- Tom Luginbill, ESPN Staff Writer
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MAUI, Hawaii -- As a group, the Super Seven quarterback prospects attending Steve Clarkson's event last week showed remarkable improvement in terms of footwork, and most importantly accuracy, at the end of Day 3. Much of that improvement could be attributed to an increased comfort level in drills after jitters dictated Days 1 and 2.
In a class that is widely perceived to be moderate at the quarterback position, we feel that many of the guys who could be top performers at the next level are prospects that, even in July, have seen little interest come their way on the recruiting trail.
Chase Rettig (San Clemente, Calif.) is one of those prospects.
Rettig had one of the best individual workouts I have seen from a quarterback this spring and summer. He has been to several camps as well as Elite 11 regional workouts, but he has not looked quite like the guy we saw Saturday. On a day that the competition was surely heating up, especially when Joe Montana started taking snaps, Rettig got better and better.
This is a player who had a strong sophomore campaign followed by a disappointing junior season. Now that he has transferred to San Clemente High School, in Orange County, he could post staggering numbers as a senior, and might be on the verge of multiple scholarship offers coming his way in the fall. We have seen countless prospects in this class with several offers that possess nowhere near Rettig's physical tools. It makes you scratch your head as to why.
What impressed us so much about Rettig was his drop speed, set up and balance on five- and seven-step drops. He also was skilled in pocket movement in drills tailored to test one's ability to throw on the move or off balance. His accuracy and ability to make any type of throw were off the charts on Day 3. At one point during the workout, he nailed seven or eight throws in a row, displaying terrific footwork and mechanics.
If you have heard anything about Rettig it is that he has a strong arm -- that is obvious. This week, for the first time, we saw him display some touch and ability to change ball speeds. He's looser and more comfortable with his upper-body control, and the ball jumped out of his hand in a fluid and consistent manner.
Depending on what QB Jesse Scroggins decides to do, Rettig could see offers from USC and Tennessee come his way in the near future. The key for Rettig is to explode as a senior and have the type of year his measurables and physical tools could allow him to have. It has to translate on the field; he can't be just a great workout guy. If he can do both, look out.
News and notes
Cal commit Austin Hinder (Steamboat Springs, Colo.) has improved tremendously from where he was a year ago. He has bulked up and his footwork has improved significantly, likely because he is starting to grow into his lanky frame and becoming more coordinated, as a result. We also saw improved arm strength, and expect to see more as he continues to add strength and weight to his frame.
If Alabama commit Phillip Sims (Chesapeake, Va./Oscar Smith) can continue to improve his drop speed, depth and consistency from center, he has a chance to develop into the total package. His physical tools are excellent. He was great on the board in the classroom setting, and he shows tremendous arm strength. He has good feet, but not great footwork. He needs to focus on gaining depth immediately from center, especially with his first step. Montana was a great asset in the area not only to Sims, but all the Super Seven -- few people drop from center as smooth and effortless as he does.
Oklahoma commit Blake Bell (Wichita, Kan./Bishop Carroll) is starting to draw favorable comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger because of his physical stature and upside. For the Sooners' sake, let's hope Bell has the same level of success as Roethlisberger.
Coaches are constantly scrutinizing a quarterback's delivery mechanics, but few are going to find many flaws in the release of Barry Brunetti (Memphis, Tenn./University). The dual-threat scrapper clearly possessed the combination of velocity and fluidity when getting rid of the football. Much like Sims, with improvement on his footwork from under center, he could blossom into a fine player. To his credit, Brunetti picked the right school to showcase his abilities in West Virginia.
Nick Montana (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) is expected to have a huge year. He stacked up well against the likes of Bell and Sims, but we didn't expect to see was him weigh in at 190 pounds, 13 pounds heavier than he was last year at this time.
Underclassmen and youngsters
Oaks Christian certainly does not have a shortage of high-profile names, and Trevor Gretzky (Westlake Village, Calif./Oaks Christian) is a 2011 prospect to keep an eye on. Wayne Gretzky's son will serve as Montana's backup this fall, and hopefully will see significant time on the field. He needs repetitions, and he needs to get on tape to get seen. He will likely end up being a starter for just one season as a senior at Oaks. With that being said, there was not a player in attendance, including the Super Seven group, who was as crisp and consistent in terms of drops from center as Gretzky was. We could have made a clinic video of him on three-, five- and seven-step drops. He does what you would like to see all prospects do -- get away from center, gain depth and do it quickly with no false steps or wasted motion.
As we mentioned in our initial coverage of the event, there were some middle-school age prospects on hand. Here are some of the names to watch for a few years down the road:
• Ian Fieber (Corona, Calif./Citrus Hills Intermediate) is just 13 years old and entering the 8th grade, but he looked like a high school sophomore at times. If he continues at this pace we will be hearing a lot about him in the future.
• Same goes for David Sills (Bear, Del./Red Lion Christian Academy). He is also just 13 with a dandy little arm, good feet and a nice feel for the game, considering his age.
• He's just entering high school and already standing 6-foot-6 at the age of 14. So Kelly Helinski may look like a basketball player, and he is, but he has all the makings of a fine pocket prospect in time. He will be attending Sherman Oaks' (Calif.) Notre Dame high school as freshman.
Importance of the classroom
The football classroom was a key learning tool for the prospects at this event. Learning the Xs and Os, studying and understanding the game is going to be paramount to the level of success that each of the Super Seven prospects ends up having. The time spent on the board developing an understanding of the basics and testing the knowledge of many of these kids was an eye opener for all. Some guys are further along than others. Most, if not all, have been able to get away with just being athletically better than the competition, but those days are coming to an end quickly. Three days on the board for roughly 45 minutes a session, hopefully, made enough of an impression on the QBs to make them film rats and sponges when it comes to knowing everything they can. In other words, do you want to be Ryan Leaf or do you want to be Peyton Manning?
Drop in the bucket
While Joe Montana may have never entered the coaching profession, you can see it's in his blood. Through his unassuming, calm demeanor, there is a competitive fire to teach and instruct and he is good at it, too. His approach is delicate and simple yet firm, and you can see he enjoys being around young people.
To conclude the Super Seven event in Maui, coaches, instructors and players all competed in a throwing contest to see who could drop the ball into a trashcan from about 40 yards away.
Sims was close; he hit the bucket. Joe put it in on third try.
Tom Luginbill is national recruiting director for ESPN Scouts Inc.