After what amounted to something of an inconsequential first day at The Opening, the quarterbacks competing for Elite 11 status will be under much higher scrutiny on Wednesday.
Though the signal-callers participated throughout the afternoon, Tuesday's SPARQ Rating testing was all about highlighting the skilled players. Kirk Merritt came away as this year's national champion, becoming the latest in a long line of Louisiana winners.
SPARQ testing is used to determine the player with the best strength and speed at the camp. Scores are normalized to a player's weight—largely to give linemen a fighting chance—and then players go through a 40-yard dash, 5-10-5 test, kneeling power ball toss and vertical leap.
The Seattle Seahawks and numerous other NFL teams use Nike's SPARQ rating when looking at potential draftees.
As you might expect, these are not areas in which most quarterbacks thrive. While there are certainly some excellent athletes in this crop, their size similarities to wide receivers, running backs and cornerbacks can be a disadvantage.
No quarterbacks were among the top-10 SPARQ performers in the preliminary round Tuesday morning.
Yet, not all was lost.
Quarterbacks are not judged on their athleticism versus cornerbacks; they're graded against their contemporaries. There was also a nearly two-hour training camp session in which quarterbacks again got to show off their skills.
Oregon commit Travis Waller and Torrance Gibson, both on the outside looking in of the most recent Elite 11 rankings, both made significant impressions. Penn State commit Brandon Wimbush may also be moving into consideration after impressing with his arm strength.
With seven-on-sevens beginning Wednesday morning and continuing through the evening, this will be far-and-away the most important day for these kids thus far.
Let's quickly check out a schedule for Day 4 and preview the action from The Opening.
|The Opening 2014 - Day 4 Schedule|
|1 p.m. - 3 p.m.||Lineman Challenge Workout|
|2:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.||7-on-7 Pool Play|
|10 p.m. - 11:15 p.m.||Round 1 - Nike 7-on-7 Championship|
Day 4 Preview
We've finally arrived at the days that actually count. While the first couple days of Elite 11 competition allowed a hierarchy to somewhat coalesce, the rankings can shift on a dime when it comes to seven-on-seven play.
Going against air and showing off your mechanics and arm strength is one thing. When the quarterbacks enter real, live competition is when these players can show off what they can do inside the game setting—even if it's still not quite "real" football.
The first few days in Oregon have seen this crop stay relatively close from a grading perspective. There is no standout who is dwarfing the competition at the moment. If we were assigning letter grades, the margin of error would roughly be between an A- and B for almost every participant.
One good game might send a kid hanging on the fringes back into the top 11. And one poor performance might do the opposite for a guy who impressed in the early days.
Atop the board thus far has been Jarrett Stidham. The Texas Tech commit has come in and bested a group filled with guys going to more nationally recognized powers, excelling with his consistency and accurate ball-placement throughout.
"I thought he was a guy that was consistent through the two drill practices and then today transferred that drill work onto the field, which was hard," former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer, the most identifiable person linked to Elite 11, told Paul Myerberg and Daniel Uthman of USA Today. "He's a guy that's definitely stood out."
The scouting report on Stidham is a little unlike Red Raider quarterbacks of years past. He's solid, albeit not elite, in the size department and is actually just as well-known for his legs as his arm.
Texas Tech has long been a program that has accentuated the skills of quarterbacks who slipped through the cracks due to one physical deficiency or another. In Stidham, Kliff Kingsbury might have a stud with an NFL future.
Stidham is joined atop the leaderboard by Drew Lock, a Missouri commit who was also on the periphery coming into this week.
Lock is ranked as the fifth-best pro-style quarterback in the nation by 247Sports' composite rankings but is well outside the top 100 nationally. Like Stidham, Lock has done right by himself simply by being steadier than his competitors.
Conspicuously low on the Elite 11 list—though they're at least on it—are some of the biggest names coming into this week.
Ricky Town, the USC commit who has spent most of his recruitment as the top-rated pro-style guy in his class, is in 11th. Town struggled throughout the drills process and needed a strong showing in Monday's seven-on-seven practices to stay on the fringes.
Josh Rosen, the UCLA signee who recently took over for Town atop the aforementioned list, has been solid but still rests ninth. Built like he was born to play the quarterback position, Dilfer was impressed with the kid's understanding of the game.
"Josh Rosen is supremely talented. He makes incredibly difficult things look easy," Dilfer said. "He's just a highly intellectual kid that understands the game a certain way and now is trying to figure out the way we're trying to teach it. But he's thrived. It's real work, and he's made it look easy."
Kyler Murray is an interesting case, as the 5'11" dual-threat was more impressive in the SPARQ testing than seven-on-seven practices. Murray will be joining a Texas A&M offense built to accentuate his skill set.
The same goes for Wimbush, who might have the single best arm of any player in Oregon. The Penn State recruit will need to flash some polish to go along with his physical tools to thrive in his games, though.
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