Elite11 Day 2: Hinder Shines in Rollouts

Aliso Viejo, Calif. - With a picturesque setting of Soka University, 12 of the nation's top prep quarterbacks come to learn and compete in the EASports Elite 11.

Austin Hinder - I first got to see Austin Hinder at the Badger 7v7 in Las Vegas, Nev. in March. It was an event in which he struggled. Despite the long, lean frame, Hinder is much more comfortable throwing the ball on the run. He admittedly struggles in conventional drop back sets. But when he can move his feet, his natural ability and instincts take over, and he is one of the best passers in the country when he's on the move. 

Hinder had a much better day throwing from dropback sets than he did when I saw him in March, but it was still on the move when he sparkled. With his size and athleticism, he has a very bright upside once his fundamentals in the pocket become instinctive rather than him having to overly concentrate. It's the equivalent of a baseball player thinking too much about his swing, rather than just turning it loose.

Jesse Scroggins -  The polar opposite of Hinder, Scroggins is best in his drop back sets, scanning the field and letting the ball fly out of the pocket. When he started rolling out and throwing on the run, Scroggins struggled mightily today.

I've seen Scroggins multiple times this spring and summer, and he didn't have his best day. Having seen him at his best, I wonder if his schedule is catching up with him a bit. Consider the last 11 days (and this is only the throwing I know about): Six games at the Santa Fe 7v7, six games at the Nike 7On in Oregon, and now to Elite 11.

In the areas I expected Scroggins to shine, he struggled a bit, before getting on a bit of a hot streak and hitting several 16 yard out targets in a row.

Hinder and Scroggins are two very talents quarterbacks that have a completely different skill set. The player that ends up the best in college will be the one that has a coach that plays to his strengths while developing his weaknesses.

Devin Gardner - Gardner is a superior athlete who is handcuffed a bit by a passing camp that doesn't showcase his playmaking ability with his legs. However, as one might expect, Gardner was solid in the bootleg drills, and while struggling hitting the deep out to live receivers, Gardner picked up his game in the target practice segment showing off better accuracy than many of his Elite 11 teammates. 

Devin Gardner

Gardner picked up his passing significantly during the circuit target drill. Quarterbacks rotate to four different stations on the field and aim for different targets. It's a fast paced drill where the players work to get in as many throws as possible. It was obvious that the competitors were getting tired, but it was the mobile quarterbacks like Gardner who had the best success.

Jake Heaps - Heaps lives for these types of events. He's almost robotic in his consistency. His ball always comes out quickly, with a tight spin, and on target. I don't think there's a player on the field that has an arm that's going to compare to some of the past top quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Matthew Stafford, JaMarcus Russell, Ryan Mallet, and the like, Heaps has arguably the strongest, most accurate arm on the field. 

Nick Montana - Montana may be a player that forever gets tagged with the "system" label. He's one of the smallest players on the field. He doesn't have the strongest arm out there. By any physical measurable possible, it's safe to say that he's not the best on the field. But the quarterback position is the position on the field that relies the most on attributed you can't measure, and this is where Montana excels.

Montana showed excellent accuracy, quick decision making both pre and post-snap, and a strong enough arm to keep defenders honest with long throws. Montana isn't going to do any one thing that stands out, other than pick a team a part. Sound Familiar?

If he gets labeled as a "system" guy, so what? If he's running his team's system to perfection, his team is going to be awfully happy.

Tyler Bray - Bray took the Yellow Jersey as the day's leader once the passing was complete with a strong showing in the accuracy competition as well as every other aspect of his game.

Bray is a little mechanical in his drop backs appearing a little stiff at times. He has a good release keeping the ball high throughout his entire motion, and he gets excellent zip on the ball with accuracy. His motion is a little longer when comparing him side by side with a quarterback like Blake Bell, but it's not too long by any stretch.

Bray's the longest and leanest of the Elite 11 participants, and with his frame, he may be the player whose name is called first of this bunch come NFL draft day. Upside is a word that will be thrown around a lot this week and through Bray's career.

Blake Bell - The quickest release of the bunch, I couldn't help but think of how unsackable Dan Marino was for the Miami Dolphins in his career despite being as mobile as a statue. The reason, no one had a quicker release than Marino. 

Now Bell isn't Dan Marinio, but he has the quickest release on the field (and significantly more mobility than the Hall of Famer). He gets great velocity on the ball despite having such a short release.

Bell is a greedy quarterback, and I mean that as a compliment. He will settle for a shorter pass, but he's looking to go for the throat on every snap. If he sees an opening on a skinny post, a go route, or a fade to the corner, he's going to put pressure on the back of the defense. He has the strength, vision, and accuracy to make a secondary pay dearly for looking too long into the offensive backfield before picking up the receivers.

Phillip Sims - Built like a fullback, Sims immediately conjures up images of former SEC quarterback Rohan Davey of LSU. Sims has a long release in which he brings the ball all the way below his waste before turning it loose, and that's something the coaches at Alabama will work out of him.  

Phillip Sims

The day finished with a circuit drill of sorts that included all of the quarterbacks running station to station and throwing passes at a target. Sims excelled in this drill. At one point, he was the only player to hit three in a row at the 16 yard out mark off of a five to seven step drop, and that included the instructors such as Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy, and Juice Williams.

Robert Bolden - Bolden was part of a group that included Hinder, Scroggins, and Gardner, and he was the most consistent passer on the day of his group. Bolden shows a fluid motion in his release and a wiry strong arm. There's not any wasted motion in his delivery. Bolden was one of the top performers on the day, consistently finishing at the top of his drills whether it was straight drop back passing or throwing on the move.

Barry Brunetti - Brunetti showed a nice touch on his passes and had an easy, non-forced throwing motion. The question I had with Brunetti was arm strength. He never turned the ball loose during his passes, throwing touch passes even on plays where more zip on the ball was required. His out routes looked more like fade passes. Brunetti fits into the same group as Hinder, Sims, and Gardner in that much of his playmaking ability is with his legs, but I'd still like to see him throw with some urgency tomorrow. Not every pass on the next level is going to be a touch pass.

What's obvious already though, is how well Brunetti will fit in a west coast type of offense that employs a short passing game and takes advantage of his ability run and throw on the run.

Chandler Whitmer - Whitmer had the yellow jersey coming into the day as the leader from the previous day. Whitmer may have felt the bull's-eye on his back, because he missed a pass or two when he rarely ever misses in this type of setting. Seeing Whitmer and Montana together reminds me of one another with Whitmer being a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger, and a little bit more accurate. Whitmer is a fundamentally sound quarterback with pinpoint accuracy.

Joe Boisture - Another big framed quarterback, Boisture looked fairly similar in Bray to appearance and motion. A bit mechanical in his delivery Boisture lacked the velocity and accuracy that Bray was able to get on the ball today in the times that I got to watch him. He and Whitmer were the two guys I saw the least today and will make a concerted effort for a more detailed evaluation tomorrow.

Tuesday's Top 5

1. Blake Bell
- the quickest release, solid in his accuracy drills, and deadly in the 7v7 simulation.
2. Tyler Bray - A big kid, with a big arm, and a big future.
3. Jake Heaps - Laser like precision on his throws, Heaps doesn't do anything flashy, he just does them well.
4. Robert Bolden - Capable of making all the throws, Bolden made them today.
5. Phillip Sims - his performance in the circuit target drill warrants a spot on Today's Top 5.
5a. Austin Hinder - If we're grading rollouts only, Hinder is #1.

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