Of all Virginia Tech's young quarterbacks, most eyes this weekend were on Hendon Hooker as he made a big statement during the spring game — look a little bit further north of Blacksburg, however, and 2018 QB commit DeJuan Ellis put up some impressive stats of his own.
Just a day after Hooker raised eyebrows with his efficient showing guiding the offense in the intrasquad scrimmage, Ellis headed to a prestigious Nike regional camp at Northern Virginia's Centreville HS on Sunday to compete for a shot at heading to the vaunted "The Opening" event later this year.
While Ellis didn't quite meet that lofty standard — that honor was reserved for RB Ricky Slade, DL Taron Vincent, DB A.J. Lytton and ATH Mychale Salahuddin — he still managed to prove to be the fastest man of the hundreds of campers in attendance. The McDonogh HS signal caller posted a 4.48-second 40-yard dash, a slight improvement over his similarly swift time last year, and managed to beat the two other fastest athletes in attendance in a foot race.
He even ranked as the third highest rated athlete at the entire camp, another jump from his stellar showing in 2016.
But, even with all he has going on at the moment, Ellis told The Key Play that he's closely watching the QB battle down in Blacksburg, since he could be joining it soon enough.
In particular, he was impressed by what he saw from Hooker, acknowledging that it was quite the positive sign indeed for his chances that Justin Fuente, OC Brad Cornelsen and company seem so willing to give a young QB a chance.
"If you want it, you're gonna go get it, and that's what he's doing," Ellis said. "He's working hard, he's grinding, and that's a good mindset. He's young, but he doesn't care, he still wants it."
That impressive spring game statement aside, he fully expects the other QBs to have a chance to seize the starting spot, and he isn't sure who to expect to see under center by the time he gets on campus.
"It's getting hectic down there, between Hendon, A.J. (Bush) and Josh (Jackson)," Ellis said. "Hopefully, someone pulls it out."
Ellis is certainly wouldn't be so interested in the shuffling of the QB depth chart if it didn't have such a direct impact on his future. If Hooker, a true freshman, earns the job, he'd presumably have it locked up for the rest of his Tech career. As a redshirt freshman, Jackson isn't exactly an old man either.
Complicating matters further is that the Hokies are bringing two QBs on board in the 2018 class, in Ellis and Quincy Patterson of Chicago's Solorio Academy. When Ellis committed to Tech last August, he surely couldn't have anticipated this confluence of factors, as set in motion by Jerod Evans' sudden jump to the NFL.
As of now, Ellis says he hasn't met Patterson just yet, though he's heard good things after the QB put on a show of his own at the Windy City "Opening" regional camp. But he expects the pair will have quite a fight on their hands when they arrive in Blacksburg, no matter who wins the starting job this year.
"Just work hard, that's it," Ellis said of the competition before him next season. "It's the main thing you have to do to win anything, to work hard and to want it. So I'm definitely going to work hard, and it's gonna be a great competition for the both of us."
Even with all that in the back of his mind, Ellis still likes his odds, considering what he's heard from Cornelsen, in particular. He says he texts with his future offensive coordinator and position coach "almost every day," and he's hearing nothing but positives so far.
"He says I'm a great fit, they've told me that from day one," Ellis said. "He tells me to just keep reading defenses, keep getting your footwork right, keep working defenses with your eyes and you'll be alright."
With sub-4.5 speed, Ellis certainly has the athleticism to become a contender for the job right away. But at 5'11" and 160 pounds, the 3-star prospect (as rated by the 247Sports Composite rankings) doesn't have prototypical size.
Yet Ellis still has plenty of time to work out the details with the Hokies, and he plans to make plenty more visits to Blacksburg to ease his transition into the program. He estimates it's been "about two months" since he last got to campus, and he's hoping to change that sooner rather than later.
"I'm missing coming down there," Ellis said. "So I'll definitely be down. I've got to get some stuff straight with the administration, so I'll get down there soon."