High-schoolers show their stuff in 'Year of the Quarterback: Elite 11'


"Year of the Quarterback," ESPN's yearlong initiative that takes an in-depth look at football's most important position, goes to the grass-roots level this week and next to chronicle a program that helps top high-school talent progress to the next level.

"Elite 11: The Regionals," airing Friday, Aug. 12, takes viewers to football camps around the country, where young signal callers rotate through a gauntlet of drills intended to improve various aspects of their game and receive instruction from ESPN staffers such as Trent Dilfer, a former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst who serves as head coach. From these camps will be chosen the top 11, who then advance to "The Finals" at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., which airs Aug. 19.

The ESPN-run program has been in existence since 1998 and has among its alumni such elite NFL talent as Mark Sanchez, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Vince Young and Tim Tebow.

"It's interesting, when you look at the Elite 11 ... it's always a constant that the crystal ball is never really that clear as to whether this kid has it," says Mitch Wright, senior producer for content development at ESPN. "You can see the tools, and you get excited about the attitudes that these kids bring and the energy they bring and just how proficient they are at a young age and knowing that all of them are going to get bigger and fill out a little bit, some more so than others. So it's always kind of interesting to see, is this kid who's a little bit small and skinny right now but has a lot of great talent and technique: What is he going to be like? He may not be as polished at the moment, but you see a lot of things that are certainly intriguing."

Mentor and cheerleader Dilfer brings a passion for the position and an ability to communicate with the young hopefuls.

"He delivers (information) in such a way you feel like you're with your buddy from college or your brother," Wright says. "And he acts that way to us who are working on it, and it comes across to the audience, and I think the kids are really going to feel that as well. He's going to be that dad or that big brother that really is going to reach these guys."

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