The use of 7-on-7 football events for colleges to evaluate high school prospects continues to be on the rise and what has become the biggest event nationally both in participation and amount of talent is this weekend in Las Vegas.
More than 100 teams of high school players from around the country will take the field Saturday for pool play at the Heritage Park football complex in the Pylon Elite National Tournament. The event concludes Sunday with a single-elimination format and the championship.
The teams of about 20 players each are club teams, rather than teams representing specific high schools. The event is open invitation with a $1,000 entrance fee per team and teams need to pay for their transportation, hotel and meals.
Organizers say the intent is to give the players exposure and match them up against a level of elite competition that some might not face during their high school seasons.
In its eighth year in Las Vegas, organizers point to a notable list of alumni that includes 13 NFL draft picks in 2014 — including eight in the first round led by No. 4 overall pick Sammy Watkins — and expected 2015 draft picks such as Heisman Trophy winners and Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota and Houston wide receiver Deontay Greenberry.
Among the many notable players scheduled to take part:
- Quarterback Jacob Eason from Lake Stevens, Wash., is ranked as the No. 1 player overall in the Class of 2017 by the 247Sports Composite. A Georgia commit, Eason will lead SP Elite, which won the NW Elite 7on7 tournament last weekend in Washington state.
- K.J. Costello, from Santa Margarita, Calif., is ranked as the No. 4 pro style quarterback and will play for BBT Truth. He has the advantage of four-star receivers Tyler Vaughns (Bishop Amat, Puenta, Calif.); David Long (Loyola, Los Angeles); and Dylan Crawford, who recently transferred to Santa Margarita. The team also features Zion Echols from Covina, Calif., ranked No. 14 nationally among all-purpose backs.
- Jack Allison, a Miami commit, is a four-star QB and ranked as the No. 7 all-purpose signal caller in the nation.
- Quarterback Tate Martell led Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas) to the No. 1 final ranking in the USA TODAY High School Sports’ Super 25 and has the athleticism to succeed in 7on7. He is a member of the Class of 2017.
- Saivion Smith, from IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., committed to LSU this week. While 7on7 is about passing, it also serves as a good test for defensive backs to show how they can handle the top wide receivers.
- Lokeni Toaila from Raiato, Calif., is ranked as the top inside linebacker in the class of 2016 by the 247 Sports Composite. He will play for BBT – Truth and be joined by Krys Barnes from Bakersfield, Calif. Barnes is the No. 8 inside linebacker in the Class of 2016.
Baron Flenory, a Pylon co-founder, says the event is more about the players who have yet to make a name for themselves than the headliners. Mariota was a relative unknown on the recruiting trail before his participation in the event in 2010.
“I am sure there will be kids unveiled at this event,” Flenory says. “I’m more concerned with kids with no names who can develop and be given a platform. The success stories are the kids who are under-recruited and unknown and really blow up because of their performance. That’s the reason we do it.”
The event also includes divisions for fifth/sixth grade (10 teams) and seventh/eighth grade (24 teams).
“The appeal of 7-on-7 is that it’s an amazing recruiting platform and there is a developmental aspect at the younger ages,” Flenory says. “Fifth and sixth graders are actually playing football rules with five receivers eligible and no longer playing flag football.
“With concussions being such a big issues, parents don’t want kids playing tackle football all the time so they are signing up to get the opportunity to develop a skill set without being tackled as fifth and sixth graders. A lot of youth parents love it as an alternative to tackle.”
Pylon also has regional events around the country with the next one, the West Coast Regional, scheduled for March 14-15 in Los Angeles. From the regional events, Pylon assembles a national top 25 ranking for the best teams.