December 27, 2010

Ely on target

After committing to Alabama back in August, Tampa (FL) Plant quarterback Phillip Ely went on to have a dramatic senior season in which he overcame early injuries to take his team to an appearance in the state title game after a spectacular playoff run. According to Ely's head coach, the four-star signal caller was the key cog in a star-studded offense that seemed to be unstoppable at times during the 2010 season.

"It's tough to deal with that loss in the championship game but when you really take a step back, we did a lot of great things this year with a very inexperienced team. We only had a few seniors and Phillip was one of them," said Plant head coach Robert Weiner. "We knew our whole season would be about bringing along those younger guys and we were really counting on Phillip to lead some of those underclassmen and help them understand what we're about and how to be a champion. I think he did an incredible job."

"Phillip kept taking on more and more responsibility when it came to his leadership as the year went on and at the same time, his performance seemed to really heat up towards the end of the season. His performance in the playoffs was probably the best string of games I've ever seen from him in his career. I wouldn't have wanted to put the fate of my team in anyone else's hands."

Plant, which has produced two of the top quarterback prospects in recent years in Robert Marve and Aaron Murray, ran a more balanced offense than usual this season, an approach which Weiner believes will help Ely when it comes to adjusting to Alabama's offensive philosophy.

"I really think the offense we ran this year is a perfect preparation for a guy going to Alabama. In the past, we've been more of a spread attack, throwing it around 40 times a game, and that helped guys like Marve and Murray to set all kinds of state records. Phillip was part of that early on but we evolved into a more multifaceted offense because of some of the other talent we had on offense. This year, we ran some spread, some pro sets, and even some Power-I, sometimes changing from down to down in the same drive. I think having the ability to change pace like that will be a big tool for Phillip when he gets to Alabama since that's really the way they seem to approach offense as well."

Weiner said the Crimson Tide coaching staff saw in Ely the potential for an efficient and thoughtful quarterback similar to current Tide star Greg McElroy in his approach to the game.

"There were a lot of things Alabama really liked about him that led to the offer. I know they really like his athleticism and his ability to keep plays alive with his feet but also to actually make plays on his own by design with his running ability. I think his biggest upside is that he's incredibly accurate, especially for a high school player. Anybody will tell you that accuracy is the most underrated attribute a quarterback can have. People get wowed by arm strength but having the ability to make smart throws that are on time and where the receiver needs them to be on a consistent basis takes a lot more than talent. It takes hard work and intelligence and you'll have a hard time finding anyone who will outwork Phillip."

While Ely will face plenty of competition at the quarterback position when he arrives on campus, Weiner said he doesn't believe Ely will be overly focused on starting jobs or playing time but rather the process of becoming a better quarterback.

"I think one of the best traits Phillip has is that he doesn't get distracted or concerned with things that are outside his control. He has tremendous trust in the coaches at Alabama, especially Coach McElwain who recruited him and he trusts that they will make the decisions that are the best for the team. He's not going in there thinking about whether he will or won't win the starting job. He knows that all he can do is work as hard as he can and listen and learn from his coaches. He's a guy who has spent his career stepping up to big challenges and taking advantage of opportunities. All he ever wanted to do was be a Plant football player. I don't think he ever worried about it taking him anywhere else. He's thrilled to be heading to Alabama and I think he is willing to take on whatever challenges and opportunities that come his way once he gets there."

Ely, rated the nation's No. 6 pro-style quarterback prospect by Rivals.com, will play in the Army All-American Game in January.

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