Shining in the shadow of new stadium

Bellarmine's K.J. Carta-Samuels looked like one of the state's top quarterbacks during Friday's Elite 11 tryout in Santa Clara. Photo: Courtesy Student Sports.

Bellarmine’s K.J. Carta-Samuels looked like one of the state’s top quarterbacks during Friday’s Elite 11 tryout in Santa Clara. Photo: Courtesy Student Sports.

No quarterbacks get an invite to Elite 11 finals, but strong group of state’s best gets put through the paces at San Francisco 49ers’ practice facility.

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With the massive presence of the San Francisco 49ers’ new stadium lurking nearby, many of California’s top prep quarterbacks heading into the 2013 season gathered in Santa Clara on Friday to try out for recognition and to perhaps gain an invite to this year’s Elite 11 finals in Beaverton, Oregon.

At the conclusion of the nearly four-hour event, which attracted more than 90 quarterbacks (at least one from as far away as Virginia), eight of the players were selected to participate in head coach Trent Dilfer’s two-minute drill and then seven more were handed “Golden Gun” jerseys.

Dilfer and the rest of the Elite 11 coaches, however, were not ready to give a “Golden Ticket,” signifying a player has been invited to the Elite 11 finals. This year’s finals will be held from June 27 to July 3 at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., as part of “The Opening.” Another difference between this year and last year is that there will be 18 invitees to the Elite 11 finals compared to 24 from the last two seasons.

“There were some very good performances out there, but no one had that signature day,” Dilfer told all of the quarterbacks. “It doesn’t mean that we won’t be giving one or more out next week. It just means that as of now we’ve got five guys invited and still have 13 slots left.”

Northern California quarterbacks did especially well since five of the eight who did the two-minute drill are from the region. And three of those – Morgan Mahalak from Marin Catholic of Kentfield, Manny Wilkins from San Marin of Novato and Keaton Dunsford from Cardinal Newman of Santa Rosa – are all from the North Bay area of the CIF North Coast Section.

Mahalak, who has committed to Oregon, participated in last year’s tryout as an incoming junior and watched as Marin Catholic teammate Jared Goff would eventually earn an invite to the Elite 11 finals in Redondo Beach.

“I wasn’t as consistent as I wanted to be, but at the end of the day I thought I did a good job,” Mahalak said. “(Jared) gave me a lot of good advice. You can sort of over-practice. You have to try to keep your head straight.”

Wilkins, who is one of the most athletic top quarterback prospects in the nation, had some fun when asked about the North Bay having three chosen for the two-minute drill.

“We just have the best quarterbacks with a lot of talent,” he said. “We could all be enemies but we’re close, we’re having fun, we’re just competing out there.”

Dunsford could be described as one of the most surprising quarterbacks of the day. Unlike Mahalak and Wilkins, who already are collecting college offers and appearing on early recruiting lists, Dunsford is showing that he’s a much sleeker, much more polished quarterback than when seen last season.

“Yes, I have lost some weight but I’m still 6-5, 225,” he said. “I’ve tried to improve by getting leaner and quicker.

“Morgan and Manny are both just exceptional,” Dunsford continued. “It just goes to show are good the coaches are in the North Bay. You’ve just got to give them all a lot of credit.”

The other two NorCal quarterbacks in the two-minute drill were K.J. Carta-Samuels from Bellarmine Prep of San Jose and Keller Chryst of Palo Alto.

When Carta-Samuels was getting toward the end of his two-minute series of throws, his older brother, A.J., who is now playing at Vanderbilt, was shouting from the sidelines.

“I thought I had a good day,” Carta-Samuels said. “I definitely did some good things but there’s a lot to get better, too.”

As his older brother knows, coming from Bellarmine, which is known for its double-wing running-style offense, can limit a quarterback’s ability to show what he can do.

“It’s a little bit of a disadvantage because I may not have as much game experience on big throws,” K.J. added. “On the other hand, it’s not that big of a deal. We play a lot of great teams and I just have to improve on some things on my own.”


•Another of the QBs in the two-minute drill was Brad Kaaya from Chaminade of West Hills. He didn’t throw much last season due to teammate Terrell Newby rushing for 2,300 yards and scoring 45 touchdowns. Kaaya has all the tools to be a top-flight quarterback recruit.

•Other California QBs besides Kaaya and Manny Wilkins who received Golden Gun jerseys were Michael Carrillo from Christian of El Cajon, Coltin Gerhart of Norco and Gage Pucci from Damien of La Verne.

•One graduating senior who came to the event to offer encouragement and gain reps was Lincoln of Stockton’s Zach Greenlee. Also speaking to the players was NFL Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott, who told them not just to “be the best you can be” but to do “just a little more.”

•Some of the top quarterbacks also will be returning to Laney College in Oakland on Sunday for the Nike Football Training Camp. We’ll have coverage of that on as well.

Mark Tennis is the co-founder and publisher of He can be reached at Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter: @CalHiSports

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3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Nobody received a Golden Ticket to the Elite 11 Finals, but many impressed at the four-hour quarterback event in Santa Clara, writes Mark Tennis. […]

  2. […] out the CalHiSports story at … and if you want a good read on Dunsford, gotta check out Bob Padecky’s piece at […]

  3. By Nike Football Event Coverage on May 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    […] Shining at new facility  Article: NorCal Elite 11 has 49ers flavor Video: NFL legend Ronnie Lott speaks at Elite 11 Video: […]

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