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July 22, 2010

Elite 11: Driskel is best of the best

MORE: Jeff Driskel dominates Elite 11 | 2012 QB Kline lights up Elite 11

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. - One Elite 11 counselor compared Jeff Driskel to Troy Aikman and Peyton Manning, an outstanding honor for the Florida commit who was named the MVP of the week-long quarterback competition held at Soka University.

Elite 11 Highs and Lows
Each Elite 11 QB produced their share of highlights over the course of the four-day camp, but there is also room for improvement. Here's a look at some of the good and bad from the week:
Name Ht/Wt High School
Archie Bradley6-3/220Broken Arrow (Okla.)
Good: Bradley was best throwing the deep ball especially during the accuracy challenges. He was one of the surprises during the four-day competition.
Bad: We're still unsure whether Bradley can make the short, intermediate and deep throws consistently.
Teddy Bridgewater6-3/185Miami Northwestern
Good: Bridgewater has proven himself on the biggest stages - including back-to-back titles at the NIKE 7on Tournament - and he continues to improve his decision-making. Coaches raved about how much he knew in the classroom sessions.
Bad: These events aren't Bridgewater's strong points. He's better during real game play. Sometimes his throws were inaccurate and he didn't always have pop on his ball.
Evan Crower6-4/182San Diego St. Augustine
Good: Crower, the only lefty at the Elite 11, throws passes well, there is always a tight spiral on the ball and he consistently hit receivers on all the routes.
Bad: He didn't have the strongest arm in the competition and it seemed to take an extra split-second for the ball to arrive.
Jeff Driskel6-3/225Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty
Good: Driskel is an exceptional talent who does it all well from having a strong arm to being able to put touch on his passes to wanting to learn the game even more.
Bad: There isn't much particularly bad about Driskel but the coaches did point out a few times that he leans into his passes a little too much.
Phillip Ely6-1/186Tampa (Fla.) Plant
Good: Ely comes from one of the nation's best programs for quarterbacks and he's next in line to be a big-time player. He was voted "Best Fit in any System" which speaks to his versatility.
Bad: At times, Ely didn't have the most pop on his ball. There were opportunities for him to fire it to a receiver and he floated it a little too much sometimes.
Kiehl Frazier6-3/212Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian
Good: Frazier is big and strong and was one of the best-looking quarterbacks at the event. He got better as the week went on and has pop on his passes.
Bad: Frazier does have a wind-up motion on his delivery which could be a concern playing against SEC defenses.
Everett Golson6-0/170Myrtle Beach (S.C.)
Good: Golson has a lot of strength for his size and his delivery is fine but at only 6 feet tall seeing over big offensive lines in the ACC could be a concern. He's best when making something happen in the backfield.
Bad: His size is an issue. Golson will be one of the smaller quarterbacks in the ACC but if the UNC coaching staff can be creative then he could be a special prospect.
Cody Kessler6-1/208Bakersfield (Calif.) Centennial
Good: Kessler has a good release point, can get out of the pocket and throw consistently and is physical - probably the strongest-looking quarterback at the Elite 11. He could easily be confused for a fullback or a linebacker.
Bad: There isn't much to criticize with Kessler but one concern could be that he winds the ball up high and takes an extra second to throw a pass. It doesn't seem like a big issue but it could be something to watch.
Adam Pittser6-1/200Richmond (Ill.) Burton
Good: Pittser might not become a five-star recruit but he has helped himself immeasurably at the Elite 11. Not only did Pittser belong here but he was one of the better quarterbacks. He is strong, tough and has a lot of zip on his passes.
Bad: Can Pittser do this consistently? He runs the wing-T in high school so it's tough to know whether Pittser can deliver these performances over and over again.
DaMarcus Smith6-1/180Louisville (Ky.) Seneca
Good: Smith, who missed last season with a knee injury, looks healthy and his arm is stronger than ever. The Louisville commit can fire the ball past defenders and to his receivers and can also move around the pocket well.
Bad: There were times when Smith lacked consistency. Some throws were wild but when Smith composed himself he was one of the better throwers in attendance.
Kendal Thompson6-2/180Moore (Okla.) Southmoore
Good: Thompson is a dual-threat quarterback but didn't get to show his running skills much in this competition. Still, he delivered on-point passes and showed a good release point.
Bad: One concern with Thompson is that he throws a lot with only his arm and doesn't use the rest of his body to deliver more power behind the ball.
J.W. Walsh6-2/190Denton (Texas) Guyer
Good: Walsh is an outstanding competitor who totaled 49 touchdowns last season. He has good footwork and had probably the quickest release of any quarterback.
Bad: There were numerous times when Walsh didn't throw good spirals. Whether it was a grip problem or something else we're not sure but he didn't have the same issue at the recent NIKE 7on Tournament.
After watching Driskel, from Oviedo (Fla.) Hagerty, for four straight days working out in drills and 7-on-7 competition the comparison to Aikman and Manning at the same stage is not at all a stretch.

