Technically, the specialized event is described as an "Educational Quarterback Mentoring Conference," but in layman's terms, it's a five-day gathering on the field and in the classroom of the most promising throwers who, in a year or two, could be lighting up college scoreboards and maybe someday starring in the NFL.
Last year saw four Elite 11 alumni from the inuagural 1999 class earn starting roles as true freshman: Casey Clausen (Tennessee), Matt LoVecchio (Notre Dame), Jeff Smoker (MIchigan State) and Jon Van Cleave (La. Lafayette). This year, Chris Rix (Florida State) and Brock Berlin (Florida) will make it six starters from that original group.
This year's Elite 11 Class (12 quarterbacks instead of 11 for rooming purposes) were as follows: Gavin Dickey (Lincoln, Tallahassee FL), Trent Edwards (Los Gatos CA), Matt Guttierez (De La Salle, Stockton CA), Anthony Martinez (Patrick Henry, Ashland VA), Ryan O'Hara (Muir, Pasadena CA), Ben Olson (Thousand Oaks CA), Drew Olson (Piedmont CA), Tyler Palko (West Allegheny, Imperial PA), Troy Smith (Ohio), Drew Stanton, Vincent Young (Madison, Houston TX), Justin Zwick (Washington, Massillon OH).
The camp was held in Mission Viejo, Calif. under the eyes of Bob Johnson, currently the head coach at Mission Viejo High, rated No. 49 in the national Student Sports Fab 50 rankings poll, but known also as the passing instructor for the Nike Football Training Camps, and as a developer of college and pro quarterbacks.
Along with the 12 high school signal callers, six college quarterbacks -- David Carr (Fresno State), Carson Palmer (USC), Kurt Kittner (Illinois), J.T O'Sullivan (UC Davis), Rohan Davey (LSU) and Jonathan Smith (Oregon State) -- acted as counselors.
Not only did they show the younger pups how to make the throws during the two-hour workouts each day, they also gave insight in classroom discussions and in video study.
Equally as important, the high school quarterbacks learned about life skills designed to educate them on what to expect in the spotlight that comes with playing the most dynamic position in sports.
Along with the daily two hour workouts and one hour chalk talks, the quarterbacks also spent a day at the beach, attended an Anaheim Angels-Baltimore Orioles game (Cal Ripken's last game in Southern California) and spent a day in San Diego to watch the San Diego Chargers practice and eat with the players.
"The whole experience was unbelievable for me," Tyler Palko said. "I learned so much and it was just great getting to meet all the other quarterbacks across the country."
Anthony Martinez and Ryan O'Hara echoed Palko's comments:
"I learned a lot about the importance of having the proper footwork on your throws," Martinez said. "When I'm on balance, I throw the ball a lot better. Everyone here was not just a great player but a great guy and I loved hanging out with them."
"I really got a lot of the chalk talks, knowing what plays will work best in certain coverages," O'Hara said. "Just listening to the college guys as well as Coach Johnson was huge for me."
Here are some assorted highlights and insights of the whirlwind week that was the Elite 11 for 2001:
Top Prospect: Ben Olson
Best Arm Strength: Vincent Young
Quickest Release: Trent Edwards
Most Accurate: Trent Edwards
Best Feet: Gavin Dickey
Best Leader: Tyler Palko
Best in the Pocket: Ben Olson
Best Out of the Pocket: Tyler Palko
Best Football I.Q: Troy Smith
Most Likely to be a Coach: Tyler Palko
Most Outgoing: Drew Olson
WHO'S THE MAN?
With 12 of the nation's top quarterbacks all in one setting, you can bet there was some serious competition among the group to see who really was the best.
Yes, the environment was great for learning and getting better and each quarterback took full advantage of it.
But at the same time, it was apparent each signal-caller had his eye on the rest of the group to see who the 'Top Gun' or best of the best really was. Here's a look at who each quarterback felt was the most impressive during the week.
1. Gavin Dickey: "Ben Olson and Tyler Palko but everyone was real good."
2. Trent Edwards: "Tyler Palko. He really impressed me all week."
3. Matt Gutierrez: " Ben Olson. He's been the best by far."
4. Anthony Martinez: "I think everyone has been real good but I've liked watching Ben Olson a lot. He's a great player.
5. Ryan O'Hara: "Trent Edwards. He's the man."
6. Ben Olson: "Probably Troy Smith because he's the one guy I had never heard of before the camp but he's a great player. He's only a sophomore, but John David Booty is the man too."
7. Drew Olson: "I know everyone is going to say Ben (Olson) but Ihave to go with him, too. He's a stud."
8. Tyler Palko: "Ben Olson. He's the guy."
9. Troy Smith: "Ben Olson and it's not even close. He's the man."
10. Drew Stanton: "Ben Olson. He's a great player."
11. Vincent Young: "Ben Olson."
12. Justin Zwick: "Ben Olson but Tyler Palko was right there too."
BOB JOHNSON SAYS:
on Gavin Dickey - "Has great speed and footwork and has the arm to make all the throws. . .has a dynamic personality and other players gravitate towards him. . .height might scare some schools away, but if he gets in the right system, he'll flourish."
on Trent Edwards - "He's accurate and has very good footwork. . .one of the top guys here and just has to want it. . .has all the physical tools in the world and it's up to him how hard he wants to work to become the best."
