FRISCO, TEXAS — He might not acknowledge it, but Drew Pyne entered this week with a chance to prove himself.
The 6-foot-1, 196-pound quarterback might be the most polarizing recruit among ND’s 20 verbal pledges. Most recruiting analysts like his accuracy but question his size and arm strength.
The New Canaan (Conn.) High product could leave Wednesday with a different public perception. Pyne joined 19 other rising senior quarterbacks Saturday to compete in the five-day Elite 11 Finals, which is held at the Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas.
Earlier in the week, Pyne participated in the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta. He placed fifth among eight quarterbacks competing in the three-day camp.
Both camps offer recruits the opportunity to receive a boost in the recruiting rankings.
“The Elite 11 is something you dream about forever as a quarterback growing up,” Pyne said. “This is a very prestigious group of guys. All of these guys are going to be very good players in college. This is a competition, and obviously when you go into a competition, you want to win.
"I want to come in and win, but I know who I am, so I don’t have to prove anything to myself.”
247Sports could find out if its demotion of Pyne is fair. The recruiting site dropped him to three stars following last season, ranking him as its No. 13 pro-style quarterback and No. 460 overall player for the 2020 recruiting class. Meanwhile, Rivals still considers Pyne a four-star recruit, slating him No. 5 at the position and No. 82 overall.
Only Rivals recruiting analysts could observe their five-star challenge competition. Now 247Sports analysts, including the site’s director of scouting, Barton Simmons, can compare Pyne alongside the nation’s best.
“From a size and athleticism standpoint, Pyne is among the least impressive in attendance,” Simmons wrote Saturday on 247Sports, “but the Notre Dame commit was surprisingly capable of delivering an accurate deep out with minimal loading.”
The opening morning session saw the quarterbacks divided into groups and rotating through various stations. Each station tasked quarterbacks with making throws that varied in difficulty and distance. Some drills called for quarterbacks to work on pocket movement and throwing while on the run. Local high school athletes caught their passes without defenders.
The lone outside station was perhaps the most grueling. Pyne and others endured temperatures nearing 95 degrees with high humidity on a practice field surface with AstroTurf.
“They really stressed that they aren’t going to work mechanics,” said Pyne of the coaches working the camp. “All of us are here for a reason, and that’s because we all have good mechanics and are able to throw the ball well. It’s about other things, like working the play-action and making your reads and progressions of the plays.”
QB Country’s David Morris helped prepare Pyne last week in Mobile, Ala. Morris has a long list of training quarterback clients in high school, college and the NFL. Pyne began working with Morris as a freshman in high school.
Now his training will be put to the test further.
“It’s really cool to be around 19 guys that are really motivated to do the same thing and have the same goals as me,” Pyne said. “These guys are the best in the country, so being able to throw with them and pumping each other up while doing it is great to be around.”
Football things are happening here the next few days. pic.twitter.com/HOUR1m4Nqa— Carter Karels (@CarterKarels) June 29, 2019
The Opening Finals
Irish commits Chris Tyree and Michael Mayer will be among athletes competing in the Opening Finals, which runs Monday through Wednesday.
Pyne joined Tyree, a four-star running back, for a Baltimore camp two months ago. He will be throwing to Mayer, a four-star tight end, for the first time this week. Irish defensive end commit Jordan Botelho backed out of his plans to participate in The Opening Finals due to a minor injury.
“I’ve never met Michael, but I’ve talked with him,” Pyne said. “We FaceTime at least twice per week. He’s a great kid and obviously a great player, so I’m excited to see him and throw it to Chris again. I’m pumped up for that.”
The following quarterbacks committed to schools will also participate in the Elite 11 and The Opening Finals: Bryce Young (USC), Jack Miller (Ohio State), Luke Doty (South Carolina), Harrison Bailey (Tennessee), Tyler Van Dyke (Miami), Ethan Garbers (Washington), Anthony Richardson (Florida), TJ Finley (LSU), Garrett Greene (West Virginia), Sol-Jay Maiava (BYU), Hudson Card (Texas), Carson Beck (Georgia), Jeff Sims (Florida State), Robby Ashford (Ole Miss), Chandler Morris (Arkansas), Jacolby Criswell (North Carolina) and Hunter Dekkers (Iowa State). Uncommitted quarterbacks Haynes King and CJ Stroud will also compete.
The following college quarterbacks will help counsel recruits at the Elite 11 and The Opening Finals: Shea Patterson (Michigan), Jalen Hurts (Oklahoma), D’Eriq King (Houston) and Sam Ehlinger (Texas). Former Notre Dame quarterback Malik Zaire, now working for Overtime, and Arkansas’ Nick Starkel were also in attendance Saturday.
Two Notre Dame targets partaking in The Opening Finals — linebacker Cody Simon and defensive back Enzo Jennings — committed elsewhere this week.
Cody, the younger brother of Irish linebacker Shayne Simon, chose Ohio State on Saturday. Jennings verbally pledged to Penn State on Thursday. Notre Dame’s interest in both seemed to falter over the past several months.
With his connection to Notre Dame and prowess as a four-star recruit, Simon’s recruitment hints at ND’s priorities this cycle. Of the 13 linebackers on the Irish roster, 10 hold underclassmen eligibility.
The limited numbers could mean the Irish passing on linebackers for 2020. Notre Dame linebacker target Phillip Webb will be worth monitoring, though. The four-star recruit out of Buford (Ga.) Lanier included the Irish in his top 11 school list, which he tweeted on June 17. He will participate in The Opening Finals.
After much deliberation with my family and coaches, I have made the decision to attend THE Ohio State University‼️I am grateful to now be able to focus on my team and our success for the 2019 season. pic.twitter.com/e2CTj4U0VW— Cody Simon (@Cody_Simon30) June 29, 2019