The #RivalsChallenge Stock Report: Quarterbacks
ATLANTA - With the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge presented by adidas in the rearview mirror, it's time to issue stock reports for each position. Take a look at how each quarterback fared under the lights of the Mercedes-Benz Dome.
MORE FIVE-STAR CHALLENGE: The Farrell Awards | Five teams that should be pleased | Seven players named MVPs at their positions | Bradford destroys bench press competition | Who is the real DB U? | Justin Flowe makes a strong case for himself | Offensive roster | Defensive roster | All-Lobby team | Next to commit | Five who could flip | Best Five-Star Challenge performance ever? | Full Rivals Camp Series coverage
RELATED: Breaking down Bo Nix
Nix is currently the second-highest rated quarterback in the Rivals100 so there isn’t a ton of room for him to move up without earning his fifth star but his MVP award and 7v7 tournament championship trophy are clear indicators of how successful he was on Thursday. The Auburn commit’s footwork was crisp, quick and decisive, and the ball really jumps off his hand. Nix’s accuracy improved as the day went on but the most impressive thing was how he commanded his offense during the 7v7 tournament. He was calling plays for his team later in the tournament, even when it wasn’t his turn to lead the drive.
RELATED: Breaking down Graham Mertz
No quarterback raised his stock as much as Mertz. The Wisconsin commit has the prototypical build of a quarterback and was really on point through the drills portion of the camp. Mertz’s footwork and balance were very good, he has a tight, fast throwing motion that is the same every time, and has very good arm strength. His accuracy during the drills and one-on-ones were very impressive but some of his deficiencies showed up in the 7v7 tournament. Mertz had a bit of a learning curve throwing against elite defensive players because of their speed, length and abilities to make plays he did not expect. This is normal for a quarterback at an event like this that doesn’t play great competition during the season but it is something that shouldn't be too hard to correct at the next level.
Howell got better as Thursday’s workouts went on. There isn’t much to pick apart when it comes to the Florida State commit’s throwing mechanics, and his arm strength is as impressive as they come. Howell really shined when it came to the 7v7 portion of the camp. He threw some really impressive passes, fit balls into tight windows, and put the ball where only his receiver could catch it. The footwork drills weren’t a bright spot for Howell as he looked a little heavy-footed and off balance at times. Even considering the footwork, Howell was one of the three or four best quarterbacks in attendance and should see his stock hold relatively steady.
RELATED: Breaking down Ryan Hilinski
Hilinski had one of the most unique styles out of all the quarterbacks and it worked for him. The South Carolina commit stands in the pocket noticeably more compact in his upper body, really protecting the ball as he moves around, and some of the drills that tested his footwork exposed how he can get off balance and be slow to react to on-coming rushers. As a thrower, Hilinski was really on point for the majority of the day and wide receivers loved working with him during one-on-ones. In 7v7 competition he did a good job of finding open receivers and made some big passes down the field.
Being at the top of this category is not an enviable position. Anybody that was in the Mercedes-Benz Dome on Thursday can tell you it was a tough outing for Young pretty much from start to finish. The shortest quarterback in the group, Young’s long delivery didn’t do him any favors in one-on-ones or the 7v7 tournament. Defensive backs were able to see when the pass was coming and it gave them a little more time to make a move on the ball. He did have some bright spots in the 7v7 tournament because he is pretty accurate and developed good timing with his receivers. Only a 2020 prospect, Young (No. 25 in the 2020 Rivals100) has plenty of time to refine his mechanics and footwork before the end of his recruiting cycle.
Gunnell towered over the rest of the quarterbacks but his size has not translated to arm strength. Many of the Arizona commit’s passes fluttered and defensive backs could frequently be seen batting his passes down and grabbing interceptions. When it comes to his prowess during the individual drills, Gunnell's throwing motion isn't far from where it needs to be but he does need to get the ball out of his hand faster and shorten his delivery. He was very decisive and balanced during the footwork drills but he was missing the necessary quickness. As Gunnell develops in the Arizona system, he should get much stronger in all of these areas.
Just a 2020 prospect, Pyne was among the best in the group at the end of the individual drills portion of the Five-Star Challenge. The Notre Dame commit showed off quick feet, good balance, and a crisp, quick delivery with more power than most expected given his slight, barely 6-foot-1 frame. There were some throws that Pyne made during the 7v7 tournament that were very impressive but his overall performance in that setting was limited by his inexperience against elite defensive backs that are bigger, faster and smarter than he has faced previously. A few times Pyne didn't see receivers getting open early enough so the ball came out too late and ended up in the waiting arms of a linebacker or defensive back. As a whole, Thursday was a pretty good showing for Pyne but No. 37 in the 2020 Rivals100 feels a bit high right now.
Bailey had a pretty rough start to the day. His reaction time and quickness weren’t what we’ve come to expect from him. Granted, Bailey is just finishing his sophomore year but he’s been a well-known prospect on the camp circuit for a few years now and we’ve seen him play better than he showed in the drills on Thursday. By the end of the day's first session, Bailey's arm talent had taken over. He was very good during the one-on-one competitions and in the 7v7 tournament he helped his team earn its championship trophy. His arm strength was among the best in the group and his extensive experience against elite defenders aided his timing and helped him make good decisions with the ball. Bailey nearly made the "stock steady" section but the finer points of his game still need refinement to justify his lofty ranking (No. 24 in the 2020 Rivals100).