With Stanford's two attending offerees dressed in street clothes and watching from the sideline on Saturday at the San Francisco Scout.com All-American Combine, the eyes of The Bootleg were focused entirely on Scottsdale (Ariz.) Notre Dame Prep High School quarterback Sean Renfree. This unsung slinger from Arizona has slipped under the recruiting radar through the winter and most of the spring due to the nascent nature of his high school's football program. Notre Dame Prep was established in 2002 and last fall played just their third year of varsity football.
But Renfree is a bona fide talent and provided as big a buzz as anybody at the City College of San Francisco on Saturday. We were primarily looking forward to him throwing the ball and were surprised to see him run and test so well. Renfree's day started with a bang, jumping a 36.4" vertical, running a 4.38 shuttle and finally blazing a 4.50 in the 40.
As soon as the Grand Canyon State slinger started throwing, all observers were asking, "Who is number 206?" Renfree had a good-looking throwing motion, with a quick release and good velocity on the ball. His drops were quick and fluid, and he put the ball repeatedly on the money.
"I like a lot of things about him," says combine quarterbacks coach Tim Ganton, also the head coach at Douglasville (Ga.) South Paulding High School. "One thing is that he has the size. He has great footwork and has a very quick release. And he made some pretty good decisions out there. I can tell that he's an intelligent kid. But I'm very impressed with his drops and his quick release for a kid his size."
"He has a good strong arm," Ganton adds. "He can make all the throws. He can make the touch throws, and he can throw it deep. What I like looking at is if a kid can make the intermediate routes: the outs, the comebacks, the square-ins and things like that. And he can do all that."
Scout.com West recruiting analyst Brandon Huffman on Saturday watched Renfree for his first time in person and also came away impressed.
"Renfree has a strong arm, a good release and is a polished QB," Huffman assesses. "He has good feet and throws the ball really well. He's also a pretty good athlete and runs well."
"I thought it was fun. A great opportunity," says Renfree of the combine. "I ran a good time. I ran a 4.5 in my 40. I threw the ball pretty well and felt pretty confident. I'm just looking forward to working camps and showing what I've got. And I'm excited to go to Stanford later today to see all the coaches again."
His trip to San Francisco for the Scout.com All-American Combine provided a bonus when coaches from both Stanford and Cal learned of his travel and invited him for unofficial visits. Renfree hit Cal on late Friday and after his work at CCSF on Saturday drove down to Stanford for the Cardinal's Spring Game. He has also this spring taken unofficial visits to Arizona State and Oregon State. He is heading to Arizona later this week.
"I'm obviously looking for a good school that has great academics. Stanford and Cal are some of the best ones in the country. So it's open to anyone right now," says Renfree.
We spoke with Renfree on Saturday immediately following the Scout.com Combine, and two days later he picked up his first offer from Oregon State on Monday. Notre Dame Prep yesterday conducted the first of its 11 spring practices, with Beavers head coach Mike Riley in attendance. Renfree will have a lot of curious college coaches come through to observe him the next few weeks.
"They all want to see me throw," the quarterback comments. "They've seen my film and like it. All they want to do is see me throw at a camp to make sure I'm the same guy on film."
Renfree also lists Georgia Tech, Washington State, Duke, Northwestern and Vanderbilt as schools of interest from whom he is receiving recruiting attention. He lists his tentative top favorites as Stanford, Cal, Oregon State, Arizona State and Georgia Tech.
As a junior this past fall at Notre Dame Prep, Renfree helped lead the Saints to a 7-5 record and the school's first appearance in the playoffs in just their third year of varsity existence.
"Coach [Scot] Bemis is doing a really good job with it," says the Saints signal caller, who endured a 3-8 season as a sophomore. "Last season, we had a lot more seniors and were more of a team. We had a balanced attack running and throwing. I thought we all knew what we were doing, instead of just a couple of seniors and a little leadership like before."
Notre Dame Prep also increasingly emphasized Renfree and the passing game in 2006 after a 3-to-1 rushing/passing mix in the 2005 season. The Saints still carried the ball extensively this past fall, but they passed for 700-plus more yards than they rushed and connected for better than 16 yards per completion.
"I threw the ball a lot more," Renfree says. "We changed the offense toward the end of the season and went to a spread, so I threw the ball more."
He passed for 2,483 yards on 152-of-272 (55.9%) as a junior. Renfree connected for 24 touchdowns against just five interceptions. The mobile athlete also ran for another touchdown and nearly four yards per carry - though instructed against scrambling.
"The coach wouldn't let me run, really. With me being the quarterback, he didn't want to see me get hurt," Renfree explains. "I like pocket passing, but I've been working on my times. Coaches want to see somebody run and who can get away from pressure at the next level."
With a 3.86 GPA in a course load consisting of AP and honors courses, Renfree has not run away from the academic challenges at his high school. He has also scored a 1700 on the SAT and is waiting for the results of his recent ACT.
College coaches are easily impressed by his transcript, but with a quiet recruiting profile and slow start to scholarship offers, Renfree carries a big recruiting chip on his shoulders. He believes himself to be one of the top signal callers in the West and is anxious for the opportunity to prove it.
"Everyday you have to go out there and run, lift or throw. I throw four times a week," he says. "You just keep getting better, better and better. And once I go somewhere, I hope to have a chance to play right away."
Saturday was the Sean Renfree coming out party, and we believe it to be just the beginning of his story. Stay tuned as his saga unfolds in the coming weeks, with what we expect to be a fast-rising tide of college recruiting attention.
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