Commentary

Feeling a draft

QBs went quickly as coaches selected their teams for the 7on tournament

Updated: July 8, 2011, 11:19 AM ET
By Dave Hooker | ESPN Recruiting

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- It didn't exactly look like an NFL draft war room.

Coaches dressed in workout clothes took bites of food between picks.

A Sharpie and Dry Erase Board served as the not-so-permanent keeper of records.

Oh, and all the coaches from soon-to-be competing teams sat just inches apart. So much for secrecy.

[+] EnlargeThe Draft
Tom Hauck for ESPN.comThe Opening's 7on draft board was stacked with great players. QBs went quickly and then coaches had a tougher time deciding between the roster of talented prospects.
No matter. There wasn't a coach in The Opening's 7on draft who tried to hide the fact that signal-callers ruled the day.

Danville (Calif.) San Ramon Vallery's Zach Kline was the first pick by Team Alpha Speed. Afterward, four straight teams picked a quarterback for the premier event in The Opening camp at Nike World Headquarters.

"I'm a big Zach Kline fan," said Nike's Matt James, who will coach Alpha Speed. "I think he brings a lot of intangibles to the game.

"He's got good feet. He's got a big, strong arm, almost sometimes too strong of an arm. Want him to be able to learn to be a pitcher and not just a thrower sometimes."

James said Kline had shown some "happy feet" at times in the pocket during workouts this week, but his physical skills and decision-making won out.

"Man, that's awesome," Kline said with a smile when told of the selection. "I can't wait. It's going to be sweet. I hope our seven-on-seven team does well. That would be a shame if we were out first [and people said] 'Oh, he was a bust.'"

Rocklin (Calif) Whitney standout Jake Rodrigues went with the second pick followed by Eagle (Idaho) High School's Tanner Mangum.

Former NFL quarterback Jeff Blake selected Rodrigues.

"Throws a real good ball," Blake said of his pick. "Has decent footwork. He read pretty good during the skeleton drill and did pretty good during the one-on-ones. ... We feel like he's going to be able to take control of the offense and run the plays we put before him."

All three selections are rated four-star quarterbacks; Kline and Rodrigues are members of the ESPNU 150. Kline is committed to California, Rodrigues to Oregon and Mangum to Brigham Young.

It's no surprise that quarterbacks were chosen so quickly in the seven-on-seven format that begins on Friday and will air on ESPNU at 9 p.m. ET. It's a key position for the pass-first -- or at least pass-often -- competition.

Coaches didn't need to be told that. One even joked when a phone rang that it wasn't Mel Kiper Jr. on the line, which is just as well beause these guys didn't need Mel's help. They have been working with the players in drills and know all about them. The only non-quarterback to go in the first round was cornerback Daje Johnson by Team Superbad. The four-star prospect from Pflugerville (Texas) Hendrickson is committed to TCU.

Corey Jones from Pittsburgh (Pa.) Penn Hills was the first receiver selected. Jones is still considering Pittsburgh, West Virginia and Cincinnati, among other schools.

Two tailbacks were selected in the middle of the second round. Randy "Duke" Johnson from Miami Norland was the first followed by Stone Mountain (Ga.) Stephenson's Mike Davis. Johnson is committed to Miami, Davis to Florida.

Kwon Alexander from Oxford (Ala.) High School was the first linebacker selected.

Coaches were more perplexed later in the draft when they had to choose among the players remaining. With 150 of the top prospects in the nation, one joked, "We're splitting the atom."

The fission-based debates resulted in what most expected. While some elite cornerbacks were selected early in the draft, most coaches waited since there were so many to choose from. Cornerback was widely considered the strongest position in this week's event.

While Kline was being deemed the best, he was working with a fellow teammate, giving him tips on passing technique.

"The players kind of rally around him," said James, his new coach. "He's got that energy and charisma to him."

Kline said while the camp is competitive, it isn't about competition. It is about helping each other improve.

"It's not who's starting, who's the No. 1 guy, who's the No. 2 guy," he said. "I know I'm good and I know what I can do. I have no problem helping guys out. You have to have character on and off the field."

Coaches sitting together. Players saying it won't be "that" competitive. Don't expect the same when all the draftees hit the field on Friday.

Dave Hooker covers recruiting in the Southeast and Atlantic Coast for ESPN.com. He can be reached at davehookerespn@gmail.com.

Dave Hooker

Reporter, RecruitingNation