- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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This year's crop of EA Sports Elite 11 quarterbacks is an eclectic group of big names, upside guys and maybe even some prospects who could surprise down the road. You could argue that considering 2010 is a down year at the position, picking the final 12 quarterbacks was the most difficult it has been in recent years.
Keep in mind that in order to qualify for the final Elite 11 invitation, players needed to attend either an Elite 11 regional camp or a Nike Football Training Camp and many quality prospects in this class chose not to participate. Guys like Notre Dame commit Andrew Hendrix (Cincinnati, Ohio/Moeller), Zach Lee (McKinney, Texas), Maryland commit Tyler Smith (Easton, Pa./Wilson Area) and Anthony Gonzalez (Bethlehem, Pa./Liberty), just to name a few, were not under consideration for this very reason. Obviously this made the selection process all the more difficult and tough decisions had to be made for at least five of the 12 spots. The reality is that for every selection that was made another good player was not selected.
Quality prospects like Chase Rettig (San Clemente, Calif.), Tyler Shreve (Redlands, Calif./Redlands East), Brett Nottingham (Danville, Calif./Monte Vista) and Connor Wood (Houston/Second Baptist) were guys who came down to the wire for the final remaining spots and were deserving, but there can be only 12.
There were seven prospects who were no-brainers: Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith), Blake Bell (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll), Joe Boisture (Saline, Mich.), Barry Brunetti (Memphis, Tenn./University), Jake Heaps (Sammamish, Wa./Skyline), Jesse Scroggins (Long Beach, Calif./Lakewood) and Austin Hinder (Steamboat Springs, Colo.).
The goal is obviously to get the best 12 quarterbacks in the country given the parameters for qualifying and this year's group will provide plenty of fodder for debate. The fun part is that this group proves one thing: Being a big name does not mean everything and certainly doesn't mean any one player is better than another due to hype.
Here's a breakdown of the 12 quarterbacks who will be participating in the final Elite 11.
Blake Bell (committed to Oklahoma)
Bell's physical measurables (6-foot-5, 212 pounds) and upside are enormous. He did not have a great regional workout, but his tape does not lie. He's been a starter at quarterback for only one season -- he was an all-state wide receiver prior to that as a sophomore -- but there are lots of tools to work with here.
Joe Boisture (committed to Michigan State)
Boisture is one of the few pure pocket passers left these days in an era of spread offenses and dual-threat guys. He has a cannon and can throw it to anywhere on the field.
Robert Bolden (committed to Penn State)
Bolden had a great workout at the regional camp and while he can make plays with his legs, he possesses raw physical tools as a passer that need to be honed and refined. He has upside as a dual-threat guy who can throw it.
Tyler Bray (committed to San Diego State)
Bray is the very definition of upside and being a late bloomer. This pick may surprise, but he has worked out well in the spring and summer and guys with his height (6-6) don't have the release he has. A bit of a stretch maybe, but three years down the road he could be a legit guy. I like the bold pick.
Barry Brunetti (committed to West Virginia)
You could argue no other quarterback in this group has a delivery like Brunetti, but at 6 feet, he lacks great height. He worked out well at the regional camp and has upside as a dual-threat quarterback who can wing it with quality footwork and mechanics.
Devin Gardner (committed to Michigan)
Gardner is raw and mechanically unorthodox, but he's extremely productive and talented. Plus he possesses a great work ethic -- he wants to be good. Gardner is big, athletic and the perfect fit for the spread with upside to develop and refine his passing skills.
Jake Heaps (committed to BYU)
Heaps is probably the most sound player coming into the event in terms of fundamentals and mechanics. He has been well groomed and, as a result, works out very well. Others may be more talented, but Heaps is ahead of the game in terms of the little nuances of the position.
Austin Hinder (committed to Cal)
Hinder has developed by leaps and bounds from last year both physically and fundamentally. He is a better athlete than you might think, too. He has terrific lineage (his grandfather, Jim Hanifan, played and coached at Cal before entering the program's hall of fame) and understands the game.
Nick Montana (committed to Washington)
Montana has shown flashes of being very good. He has a late bloomer's frame and is built like his dad, Pro Football Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana. His overall accuracy likely clinched him a spot. Montana is a fundamentally sound player.
Jesse Scroggins (uncommitted)
Despite just adequate height (6-2), you could argue Scroggins had the most impressive rise during the spring and summer of any quarterback in this class. He is smooth and accurate and his delivery can't be coached.
Phillip Sims (committed to Alabama)
Sims is a physically imposing prospect who has been well-coached. He threw very well in poor, wet conditions at his regional workout and possesses an outstanding arm. Sims is a little rough around the edges, but chisel away and there could be a diamond underneath.
Chandler Whitmer (committed to Illinois)
This is an interesting, but very likable choice due to quality production on film and the fact that he chose to travel to two regional camps, where he performed very well. He earned this by competing and is not intimidated. If he were taller (he's just 6 feet), he would be a nationally hyped prospect.
Tom Luginbill is the National Recruiting Director for ESPN's Scouts Inc.