We've been covering the Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison passing tournament for years but we can't ever remember a deeper field or a better collection of quarterbacks than what we saw this past Saturday. Among the 16 teams, five signal callers have already made Div I commitments and a handful of others project as Div I signees including the top junior quarterback in the nation.
Huntington Beach (Calif.) Edison won their own tournament with a win over a very good Carlsbad team in the finals. At these types of events, we're not so much interested in who wins the tourney or what team does what in their bracket but more so what players stand out and what underclassmen emerge as prospects to watch in the fall.
The quarterbacks were the obvious headliners and no one disappointed. Among those that have already made college commitments were Notre Dame, Sherman Oaks Dayne Crist (Notre Dame), Edison, Huntington Beach's Nick Crissman (UCLA), Centennial, Corona's Matt Scott (Arizona), Clovis West, Fresno's Beau Sweeney (Cal) and Chaparral, Temecula's Tyler Hansen (Colorado).
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In addition, San Clemente's Brad Curtis, Valencia's Graham Wilbert, Hart, Newhall's B.R. Holbrook and South Hills, West Covina's Brandon Parham all had strong days and look like Div I caliber signal callers. Throw in juniors Matt Barkley out of Mater Dei, Santa Ana and Clark Evans from Los Alamitos and this was heaven if you're a fan of the quarterback position.
Crist got the better of Sweeney in a head to head match up in one of the opening games of the tournament. The Irish bound signal caller has great size, very good arm strength and was very accurate. He can make all the throws and showed great poise in the pocket as well.
Unlike a year ago when Notre Dame had some incredible athletes at the receiver position, this year's crop isn't quite as strong and it hurt the Knights in the 1st round of the playoffs. After breezing through pool play, Notre Dame lost to a tough South Hills team 7-6. There were several drops in the game where Crist put the ball right on the money and a few were drops for touchdowns.
We use the word 'upside' a lot in talking about players who are nowhere near as good as they're going to be and that is definitely the case with Crist. He's a big, strong kid with great leadership skills and has amazing athleticism for a 6-5, 230 pound quarterback. He wants to learn and get better, is very coachable and it's tough to imagine Crist not having great success at the college level. He's only scratching the surface of his enormous potential and it will be fun to see him competing against the nation's best at the upcoming Elite 11 QB camp at the end of the month.
We've always liked Sweeney and still do. It looks like he's spent some considerable time in the weight room and really filled out in his chest and shoulders. He throws a nice ball, spins it very consistently but his accuracy was off a bit in this first game against Notre Dame. We saw Sweeney later in the tournament and the problem for him was the Clovis West receivers really aren't able to stretch the field and as a result, he had to check down and throw underneath most of the game we saw.
We really liked his decision making as he didn't force things down the field when there was no one open but calmly found his second or third option. His arm strength has improved since we last saw him and when you combine his improved physical tools with his already impressive athleticism and we think Sweeney has a chance to make a lot of noise at Cal before he's done there.
Every time we've seen Crissman this summer, we liked him more and more and this tournament was no exception. Crissman was the most consistent quarterback in this tourney in leading the Chargers to the championship. The athlete is all of 6-3 and throws a great ball. He made several clutch throws late in games and really shined in a quarterfinal win over San Clemente in what might have been the game of the day.
Down five with no time left on the clock, Crissman threw a bullet in the corner of the end zone that was dropped for what would have been the go ahead touchdown. Passing league rules stipulate you can finish your drive if time has expired assuming you made your 1st down before time expired, which Edison did. After the Charger receiver dropped the pass, Crissman went right up to him, patted him on the head and said, 'no worries, you'll get the next one.' On 4th down, Crissman went right back to that same receiver who caught the game winning touchdown.
It may sound like hyperbole but in watching Crissman as a junior in pads and now several times in the spring and summer, you can make a strong argument that he's the best quarterback UCLA has recruited since Cade McNown several years ago. He has all the physical tools, we've always loved his toughness, poise and leadership and if he continues to work hard and stay healthy, he could be a special player in college.
