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April 11, 2012

Southwest Elite 7-on-7 among premier passing camps

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Dallas Jackson is the Senior Analyst for RivalsHigh. Email him your question, comment or story ideas to DallasJ@Yahoo-Inc.com and follow him on Twitter.

In just its fourth year, the Southwest Elite 7-on-7 has grown into one of the best passing tournaments in the country. The two-day event will be played at Springdale (Ark.) Shiloh Christian and feature five defending state champions and numerous teams that were ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 during the 2011 season.

The 32-team field will be competing on July 13-14 for an automatic-qualifying spot in the prestigious National Select 7-on-7 Tournament to be held at Hoover (Ala.) High the following weekend.

The affiliation with the National Select event - along with previous high-profile players and teams - has made it easier for event organizer and Shiloh Christian head coach Josh Floyd to land nationally relevant participants.

"The more it's grown, the easier it has been to draw teams," he said. "A lot of the teams know about Shiloh (Christian), and so that has been a good starting point a lot of the time.

"Then when you can sell what programs have been here, the athletes that have played in it, all that helps. Obviously being paired with Hoover and the National Select event helps, too."

This season it has helped bring Illinois Class 3A champion Aurora (Ill.) Christian and Mississippi Class 5A champion Olive Branch (Miss.) High to the event as two out-of-state champions in a field that boasts programs from nine different states. Three Arkansas state champions from 2011 will take the field as well: Class 3A winner Charleston (Ark.) High; Class 6A power El Dorado (Ark.) High; and reigning 7A titlist Fayetteville (Ark.) High are all committed to playing.

Joining the teams that won state titles will be six other schools that have been nationally ranked in the RivalsHigh 100 within the last five years: Bastrop (La.) High, Broken Arrow (Okla.) High, Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central, Midwest City (Okla.) High, Springdale (Ark.) Har-Ber, and host-school Shiloh Christian.

The quality of the field has made this event a great place for teams to compete and see where they stand before the opening of the summer practice schedule.

"The competition is the best part," Floyd said. "It's the middle of July, and you get the opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the region. It doesn't necessarily guarantee you to win games in the fall, but it does help prepare your team."

Part of the preparation the teams will get is in the ability to go up against some of the best individuals in the nation.

The list of past participants is headlined by the No. 1 player in the class of 2012, Dorial Green-Beckham, but it also includes multiple U.S. Army All-American Bowl players such as Barry Sanders and Kiehl Frazier.

This year the event has only one player ranked inside the Rivals 250 - Warren Central linebacker Tim Kimbrough, who was ranked No. 119 - but that does not mean there will not be plenty of talent on display.

Floyd, who set many Arkansas state records as a quarterback and saw some of them broken by his former quarterback Frazier, is excited to see another passer this year.

"Austin Allen (is a guy I am excited about) from Fayetteville," Floyd said. "But there are a lot of other kids."

Allen led Fayetteville to a state championship as a junior last year and now is getting a lot of attention as a three-star prospect and the No. 17 rated pro-style quarterback in the country.

Rivals.com regional analyst Brian Perroni is excited to see Allen during the passing-season circuit.

"Allen is a big kid with a really strong arm," he said. "He is not one to make a lot of throws outside the pocket, but he fits the 7-on-7 game very well. He is accurate and is a good decision maker who has no problems getting rid of the ball quickly or checking down to his second or third options."

Among the other prospects who will be in the game is a local tight end, Nick Byrne from Har-Ber, and cornerback Cre Moore from Broken Arrow.

Both are three-star prospects, and according to Perroni they can use this event as a showcase for his individual talents.

Byrne, in particular, can start to close the gap between himself and the top-rated tight end in Arkansas, Hunter Henry.

"Byrne does not get nearly as much attention as Hunter Henry, but he is a good receiving target at the position," Perroni said. "He is actually built more like a wide receiver at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds, and that should translate well to 7-on-7 play."

Moore, who enters the year slightly under the radar due to sharing the defensive backfield with Missouri signee Levi Copelin, can elevate his stock as a strong cover corner in an event that usually puts the spotlight on the offense.

"Cre more than held his own against some very good receivers (last year)," Perroni said. "He was especially good against nationally-ranked Jenks [(Okla.) High] when I saw the two teams play. He is a bigger corner, so he does not get muscled around by big receivers."

While the individual matchups may be what the fans want to see, it is the coach in Floyd that thinks these types of events can help bond a team together, and that is the biggest reward for the summer season.

"I think it can definitely help with confidence," he said. "It's all about getting better. At the end of the day, we just want to compete and get better."

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