MALIBU, Calif. — There is no greater honor for a high school quarterback prospect than being named as an Elite 11 finalist.
The Elite 11 camp is run by Nike and has featured the very best of the best since its inception in 1999. Recent finalists of the Elite 11 camp include Stanford's Andrew Luck, Oklahoma's Landry Jones, Missouri's Blaine Gabbert, South Carolina's Stephen Garcia and BYU's Jake Heaps, just to name a few.
It's hard to find many finalists of the camp who haven't gone on to a lot of success at the very best Division I football programs.
This year, 24 best high school quarterback prospects in the country were invited from the four regional camps to gather here for the final leg. Those 24 have competed all week to be named as official Elite 11 finalists.
Two of the final 24 quarterbacks participating this week are BYU commit Tanner Mangum and Utah commit Travis Wilson. Given the track records of Elite 11 finalists, both Cougar and Ute fans should be excited about their commits being in Malibu this week.
If the fans aren't, their future coaching staffs sure are.
"I've called Coach Chow or Coach Roderick every day that I've been here," said the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Travis Wilson. "(They're) obviously excited that I'm down here learning from some of the best instructors there are. I can feel myself getting better every single day."
Mangum related a similar sentiment.
"I've talked to Coach Doman and let him know about everything, and he's obviously excited that I'm here," said the 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect. "I mean, we all know what Jake Heaps was able to do for BYU as a true freshman after going through this camp, so I couldn't think of any better preparation over the summer than to be here learning from these great instructors."
Some of the very best teachers in the game have attended the Elite 11 camp. This week, quarterbacks took notes from such talents as former Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer and current Kansas City Chief starter Matt Cassel.
"The instruction we're receiving is incredible," said Wilson. "I think I did pretty good last year, got some good offers and all that, but this year, with this camp and what I've been learning, I couldn't be more excited."
Wilson has been one of the standouts so far this week. It's easy to stand out when you're 6-foot-6, but that's not the only reason he's turning heads.
"Travis has had a really good week," said ESPN's Greg Biggins, who has helped run the Elite 11 from the very beginning. "His size is obviously a huge asset, but he has the arm to match that size and throws downfield extremely well. He's 6-6, so he's working hard on throwing like he's that tall and not throwing like he's 6-foot-2, and he's getting it. Once he continues getting to that point, the sky is the limit because he's so athletic for his size. He reminds me a lot of Drew Bledsoe athletically. His tools and upside are off the charts."
Mangum, meanwhile has stood out due to the color of his jersey, which is golden.
A golden jersey is given the winner of the "Golden Gun" competition that is held each day. It's a competition that measures the accuracy of each of the camp participants, and Mangum has come away with the award after each of the first two days.
"Tanner is really having a great week for himself so far," said Biggins. "Coming in, I considered him to be one of the top five or six guys here, but I think he's even moved up from there after his performance the first couple of days. He's obviously very accurate and has a good arm, but I would like to see him just spin it out of his hand a bit more consistently. Once he gets that, he'll really have pretty much all that you need to be a great quarterback."
While both quarterbacks are enjoying similar success this week, their approach to the camp and how they play is quite different.
"Tanner is a playbook junkie, almost nerd-like in that way," said Biggins. "Whenever we ask a question, his hand shoots straight up, and we're like 'Tanner, give the other guys a chance.' He's a natural leader and very vocal, which you always like to see from your quarterback. Travis, on the other hand, is a lot more laid-back in his approach to things. I don't want to say that he doesn't study up and know his stuff, because he does, he's just not as vocal as Tanner."
Both Mangum and Wilson are very aware of where the other is committed to play football. They've become good friends during the week, but they're already starting to draw the competitive lines that have defined the BYU-Utah rivalry over the years.
"I remember the first day, I showed up with my BYU jersey on, and Travis really gave me a hard time about it," said Mangum. "He was like 'Get that ugly thing off and out of my face,' but it was a lot of fun. We've both learned about the rivalry, and I'm sure we'll get a full sense of it once we're in the programs."
While Wilson did his best to get Mangum out of his BYU jersey the first day, he's been trying ever so hard to get him out of that yellow jersey ever since.
"I see him with that Golden Gun jersey on, and yeah, I really do want to take it away from him," he said. "We can't have a BYU guy winning that award. Seriously though, I'm happy for him. He's a great guy and we've become good friends, and he's obviously earned that award with how well he's done."
No matter what happens until the camp closes on Friday, both prospects couldn't be more grateful for their experiences.
"It's something I've wanted ever since I can remember, to be named as an Elite 11 quarterback," said Mangum, who lives in Eagle, Idaho. "I really wanted it after I saw Cody Hawkins, from Idaho, be named as a finalist, and it was huge for our state."
"It's something that any quarterback prospect wants," added Wilson. "I can't think of anyone who plays quarterback that doesn't have making the Elite 11 as one of his top goals. It was certainly my goal, and I'm close, very close."106 comments on this story
According to Biggins, who is on the panel to decide the final Elite 11 quarterbacks, both Mangum and Wilson are right there.
"Both of them are firmly inside of our top 11 right now," he said. "We'll see how that changes or if they stay there, but even if they don't, I can confidently say that both BYU and Utah are getting two of the best quarterback prospects out there."