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Dick Harmon: Tanner Mangum's Elite 11 QB finish underscores motive, potential

Published: Monday, July 25 2011 10:48 p.m. MDT

Tanner Mangum, who has verbally committed to play for BYU, competed this week at the Elite 11 Quarterback Camp in Malibu, Calif.

Paul Freeman

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There are two things to like about the summer sensation quarterback antics of BYU recruit Tanner Mangum.

First, the Idaho athlete pretty well rattled the throne of recruiting experts who set up a system of stars to rate high school recruits and proclaim their value, worth and status. We've seen these ratings for almost two decades from Scout.com and Rivals.com, the two most popular guessing services.

Second, Mangum didn't do all of this to improve his recruiting stock. He did it for a pure purpose: He simply wanted to prove to himself and others that he is pretty good. Period.

Mangum committed to sign with BYU on April 7 and will play after he serves an LDS mission following his senior year at Eagle High in Idaho this fall.

Last week Mangum earned MVP honors at the prestigious Elite 11 camp on the campus of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. This came a week after dazzling experts at a seven-on-seven team passing competition, "The Opening," in Beaverton, Ore.

The star givers didn't think he was that good in early June. I think they underestimated the guy. This week ESPN elevated him to its top 150.

By the end of July, Mangum was competing against the best QB recruits in the country, those with lofty four and five stars. In many regards, he was better. Before the camp, Mangum was ranked as the No. 18 prospect at QB in the country by Scout.com, which gave him three stars. Rivals.com had him at No. 9 with four stars.

Twice last week at the Elite 11, Mangum won the "Golden Gun" award for accuracy during the five-day experience. Within the first two days he jumped into the Top 4 because of his ability.

He was not the best athlete, the fastest, or the one with the strongest arm. He is not the eye-popping physical specimen Jameis Winston of Alabama, who is a guy who could be drafted high in the Major League Baseball draft.

But he did one thing better than all — he hit targets.

Mangum's accuracy really stood out according to observers at the Elite 11 camp, which will be featured on ESPN Aug. 12 and 19.

Mangum had the first perfect set of five 7-on-7 sets during the week.

That is what's tough about rating recruits. It is not an exact science. Folks look at highlight videos. They take some statistics, throw in 40 times and weights, how they look running around some cones or throwing passes at a hanging tire or at guys running down field, and then rate these recruits.

What Mangum achieved in July was in face-to-face evaluations, doing it side-by-side with those judged to be best at his position. Gone is the fodder about competition faced in the past, political webs of who is recruiting whom, and trading of favors from recruiting gurus who have attachments to major college coaching staffs or professional QB coaches and parents.

Flesh versus flesh; arm against arm. Mangum came out on top.

I like it. I like the guts this kid showed.

“I knew coming in I wasn’t getting the most attention,” Mangum told reporters. “I wasn’t expected to do the best at this camp. I knew I deserved it (No. 4). I had earned it. It felt good to continue to climb throughout the week. It was a steady climb.”

Mangum’s performance not only spoke well of BYU's recruiting in getting him to commit, but it said a lot for the state of Idaho, which is not known for producing quarterbacks.

“I’m speechless,” said Eagle coach Paul Peterson, who attended the Elite 11 camp. “It’s incredible for Tanner, but even better, it’s a great moment for Idaho high school football. It gives Idaho football just that much more legitimacy throughout the country.”

Mangum's high school coach continued, in an interview with the Idaho Statesman, “Watching his disposition, it didn’t change. He was still the leader of the pack. He was still the guy raising his hands first with the answers. He was hustling to get to Point A to Point B. He didn’t take a backseat or change his method of operation. It was just the same as at Eagle.”

In 2009, current BYU starting quarterback Jake Heaps won MVP honors at the Elite 11. To receive pledges from two MVPs in the course of three years is a big deal for QB coach Brandon Doman, who cannot comment on unsigned recruits at this time.

But the thing that stands out to me about Mangum is his moxie, his ability to see a challenge and deliver.

In that regard, he reminds one of Doman, the former Skyline High star.

Nobody can absolutely define what being MVP of the Elite 11 means, or what it translates to down the line.

What we do know is 22 of the 32 current starting NFL quarterbacks have attended the Elite 11 camp.

For many, that says a lot.

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com

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