The Elite 11 Tryout tour made its way to Metro Atlanta on Friday with a stop in Suwannee, Ga. that included quarterbacks from over a dozen states and across several classes.
While it was the home of the Peach State, it was those out of state quarterbacks who made the biggest impression from the Class of 2015.
While the Elite 11 Counselors didn't deem anyone worthy of being named MVP or an invite to The Opening after the three and a half hour camp, I thought Anthony Ratliff of Butler High School in North Carolina had the best day in the drills the players were asked to perform.
Ratliff threw a crisp, accurate ball, and his enthusiasm was contagious as he rallied the receivers and generated excitement into what can be a fairly mundane process. He was selected by the counselors as one of the five finalists to compete in the last drill of the day called the pressure chamber.
His drill was interrupted as he got a cramp in his throwing hand and forearm. I said to myself, "I've never seen that before", as the drill leader Yogi Roth said to everyone watching "I've never seen that before."
Ratliff flexed his hand and finished the drill.
If it wasn't Ratliff who had the best day, it may have been another North Carolina quarterback in Kelvin Hopkins of Independence who was the most impressive. Hopkins ball came out of his hand with little effort, good velocity, accuracy, and the most tightly wound consistent spiral of the camp. The elephant in the room with Hopkins though is that he's only about 5'9. That's not going to be any consolation to the teams he shreds on Friday nights, but it's going to scare some college coaches.
Nick Johns made the trip down from Washington DC, and his time was well spent as the Gonzaga product had a strong showing. He is solidly built, but still has good flexibility and athleticism to throw the ball on the run. He showed good footwork and an accurate ball.
Two Arkansas quarterbacks stood out during the session. Ross Trail of Wynne High School was another of the five finalists who has a good frame and also was spinning the ball well the times I watched him through. Ty Storey of Charleston looked smooth in his rollout drills and delivered the ball with good touch and accuracy.
Alex Malzone made his way to the South from Brother Rice High School in Michigan. Malzone was selected as one of the Final Five participants in the final drill as well. Malzone has a lightning quick release in large part because of a short windup that almost gives the appearance that he's pushing the ball. He still gets good velocity on his throws and without needing to bring the ball back, he gets it out quickly.
Ryan Willis also made a long trip. While most eyes were on hoops in Kansas, the Bishop Miege product made his way from Kansas to Georgia to have a very strong showing. Willis has great feet in the pocket and on the roll, and he was as consistent throwing accurate spirals as anyone in attendance.
The Peach State was well represented on Friday, but the best throwers may have been among the underclass.
It's impossible not to like a quarterback whose name is Pass, and Class of 2016's Jawon Pass of Carver Columbus is a player who has a lot to like. Pass started a bit slowly as he acclimated himself to the camp that was chock full of highly recruited players a year older that him, but once he did, he was throwing the ball as well, if not better than anyone. He hit a seam route up the left sideline that was as nice a pass as I saw all day. The sky is the limit for Pass.
Davis Mills of Greater Atlanta Christian didn't do anything flashy, he just kept putting the ball where it was supposed to be. He didn't wow with his arm strength, but he certainly wowed with his accuracy. I liked him while I was watching him, and when I checked the roster and saw 2017 next to his name, I loved him. Mills has a big future ahead of him with three more seasons for GAC.
The 2015 Class was dealt a blow when 4-Star Tyler Queen was forced to remove himself because of an elbow injury that could cost him his senior season, but Lorenzo Nunez of Harrison is another quarterback who improved markedly from the beginning of camp until the end. The first drill I watched of his was a roll left and throw across the body pass. Nunez failed to connect on a single throw, which was out of character, because he throws well on the run where it counts, on the field for Harrison. Later in the camp, Nunez was making the throws we've seen on video and started showing why he's so heavily recruited.
Austin King of Alpharetta is another of Georgia's Class of 2015 who had a solid outing. King made everything look easy. He didn't have to over exert himself to make throws, and the ball always ended up catchable . My notes on him while I was watching said that he was an easy thrower, who looked calm, and was very accurate. Those are three pretty good traits in a quarterback.
While no one was selected to The Opening after Friday's tryout, there is a Nike Camp on Sunday in which many of these quarterbacks will compete again. It wouldn't be a surprise to see a couple invites go out.
Counselor's Final Five (Only Class of 2015):
Anthony Ratliff, Butler (NC)
Ross Trail, Wynne (AR) )
Austin King, Alpharetta (GA)
Alex Malzone, Brother Rice (MI)
Kendall Hinton, Southern (NC) )
Kennedy's Top 5 (All Classes) )
1. Anthony Ratliff (NC)
2. Kelvin Hopkins (NC)
3. Nick Johns (DC)
4. Ryan Willis (KS)
5. Austin King (GA)