College Football

Ranking the Top 25 Elite 11 Alums of All Time

Edwin WeathersbyAnalyst IJuly 3, 2014

Ranking the Top 25 Elite 11 Alums of All Time

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    Rick Osentoski/Associated Press

    With the Elite 11 Finals starting alongside The Opening on July 5, it's time to be nostalgic. Without question, the Elite 11 camp is the most prestigious event and honor for a high school quarterback.

    Some of the best passers of this generation are alums of the camp, and many of your favorite NFL teams and college programs have had an Elite 11 alum throw a touchdown pass for them. 

    While arriving at just 25 for this list was a bit tough, it was done. A few field generals on this list are former No. 1 overall NFL draft picks, while a few others have a Heisman Trophy in their collections.

    Plus, there are several interesting names on this list.

25. Kyle Wright, 5-Star

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    LYNNE SLADKY/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2002

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    In the 2003 recruiting year, there may not have a more talented quarterback than Kyle Wright. From California, Wright had everything you wanted in a quarterback prospect. The 6'4", 200-pounder had terrific arm strength and accuracy, plus he was smart and athletic. From a talent standpoint, he warrants being on this list.

     

    What Happened

    Wright signed with Miami, where he had a so-so career. Many fans feel he was a bust, but he did toss 38 touchdowns in his career. He's currently out of football.

24. Matt Cassel (N/A)

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 1999

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Going back in the day a bit, Matt Cassel was a good one at Chatsworth High School in California. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, he possessed above-average arm strength and mobility. Cassel was a fierce competitor who also wasn't shy in the confidence department.

     

    What Happened

    Cassel signed with USC in 2000, but he only saw time as a reserve. However, he was still drafted in the seventh round of the 2005 NFL draft by the New England Patriots. He's gone on to have a solid NFL career as a starter in New England, Kansas City and now Minnesota.

23. Blaine Gabbert, 5-Star

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When He Competed: 2007

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Blaine Gabbert was a big and strong high school quarterback from Missouri in the 2008 class. He threw the ball with great velocity, which is the main trait that got him to the Elite 11. Gabbert stood 6'4", plus he weighed well over 230 pounds. He also wasn't a bad athlete, as he often displayed surprising mobility.

     

    What Happened

    Gabbert opted to sign with Missouri over Nebraska in 2008. He went on to throw for 6,822 yards and 40 touchdowns for the Tigers. The Jacksonville Jaguars made Gabbert a first-round pick in 2010, and today he is a backup with the San Francisco 49ers.

22. Derek Anderson, 4-Star

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2000

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    At 6'6" and 230 pounds, Derek Anderson was huge in high school. He wasn't just big, however; the Oregon native had a powerful right arm. Anderson wasn't overly mobile, but he could push the ball downfield rapidly with a clean pocket. Of all the alums on this list, he's near the top in the arm strength department.

     

    What Happened

    Anderson was a starter at Oregon State. He finished his career with 11,249 yards and 79 touchdowns for the Beavers. The Baltimore Ravens selected him in the sixth round of the 2005 NFL draft, but Anderson's best years as a pro were with the Cleveland Browns. Today, Anderson is with the Carolina Panthers.

21. Josh Freeman, 4-Star

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    USA TODAY Sports

    When he Competed: 2005

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Size and arm strength are the first two things that draw people to quarterback prospects, and Josh Freeman had both and then some. At 6'6" and 230 pounds, the Missouri native warranted an Elite 11 invite due to his ability to rifle balls to targets with velocity. Freeman simply towered over people, and he possessed terrific arm talent.

     

    What Happened

    Freeman signed with Kansas State in 2006, and went on to be a three-year starter for the Wildcats. For his career, he threw for 8,078 yards and 44 touchdowns, while also scoring 20 rushing touchdowns. Freeman was a first-round pick by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009 and spent part of the 2013 season with the Minnesota Vikings. He is currently a free agent.

20. Chris Leak, 5-Star

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    Andy Lyons/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2002

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Make no mistake, Chris Leak was outstanding in high school. It was a no-brainer for him to be selected to the Elite 11 in 2002, as the North Carolina native was one of the country's top overall recruits. Leak wasn't the biggest at 6'1" and 205 pounds, but he was accurate and smart. The 5-star prospect had above-average arm strength, as well as natural passing skills.

     

    What Happened

    Leak elected to sign with Florida in 2003, where he had a productive career. After throwing for 11,213 yards and 88 touchdowns in Gainesville, Leak spent time in the NFL, AAFL, CFL and AFL. Today, Leak is the receivers coach at his alma mater.

