July 22, 2024

Eleven takeaways, musings and questions following a 2024 Elite 11 Finals that has us excited for the future

MANHATTAN BEACH, Calif. — Eleven takeaways from a terrific 2024 Elite 11 Finals, because 12 or 13 just wouldn’t make as much sense.

1. Future Buckeye Tavien St. Clair might finish No. 1 in the rankings

Ohio State’s quarterback room is already viewed as one of the deepest units in all of college football and after watching Clair rip tight spirals for three straight days, it doesn’t look like that’s going to change anytime soon. 

With LSU commit and top-ranked quarterback Bryce Underwood at home, it was Tavien St. Clair who came into the event as our highest-ranked prospect at No. 2 overall in the Top247. He somehow exceeded expectations and we named him Alpha Dog of the week, though he did not finish as the Elite 11’s MVP. In fact, we think you could drop St. Clair in next year’s NFL Scouting Combine and he would have scouts drooling.

(Photo: Andrew Ivins, 247Sports)

St. Clair is a budding signal caller with a prototypical frame (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) who can feather the football to all three levels. He’s accurate in the pocket and on the move as he uses a smooth release to throw with both touch and power. He also appears to be wired the right way based upon everything that we heard from the Elite 11 staff.

The recruiting industry has long pegged Underwood as the can’t-miss quarterback in the 2025 cycle and it’s time to officially put St. Clair in that same category as he’s got both a high ceiling and a high floor. We’ll meet in the coming weeks to discuss our quarterback pecking order and there will likely be plenty of discussion about who should be No. 1 in the rankings.

St. Clair, of Bellefontaine, is in line to become the first in-state quarterback to sign with Ohio State since Joe Burrow back in 2015. He’s the type of talent that should eventually push Alabama transfer and former five-star Julian Sayin for a starting gig in Columbus. 

2. Keelon Russell will make for a fun post-Saban Alabama era

Alabama quarterback commit Keelon Russell was named MVP of the Elite 11 Finals. He too exceeded expectations and that should have the folks in Tuscaloosa grinning.

For the better part of the past decade, the Crimson Tide were a fine-tuned machine under the direction of Nick Saban. The roster was full of future NFL players and the mistakes were minimal. New head coach Kalen DeBoer could certainly replicate that model, but he was hired because of his high-flying offense at Washington, and that’s what makes the addition of Russell so important to the future of the program.

Russell is an elite playmaker for the position who can take over games and light up scoreboards. We knew he was an efficient passer as he completed a Top247-best 69.6 percent of his passes the past two seasons against legit Texas-based competition, but we didn’t realize just how special the arm is as he’s able to alter release points and change angles to get the ball out fast.

At check-in for the event, we asked Russell why he backed off a long-time pledge to SMU for Alabama with Saban no longer leading the Crimson Tide. Russell acknowledged that things will be different before quickly explaining that he couldn’t pass up on the opportunity to play for DeBoer — not after watching what DeBoer did with Heisman finalist Michael Penix Jr. last season. 

Russell is similar to Penix in some ways, but we would argue that he’s probably a better passer entering his senior year of high school. We also think that he’s a much better runner and someone that’s going to make defenses pay as he can turn scrambles into back-breaking gains.

3. Texas A&M made the right call wooing Husan Longstreet

College staffs might have been busy with their own summer camps and official visits, but they were still keeping a very close eye on what was happening in Los Angeles. One interesting text from a Power Four source that came through after the opening workout was asking to compare Russell and Husan Longstreet

For those unfamiliar, Texas A&M beat out plenty to land a commitment from Longstreet back in April. What most don’t know is that the Aggies were also quietly involved with Russell, who at the time was committed to SMU. Our take after watching the two compete next to each other and revisiting the junior tape? Mike Elko got the right guy for what he’s trying to build in College Station.

Longstreet fought through a foot injury all week and still scored in the top half during the simulated pro day. The California product found the end zone four times during his 7-on-7 game. In our eyes, Longstreet is one of the more unique signal callers to emerge in recent years. Not only is he a tough kid that played a majority of last fall with a hurt knee, but he’s a twitched-up athlete with a rocket launcher for an arm. 

We still don’t know what exactly an Elko-led Texas A&M will look like, but a quick glance at his current commit list and the bevy of transfers that he brought in this offseason suggests that he wants the Aggies to play a smashmouth brand of football. Longstreet could be the perfect trigger man for new offensive coordinator Collin Klein‘s RPO-heavy system as he can distribute on the run and isn’t afraid to power his way through would-be tacklers.

4. Be prepared to hate Georgia commit Ryan Montgomery

… That is, of course, unless you’re a fan of the Bulldogs.