This weekend, 43 7-on-7 all-star teams from around the country traveled to IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida for a "national championship" tournament. SBNation's recruiting guru Bud Elliott (@SBNRecruiting) was at the tournament all weekend and had a number of good insights on Twitter. Bud gave me the chance to interview him about the event recently, and I think his insights were really helpful. While there were many games all day on Saturday and Sunday, Bud got to see the Louisiana Thoroughbreds, headlined by Shea Patterson, play four games.
I was tempted to write an article that incorporated his quotes within my own thoughts, but I think that his answers are pretty great and well-reasoned on their own. Here's the interview, which was performed over the phone but transcribed by yours truly. This means any mistakes in spelling, etc. are my own.
Me: What was your overall impression of the tournament?
Bud: I think there is some good that can come of 7 on 7. You get to work on your route running skills and receiver skills and measure yourself against other elite competition. It's definitely making people better football players. They're able to rep football stuff during the offseason. Otherwise, they'd be playing basketball or baseball. I know there's some merit to that, but getting to continue to work on football is good too.
It's also great for us to be able to go out there and evaluate.
Me: What is the basic tournament format?
Bud: 43 teams. Double elimination. It's a lot of teams, like herding cats.
I've been every year since 2011. It has certainly gotten bigger, and probably better. You do have more teams in general spawning off of mega-teams, though. Now instead of having one great South Florida team, you have 5 or 6 of them. You don't have super teams now where every guy at every spot is a high level BCS kid. Your average team will have some high level guys, some mid majors, some FCS guys.
On an aggregate basis though, there is more talent than there was.
Me: I heard Shea Patterson competed in an accuracy competition against Cam Newton.
Bud: I actually got film of that. It was really informal, a skills challenge. It lasted for maybe thirty minutes. They were throwing into nets and throwing into buckets. Shea did beat Cam Newton. That's obviously not something that I really care to evaluate. Some kids cheat the system by going half speed and focusing on the targets. Shea didn't do that though, he went all out.
Me: How would you evaluate Shea's play in the tournament?
Bud: He called all his own plays. They didn't even have an offensive coach in the huddle, which is on another level of what anyone else was doing in that tournament.
Shea Patterson is calling all his own plays out here and destroying Cam Newton team.— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) June 20, 2015
I'm not comparing him talent-wise, but stylistically he's kind of Drew Brees-esque. The balls are delivered in an area of the target zone that allows you to run after the catch well. It's in stride. It's timely. He's decisive about where he wants the ball to go. He's compact and concise about where he moves. He's a lot of fun to watch.
People have questions about his ceiling, and perhaps that's fair, though I'd be more worried about that on the NFL level. But what no one mentions on that is how high his floor is. I think he has the lowest potential bust factor of any quarterback in this class. So even in a worst case scenario, he may not be the best starter in America, but I don't think Ole Miss has to worry about whether he can be a good starter.
Seen criticism that @SheaPatterson_1 doesn't have highest ceiling because arm is good not great. Fine. But his floor might be 2016's best— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) June 22, 2015
Me: So the Thouroughbreds went 4-0 on Saturday and 1-2 on Sunday. What was the difference between the two days?
Bud: Well, a couple of guys got hurt on Sunday morning. They had a receiver get horse collared, I believe in the end zone. They had to bring out a stretcher in a "non-contact" game. In the next game, they were playing Florida Fire, and two kids crushed each other accidentally. An ambulance came again.
The Thoroughbreds didn't bring a lot of guys, and it was really hot with no tree cover. If you're going to win this thing, you can't play guys both ways. They were pretty gassed at times, and they ran up against some great competition. They lost to the Next Level Greats and the Florida Fire, two teams with some good talent.
The performance of teams though, honestly, I just don't care about. I just want to watch the best players competing. I got to watch the Thoroughbreds three or four times in the tournament.
Me: Speaking of talented players, I'd like to talk about two Ole Miss commitments in Octavious Cooley (4-star TE) and Daniel Crowell (3-star WR).
Bud: You know, I looked at Octavious, and, have you ever read Moneyball where they talk about the bad body catcher who ends up being better than he looks? That's kind of the way Cooley is. He's not going ot win any body building competition soon, but he catches the ball well and he's physical. He has a pretty good feel for actually playing receiver. So while he may not pop at first glance as an elite player, he plays much better than that.
Crowell had pretty good speed. He caught the ball well. I think he was probably their best receiver. He did a really good job for them. Neither Crowell nor Cooley had problems with dropping the ball.
Me: You mentioned on Twitter that you got to talk to Drake Davis (4-star WR), who doesn't play for the Thoroughbreds. What did he say regarding his recruitment?
Bud: Davis isn't with the Thoroughbreds, but I still got to talk to him. You know, he took the year off to play soccer. He had offers to go play left center back professionally in Germany. He didn't do that though. As you can imagine, he's a different kid than your average recruit, but I mean that in a good way.
He's a physical freak (6'4" and fast), but obviously having taken some time away from the sport, he's a little raw. He's really talented though. He told me in an interview that Ole Miss and Texas lead and that if signing day were tomorrow, he would sign with Ole Miss.
Me: The only other Ole Miss target I know of who played for the Thoroughbreds this weekend is Devin White (4-star RB/LB). How did he do?
That guy is built like a bowling ball, and he's faster than I thought he would be. Looking at him, 5'11" 250, he is incredibly strong and very athletic. Played two ways at times for them and did a good job. I don't know which position he'll play in college, running back or linebacker, but he did a great job when I was watching.
I really appreciate Bud taking the time to talk to me about the tournament. It's encouraging to see that Shea Patterson continues to consistently dominate at events like this. I certainly wish they had gone all the way and won the championship, but as he mentioned, it doesn't really matter. It's more a testament to the depth that Florida teams are able to produce (with the tournament located in Florida). It's pretty hot outside right now if you didn't notice.