Like we mentioned about Sweeney, Scott looks like he has lived in the weight room as was one of the most physically impressive looking athletes in the tournament, regardless of position. His arm was live and he had more zip on his slants and outs than any other quarterback we saw. Scott always threw several nice deep balls with great touch and there is no doubt the future Wildcat has huge upside at the college level.
Unlike a lot of the quarterbacks in this tourney, Scott has not benefited from years of working with a quarterback coach, which is why we like his upside so much. He does so much just on his raw, physical ability and once he gets in to a college system and irons out a few things, his room for growth is higher than just about anyone.
Hansen had his moments in the tournament but doesn't have near the talent around him as some of the other quarterbacks. We loved him at the recent EA SPORTS Elite 11 workout in Las Vegas and feel Colorado is getting a major sleeper at the position. Hansen has a quick release, throws with velocity when needed and was able to thread the needle on several occasions.
In a game we saw where Chaparral took on Edison, Hansen's receivers really struggled to get open and his window to throw to was pretty small. The quarterback stayed positive with his guys and that's something we always look for. He needs to get bigger but has a nice frame and is a plus athlete as well. Like we said earlier, Colorado got a good one in Hansen.
As for the non-committed quarterbacks, Wilbert plays in a great system and does a lot of things well. He's a big kid who can get the ball down the field. He doesn't have great mobility but isn't a statue in the pocket either. He spreads the ball around well and it's actually very surprising that no one has stepped up with an offer yet.
Curtis had a great day and San Clemente as a whole was one of the most impressive teams in the tournament. They lost by a hair to eventual champion Edison and then went on to beat Mater Dei in a consolation game following that loss. Curtis makes great decisions, is very poised and never once look rattled. He has nice size and a live arm. His release can get a little long on some of his deeper throws but he's a very good looking prospect.
Holbrook is a player we like but he really didn't have much to work with at Edison. Injuries have killed Hart this summer and Indian coach Mike Herrington told us they're currently missing four of their top six receivers plus all-state running back Delano Howell. It's a shame because Hart is always one of the most entertaining teams to watch in passing league and Holbrook is a player we all liked at the NIKE Camp at Stanford. With a full arsenal to throw to in the fall, look for Holbrook to sign with someone next February, he has definite Div I ability.
Parham is a strong armed lefty who lacks ideal size but can really throw it. He throws out of the pocket as well as he does in the pocket and he threw some beautiful deep balls on Saturday. With his combination of toughness, mobility and arm strength, Parham is a sleeper who could make some mid level Div I school very happy.
Moving on to the juniors, Barkley and Evans are both going to be recruited heavily next season. Barkley is a year ahead of schedule and already has 10 offers on the table. If Crissman had the best day, Barkley still looks like the best college prospect and threw some balls that a lot of college quarterbacks couldn't make.
You can almost hear the ball whistle when Barkley throws and he had the most arm strength in the tournament. He throws everything on a rope and you're actually surprised every time he throws an incompletion. In the biggest upset of the day, Mater Dei fell to Colony in round one of the playoffs after going 3-0 in pool play. Barkley threw a couple of picks on back to back possessions and never seemed to get in sync in the game. There is still no question about his potential and the 6-2.5, 220 pound signal caller has future star written all over him.
At 6-4, 205 pounds, Evans has great size and showed us a lot in the tourney. According to the Griffin coaches, Evans suffered from severe back spasms in the days leading up to the tournament and wasn't expected to play until he showed up that morning. We can't emphasize how important toughness is for a quarterback, it's one of the biggest reason we like Crissman so much, and Evans showed it on Saturday.
As for his performance, as you might expect, Evans was up and down when we saw him. He was great in an early win over Hart and then looked just OK in a loss to Centennial. He has some very good looking receivers to throw to but decision making, not locking in on one guy, and really seeing the field, is an area Evans can improve on. Saying that, Evans brings a lot to the table and he didn't even get a chance to show off his running ability, which is very good, in a setting like this. Look for him to be recruited at the high Div I level next year.
We'll have a report later in the week on some of the skill players as well as some of the underclassmen who we think are worth watching this upcoming season.