on Matt Gutierrez - "I love Matt's athletic ability and leadership skills. . .he's a very knowledgeable player and he's a winner. . .his arm is strong, which is surprising since his wrist still isn't 100% and he pushes the ball. . the sky's the limit for Matt."
on Ryan O'Hara - "Has very good footwork. . .amazing how quick his feet are for such a tall quarterback. . .his release is getting better and better and all he needs to do is add some strength and he'll be one to watch."
on Anthony Martinez - "Has a real big arm and can make all the throws. . .he's real sturdy and will be able to take the pounding that all of these quarterbacks will have to go through in college. . .needs a little polish and some work on his feet but has a real chance at the next level."
on Ben Olson - "Has it all - he's extremely coachable, a great worker and is a fierce competitor. . .has great leadership skills to go along with his size and arm strength which are all well above average. . .all the kids thought he was the top guy here and it's tough to argue with that."
on Drew Olson - "He's a great leader and has a great personality. . .the type of player that his teammates will love in the huddle. . .a very intense player who throws a good accurate ball. . .I like him a lot."
on Tyler Palko - "His work ethic and desire are incredible. . .his hunger to get better is on another level. . .he's a great athlete and got better and better every day. . .needs to add more arm strength but because he works so hard, he'll continue to get better."
on Troy Smith - "An excellent quarterback who had his good days and days when he needed to be more consistent but his good days were as good as anyone here. . .a natural leader, is very smart and was great in the chalk talks."
on Drew Stanton - "Has a real nice feel for the game. . .he really has a chance to be a solid player at the next level. . .has good leadership skills and just needs to work on developing a quicker release and he'll have all the tools to do some damage in college."
on Vincent Young - "Could very well be the best in the group if he stays focused on what he needs to do and has a coach who is willing to work with him. . .physically he could be the best in the country."
on Justin Zwick - "Plays in a great offense and really runs the show well for his team. . .he would have liked to have thrown a little better here but I know he learned a lot . . .he's going to a great school in Ohio State and if they push him hard in the weight room, he could do some nice things there."
One of the quarterbacks everyone was excited to see was Ben Davis (Indianapolis, Ind.) signal caller James Banks.
At 6-2, 191 pounds and boasting a live arm with 4.6 speed in the 40, Banks is regarded by many as the top quarterback in the Midwest.
Unfortunately, just two days prior to the camp, Banks found that if he attended the Elite 11 Camp, he would be suspended for at least the first game of his senior high school season due to a Indiana High School State Association rule.
The fallacy of the ruling came in the interpretation of the rule, which forbids Indiana fall sports athletes from attending camps in August.
The rule is in place to prevent entire teams from attending a camp just weeks before the start of the season and getting extra practice time together.
Unfortunately for Banks, the ISHSA disregarded the fact that Banks was attending the camp in California, obviously with none of his teammates present, so Ben Davis would not gain any advantage as a team by him participating.
With Banks out, Ryan O'Hara, with just two days notice, stepped in and drew raves for his performance and attitude. In fact, the strong-armed signal-caller even caught the eye of a certain NFL coach.
Former Cleveland Brown Head Coach and current Houston Texan offensive coordinator Chris Palmer was on hand to scout some of the college quarterbacks and came away impressed with O'Hara.
"He reminds me a lot of a young Drew Bledsoe," Palmer said after only a few minutes of watching practice. "He's tall with a strong arm and has great athletic ability."
The fact that O'Hara dropped everything and committed to coming with such late notice shows a lot about his desire to learn and hunger to be the best quarterback he can be.
The Arizona commit has tremendous upside physically to go along with a great work ethic and should do some very nice things in the future.
While most of the focus of the camp was on the high school seniors and college counselors, one couldn't help but notice a trio of additional quarterbacks who were taking reps and more than holding their own.
Three ballboys, juniors JaMarcus Russell (Mobile, Ala.) and Tom Grady (Huntington Beach, Calif.), and sophomore John David Booty (Shreveport, La.) were on hand to help out, performing various duties like mixing up Gatorade and keeping the cooler in the meeting room stocked.
When they weren't busy working, the three jumped in line and took part in the workouts, displaying skills that could make them future Elite 11 Quarterback Camp invitees.
The 6-5, 205 pound Russell, who last fall was a Student Sports Sophomore All-American at Williamson High School, might have been the most colorful personality at the entire camp. Russell made his peers laugh with his jokes and wardrobe, and then proceeded to wow them with his arm strength and dunking ability on the basketball court.
Grady, who will step in as the starting quarterback this fall at Edison, was the camp's tallest quarterback at 6-foot-7, 205 pounds. A very accurate passer with a strong arm, Grady showed why the Edison offense shouldn't miss a beat this fall despite losing three Division-I signees. Grady's older brother, Jeff, is counselor David Carr's backup at Fresno State.
The youngest of the ballboys was perhaps the most talented. John David Booty, the younger brother of former LSU stars Josh and Abram Booty, might have been among the top five quarterbacks at the camp regardless of age.
A strong accurate arm combined with 4.56 speed in the 40-yard dash are attributes not commonly associated with sophomores in high school. Booty has helped Evangel Christian to a 6-1 ranking this season after a 59-0 win last weekend.
Evangel is currently No. 21 in the Fab 50 rankings.
Check out StudentSports.com to get further inside the national high school sports scene.