WINTER PARK, Fla. -- The second regional event in the 2021 Elite 11 tour took place in the Orlando area on Sunday and the biggest names seemed to live up to the hype.
The two most notable heading into the event appeared to jockey back and forth for the top spot on the SI All-American list of the best. Not much separated Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy's A.J. Duffy from Savannah (Ga.) Benedictine Military School star Holden Geriner, who is verbally committed to Auburn.
Duffy threw the afternoon's best and most consistent football from the wide receiver standpoint, often in a tight spiral with the necessary velocity. He has a palpable level of confidence about his game and he backed it up well more than not in between whistles. The mechanics, timing and intermediate level accuracy was tough to match from the field. Duffy's recruitment will come to an end on the final day of the month, March 31, as he selects between several programs he says are still in the running. That list goes beyond his public top four of Florida State, Michigan State, Penn State and Oregon. Arizona State and West Virginia are among the programs outside of the top group still in consistent communication with the California native.
Geriner made the trek to central Florida after impression at the Elite 11 Atlanta last weekend. Clearly coveting a spot at the Elite 11 Finals this summer, the future Tiger made his case with arguably the strongest arm in the field and an elite level of comfort along with execution while working off-platform and outside of the pocket. In the drills designed to make the quarterbacks look most uncomfortable, the junior shined brightest. Geriner was able to counter with solid stationary work and touch to the second and third level in other scenarios.
The crop of passers on this day, with the Florida sun seemingly bouncing off of the Lake Howell High School field turf, were somehow able to keep the energy and competitive nature flowing throughout the long and challenging workout. Measuring top performances had much to do with conditioning and fitness level as much as arm strength, accuracy and athleticism.
When it did come to making plays outside the pocket, especially with the chance to showcase some footwork, Rocco Becht was hard to miss. The son of former NFL tight end Anthony Becht, the Zephyrhills (Fla.) Wiregrass Ranch rising-senior worked among the best when he was on the move. A lower-body dominant physique and flexible arm angles allowed for accuracy and drive while off balance. Becht, who has offers from Marshall, Eastern Kentucky and multiple Ivy League programs, was also praised most by the on-side staff when the speed ladder was brought out.
The counter to Becht in both frame and game is Miami (Fla.) Columbus signal caller Fernando Mendoza. Another Ivy League prospect, sporting a self-reported 5.1 GPA, he is a tall and lean passer at home when his feet are set. Few prospects in Orlando got as much work as the 2020 Tri-County Champion, who was seen mirroring others while out of turn and lingering with coaches for more instruction during hydration breaks. Mendoza flashed some of the best arm strength in the field and challenged Duffy for the most consistent ball of the afternoon along the way.
A rising-senior who commanded attention based on his physical presence, before his arm carried the conversation, was Brandon Mann. The Detroit (Mich.) Country Day prospect stands all of 6-foot-4, 220-plus pounds and looked among the most comfortable ripping the football through an occasional wind Sunday. Bowling Green is his lone scholarship offer to date, but his commanding presence and execution may soon change that. Multiple pass catchers told SIAA that it was Mann, who was also named most accurate among rising-seniors in the Pro Day setting, who threw the best ball among competitors.
- For the first time in Elite 11 history, a group of high school flag football quarterbacks got in work with the noteworthy staff on hand. The 13 females were worked out by two trailblazing women recently on NFL staffs in Katie Sowers and Kelsey Martinez. Rising-senior Devyn Silvestri was most accurate among them as the Lithia (Fla.) Newsome star wound up winning the Golden Gun Accuracy Challenge.
- The future of quarterback talent in Florida is bright as several prospects in the class of 2024, being high school freshmen, and beyond impressed. The two most noteworthy on the hoof were 2024 Lutz (Fla.) Steinbrenner High's Ty Robinson and IMG Academy's Ryan Downes, who is in the class of 2025. 2024 football-baseball prospect Rodney Tisdale of Jacksonville (Fla.) Mandarin out-gunned the pair in the Pro Day script, totaling as much points as any passer in any classification.
- Miami (Fla.) Carol City's new quarterback is Dominiq Ponder, who has a tall and slender build like a wing in basketball. He settled in amongst the top group with relative ease and pushed the ball downfield well. Moving from the Naples area, he reports strong rapport with the Chiefs early on in what could be a season-defining transfer addition. Ponder ran a 4.7-second 40-yard dash time, too, part of the reason FIU became his initial scholarship offer after the move. Temple may be next to offer and Florida has been in communication, too.
- Working out despite recent collarbone repair, 2022 Clearwater (Fla.) Academy International QB Luca Stanzani impressed coaches when he was asked to throw outside the pocket as well as in the avoidance drill from depth. He showed athleticism in testing, including running a 4.33-second short shuttle and registering a 34 inch vertical leap, in addition to drawing praise from his peers while catching passes on occasion. Already with 10,000 passing yards on his prep resume, Florida Atlantic is Stanzani's most recent offer.
- 2023 Miami (Fla.) Central QB Keyone Jenkins won the underclassmen accuracy award Sunday. Three months earlier he helped the Rockets to another state championship crown with three first-half touchdown passes versus Lake Minneola.
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