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Gainesville's Watson among nation's best at Elite 11
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Gainesville High quarterback DeShaun Watson is currently competing in the Elite 11 quarterback competition in Beaverton, Ore. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Bruce Miller wasn’t surprised to hear that DeShaun Watson was performing at his customary high level at the Elite 11 quarterback competition this week at Bo Jackson Field in Beaverton, Ore. If anything, the Gainesville head football coach expected that from his highly-touted signal caller.

“I am not surprised at all, because he has really done a lot of work this summer,” Miller said. “We had just got done going through the (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) passing league on Thursday, before he left, and he looked sharp.”

Watson, the rising senior quarterback at Gainesville and a Clemson commit, was chosen for the Elite 11 following his performance in Atlanta’s regional camp earlier this year. It was one of six regional camps held throughout the country.

At the Elite 11 competition, quarterbacks work on and off the field with some of the best Division I college quarterbacks, current professional quarterbacks and former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer.

“I think where (DeShaun) will really come through at is the mental aspect of it, as far as the emotional side of being a quarterback,” Miller said. “Learning from those guys – what they faced and what they are going to face and how they handle the pressures of games.”

On Monday, the 18 quarterbacks that make up the Elite 11 this year were joined by nearly 150 linemen, backs, receivers and defenders for The Opening, Nike’s annual high school football showcase, which aired live on ESPNU. The competition continues through Wednesday and will air on ESPNU.

The winner of the Elite 11, an honor given out to the best quarterback in the competition, will be announced following Wednesday’s sessions.

“I know (DeShaun) is just excited about the opportunity, to see another part of the country and compete against some of the top guys from around the country at his position,” said Michael Perry, Watson’s position coach at Gainesville High.

“It is such a privilege to work with a kid that works as hard as he does. He really understands that position, and he respects that position.”

Among the quarterbacks that Watson is working with this week is Clemson senior Tajh Boyd, a 2008 Elite 11 finalist and front-runner for the Heisman Trophy this year. Watson has been eagerly awaiting the opportunity, according to Miller.

“They have already forged a pretty good friendship since he committed to Clemson,” Miller said. “He said he was looking forward to being around (Tajh) for a few days and working with him.”

Along with Boyd, Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel — the 2012 Heisman Trophy winner — is also working the camp. So is Buffalo Bills first-round draft pick E.J. Manuel.

Watson seems to have embraced the opportunity of being around so many successful quarterbacks, even tweeting a picture of himself standing between Boyd and Manziel.

Dilfer, a current ESPN NFL analyst, is serving as one of the camp’s top counselors. Dilfer is said to be pushing the tempo of the camp all week, in an attempt to groom the quarterbacks for their expected success at the college level.

“That is the one thing about this deal — you are never satisfied. You always want to learn more,” Perry said. “That goes for any coach or player. DeShaun definitely has that drive. He will do whatever it takes to keep increasing his knowledge and striving to be a better player.”

Watson, who holds the state-record for career passing yards (9,360), led the Red Elephants to the Class AAAAA state championship last year, when he became just the third quarterback in state history to eclipse the 4,000-yard mark in a single season.

Recent Elite 11 alumni include: Georgia’s Aaron Murray, Alabama’s A.J. McCarron and former West Virginia quarterback Geno Smith, second-round pick of the New York Jets, all of whom were finalists with Boyd in 2008.

The Times was unable to reach Watson on Monday, due to his schedule at the Elite 11 camp.

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