LonghornDigest.com: Was this the first year of a significant TV presence for the camp?
Yogi Roth: This is the 13th year of Elite 11, and for maybe the last eight, we've had some sort of TV presence, but not this much of one. I came on three years ago to host a show, and with this being the 'Year of the Quarterback', we really wanted to take a shot at this.
I still remember when I was first asked about it, I had just finished coaching, and was at Carnaval (in Brazil), when I was asked via e-mail if I thought this could be a show. I said, of course, this is American Idol for a high school quarterback.
Recruiting is such a popular topic across the country, and fans always went to know quo their quarterbacks are. I love that we were able to tell them their story. And as we were doing that, we wanted to have them compete and at the same time, we wanted to educate them on how to play the position.
The camp is put on so well, it really does (beat) every other quarterback camp out there. It doesn't matter what somebody did in the past. It's how you respond right now. The staff has been amazing, and Trent Dilfer signed on to try and find the truth of the quarterback position, to teach what it takes to play the position, rather than here's a fun week, take your T-shirts and a sweet pair of shoes.
This year, we gave them a playbook and made it more intense. While enjoyable, we wanted to show them what it takes to be a dominant quarterback at the next level. Being a guy on the ground, it's been really awesome to be involved both at the regional and national levels.
They've already given us more air-time next year, and it's becoming a phenomenon. We're getting e-mails from 14-year-olds who say they're going to make Elite 11, or juniors who say they're going to be there next year. It's a big deal: 20 of the 32 starters on NFL Opening Weekend were Elite 11 quarterbacks.
LD: It seemed like the competition was really stiff. On the show, you and Dilfer talked about how tight the competition was, how between guys 8-15, there really wasn't much difference. Can you talk about that a bit?
YR: It was excruciating. To get to know those kids at such a level, know their families, know what makes them tick, it was so hard to pick a top 11 because you could argue that there were 15 guys capable of making the top 11, and all of the top 25 (the number of quarterbacks on the final show) were good.
The first two days, you could make a case for everybody to be in the top-11. But then when we went to 7-on-7 and it was as close to live bullets as you could see, people started to separate a little bit. Connor Brewer is a great example. He had just one rough workout, and that might have been the difference. The kid going to Miami (Preston Dewey) was another one like that. Jake Rodriguez had one bad day.
But everybody was so good that they were lighting it up. If you had a bad day, somebody was going to pass you by.
LD: At times, the process for selecting Elite 11 quarterbacks has been considered somewhat political. But this year, you guys had a player — Neil Burcham — who didn't even have any offers make the Elite 11. Do you feel that the selection process has changed?
YR: Definitely. I think Andy Bark and Brian Stump and their crew at ESPN High School have done a great job of changing that. A few years ago, they invited a kid (then-Ohio State commitment Justin Zwick) without seeing him play. And he came out and didn't show up at all. So they no longer invite somebody (to the final camp) that they haven't seen work out face-to-face. And we have to do that. Our goal is that we don't want any more Kurt Warner stories. We don't want any more elite quarterbacks going unnoticed. There are 22 potential workouts where someone can work out for us face-to-face, and they're all within driving distance.
When we saw Neil at TCU, I'll never forget it. He was a lanky kid with the athletic frame of a point guard, basically what you look for. And he couldn't stop dealing and dealing. It was a regional thing, and we put the top kids through a two-minute drill. It was hectic, we were shouting out plays and coverages, and the kid just excelled. He and Preston Dewey really looked great.
But we were, I don't want to say worried, but careful. We threw his tape on in the War Room, and it literally took two throws on his film to have us all convinced. It was a pretty cool story. He was so nonchalant. When we called him to tell him 'you should come out to LA' (for the show), he wasn't jumping for joy. I think in his heart-of-hearts, he knew he could play and wanted to show it.
When he came in, he had that infectious energy that you look for. He had a moxie you can't teach. You can coach up a lot of things, but you can't teach likability. He was able to get 24 other Alpha males to fall in love with him, and that's not easy to do.
Now, he's going to Vanderbilt on a visit, and a lot of other staffs have said they want to see his first three games. He'll do a great job. He's a baller.
LD: Texas commitment Connor Brewer was there and missed out on the Elite 11. Was he one of the guys who was pretty close? He had a great two-minute drill, based on the show.
YR: (Laughs) Yeah, he threw one pass for a touchdown, 80 yards or something like that. Connor is an amazing kid. I met him at USC, and I had read all about him, and he had an average workout. I pulled him aside afterward and talked to him for awhile and told him that I wanted to see him take take it over. Make this your high school field, and I want to see you own this place.
I talked to him throughout the summer, and he kept saying that he was going to show me. He said 'you're going to see me in a month, and I'm going to take it over.'
And he did that. He came out to Stanford and lit it up. He had one tough day where he make a couple of wrong reads in 7-on-7, and that was it. There were inches, maybe even millimeters of separation, not just between he and the top-11, but he and No. 5. Other than the first three guys (the MVPs of the camp), there wasn't much separation.
That's the thing at that position. You grade every throw, every route. And getting to know all the kids … you could see the pain in his eyes, you could see how badly he wanted it. I know that it will drive him, and I know he'll give me a call when he's starting at Texas and let me know that we missed on him. And that's great, and I look forward to it.
LD: Can you give us what your impression was of his play?
YR: "He's one of those guys that when you meet him, you think: oh, I thought he'd be bigger. Then you see a couple throws, and you think he's OK. But then you get to know him and see that he's a great leader and great kid. Then you see him take live reps and watch film on him. Then you hear that he's won two straight state titles. Then you hear that he comes from an athletic and competitive family. Then you meet the family. And once you've seen all of that, you know: this kid's a no-brainer.
He has so many positive things to him. He can make every throw. He can make the comeback, make the deep out and rip the post route. He can sit back and pick you apart with his second and third read. He can split the safeties. He can make all those special throws. You don't have to watch him that long to fall in love with him.
He's perfect. He's really perfect. I think a lot of times at quarterback, what you have are politicians playing the position. They might say the right things, might even do the right things. But they never really own those things, however they say it. But Connor speaks so genuinely. He has that truth to him that you can't help but believe him, and believe in him.
After being able to sit down with his parents, you can really see where he gets it from. He's humble, prideful and respectful, and he's learning along the way.
It's important to say that he's a 17-year-old kid, not a 22-year-old Heisman candidate right now. But I think it's safe to say that he's taking the proper steps naturally to be one of the top quarterbacks in the nation when he gets to that stage.