MALIBU, Calif. — Cleveland High School’s Chad Voytik was one of the more impressive participants as the Elite 11 competition for 24 of the nation’s top prep quarterbacks kicked off at Pepperdine University this week.
Wednesday morning players were buzzing about where they were ranked in the initial coaches’ leaderboard, which had Voytik name in the top spot, but they had to stay focused on the task at hand.
One of the most level-headed quarterbacks at Elite 11, Voytik is mechanically efficient and has excelled by showing good touch on his passes.
“I felt real confident,” said Voytik of the leaderboard’s unveiling. “I expected to be at the top or near the top, and I was excited to see my name at No. 1. I take pride in working hard and that’s what I’ve been doing all week.”
NFL veteran Trent Dilfer spent the first half of Wednesday’s workout leading the quarterbacks in walk-throughs as he continued to install his offense.
The QBs went through a variety of plays, and at one point Dilfer called on players to lead the exercise. James Winston of Hueytown (Hueytown, Ala.) and Jake Rodrigues of Whitney (Rocklin, Calif.) each took turns as coach, standing in front of the group and directing the walk-through.
According to published reports, the day started with the QBs throwing from their knees, first from 10 yards away and then increasing the distance. There were several standouts, with Winston showcasing his powerful arm.
Gunner Kiel of Columbus East (Columbus, Ind.), the No. 1 QB in the ESPNU 150, also impressed with his arm strength, as did Voytik, Tyler Cameron of Jupiter, Fla., and Jeff Lindquist of Mercer Island, Wash.
The Cleveland High quarterback received a compliment from one of his fellow competitors. “There are a lot of guys here with really strong arms,” said Kiel. “Personally, I’ve been impressed. Voytik’s got a gun. He can throw it pretty good.”
A morning workout Wednesday was followed by 7-on-7 contests in the afternoon.
There was no Golden Gun accuracy challenge at the end of Wednesday’s workout, as the QBs instead gathered to listen to a talk from Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs. Cassel was a counselor during the workout, not only throwing but also lining up as a receiver and running routes at one point.
Cassel did it all with a smile on his face, which was part of his message to the Elite 11 quarterbacks. Cassel was a backup QB at USC for four years, never getting an opportunity to play. But he kept his spirits up and impressed at his senior pro day, prompting the New England Patriots to draft him in the 7th round.
Because there was no Golden Gun challenge, Tanner Mangum of Eagle, Idaho, kept his title for another day. Mangum won the contest on Monday and repeated on Tuesday, earning two gold jerseys. He wore one on Wednesday and let the other hang from his waistband as a “reminder” to the rest of the guys, he said.
In a humorous moment during Tuesday’s workout, Dilfer noticed that some QBs were using personal footballs they had brought from home. Dilfer put an end to that quickly, stopping practice to make the announcement.
“No personal balls,” he shouted from midfield. “Everyone throws the same ball!”
About 10 personal balls were lobbed to the sideline. On Wednesday, every quarterback was using the same model football.
Winston wore the red jersey Wednesday, as he won the XOS Best in Film award during Tuesday night’s film session. Austin Appleby of North Canton, Ohio, had won it on Day 1.
Of the 24 quarterbacks invited to the Elite 11, five of them are not committed, so there could be some recruiting news.
The five uncommitted players are Voytik, Greenbrier (Ark.) recruit Neal Burcham, Jupiter (Fla.) prospect Tyler Cameron, Winston and Kiel.