Ramsey's Elite 11 Ride

BUFORD, Ga. – Brice Ramsey entered the Buford High football complex Friday for the Elite 11 regional competition in unassuming fashion.

He wore a red Georgia hoodie, shorts and sandals and kept a faceless expression while listening to music through his red Beats headphones. He had a football tucked under his left arm.

He stood in line for registration just like all the other kids.

While Ramsey looked calm and ready, his mother, Yolanda, tipped her hand about the importance of the day.

"We've only talked about two goals, Elite 11 and winning a state championship," she said.

The Ramsey family had driven up from Camden County the day before. Yolanda, Brice's dad Jay and grandfather Ed all made the 350-mile drive up from the Eastern seaboard.

Jay readily bragged that he made it to Buford, a suburb of Atlanta, in the same time it usually took the family to drive to Athens.

Ed, Brice's biggest fan and supporter, had his camera at the ready.

Truthfully this event held no real bearing on Brice's future. He was already committed to Georgia and was still being recruited by Florida and Alabama.

Ramsey's future was going to include the SEC, whether he showed out at Elite 11 or not.

"But this is what Brice does," Jay said. "He likes to compete. It won't hurt him, so why not?"

There were 86 participants from 16 different states. The winner would receive an automatic invite to the Elite 11 competition – held in Southern California in July. The focus, at least before the event, seemed to be on Brice, Lassiter's Eddie Printz, North Carolina signal caller Riley Ferguson and Mississippi's Ryan Buchanan.

Ramsey and Printz, joined by Cedar Grove's Jonathan McCreary, were set to lay claim as the best quarterback in the state of Georgia for the 2013 class.

The kids realized it. And so did the parents. The feeling around the event was akin to a tennis tournament, where everyone knows everyone and the parents eye each other and hold fake, nervous conversations before the battle commences. Chad Simmons, a national recruiting analyst, also kept a keen eye on the battle because he had ranked Ramsey ahead of Printz, a UCLA commitment, long ago.


Four-star Ramsey is considered the top QB in Georgia. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

"This will be interesting to see," Simmons said.

The Ramseys had gone to the Mall of Georgia earlier in the day to buy Brice a set of Nike cleats. Nike sponsors the Elite 11 and Brice loves the brand. But Camden County is affiliated with Adidas. Unfortunately, no store had a size 14 cleat to fit Brice, so he wound up wearing his usual Adidas kicks.

The quarterbacks began to get warmed up in drills and Ramsey and Printz were right next to each other.

Neither seemed to acknowledge the coincidence. Perhaps those outside the fence put more stock into it than those actually competing.

Yolanda eased the tension by telling a story. Georgia coach Mark Richt had recently called Brice on the phone.

"Is this a joke," Ramsey asked at first.

Ramsey was in the backseat of Yolanda's car at the time, joined by five-star running back and Georgia commit Derrick Henry, from Yulee, Fla.

Ramsey, thinking it was a prank call, handed the phone to Henry to confirm it was actually Richt, which it was.

Back on the field, Super Bowl-winning quarterback turned ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer wasn't joking around.

"Are you coachable? Can you change?" Dilfer was booming out clichés to the kids while they went through drills.

Dilfer, given his experiences, was obviously knowledgeable about quarterbacking. But he seemed to ham it up when the cameras and boom mic were near him. He would soon be paying attention to Ramsey and Printz.


Dilfer during a coachable moment with Ramsey's group. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

****

As the warm-up drills gave way to actual throwing, another headlining quarterback entered.

Aaron Murray showed up by himself, smiling for cameras and looking for someone in particular.

Plant High (Tampa, Fla.) coach Robert Wiener had brought a few of his players up to the event. Murray, a rising junior at Georgia who won a state championship at Plant, made the hour-long drive from Athens to see his former coach.

"Long time no see," Murray said as the two hugged.

Murray was a ball boy for the Elite 11 camp his junior year in high school. The following year he competed.

This summer Murray, Clemson's Taj Boyd and Florida State's E.J. Manuel have committed to being councilors for the Elite 11 in California – a role Murray is also proud to fill.

"I remember Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez were the councilors when I was there my senior year," Murray said.

A Heisman hopeful for the upcoming season, Murray spoke to the group of kids during a break in the action.

"I told them to take advantage of every opportunity," he said of his speech. "I told them to get to know all the other guys and create relationships."

