LonghornDigest.com: What are you guys looking for at the national Elite 11 camp maybe more than at the regional camps?
Yogi Roth: First and foremost, we're looking for people who will succeed at the next level and levels. We want guys who are going to succeed in college, and go into the National Football League. Within that, we're looking for special qualities. It's not just about who can throw the ball. A lot of people can spin it. Quarterbacks are getting better and better, and schemes are getting more complicated and impressive, from high school on down even to the youth level. So we're constantly seeking out elite qualities. We're looking for suddenness. How are they as a leader? Are they a football junkie? How much do they love the game? No offense, but we don't care about ratings. That's why this is such a great event, everything is earned on those fields. You have to show up and play well.
LonghornDigest.com: What stands out about this class of quarterbacks? How does it differ from previous classes?
Roth: There are way more kids this year who can make the difficult plays look easy. Just look at the talent this year. Maybe the 30th quarterback this year would have made our top-15 this year. It's such a deep year. There are a lot of guys with really limitless ceilings. We're seeing more and more kids who can spin the football, and who are trying to improve. I think what we've seen over the last 14 years is that the exposure of the Elite 11 has really helped. I can't tell you the number of e-mails I receive from kids from ages eight to 16 talking about wanting to make it … i think the interest level is bigger. This is really a talented year, and I think these guys are going to win a lot of games as student athletes.
LonghornDigest.com: A lot of people used to talk about running quarterbacks being dual-threat quarterbacks just because they could run. But that was only one threat. They couldn't throw the ball. Are you seeing more true dual-threat quarterbacks now, guys who can do both things well?
Roth: Absolutely. I think what you're seeing now is that high school programs are putting their best athlete at quarterback. He used to be at tailback, and you'd just give him the ball, on a sweep right, sweep left, let him do that thing. But that has totally chanced. And within that shift, you've even seen that trickle all the way down to the Pop Warner level. So those athletes are growing up learning to throw the football and chucking it around. In the last decade, you've seen that at the highest levels, and at the younger levels. Those great athletes are truly learning how to throw the football. So it has been a perfect storm. But I hate the phrase dual-threat quarterback. To us, you're a quarterback, period. You take the ball from under center, you run, hand the ball off or deal the strike. That's your game, and that's what we expect. Every time you touch the rock, you should be a threat. And if you can't throw, you can't play.
Roth: I think the best part about Tyrone Swoopes is that what he did at the first regional competition in Dallas, I think it was March 24, from that date until the Elite 11 finals, he will have had four months. So we're excited to see him take what he was taught, with his skills, and apply that. You watch his YouTube clips, and you can see what a freak he is. And in person, it's pretty apparent that he has elite qualities. Obviously, he has the legs and the athleticism. But how has he progressed in the last four month? That's what interests me the most. He probably has the biggest ceiling, but he has the most work to do to achieve that ceiling. I want to see, from day one until the final day, how much does he grow? How much does he improve? With the tools that young man has to work with, if he can take those, take what he's taught and apply all of that to day-to-day work, you're talking about somebody ridiculously special.
LonghornDigest.com: I know you said it's earned on the field, but who do think enters the competition as a favorite? Is there anybody that you think will be among the top couple of guys going in?
Roth: That's the beautiful thing about this competition. Everyone there is the alpha male. Everyone has been a team starter and a captain, some for multiple years. As far as front-runners, I think you have … Shane Morris, Cooper Bateman and Max Browne, who all have a great shot. Then you take somebody like Swoopes who is limitless in his potential. And then you have guys who can come in and give you five days of being really consistent who have some potential too, like Danny Etling. This is as talented a class as we've ever had come through. We picked 25, and we were fighting to take 26, fighting to take 27 and 28. Max Staver just missed coming, and last year he would have been one of the first guys taken. And for guys like Devante Kincade and Zack Greenlee, it's a chance for them to showcase their skills.