19. Casey Clausen, 5-Star

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    Jamie Squire/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 1999

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    From California, Casey Clausen was a stud quarterback prospect during the days recruiting coverage was just starting to get big on the Internet. At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Clausen was a pure pocket passer with good size and skills. He understood how important it was to work through his progressions, plus he had solid mechanics.

     

    What Happened

    Tennessee signed Clausen in 2000, and he went 34-10 as a starter in Knoxville. Clausen finished his career with 9,707 yards and 75 touchdowns. He now coaches high school football in California.

18. EJ Manuel, 4-Star

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    Rick Stewart/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2007

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    In high school, EJ Manuel was a 215-pound quarterback who stood between 6'4" and 6'5". His size made him look the part on the hoof, but it was his combination of arm strength and athleticism that helped him get to the Elite 11. The Virginia native had solid vision from the pocket, but he was at his best when throwing on the run.

     

    What Happened

    Manuel signed with Florida State in 2008, where he had a good career. He totaled 7,741 yards and 47 touchdowns, while rushing for another 827 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Buffalo Bills selected Manuel in the first round of the 2013 NFL draft, where he is currently the starting quarterback.

17. Dennis Dixon, 4-Star

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2002

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    From a pure athletic standpoint, Dennis Dixon is among tops on this list. At 6'4" and 180 pounds, the California native was a true dual-threat quarterback in high school. Dixon had a ton of raw talent, plus he was light on his feet and agile. It was only a matter of getting in the right system for Dixon to be successful in college.

     

    What Happened

    Dixon became a star at Oregon and was on his way to winning the Heisman in 2007 before suffering a knee injury. He finished his career with 5,129 yards and 38 touchdowns through the air, while adding 1,208 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground. Dixon was selected in the fifth round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. He is now with the Buffalo Bills.

16. Ryan Mallett, 5-Star

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2006

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Ryan Mallett didn't just have a strong arm in high school, he had a cannon. It also helped he was 6'6" and 220 pounds. The way Mallett effortlessly flicked balls with force to targets was more than impressive. He possessed NFL-caliber arm strength in high school, which alone warranted an Elite 11 invitation. Mallett also had a lot of self confidence.

     

    What Happened

    Michigan signed the Texan in 2007, where he played in 11 games as a true freshman. The Wolverines hired Rich Rodriguez after the season, and Mallett's style wasn't a good fit for Rodriguez's spread-option system. 

    He became a two-year starter at Arkansas, finishing with 7,493 yards and 62 touchdowns with the Razorbacks. Today, Mallett is a backup with the New England Patriots, who selected him in the third round of the 2011 NFL draft.

15. Aaron Murray, 5-Star

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    Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2008

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Aaron Murray was a 5-star quarterback in the class of 2009 who won MVP at the 2008 Elite 11. He was also voted "best leader." At just about 6'1" and 198 pounds, Murray had solid release quickness. The Florida native played for powerhouse Plant High School in Tampa, and he was regarded as one of the top players in the country.

     

    What Happened

    Murray gave an early commitment to Georgia, signing with the Bulldogs in 2009. He became one of the greatest quarterbacks in SEC history by throwing for 13,166 yards and 121 touchdowns in his career. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Kansas City Chiefs.

14. Jake Locker, 4-Star

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    Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2005

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Jake Locker is another Elite 11 quarterback alum who could do more than just throw. His raw skills and terrific arm strength were apparent in high school, but Locker's natural athleticism was off the charts. The Washington native had a thick 6'3", 230-pound frame, and tons of upside. He was one of the talented quarterback recruits in his class.

     

    What Happened

    Locker signed with Washington in 2006, becoming a star in Seattle. His best season came in 2009, when he threw for 2,800 yards and 21 touchdowns, and rushed for 388 yards and seven touchdowns. Locker was a first-round pick by the Tennessee Titans in 2011, where he is the starting quarterback today.

13. AJ McCarron, 4-Star

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    Rusty Costanza/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2008

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    AJ McCarron was the type of quarterback in high school who may not have had one dominant trait, but he did everything pretty well. At 6'4" and 189 pounds, he spun the ball awfully well. He worked with moxie, and the Alabama native had great awareness.

     

    What Happened

    McCarron went 36-4 at Alabama (per Rotoworld), finishing his career with three national titles. He totaled more than 9,000 yards passing, as well as 77 touchdowns. After finishing second in the Heisman voting in 2013, McCarron was selected by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL draft.