****

Early on Ramsey's arm looked juiced up. His supreme arm strength was obvious, but his accuracy wasn't on point.

Meanwhile, Printz looked good in drills stressing dropping back and rolling out. But his throws weren't on par. He didn't have any spin on the ball and wasn't throwing spirals. He looked as if he was aiming the ball instead of throwing it.

At one point, Dilfer, accompanied by the ESPN cameras, shouted at Printz. "You have as good a tape as there is Eddie. I've seen it. Now show me you can do that stuff here."

Dilfer stayed on Printz for a few reps. His intensity was obvious, but kind of felt fake or forced.

"You need somebody to light a fire under your ass?" Dilfer screamed.

Printz struggled to keep a smile back at one point as he returned to line.

McCrary looked good physically, but his throwing motion was quirky. He had a long, looping windup, perhaps to account for a lack of arm strength. His mobility was obvious and was keeping him in the discussion as one of the more athletic players competing.


Ramsey seemed to be the leader of the pack the entire day. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Meanwhile, Brice was asserting himself as the dominant kid at the camp. He'd knocked off the early rust and was throwing on target with ease. He was connecting on every type of pattern. Ramsey's upper body wasn't as developed as some of the others present, but he was generating great velocity with little sign of effort.

Printz had fallen off. Ramsey was trending back up. At the conclusion of the first round of drills, Ramsey, along with Tyler Cogswell, of American Heritage High in Florida, seemed to be the class of the field.

Cogswell was perhaps the most physically impressive member of the pack. A 6-5, 220-pounder, Cogswell stood out for his arm strength and also because he was the only competitor wearing a hat.

****

After the speech from Murray, a dozen or so were separated from the group to throw routes to receivers.

This would be the swimsuit competition of the beauty pageant.

Brice was among the kids chosen. Demarre Kitt, a 2014 receiver from Sandy Creek who had recently verbally committed to Georgia, was one of the wideouts catching passes.

Somehow or another, either by plan or coincidence, Ramsey and Kitt were paired for most of the drill.

Everybody did fine throwing quick slants to get timing down.

The seam route is where Ramsey separated himself. He threw three perfect balls during this portion of the drill.

"Nice Brice, that's the throw," Dilfer screamed out.

The deep out-route, the hardest throw in football, came next. And it was no contest – Ramsey killed the competition. While others threw short and had to put too much air under the ball, Ramsey was 2-for-2.

Checkmate.

But there were still haters in the crowd.

"Of course their going to pick Brice to win," a bystander said. "A Georgia commit? You think? That's one of Nike's biggest schools. You think a South Carolina guy is going to the Elite 11? South Carolina is sponsored by Under Armour – no shot."

(South Carolina last had a quarterback commit participate in Elite 11 in 2003 – Blake Mitchell).

The last throw was a fly route. While it certainly helps, the deep ball doesn't require arm strength, which seems counter intuitive but is true. Timing and placement are more important, and once again Ramsey proved capable. He hit Kitt in stride three times.

"SEC Championship, whooooo," Yolanda yelled out. "That's the Dawg connection baby!"

Yolanda, perhaps half-jokingly, asked if Brice would come hug her after he was announced as the winner. Probably not, a bystander answered.

****

After two hours of drills and throwing all the kids were rounded up and Dilfer began what looked to be the speech of conclusion.

For most of the competitors the camp was over. But seven were selected to compete in a final drill.

A simulated game-winning drive was set up with 30 seconds on the clock. Each quarterback had to make five throws as he moved his "team" down the field for a touchdown.

There was no defense. Instead a coach counted down the seconds and provided a mock pass rush.

Cogswell and Ramsey were no brainer selections for the last showdown. Buchanan and Ferguson heard their names called, too.


Clockwise from top left: Williams, Ferguson, Staver, Jennings, Buchanan and Cogswell (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

Two other states were represented with Lousiana's Damian Williams and Tennessee's Max Staver. Marietta's Anthony Jennings rounded out the group.

No player performed badly in the drill, but Jennings separated himself with crisp throws.

"Oh," Murray said as Jennings completed his third throw. "Oh wow," he said after the touchdown pass was completed.

Somehow Jennings was an under-the-radar player coming into the day and ever during most of the day. He held over a dozen offers from schools all over the map, North Carolina, West Virginia and Colorado being a few. But Ramsey, McCrary, Printz and others in the state had overshadowed Jennings in the recruiting process.

