Underclassmen To Know: Elite 11 Indianapolis

Elite 11 once again provided talented underclassmen to watch, with Eli Holstein and Avery Johnson leading the way.
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BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Two underclassmen truly stood out, and there were other young signal callers that made names for themselves as well. The Elite 11 Indianapolis stop was an event that opened some eyes to the up-and-coming signal callers that fans and college coaches alike need to know about.

For the underclassmen in the prestigious quarterback camp, athleticism, arm strength and quarterback savvy were all on display this past Sunday at Brownsburg High School. Here’s a look at the individuals to watch moving forward into their junior or sophomore campaigns.

The Top Underclassman Signal Caller

Eli Holstein, Zachery (La.) High School - 2023

The most advanced underclassmen passer would be Holstein. In terms of mechanics, he’s an incredibly advanced quarterback for his age, and his athleticism is elite. Elite 11 confirmed Holstein’s 38” vertical leap and 4.69 forty-yard dash, and he measured in at 6’3”, 212 pounds.

For a current high school sophomore with two years of prep football ahead, those are eye-popping numbers. Holstein also did what would be most important in this setting, though -- completing passes from inside and outside the pocket.

Whether a three-step drop, shotgun pass, play-action pass or rollout drill, Holstein looked the most comfortable of the underclassmen, and he completed the most passes from the group. He also possesses the arm strength to throw a powerful pass through a gusting Indianapolis wind that never relented during the entirety of the Elite 11 camp. Holstein’s recruitment will be intriguing.

Holstein’s advanced physical and technical skills are why he’s been offered by, according to Holstein himself, “Texas A&M, Georgia, Auburn, Penn State, really schools like that.”

LSU, Arizona State, Purdue, Mississippi State, Michigan State, Oklahoma State and Utah are among several other programs that offered. He does have an interesting camp visit coming up as well. “I’ve talked to Clemson. I’ve talked to Clemson for a little bit. (I am) going up to camp there, and hopefully earning an offer there. They (Clemson’s staff) said that they really can’t offer until you’re going to be a junior or going into your junior season so…”

Holstein plans to attend Clemson’s camp this upcoming June 4th, 5th, and 6th. The state of Louisiana is loaded with talented 2023 quarterbacks, so at least a few of them will not be attending LSU. This is going to be fun to watch.

Several Other Underclassmen Proved Their Ability Is Real

Avery Johnson, Maize (Kan.) High School - 2023

A player that lives three hours from Kansas City, the nearest metropolitan area, Johnson was just beginning to earn respect as a top-notch underclassmen quarterback prior to Elite 11. He had earned offers from Iowa State, Kansas State, Washington State, Kansas and Arkansas. After Elite 11, it’s a safe assumption that Johnson will continue to create buzz along the recruiting trail. The first aspect of Johnson’s game that stood out stemmed from his mobility.

The rising-junior appeared to be as comfortable when outside the pocket as when making in-rhythm and on-time throws from the pocket. Here’s the bonus: Johnson already appears comfortable utilizing play fakes and turning his back to the line of scrimmage prior to spinning around making accurate throws. That’s not necessarily a given with a young quarterback prospect.

When rolling outside the pocket, Avery proved his ability to stop and throw or make a throw while moving towards the sideline, against his body no less, was possible. To be a truly innovative quarterback in today’s era, making impromptu passes is a must. Johnson provides that type of ability. He’s also good at measuring the necessary “mustard” on the pass that’s needed.

Another aspect that young signal callers like Johnson will commonly struggle with is when to take something off a throw. Johnson altered his velocity based on factors such as timing, distance between himself and the wide receiver, and his body position. Lastly, an extension of the first two categories.

Creativity is Johnson’s overall theme. He would slightly alter his arm angle when rolling out and/or throwing against his body to best suit the pass needed for the moment. This in-the-moment type of play is something that Elite 11 instructors truly pushed, and Johnson surpassed the challenge. Look for Johnson’s name to become commonplace due to his Elite 11 performance.

JJ Kohl, Ankeny (Iowa) High School - 2023

Kohl is a powerfully built young man that appears to be at least 6’5” and 220 pounds or so. His over-the-top throws provided good velocity and he looked really comfortable in the pocket, during play-action passes, and even did well when rolling to his right or to his left.

Many players Kohl’s size simply cannot move their feet and/or keep their balance to make passes when under duress. Kohl’s ability to shift in the pocket and then set his feet and throw shed light on his future, and he did much of the same when outside the tackle box.

Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how the player develops because if he can add even more mobility to his game, Kohl is going to see a number of college programs take a hard look at him. The arm is there, just need to see how Kohl continues to develop. It’s actually surprising that Kohl does not yet hold any scholarship offers, but that will likely soon change.

CJ Carr, Saline (Mich.) - 2024

Carr is the grandson of former Michigan head coach Lloyd Carr, so he’s been near the game of football for the majority of his life. Despite not being the primary quarterback for his high school this past fall, one would not know it based on this past Sunday’s performance.

Carr is similar to Kohl in that he’s very comfortable making line-drive throws from the pocket, and he was literally one of the most mechanically sound quarterbacks at the event regardless of class. He is the grandson of a Big 10 coach, but it’s still impressive for his class. Carr has also built up a solid frame as well, and on the hoof he’s roughly 6’2” and 180 pounds.

It was surprising to see just how fit this young man already became, as he still holds three years of high school football in front of him before heading off to college. The only question is how well will he do once he’s his high school’s starter? Carr already showed the nuances necessary for quarterback play and the strength to get it done. Game film is the final measuring stick. That fact has not stopped Michigan, Michigan State and Central Michigan from offering him a scholarship.

Danny O’Neil, Indianapolis (Cathedral) - 2024

Playing for one of Indiana’s long-time powerhouse programs, O’Neil will be battle tested as much in practices as he is in games. It’s a program that demands excellence when it comes to fundamentals, and that’s an area that O’Neil has already begun to surpass many players in his own class.

Even O’Neil’s pass drops looked advanced for his age, and that’s generally one of the last areas a young quarterback becomes comfortable with while being instructed in a camp setting like Elite 11. While he’s still developing physically, O’Neil does possess one instinctive trait that will serve him well long term.

Much like Johnson, O’Neil provides the ability to move his feet and create passing lanes while on the move. He’s a great fit, in the long run, for a true spread offense. Playing for Cathedral, O’Neil will certainly be battle tested by the time he reaches the college level.

Isaiah Marshall, Southfield (Mich.) High School - 2024

Maybe the most difficult underclassman to grade would be Marshall. He’s not the tallest young quarterback, as he’s probably 5’10” at the moment, but he’s a true athlete and reminds someone of a middle infielder in baseball with the way he can move and contort his body. That’s one of the reasons why Marshall reports offers from programs such as Cincinnati, Kentucky and Michigan among others. He definitely possessed the athleticism for quarterback.

On the move, Marshall is truly at home. He’s still growing and possesses a good arm for his age. Let’s see how this young man does from the pocket this next season and reconvene with another discussion about him. If he reaches 6’1”, look out. He’s a really good athlete and already understands the basics of quarterback mechanics.

Overall, this was a really good group of underclassmen signal callers. There are several players with a vast array of potential like Kohl and Marshall, a couple of players like Carr and Johnson that have a few offers, and then there would be Holstein that’s already a bona fide national recruit. 

The classes of 2023 and 2024 have a plethora of quarterback talent coming up the ranks.

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