12. Tajh Boyd, 4-Star

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    Mike Stewart/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2008

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    It's easy to remember the days of sitting in an office watching a grainy tape of a quarterback from Virginia in the spring of 2008. The film quality wasn't impressive, but the quarterback being evaluated was. That player was Tajh Boyd, who earned an invitation in the summer of that year. His athleticism, above-average arm strength and willingness to learn were his top qualities.

     

    What Happened

    Boyd became a superstar at Clemson. In four seasons for the Tigers, he threw for nearly 12,000 yards and 107 touchdowns. Boyd also rushed for 1,165 yards and 26 touchdowns. He left Clemson as a decorated player, which is part of the reason the New York Jets chose him in the sixth round of the 2014 NFL draft.

11. John David Booty (N/A)

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2003

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Some of the stories heard here off the record about John David Booty's talent and skills in high school are almost mythical. The Louisiana native had great arm talent, as he could drive throws with good velocity and pinpoint accuracy. Booty had solid vision from the pocket, while also possessing the ability to deliver strikes on the run.

     

    What Happened

    Booty left Evangel Christian Academy a year early, as he enrolled at USC before the 2003 season. He backed up Matt Leinart for several seasons, before becoming a two-year starter in Troy. He was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings in 2008, but he is currently out of the NFL.

10. Troy Smith, 4-Star

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    KIICHIRO SATO/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2001

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Toughness and determination were two qualities Troy Smith had even way back in high school. He wasn't the biggest quarterback at just 6'1" and 200 pounds, but he could generate some power in his throws. The Ohio native was a confident athlete who could also escape traffic in the pocket to hurt defenses with his legs.

     

    What Happened

    Smith went to Ohio State in 2002, but the headliner of the Buckeyes' class that year was running back Maurice Clarett. However, it was Smith who won the Heisman in 2006, which was the same year he was a consensus All-American. The Baltimore Ravens took him in the fifth round of the 2007 NFL draft, and Smith is now with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

9. JaMarcus Russell, 4-Star

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    DAVID QUINN/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2002

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    When it comes to raw talent, JaMarcus Russell is among the cream of the crop out of the alums of the Elite 11. He traveled from Alabama to California for the camp in 2002, where he let his arm strength do the talking. While he may not have been as dialed in as other quarterbacks have been at the camp, Russell's natural gifts easily warrant him being on this list.

     

    What Happened

    Russell signed with LSU in 2003, which was the start of an interesting post-high school career track. With the Tigers, he threw for 6,625 yards and 52 touchdowns in three seasons. The Oakland Raiders chose him No. 1 overall in 2007, but Russell proved to be a colossal bust. He is currently out of football.

8. Teddy Bridgewater, 4-Star

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2010

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Selected to the Elite 11 in 2010, Teddy Bridgewater was a skinny 4-star quarterback from Miami that summer. However, there was something about him that people couldn't put their finger on. It wasn't a bad thing, but more like a smoothness and calmness to his play.

    At 6'2" and 180 pounds, Bridgewater had a quirky release but was still accurate. He also saw the field well from the pocket for a prep passer.

     

    What Happened

    After originally committing to Miami, Bridgewater signed with Louisville in 2011. He simply went on to become a superstar. Bridgewater finished his college career with 9,817 yards and 72 touchdowns.

    He was selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Minnesota Vikings.

7. Jameis Winston, 5-Star

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2011

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Jameis Winston was one of the top quarterbacks in America coming out of high school. He had a ton of potential, plus he was already 6'4" and 190 pounds. Winston didn't have ideal mechanics, but the Alabama native didn't have limited vision from the pocket. His arm strength, good accuracy and mobility also were all impressive.

     

    What Happened

    He signed with Florida State in 2012, then won the Heisman in 2013. All Winston did to win the award as a redshirt freshman was throw for 4,057 yards and 40 touchdowns. He will enter the 2014 season as a front-runner to win the award again, and he's a candidate to be selected No. 1 overall in the 2015 NFL draft.

6. Tim Tebow, 5-Star

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2005

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    He may not have the best release on this list. He may not throw the prettiest ball on this list. Other quarterbacks on this list play from the pocket better. However, none are as tough or competitive as Tim Tebow. The Florida native may not be a "pure" quarterback, but he warrants being here due to being a great football player.

     

    What Happened

    Tebow was one of the headliners of a star-studded Florida class in 2006. All he did was make a case for why he's the greatest Gator ever during his time in Gainesville. Tebow won the Heisman as a sophomore in 2007, the second year of a career that finished with him throwing for 9,285 yards and 88 touchdowns. He also rushed for 2,947 yards and 57 touchdowns. 

