REDONDO BEACH, Calif. — A fraction of an inch kept Sam Ehlinger from being the early star at the Elite 11 Finals.
As day one of three wrapped up on Friday, Ehlinger and other top quarterbacks from the 2017 senior class lined up and took aim at a dunk tank. Trembling 20 feet away was Clemson quarterback DeShaun Watson.
Ehlinger’s attempt looked promising but narrowly missed the button that would’ve sent the Heisman Trophy finalist and event counselor into the drink.
“Maybe two centimeters less and it would have gotten it,” Ehlinger said.
It was among many competitive efforts Ehlinger gave throughout a chilly afternoon in Southern California as he tried to distinguish himself among a field of 24 competitors that will be trimmed to 12 by Monday morning.
Ehlinger, the Texas commit and Westlake product, put forth a solid showing, hitting his targets more often than he didn’t and getting positive feedback from his evaluators. Specifically, famed QB guru George Whitfield bellowed “excellent” after one particular pass Ehlinger threw reached its mark with great velocity.
Sam Ehlinger at Elite 11. QB guru George Whitfield calls this an "excellent" throw. pic.twitter.com/h3tXvCBVy9
— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) June 3, 2016
“I thought overall I did all of the things they taught me at regionals exactly the way they wanted me to do,” Ehlinger said. “I thought I had a good day overall.”
Ehlinger was placed into a foursome with Ohio’s Sean Clifford (Penn State), New Jersey’s Tommy Devito (Syracuse) and Cedar Hill’s Avery Davis (Notre Dame). Joining them at times was current Notre Dame QB DeShone Kizer, who is battling the Irish’s Malik Zaire to start the season-opener at Texas on Sept. 4.
Kizer is among four current college quarterbacks and Elite 11 alumni helping out at the event along with Watson, Davis Webb (Texas Tech turned Cal) and Max Browne (USC).
Ehlinger, who can burn defenses with his feet as well as with his arm, was at his best moving outside of the pocket. In one drill on an auxiliary field, he rolled out and threw a dart through a standing target. He was among 10 competitors or so who hit the mark and were rewarded with a chance to soak Watson in the dunk tank.
Shortly after Ehlinger’s near miss, California’s Jake Haener (uncommitted) hit the mark and drenched Watson.
Sam Ehlinger nearly dunks Clemson QB Deshaun Watson in a dunk tank at Elite 11. pic.twitter.com/v6rdhiYuJ6
— Ryan Autullo (@AutulloAAS) June 4, 2016
The day was not all work for Ehlinger, who agreed to be the subject of several fun videos filmed by Bleacher Report. The first video was a celebration of National Donut Day in which Ehlinger ran a route along an oceanside pier as Clemson commit Hunter Johnson dropped back and threw a donut hole that Ehlinger caught with his mouth.
— Bleacher Report CFB (@BR_CFB) June 3, 2016
Ehlinger said Bleacher Report reached out and asked to feature him in the films. Needing a co-star, Ehlinger contacted Johnson, a five-star prospect from Indiana whom Ehlinger met last week at the Quarterback Retreat in Coronado, Calif. Be on the lookout for more videos of Ehlinger and Johnson at the grocery store and at the basketball court.