The scene was a windy, rainy April 15 evening on the University of Georgia football practice field in Athens. A cadre of coaches, including former Boise State and Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins, gathered for the third of six regional competitions to evaluate an elite group of high school senior quarterbacks from twelve states. Their mission was to select a handful of finalists for ESPN’s Elite 11 finals completion that begins today on the Malibu, California campus of Pepperdine University.
The consensus among the experts was that one young man stood out over all the others.
The universities of Central Florida and South Florida hoped their early scholarship offers to local talent Nick Patti of Orlando’s Dr. Phillips High School (a twenty minute drive from the UCF campus and less than 100 miles from USF) would not expose one of the best kept secrets in the 2012 class of college football prospects. Those who had scrutinized the play of Patti over the previous two seasons raved about his strong, accurate arm, elite speed and poise.
UCF’s head coach George O’Leary and his counterpart at USF Skip Holz, were hoping on hope that their hidden gem would stay hidden so they could battle exclusively for his services. Why their optimism that Patti might slip the radar of most major college programs? He stands only 5’10” in an economy that demands a minimum of about three to four more inches of height (the ESPN recruiting data page for Patti lists his height at 5’9”).
Quarterbacks of comparably small stature are the rule rather than the exception for Boise State, so the fact that Patti would rank only slightly under head coach Chris Petersen’s first choice of Eagle High School’s Taylor Mangum (another Elite 11 finalist) for the 2012 recruiting class quarterback position is not unusual. When Mangum made an early commitment to BYU coach Pete redoubled his efforts to convince Patti to choose Boise State over offers that were beginning to roll in. The Florida native fell for The Blue and the Broncos were beneficiaries of his verbal commitment in May.
Though Patti seems to fit the mold of undersized Boise State quarterback recruits of the past there is reason to see some significant differences between him and the Bart Hendricks, Ryan Dinwiddie and Kellen Moore models (Jared Zabransky possessed elite speed and good size, but was severely stunted in his passing skills and polish before arriving in Boise).
First and not least, Patti is a highly coveted prospect by many D-I programs even though he is at least two inches shorter than the shortest of the four aforementioned players. None of the other former standout BSU quarterbacks enjoyed broad appeal to the D-I community as Patti does.
It should also be noted that Patti is not only the first Bronco quarterback recruit to be invited to the Elite 11 (Elite 11 didn’t exist when Hendricks was in high school, but I think most would agree he would have been an unlikely candidate), but the high level coaching, along with the rigorous off-season training and competition he is experiencing gives him a huge leg up on previous BSU quarterback recruits.
Finally, Patti is so determined to get a head start on his college career he will forgo prom night and his final semester of high school (something none of the other Bronco quarterback greats did) so he can enroll at Boise State in the winter of 2012.
Could he challenge the current cast of backups for starting quarterback to open the 2012 season? Not likely given the complexity of the Bronco offense and the time needed to transition from high school to a much faster college pace. I would, however, suggest that If Patti’s skills and determination are somewhere in the neighborhood of those possessed by equally height-challenged former Heisman Trophy winner Doug Flutie (with whom he has already been compared), 2013 could present some interesting competition.