues to help his stock this week with another impressive showing on Thursday. After making some good decisions and hitting some of his underneath and intermediate targets, Towles drew the defense in and just flicked the ball vertical for a 40+ yard completion and likely touchdown. Along with his physical ability, Towles continues to stand out with his overall leadership and demeanor on the field. He has a quarterback’s presence about him.
8. Cyler Miles – Washington commit
No prospect has made a bigger 180 over the last two days than Miles. He was a lower tier participant based on his play over the first two days but as soon as the competition went live it was as if Miles’ competitive nature and instincts took over and he has been fantastic ever since and his gaining confidence is evident. Miles had a great series in his 7on7 and would be much higher on this list if not for a bad interception on his final attempt on a slant route.
9. Zeke Pike – Auburn commit
The emphasis from Coach Trent Dilfer all week has been “completions”. He has encouraged making the right reads and taking the check-downs when they’re there. Pike has taken that attitude to heart. He is the only prospect that has completed a perfect 15 for 15 pass attempts. The only reason he is this low from Thursday’s competition is that on an open vertical route, Pike let go a ball that was almost end over end and should have been intercepted only to bounce into his receiver’s hands. That consistency is the only thing keeping Pike from being among the top tier of quarterbacks for Thursday.
10. Bart Houston – Wisconsin commit
Cerebral and savvy, Houston is not the flashiest of quarterbacks but the ball always seems to be in the right place. Through the first two days, Houston had positioned himself as the No. 2 performer according to the Elite 11 staff and while he likely won’t be that high in the rankings following day 4, he won’t be far down the list. Houston doesn’t make mistakes, he has plenty of arm for the tough throws and though he has slow feet, he moves well functionally within the pocket.
11. Chad Kelly – Clemson commit
If Chad Kelly wanted to prove this week that he was an elite passer along with an elite athlete, he has done a commendable job. He throws a clean, crisp, catchable ball, makes decisions on time and looks at ease with lots of information being thrown his way. After a good 7on7 series, Kelly showed off his athleticism by running some routes for his competing quarterbacks and making some tough catches up the field.
- The Elite 11 camp culminates on Friday morning with more 7on7, this time in a two-minute drill setting. It is slated to be the most challenging session yet as the players are responsible for understanding the entire playbook and working off of hand signals from the sidelines while making quick decisions in a chaotic and pressure-filled situation. Representative of the quarterback position in real football, physical ability truly is only a small portion of the position this week as players are being asked to digest loads of information.
- Four days into the event, it has become clear that there is no prospect in Malibu that doesn’t belong. Every prospect has had his moments and looks capable of plenty of success on the next level. With 24 prospects in attendance, that certainly wasn’t the expectation but we’ve been pleasantly surprised and impressed.
- Matt Barkley joined the list of celebrity quarterbacks in attendance on Thursday. To date the college and pro counselors have included Carson Palmer of the Cincinnati Bengals, Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs, Boise State’s Kellen Moore, Ryan Lindley of San Diego State, E.J. Manuel of Florida State, Kirk Cousins of Michigan State and Oklahoma State’s Brandon Weeden.
- Wednesday's Xos Best in Film award went to Shane Dillon, further speaking to his productive week in Malibu.