ESPN analyst and Super Bowl winner Trent Dilfer can’t decide on the final Elite 11 quarterbacks

Cameron Smith
Prep Rally

Trent Dilfer is a very perceptive, intuitive analyst. No one is denying that. The question is whether he knows how to make tough decisions when he has to. He certainly proved he could do that as a quarterback, but now he seems to be struggling to make similar calls when evaluating top prep talent.

Trent Dilfer takes his role as Elite 11 instructor almost as seriously as being a QB — Getty
Trent Dilfer takes his role as Elite 11 instructor almost as seriously as being a QB — Getty

As noted by MaxPreps, Dilfer was scheduled to cut six players from a final group of 18 QBs that Nike had gathered in Beaverton, Ore. After evaluating all 18, Dilfer had quick read, impromptu power rankings for the entire 18-player set, yet still decided to have all 18 continue rather than make the six cuts he had originally planned on.

That’s not to say that Dilfer is begging out of his duties to select the 11 quarterbacks who will take place in the eventual Elite 11 Showcase. Far from it. In fact, to the contrary, Dilfer may be taking his duties too seriously. By mulling over all final decisions for longer than he anticipated, Dilfer is essentially reinforcing just how seriously an honor he considers an Elite 11 selection to be.

That’s a laudable commitment to prep football for a guy who spends nearly all his time (and earns just about all his money) for commenting on the NFL. Still, it also may be placing a bit too much emphasis on a completely fabricated, marketing driven honorary camp for anyone’s good. This is not a Purple Heart, this is a hype-engineered “honor” bestowed by Nike.

We’re talking the American shoe company, not the Greek goddess.

Case in point: When asked which quarterbacks among the 18 still standing would make the final Elite 11, Dilfer told MaxPreps, “If you put a gun to my head,” … No one is going to put a gun to the Dilfer's head for anything, let alone a decision about ranking prep quarterbacks.

(For the record, Dilfer pointed to K.J. Carta-Samuels, Sean White, Brad Kaaya, David Blough, Kyle Allen and Deshaun Watson as the most impressive heading into 7-on-7 competition).

Is Dilfer’s delayed timetable a reason for celebration or scorn? Perhaps it’s both. On the one hand, having a quarterback with a Super Bowl ring dedicating hours of research and deliberation over cutting six teens who are already well set up with collegiate scholarship offers speaks to just how far prep football has come in the national psyche.

By the same token, just because prep football has reached such a visible platform doesn’t mean it is necessarily an entirely good thing. Fifteen years ago, all 18 of the quarterbacks now facing off for a spot in the Elite 11 event could have lived for another six to eight months in relative anonymity, at least on a national level. Now they’ll all have to deal with being full blown B grade celebrities, whether they make the cut for the competition or not.

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