    Tebow was chosen in the first round by the Denver Broncos in 2010. He is currently out of football.

5. Mark Sanchez, 5-Star

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    Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

    When He Competed: 2004

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    A 5-star prospect in high school, Mark Sanchez was an uber-talent. He had solid arm strength, plus he worked hard at his craft. Sanchez played with good mechanics and vision, and he could be awfully accurate. His invitation to the 2004 Elite 11 was a no-brainer.

     

    What Happened

    The California native signed with USC in 2005. He finally got his chance to start full time in 2008, and he threw 34 touchdowns. Riding the wave of his success, Sanchez opted to turn pro after that season. He was drafted fifth overall by the New York Jets in 2009 and is now with the Philadelphia Eagles.

4. Vince Young, 5-Star

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    HARRY CABLUCK/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2001

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Vince Young was a superstar in high school in Houston. He's a legend in the city, and rightfully so. At 6'5" and 200 pounds, he had the ability to take over games against top-flight competition. Young could get the job done as a passer, and he had the skills, wiggle and vision of a running back. The Elite 11 would have lost some credibility had Young not been invited in 2001.

     

    What Happened

    The best player in Texas' exceptional 2002 class, Young piloted the Longhorns to a national title in the 2006 Rose Bowl. His performance in that game was just part of an outstanding career in which he totaled 6,040 yards and 44 touchdowns through the air, and 3,127 yards and 37 touchdowns on the ground.

    Young was drafted No. 3 overall by the Tennessee Titans in 2006. After a promising start to his career, he is currently out of football.

3. Matt Leinart, 4-Star

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    TED S. WARREN/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2000

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    At Mater Dei High School in California, Matt Leinart was simply a stud. He stood around 6'5", and he was a lefty who was accurate. Leinart's pocket presence, decision-making and feel for the game were evident. He won't beat out some quarterbacks on this list in the department of arm strength, but he's still one of the better high school quarterbacks of the modern recruiting era.

     

    What Happened

    Leinart signed with USC in 2001, which was the beginning of a magical run. He won two national titles in his career, plus he was awarded the Heisman in 2004. Leinart tossed for more than 10,000 yards and 99 touchdowns as a Trojan.

    He was drafted in the first round by the Arizona Cardinals in 2006. Leinart has bounced around the NFL and is currently a free agent.

2. Matthew Stafford, 5-Star

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    TODD BENNETT/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2005

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    A 5-star quarterback in 2006, Matthew Stafford had it all. His invitation to the Elite 11 was based on the Texan's incredible arm strength and confidence. At 6'3" and 210 pounds, Stafford was a gunslinger who threw fastballs to targets deep down the field. He also had above-average athleticism to elude rushers. From an overall standpoint of the quarterback position, Stafford was the total package.

     

    What Happened

    Georgia signed Stafford in 2006, and he played immediately in Athens. Stafford finished his career with 7,731 yards and 51 touchdowns. After his junior season, he was selected with the No. 1 overall pick by the Detroit Lions in the 2009 NFL draft. 

1. Andrew Luck, 5-Star

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    Michael Conroy/Associated Press

    When He Competed: 2007

     

    Why He's Ranked Here

    Andrew Luck is ranked here because he's the greatest Elite 11 alum of all time. It's that simple. From Houston, Luck was a 6'4", 215-pound passer who essentially had very little limitations as a high school quarterback. He was bright, saw the field well and had all of the physical tools needed to excel at the position. 

    The former 5-star recruit was truly the real deal back then, which warranted an invitation to compete at the Elite 11 in 2007. 

     

    What Happened

    Luck signed with Stanford in 2008, and redshirted in his first year. Then, he became a surefire NFL prospect. He finished with 9,430 yards and 82 touchdowns on The Farm, while rushing for another 957 yards and seven touchdowns.

    Luck finished second in Heisman voting in both 2010 and 2011. The Indianapolis Colts made him the No. 1 overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft.

    Luck told the following to John Talman of Rivals.com (subscription required) after an Elite 11 workout in 2007:

    "It was great to be out here because there are some great quarterbacks. Everyone out here is a legit quarterback." 

     

    All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite Rankings. 

    Stats are from Sports-Reference.com, unless noted otherwise.

    Edwin Weathersby is the College Football Recruiting Analyst for Bleacher Report. He has worked in scouting/player personnel departments for three professional football teams, including the New York Giants and Cleveland Browns.

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