Day 2 of the 2021 Elite 11 Finals featured a surprise workout early in the morning for all the quarterbacks to one of the marquee events of the week: Pro Day.
For QBs, It’s About Pliability
At seven o’clock in the morning, the coaching staff awoke the finalists to an unexpected trip to a nearby studio for a yoga session.
60 minutes of holding stances in extremely hot, humid conditions.
What followed included a trip to Hermosa Beach for a light workout featuring drops in the sand and in the surf with Elite 11 on-field coach George Whitfield.
Whitfield helped prepare former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck during his pre-draft process.
Sports Psychologist Dr. Michael Gervais, long affiliated with the Elite 11, and who works with the Seattle Seahawks, swung by the workout to speak with the finalists afterward.
The finalists and college counselors spent the early afternoon in smaller pods rotating through various workshops before heading to Mira Costa High School in the evening for their Pro Day.
How Chess Translates to Football
Seth Makowsky works with a number of college and professional athletes in football on training their decision-making using the game of chess.
His agenda with the finalists mainly focused on how to better their perception of scanning the field for potential threats and opportunities to be aggressive offensively.
“You’re in the decision-making business,” Makowsky said. “What’s going to make the difference [in games] are the choices you make.”
Pictured: Seth Makowsky working with a pod of finalists yesterday on the strategy, “Control the center, develop the players, protect the king.”
I watched Makowsky work with a group of finalists alongside Whitfield, who said timely decisions by coaches and quarterbacks in games affect the outcome.
But it’s knowing when to take those chances.
If a defensive back limps off of the field, it may be an opportune time to target his replacement on the next play.
That’s where chess comes into the picture by practicing what Makowsky called “mental reps” on how to develop a strong sense of when to take risks, be conservative, sacrifice, etc.
C.J. Stroud asked Makowsky to play chess with him for multiple hours several nights in a row before winning the 2019 Elite 11 Finals MVP.
Even the most talented finalists struggled to understand the game yesterday afternoon.
“It’s so complicated,” said Quinn Ewers.
Elite 11 Host and Pac-12 Network broadcaster Yogi Roth put the athletes through a gambit of exercises, sharing with them tips on how to build a likable public image, especially with the press.
In a smaller, more intimate setting with the college counselors, Roth explained to Sam Howell, Spencer Rattler, and Malik Willis what to do during media days and post-game interviews.
Roth spoke at length about breathing exercises, posture, body language, and even where to look when speaking with a sideline reporter or to the local beat writer via Zoom.
San Francisco 49ers quarterback and former Elite 11 counselor Trey Lance tuned into the meeting virtually to speak about his pre-draft process, life in the NFL, and answer questions from the group.
In a scripted workout, the coaches grade each finalist with scoring from one to three on every throw. One translates to an uncatchable ball and three implies a job well done.
That throw by Ewers, a job well done.
The coaching staff asked the quarterbacks to complete a variety of throws from different depths, on the run and against certain “invisible” defenses meant to simulate what’s required of an NFL player at the position.
Even the college counselors got in on the action, going first. Malik Willis felt so disappointed about his performance initially that he completed a second Pro Day.
Popular figures around sports media attended last night’s workout, including Mina Kimes, Ryen Russillo, Bruce Feldman, and Cynthia Frelund.
Luther Richesson, who plays for Elite 11 Head Coach Trent Dilfer at Lipscomb Academy, won the Pro Day competition:
Richesson and Katin Houser finished tied atop the leaderboard initially. Then, Richesson sealed the deal in an overtime throw-off period.
Day 2 Rankings and Thoughts
The Pro Day win for Richesson helped him climb into the top 11 of the coaches’ rankings. He’s as one coach said, “a machine, consistent, just ready for this moment.”
Until two o’clock in the morning, the staff convened to share their thoughts about the day and to update the rankings halfway through the finals essentially.
Whitfield and Jerrod Johnson shared with me how impressed they are by the sheer arm talent of this year’s finalist class.
Whereas traditionally every camp both see a lot of power throwers, it’s rare to see four to five quarterbacks in the same cohort as this group with the ability to be “absolute scorchers” as Whitfield put it but also deliver the ball with precision.
Johnson told me how the ball explodes out of the hands of these finalists, and with a few of them, their placement of the football, mechanics, and consistency throw-to-throw makes it difficult to pick one finals MVP.
To understand how talented this group appears to be, one coach shared how Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa may have struggled as college counselors to throw as well as the 2021 finals class.
The rankings through Day 2 remain relatively the same, especially at the top. Clemson commit and Austin Westlake’s Cade Klubnik is the leader in the clubhouse.
According to one coach, Klubnik looks “extremely twitchy” and he’s just “cool.”
But the week’s not done yet. There’s plenty of talent here to shake things up with the 7-on-7 competition beginning tonight.
Another coach told me, Nick Evers “lets the ball scream off his hand” and described Devin Brown yesterday as “electric.”
Those two names came up more often than not in conversations with the coaching staff.