Welcome to SEC Country’s daily Auburn Tigers football recruiting notebook with Auburn recruiting beat writer Benjamin Wolk. It’s Thursday, and SEC Country spoke with Super Bowl champ Trent Dilfer for the site’s podcast. As an Elite 11 coach, he tells what to expect from Auburn’s quarterback commit and top target.
Trent Dilfer analyzes Joey Gatewood
If you weren’t tuned into NFL Network on Tuesday at 10:30 ET, it’s OK, you have time to watch more.
The NFL Network is airing a multi-part docuseries tracking the journey of Elite 11 quarterbacks and their learning experience from Super Bowl champion Trent Dilfer and others. Dilfer has been a part of the Elite 11 competition since its inception, which has given him the opportunity to be up close and personal with some of the best quarterbacks of past recruiting classes, including Sean White and Jarrett Stidham.
This time, Dilfer had a chance to work with a few potential future Auburn quarterbacks.
Dilfer came into the competition with many of the same doubts about Joey Gatewood as everyone else. He split time at the high school level, which raised concerns. He looks so much bigger than everyone on the field that it made Gatewood a tough prospect to scout beforehand.
But when Dilfer trained with Gatewood in the top-24 part of the Elite 11 competition, he left with a different interpretation.
“Impressed,” Dilfer said Wednesday on SEC Country’s The Auburn Podcast. “He’s such a talented kid.”
As is the case with all quarterbacks, Dilfer says there are improvements Gatewood needs to make.
Dilfer said Gatewood has to become a passer more than a runner. During the competition, Gatewood showed a consistent desire to to so, which Dilfer expects to make Gatewood a dangerous threat at the next level.
“At first I was skeptical because I saw the same film everybody else did. He’s still a runner who can throw. He’s not yet a passer than runs. That’s a transition he’ll have to make. But he has everything you’d want to try and develop him that way,” Dilfer said. “He actually has a very clean stroke, can really throw the football and hasn’t been asked to really grow as a quarterback. We challenged him to grow that way, and he did. He’s a competitive kid. He wants to learn. He doesn’t want to be put in that category of what we call butchers — guys who throw their machete around and chop meat. He wants to be a surgeon. … But he knows there’s a transition to that and really wants to learn. I really was impressed with Joey.”
Dilfer’s biggest takeaway, ultimately, matched up with that of most everyone else who sees Gatewood in person.
“But from a physical giftedness standpoint, off the charts,” Dilfer said.
The star of the show: Justin Fields
Spoiler alert for the docuseries: Justin Fields wins MVP.
He was the star out in Oregon this summer when he put on a show at the Elite 11 camp. It’s a reason Fields made the leap to No. 1 overall prospect by several prognostications. It’s also an influence on why he became a top target for several programs across the country, including Auburn.
“Well he shouldn’t just be a target of Auburn football,” Dilfer said. “He should be a target of NFL franchises.”
Coupled with Clemson commit Trevor Lawrence, Fields stood out from previous Elite 11 classes.
Dilfer told a story on the SEC Country podcast that is revealing. Three weeks before the competition, Dilfer likes to send a full NFL playbook to the participants. Most of them bring up issues they have with studying it in full — spring sports, finals, etc. — but Lawrence and Fields didn’t make a sound.
Until they arrived in Los Angeles and showed they knew the whole thing.
“They’re as talented of kids as we’ve ever had. What really separated them was their ability to do everything else — their leadership quality, their coach-ability, their ability to change and adapt in a matter of days, their preparation,” Dilfer said. “They still have a full life, yet I send them this NFL playbook and tell them, ‘You better know this by the time you get to LA.’ They text me, ‘Are you kidding? There’s no possible way.’ I didn’t hear from Trevor. I didn’t hear from Justin. They come to LA, and they know it like the back of their hand. They found the ability to learn.”
That’s what separates the good ones from the great ones, Dilfer said.
“Their ability to say, ‘This is important to me. If I’m going to be a great player on Saturdays if I’m going to be a pro on Sundays, people are going to be asking a lot of me. I’ve got to be a pro and do it,'” Dilfer said. “These guys answered the bell every single time I challenged them. Could not be more impressed with those two.”
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