OXFORD, Miss. – It's been said that quarterback is the toughest position on the field to evaluate because of all of the intangibles that go along with the position.
Even so, one of the top discussions each recruiting season is which quarterback prospect is the nation's best.
Sunday's Oxford NIKE camp on the campus of the University of Mississippi cleared up that argument somewhat. Springdale, Ark. gunslinger Mitch Mustain established himself as the leading candidate for the nation's top signal caller.
"Mitch is a leader and everything you want in a quarterback," said Springdale High head coach Gus Malzan, who brought Mustain to the Oxford NIKE camp. "He is a big, strong young man who almost never makes a mistake. He's athletic, he's got great poise and he's got a great arm. All of the kids look up to him, he's just a tremendous young man."
During his junior season, his first as a starter, Mustain completed 139 of 222 passes for 2,169 yards and 20 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder added 14 rushing touchdowns. Given these numbers, it's no surprise he has collected 25 scholarship offers from the likes of Texas, LSU, Arkansas, Michigan, Miami, Oklahoma, Notre Dame, Virginia, Iowa, Louisville and others.
"I was kind of skeptical of coming out here at first, because I didn't know what to expect or what it would be like," Mustain said. "I was kind of nervous, but after I got out here and started throwing I felt really comfortable and enjoyed the whole thing. It was great coming out here and throwing to all of these great wide receivers and competing against the other quarterbacks and the defensive backs.
"I feel good about my performance."
Mustain has one of the quickest releases in America and also throws one of the strongest balls. Though he is a very good athlete in his own right, there are other quarterbacks who are faster and more athletic. It's the total package, however, that makes Mustain so special. Mustain was pretty much on the money all day long, even in the SPARQ training. Whether it was the rope drills or quarterback drills it didn't matter, Mustain showed a smoothness and poise that no other quarterback this year during has displayed.
His performance may have topped that of Jacksonville (Fla.) Neese standout Tim Tebow at the Tallahassee NIKE camp two weeks ago.
"(Mustain) is the best quarterback I've seen at any of the NIKE camps," Student Sports recruiting analyst Greg Biggins, who has been to all of the camps except Ann Arbor, said. "He has to be mentioned among the top three signal callers in the nation."
There are many reasons why he has college coaches stopping by Springdale on a daily basis. He has his choice of schools, but is shy about tipping his hand to which one's he likes best at this point.
"I'm talking to a bunch of different schools right now," Mustain said. "I'm trying to collect a lot of information on as many schools as I can right now. I just kind of want to learn about all of these programs and sit on it for a while."
While Mustain seems to be taking his time with the recruiting process and do a thorough job of researching all of his options, he is still likely to make a commitment before the season.
"The goal is to have it out of the way by then so I can focus on the season," Mustain said. "I won't make a decision until I'm ready though. Like I said I want to collect all of the necessary information and then narrow it down a bit from there. After that I will try to get it down to just two or three schools and choose between them."
Mustain showed up on Sunday wearing an Ole Miss cap, which created buzz among some of the Rebel fans that were in attendance.
"It didn't really mean anything," Mustain said. "We were at Ole Miss and I wasn't going to wear the hat of any other team because that is disrespectful. Don't get me wrong, Ole Miss is a school that I'm looking at and I considering them and like what they have to offer, but they are equal with all of the other teams on my list right now."
While it is still too early to say where Mustain will show up when the Rivals.com rankings are released in early June, he has certainly made a strong case to be rated among the elite and will be one of the first quarterbacks you see on the list.