It was clear after his performance in the final drill that Dilfer was impressed.

"Anthony Jennings came out here today with a purpose," he told Scout.

Ramsey was the last to go. Winning the competition felt like a forgone conclusion at this point, a feeling that Dilfer made clear.

"This is who you have to beat," he turned and told the rest of the group as Ramsey got set.

"He's got to represent for the G," Murray said as he intently watched Ramsey.

The first throw was a check down to a running back. Ramsey flicked it easy and then completed an intermediate crossing pattern. A deep throw moved the "team" into the red zone and Brice called a timeout with eight seconds left.

"Why does he get a timeout?" Murray asked.

Ramsey wasn't given special treatment. The timeout was available to everybody in the drill. He was the only one to call it.

Out of the break Ramsey completed a pass inside the five-yard line and had to scramble to get the final snap off. He dropped back, faded to the left to avoid being sacked by the coach and floated the game-winning pass to the receiver over a cast of camp instructors lined up as the defense in the back of the end zone.

"I liked him from the first time I saw him," Murray immediately said, recalling a throwing session last summer when he watched Ramsey throw with Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo.

While every quarterback's "team" had won the drill, it felt as if Ramsey's touchdown meant more. He had been the best quarterback all day, and while his throws in the final competition weren't as crisp as they could have been, Ramsey had done nothing to hurt his stock.

The group of coaches and councilors, Dilfer among them, gathered to discuss who would get the automatic invite to this summer's Elite 11 competition in California.

"You got me today," Printz told Ramsey, acknowledging the winner of the unspoken competition between the two.

There wasn't much suspense in the air. The decision seemed simple. But Dilfer shocked most when he gave the golden ticket to Jennings.

"The more competitive environment Jennings was put through and the more he was challenged, he responded," Dilfer said.

Ramsey took the loss gracefully. He went through the interview circuit with recruiting reporters and shook Dilfer's hand and thanked him.

Yolanda did her best to bite her lip.

"I feel that Brice performed to the best of his abilities," she said. "I thought it was good enough."

Dilfer said Ramsey's arm strength was impressive, but added, "we were looking at all the other stuff, too."

"Brice started the day off slow," he continued. "He might have thought this was a walk in the park like any other camp. Once we tightened the screws and let him know this was a serious camp-petition he turned it on. That's what we're looking for is kids like Brice that will compete."

The Ramsey's had to hit the road to get back to Camden County. Brice was attending prom with his girlfriend at the Bolles School in nearby Jacksonville the next day. He'd get the chance to hang out with 2012 Georgia signee John Theus, who led Bolles to a state title last season, with the hopes of forgetting about football for at least a couple hours.

"The prom is a lock-in," he said, seemingly heartbroken by the fact. "They lock the doors from eight ‘till 11, and you have to eat there, too."

While Ramsey was mulling over Saturday's prom, Yolanda and Jay were debating whether to take Brice to Orlando on Sunday for the next Nike Camp.

Winning there would likely mean an invite to the Elite 11, but all the travel could burn Brice out.

Brice made the decision against going to Orlando – calling Yolanda at midnight after prom to let her know he didn't want to go.

But the next day the family was discussing about attending the Charlotte regional in a few weeks.

Perhaps Jennings summed up the feeling best after his win.

"Nobody wants to come out and be second or third."


Dilfer talks with Georgia QB Aaron Murray. (Dean Legge/Dawg Post)

ScoutFootball.com Recommended Stories


  • Peyton Manning emerged alone atop yet another category in the NFL record book tonight vs the Niners, as he tossed touchdown #509 under the national spotlight of Sunday Night Football (NBC). (Photo…

  • Former USC and NFL running back LenDale White added tons of drama to what was a relatively quiet Homecoming weekend for the Trojans.

  • Here’s a way to watch football and improve your golf swing at the same time. In your living room (or on the range), practice the one-minute golf swing, as shown in this video. Set the timer on your…

  • Dr. Roto, like many others, can't believe Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson (pictured above) passed for over 300 yards and rushed for over 100 yards in the same game. First time that's ever happened…

  • As soon as those winds fall off, get into the stand! I always tell people you can't kill them if you aren't out, but if you want to try and pick an opportune time – this is it.

Up Next


Forums


30 Fans online
    Join The Conversation

    Tweets