After starting at a powerhouse Celina program as a freshman, Nathan Elliott followed that up with a strong sophomore performance.
"I feel like it was a pretty good year," Elliott said. "At the same time, I feel like I can do a lot better. I was hurt halfway through the season with an ankle injury. And it really affected me in the last game when I re-injured it. So I was pretty pleased with my season, but at the same time, it makes me want to work harder. I feel like I have a lot more to prove."
One thing that Elliott did prove was that he's more than just a running threat. After rushing for 586 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman, Elliott's injury gave him 20 fewer carries as a sophomore, while he dropped back and threw 41 more times. And in doing so, he showed increased maturity in the passing game. His yards per attempt and touchdown rate both went down, but Elliott made safer throws and his completion rate went up to 55.6 percent, while he also threw just five interceptions, compared to nine a year before.
"That definitely helped," Elliott said of his increased work in the passing game. "That's something I really need to work on, my pocket presence, so-to-speak. We're such a running team, and most of the time we threw was off play-action stuff. So that helped a lot this year. I still had an OK season, but I think it would have been a lot better if I was as mobile as I could have been."
Over two seasons as Celina's starter, Elliott has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and 41 touchdowns to 14 interceptions, while he's rushed 196 times for 1,085 yards and 19 more scores. And that has led to quite an increase in recruiting attention for the junior-to-be.
Most recently, that has come complete with an invite to Texas's upcoming Sophomore Day. And while Elliott can't make that visit on the 23rd — he's a key part of Celina's sprint relay teams, and the Jesuit Relays in Dallas are that same day — the week after, he's planning to make it in for the Texas Relays, and he'll visit campus and the coaches that night for the Orange-White game.
Elliott said he has visited other campuses, but not since recruiting "has picked up like it has."
But the now-6-foot-1.5 and 190-pound quarterback said he already has a favorite.
"Texas is definitely my favorite school," Elliott said. "It's Texas. Every kid in the state of Texas wants to go there. That's our school. Our coaching staff [at Celina], and the coaching staff at Texas, seem cut from the same cloth. They're really good guys, and they're about more than just making good football players. They want to make good men.
"Coach Brown is really a good guy, and he reminds me a lot of just a good, quality person," Elliott said.
Elliott has long been on the Texas radar, especially with the Longhorns recruiting, then signing, his former teammate Jake Raulerson. But he said that his attention from Texas had died down a bit since Major Applewhite took over as offensive coordinator. Now-Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin was his biggest supporter on the staff, somebody who would always ask Raulerson how Elliott was doing.
"I don't know Major Applewhite that well yet," Elliott said.
But the key word there is "yet." Elliott hopes to start taking steps toward forging that relationship when he visits in two weeks.
"I really want to talk to him, because honestly, I haven't ever really met the guy," Elliott said. "So I'm looking forward to meeting him and seeing what he's like."
Elliott thinks he'd be a great fit for Texas's new up-tempo system, especially with the recent emphasis on dual-threat quarterback takes in Jalen Overstreet, Tyrone Swoopes and 2014 commitment Jerrod Heard. And while Elliott hasn't run a 40-yard dash in over a year, the last one he ran — on a track — was 4.5-seconds-flat.
"I'm considered a dual-threat QB, and I think that right now, that's the way to go," Elliott said. "I think A&M has really shown this year an example of why you want to have a dual-threat guy. If the defense drops back in pass coverage, you can tuck it and run, and it's the hardest thing to stop."
Particularly when that dual-threat QB is matched up with a blistering-hot pace. And Elliott plans to have more work in that system after this year, with Celina planning to go no-huddle and up-tempo this upcoming season as well. Of course, with that shift comes even more responsibility on the shoulders of the quarterback, responsibility that Elliott said he's prepared for.
"I probably will have a whole lot of stuff to do before every play," Elliott said. "But even when I was a freshman, the coaches here really gave me a lot of freedom where if I saw something, I could change out of what we were doing. Now, it's just going to come 10-times faster. I'm excited."