Elite 11 Preview: Notre Dame’s History At Prestigious QB Event
Much like the Big Ten has 14 schools instead of 10, the Elite 11 quarterback camp that will be held June 29-July 1 in Murfreesboro, Tenn., will actually have 20 signal-callers competing this year.
Among them is La Jolla, Calif., native Tyler Buchner, who verbally committed to Notre Dame last year. Buchner is the 12th Notre Dame quarterback recruit to participate in the event — either among the Elite 11 or as a finalist — since its debut in 1999.
Here is a chronological overview of the other 11.
1999 — Matt LoVecchio
One of four quarterback recruits in Notre Dame’s 2000 class, joining Carlyle Holiday, Jared Clark and Abram Elam. Holiday shifted to receiver, Clark to tight end and Elam to safety before getting dismissed and transferring to Kent State to become a future pro.
Statistically and in impact, LoVecchio had the best freshman season ever by a Notre Dame quarterback, going 7-0 as a starter in the final seven games of 2000 that led to a Fiesta Bowl bid. He completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 980 yards with 11 touchdowns and only one interception, and added 300 rushing yards.
However, after Holiday supplanted him as the starter in 2001, LoVecchio transferred to Indiana in 2002. To make way for Brady Quinn, Holiday would move to wide receiver, where he played four years in the NFL.
Notes: The MVP in the camp was Brock Berlin, and among the participants was Casey Clausen, whose younger brother Jimmy would enroll at Notre Dame in 2007.
Others in the camp who would defeat Notre Dame (Clausen did at Tennessee in 2001) included Chris Rix (Florida State) and Jeff Smoker (Michigan State), while Matt Cassel was a reserve at USC.
2005 — Zach Frazer
Transferred after his freshman year when at the conclusion of 2007 spring drills he was the fourth option behind classmate Demetrius Jones, freshman Jimmy Clausen and junior Evan Sharpley.
Frazer had an up-and-down career at Connecticut, highlighted by a 33-30 double-overtime victory at Notre Dame for the Huskies in 2009. He completed 12 of 25 passes for 141 yards with one score and one interception in the contest, while two UConn backs eclipsed 100 rushing yards.
Notes: Camp MVP was Matt Stafford over the likes of Tim Tebow, Jake Locker and Mitch Mustain.
2007 — Dayne Crist
The five-star surprisingly decided to enroll at Notre Dame despite fellow Californian and National Player of the Year Clausen doing the same a year earlier.
After redshirting in 2008, he tore an ACL as a reserve in 2009 and then another in 2010 during a 4-5 start, and after Clausen had left for the NFL as a junior. Crist was replaced by Tommy Rees as the starter by halftime of the 2011 opener versus USF and became a graduate transfer at Kansas for former Irish head coach Charlie Weis, where he also eventually was replaced as the starter.
Notes: The Elite 11 MVP was Blaine Gabbert, who would enroll at Missouri.
Also in this camp was Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who directed three straight wins over Notre Dame from 2009-11 en route to becoming the No. 1 overall NFL pick, and E.J. Manuel, who rallied Florida State to an 18-14 win over the Irish in the 2011 Champs Sports Bowl.
2010 — Everett Golson
Redshirted as a 2011 freshman, Golson was the starter in 2012 — with help off the bench from Rees — during Notre Dame’s 12-0 regular season before losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game.
Suspended from school in 2013, Golson returned in 2014. After a sterling start, he faltered later in the year, committing 22 total turnovers (14 interceptions, eight lost fumbles) and lost his starting job to Malik Zaire in the Music City Bowl, though he was inserted in passing situations.
He opted to use his graduate transfer year at Florida State in 2015, where he started most of the year.
Notes: Receiving the Camp MVP nod was Jeff Driskel, who would transfer to Louisiana Tech after a stint at Florida.
The only other ones to become NFL quarterbacks from this group were Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater and USC’s Cody Kessler.
2011 — Gunner Kiel (finalist)
Seeing that Golson likely would be the starter also at least in 2013 and 2014, Kiel transferred to Cincinnati in the spring of 2013. He threw for 6,835 yards and 56 touchdowns there but lost the starting job his final season with the Bearcats.
Notes: There were three co-MVPs among the top 11: (Kiel was among 13 other finalists) Florida State’s Jameis Winston, BYU’s Tanner Mangum and SMU’s Neal Burcham.
Among those 24 total, only Winston and Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly advanced to the NFL, demonstrating just how competitive it is.
2012 — Malik Zaire
Among 25 quarterbacks at the camp, Zaire was chosen in the Elite 11.
Named MVP of the 31-28 victory over LSU in the Music City Bowl while replacing Golson as the starter (and helping lead Golson to transfer after 2015 spring drills), Zaire had a sizzling debut versus Texas in 2015 before suffering a season-ending ankle fracture the next week at Virginia.
Eventually, he too lost his starting role in 2016 to DeShone Kizer and used his graduate transfer option in 2017 at Florida, where he was a reserve.
Notes: The MVP was Asiantii Woulard, who would enroll at UCLA before transferring to South Florida.
Making it to the NFL were Cal’s Jared Goff, Tennessee’s Joshua Dobbs and Penn State’s Christian Hackenberg.
2013 — DeShone Kizer (finalist)
One of seven finalists, after the Elite 11, Kizer redshirted as a freshman and then had one of the two or three best sophomore seasons ever by a Notre Dame quarterback in 2015 after replacing an injured Zaire and directing a 10-1 start.
He faltered in the ensuing 4-8 campaign. Still, Kizer finished with 5,805 yards passing and 997 rushing in his two seasons before becoming a second-round selection following his junior campaign. He is currently an NFL free agent.
Notes: The Elite 11 MVP was Auburn’s Sean White — older brother of current Notre Dame senior Mike linebacker Drew White.
The most prominent career in the group has been Clemson’s Deshaun Watson.
2014 — Brandon Wimbush
The dual threat enjoyed a quality career at Notre Dame with 2,606 passing yards with 20 touchdowns, plus 1,156 rushing yards and 16 scores, while recording a 13-3 record as a starter.
However, after getting supplanted in the starting lineup by Ian Book in the fourth game of his senior year (2018), he opted to become a grad transfer at UCF and finished there as a reserve.
Notes: Earning MVP honors was Blake Barnett, who originally committed to Notre Dame, eventually enrolled at Alabama and then transferred to Arizona State and South Florida.
Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray enrolled first at Texas A&M before starring at Oklahoma.
2016 — Avery Davis (finalist)
This time there were 12 chosen among the Elite 11, and then Davis was among 12 other finalists.
He apparently has been recruited more as an athlete than quarterback, as he has auditioned at cornerback, worked at running back and entering this August’s camp might be the No. 2 option at slot, behind junior Lawrence Keys III.
Notes: Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa was the MVP in the Elite 11 sessions.
2018— Brendon Clark (finalist)
Among the 12 finalists, after the first 12 in the Elite 11.
With junior Phil Jurkovec transferring to Boston College in January, Clark entered the spring as the new No. 2. His lone pass in four mop-up appearances last year was a 22-yard touchdown, and he also carried five times for 33 yards.
Notes: The Elite 11 MVP was Oklahoma’s Spencer Rattler, who is entering his first season as the Sooners’ starter. North Carolina’s Sam Howell also is an emerging star.
2019 — Drew Pyne
Notre Dame’s first early entrant at quarterback since Zaire in 2013, the opportunity to challenge Clark for the No. 2 spot was halted when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in only one spring practice.
Notes: Twelve were in this Elite 11 again (Pyne among them), with Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud receiving the MVP nod.