Antonio Morales (The Athletic) — Bryce Young didn’t walk into last week’s Elite 11 Finals in Frisco, Texas feeling like he had something to prove.
Which makes sense. Young is a four-star prospect, the top-ranked dual-threat quarterback in the 2020 recruiting class and has been committed to USC for nearly a year. He led Mater Dei (Santa Ana, Calif.) to a second consecutive state and national championship last year as well.
While there wasn’t much to prove, like with any quarterback his age, there was still plenty for 5-foot-11, 178-pound Young to learn and absorb during his time at the famed quarterback summit.
What did Young take away from the event? And in the process, what was learned about Young, his development and his commitment to USC?
When asked what he gleaned from his time in Frisco, the first thing Young pointed to was the mental side of the ball.
That was, essentially, by design. Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth, who is also an Elite 11 coach, has worked the event for the past 11 years.
Roth watched Young compete at an Opening regional event in Long Beach, California back in February and has tracked his career a bit. As he’s evaluating quarterbacks, Roth — who was a graduate assistant at USC under Pete Carroll — usually breaks them down into tiers.
Tier 1, Roth said, belongs to players he’d offer if he was working for a blueblood or big-time program. That was the tier he placed Young in before the event, but he still wanted a glimpse of how the quarterback absorbed the game.
“You look at the offenses being played now and a lot of them are playing catch, not quarterback, for instance,” Roth said. “Which is fine — a lot of teams in college are doing it, too. I wanted to see what type of learner he was. At some point, you have to be able to understand the game and I thought he did an incredible job of that. We did classroom settings where we treat it like an NFL classroom. We’re in the Cowboys’ quarterback room talking like we’re talking to NFL quarterbacks. How do you learn? How’d you do on the board?”
The Elite 11 staff placed an emphasis on “CTC,” which stands for control the controllables. There are a couple of factors within CTC and how the coaches evaluate it. They observe a quarterback’s persistence, along with his thirst to learn.
They note how each QB assimilates with the rest of the group, how they treat support staff — are you respectful or are you difficult?
“And Bryce was really impressive,” Roth said. “CTC score is voted on by the coaches and it’s phenomenal when you look at what his was as the week went on. It was incredible. He was in the top percentile with his CTC score. He was amazing, how he dealt with everything.”
“I just (learned) different ways to approach situations,” Young said. “It was a really good environment as far as seeing their perspective and the stuff they do. So I just learned a lot from the mental side. I learned a lot there that hadn’t really been touched on at other events so it was a really good experience.”
This year, the Elite 11 quarterbacks were placed in “tribes” of four or five quarterbacks. Young grew close to his group, which included three-star prospect CJ Stroud (Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.), four-star Notre Dame commit Drew Pyne (New Canaan, Conn.) and four-star Ohio State commit Jack Miller (Scottsdale, Ariz.).
Within the tribe, each quarterback would vote on the Elite 11 every day, which quarterback would start 7-on-7 contests and the final Elite 11 rankings. The point was to emphasize peer review so each quarterback grasped where they stood.
One of those things Young couldn’t control was how the other quarterbacks performed. Despite being the least-heralded quarterback in his tribe, Stroud turned in the most impressive performance and was named MVP for his effort throughout the week.
There was one 7-on-7 contest that Young started, and performed relatively well in, but was eventually relieved by Stroud, who developed a hot hand and their coach stuck with Stroud.
“CJ just continued to develop and there was no animosity or jealousy. And there was stuff you could possibly see at times, it didn’t happen. (Bryce) learned that he was a product of the process versus a prisoner of the moment. We’ve seen guys walk out of Elite 11 salty in the past because they didn’t win MVP or didn’t live up to expectations. I think Bryce probably learned, I hope he agrees with this — and he probably won’t today — but struggling for a bit is going to be the best thing for his career and he did really well.”
Of the 20 quarterbacks, Young performed well enough to be named among the final Elite 11. This came a few days after he won the quarterback contest at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta.
Another notable takeaway Young mentioned was the opportunity he had now to control his own narrative and start branding himself.
That opportunity presented itself in Frisco.
There was some speculation that surfaced that week about Alabama’s pursuit of Young and the possibility of flipping his commitment to the Crimson Tide.
Young was asked about Alabama and its recruiting efforts, but he reaffirmed his commitment to USC when talking to reporters.
“There’s a lot of stuff you can’t control with the media in terms of what they’re speculating,” Young said. “Especially on social media, people trying to dig and find something. (But) you can kind of control that narrative and be able to respond and tell the truth.”
When speaking with The Athletic last Friday, Young’s stance toward his recruitment had not changed. “Recruiting’s still closed,” he said. “Still looking forward to being a Trojan.”
Young only planned one official visit — to USC — which he has already taken.
Keeping Young in this class is a must for the Trojans. He’s the centerpiece of a recruiting class that’s well off pace compared to the 2019 class, which ranked 20th nationally, per the 247Sports Composite — USC’s lowest ranking since 2001.
The Trojans’ 2020 class currently ranks 63rd nationally and seventh in the Pac-12. Young is one of only two four-star commits and is the only prospect who’s a top-200 player nationally. USC has to show improvement on the field this fall to turn its recruiting around, but the addition of a few more blue-chip prospects may not impact those rankings much. There are not a lot of seniors on this team so this recruiting class figures to be smaller in numbers.
That being the case, Young is a priority. Even with the uncertainty surrounding Clay Helton’s job status, it seems like the Trojans still stand on good ground with Young, who plans to sign in December and enroll in January.
“It would take a lot,” Young answered when asked what it would take for him to open his recruitment. “My heart’s at SC. As any recruit would, you kind of have to take stuff into account as far as if there’s a major change in coaching staff and everything. But one, I don’t anticipate that. I have a lot of faith in the coaching staff and players. I know that SC’s going to be successful this upcoming season and put that to rest. Even worst-case scenario, if that were to happen, my heart would still be at SC. So it would still take a lot.”
Now Young’s focus shifts. Recruiting has been put on the back burner. The big camps, like The Opening and the Rivals100, are both out of the way.
Roth would like to see him improve the timing on his reads and make sure his eyes and feet are always connected when he goes through his drops. Young has the chance to implement that and everything else he learned from Elite 11 now that he’s back practicing with Mater Dei, which he hopes to lead to another title but this time without his No. 1 target, Bru McCoy.
“It’s focusing on getting our team better for Mater Dei as far as us winning a championship,” he said. “It’s just us constantly working toward that, growing as a team and me individually improving for Mater Dei and also for SC so when I’m there in January I can be ready for college football.”
“I knew a little but man, he was impressive,” Roth said. “He’s going to walk into that quarterback meeting room with Graham Harrell and Clay and he’s going to be incredible. He really is. It’s a perfect fit for him. He’ll be able to handle Los Angeles. He’ll be able to handle a quarterback competition. He’ll be able to learn from JT Daniels for one or two years, whatever it is. No problem. He impressed me on so many levels.
“I would take him and never flinch if I was looking at quarterbacks across the country.”