Driskel makes all the throws, has an incredibly strong arm and impressive delivery and is deceptively athletic as well, a perfect fit for the Gators who have the offensive minds on their coaching staff to make Driskel an even bigger star.

"He's a much better athlete than people give him credit for," Elite 11 coach Matt James said. "He's so smooth in his drops and his arm is strong. He has the best opportunity to play right away. He's got the best chance of winning a national championship. Jeff is 1A and everybody else is fighting for second.

"He's a guy who could still be athletic in (Florida's) offense and they could still do some stuff out of the spread but he's also the pro-style type kid who could take some snaps under center and hand the ball off."

That's the thing about Driskel - he can do it all. During drill work with James and Elite 11 and Mission Viejo, Calif., coach Bob Johnson, Driskel looked good on three-step drops and five-step drops, accuracy challenges and everything in between.

When he needs to fire the ball between two defenders or into a small window, Driskel can get it there. If he needs to put some touch on it to loft the ball over the linebacker or during certain routes he has no issue with that, either.

Something else that stood out about Driskel, the top-rated pro-style quarterback and No. 31 overall by Rivals.com, is his competitiveness. There were moments to have fun throughout the four-day event but Driskel meant business most of the time and that intensity also helped him earn the MVP award.

"You always have to try to be at your best and you have to want to be the best and I came out here to play football," Driskel said. "I wasn't here to go to Disneyland even though that ended up being fun. You have to have that focused attitude and I had it throughout the week."

What about the comparison to Aikman and Manning?

"That's great," Driskel said. "Those two guys have done everything in the NFL. I wouldn't compare myself to them just yet. To be mentioned with them is an honor and I'm going to keep working to get better."

Even though he didn't put up monster statistics in his junior season, Driskel has been outstanding at multiple events this off-season to further solidify his spot as the nation's top pro-style quarterback.

Four days at the Elite 11 made it simple to see that few quarterbacks are in his league and even more important is that James said Florida's offense could be a perfect situation - whether the Gators want to use him in the pocket, in play-action or even utilizing his running ability at times.

"He's very reminiscent of (John) Brantley," James said. "I don't know if there's going to be another (Tim) Tebow ever in that offense but if they wanted to they have the ability to spread people out and do some things with him because of his athleticism. I don't think people understand he is a very athletic kid or if they want to go into more of a pro-style. You're getting a little bit of every offense.

"On top of that, he's a smart kid who loves to chalk it up. That's one of the biggest things for these quarterbacks are the intangibles off the field that they have to have. Everyone was impressed with him including the counselors."

MVP runner-up

Adam Pittser, from Richmond (Ill.) Burton, has offers from Ball State, Central Michigan, Western Michigan and Illinois State but things could pick up dramatically after his Elite 11 performance.

Pittser, a 6-foot-1, 200-pound prospect, runs a wing-T offense in high school so he doesn't have big stats or an overly impressive highlight film but after his showing here things could take off. He finished second in the MVP running to Driskel and was one of the more polished quarterbacks all week.

"You have a wing-T kid with three 1,000-yard rushers on his team and I played the wing-T in high school so I feel his pain where sometimes you throw eight times a game and that's on third down and you run the waggle," James said.

"For a kid who throws the ball maybe 60 times a year to come out here in shorts and a t-shirt and to come to some of these events, that's what's so great about the Elite 11, you see kids from all over. You're going to know your five-star kids, you're going to know your four-star kids. To find a kid like Adam, who no one knew about, that's special."

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