QBs can see stock rise at Elite 11

Some see recruiting bump after regionals, others out to prove something at finals

Originally Published: June 21, 2012
By Mitch Sherman | ESPN RecruitingNation

People already knew his name -- part of it, at least.

But the quarterback skills of Luke Del Rio (Highland Park, Colo./Valor Christian) flew largely under the radar until his emergence at the Elite 11 Columbus regional last month.

The son of Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio, Luke earned an invite to the Elite 11 finals for his performance at the Ohio event. Two weeks later, he excelled at the Oakland regional. From there, he received a scholarship offer from his top school, Oklahoma State, committing almost immediately.

The sequence of events was no coincidence. Del Rio ranks among the latest group of quarterbacks to parlay his accomplishments in the Elite 11 program and the resulting exposure into progress in the recruiting arena.

From the six regionals this spring, 12 of 24 quarterbacks have been selected to participate in the Elite 11 finals, July 18 to 22 in Redondo Beach, Calif. The remaining 12 will be announced on the Elite 11 Selection Special, Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on ESPNU.

"For me, the recruiting process definitely picked up after the Columbus regional and even more so after Oakland," said Del Rio, the nation's No. 29 pocket passer.

He threw for 2,530 yards and 20 touchdowns last season at Jacksonville (Fla.) Episcopal as Jack Del Rio coached the hometown Jaguars. After the family moved to Colorado, Luke picked up scholarship offers from Colorado State and Oregon State.

Oklahoma State waited to offer, though Del Rio stayed in contact with offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Todd Monken. They talked the day after Del Rio's stop in Oakland. College coaches cannot attend the events.

"He was ecstatic to hear about how I did, just as much as I was," Del Rio said. "They took a personal interest. That's one of the key things I was looking for."

Then there's Zack Greenlee (Stockton, Calif./Lincoln), MVP of the Las Vegas regional last week. Greenlee, the No. 22-rated pocket passer, remains without a scholarship offer, though he's heard more from Fresno State and San Jose State since his Vegas showing and plans to camp this summer at both schools.

"I use my situation as a little bit of motivation," Greenlee said. "I know if I can keep working hard, things will come for me."

The 6-foot-2, 187-pound Greenlee received a finals invite in Las Vegas, earning a spot among the likes of USC pledge Max Browne (Sammamish, Wash./Skyline), Texas commit Tyrone Swoopes (Whitewright, Texas/Whitewright), Alabama commit Cooper Bateman (Salt Lake City/Cottonwood) and Michigan pledge Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle).

"I'll show these coaches I can play," Greenlee said. "I don't want to feel any pressure [at the finals]. I just want to go out there and compete. I know I can turn some heads."

His situation mirrors that of 2011 finalist Neal Burcham of Greenbrier, Ark., who arrived at the finals in California without an offer and left as the co-MVP with Jameis Winston, who signed with Florida State. Burcham eventually signed with Southern Methodist.

Del Rio's situation is similar to that of Nick Patti, an accomplished QB from Orlando, Fla., who was under the radar nationally last year. Patti, another finalist, used the Elite 11 program to gain attention, and he signed with Boise State. He enrolled in January and competed this spring for the starting position vacated by Kellen Moore.

Nearly two-thirds of the 32 projected starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season participated in the Elite 11 program. Many Elite 11 alums, such as Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Vince Young and Andrew Luck, began the competition with plenty of acclaim. Others such as Troy Smith and Kyle Orton surfaced as big names only after their Elite 11 experiences.

Who's next? Watch the selection special on Thursday night for an idea.

Mitch Sherman

ESPN Staff Writer