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Hughson QB McDaniel competing with nation's elite
Robert McDaniel
Hughson High quarterback Robert McDaniel, pictured here playing against Colfax in November 2023, reached the finals of the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback competition in Los Angeles last week (ALEX MORALES/The Journal).

Hughson High quarterback Robert McDaniel has reached the finals of the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback competition, which started Tuesday, continue today, and will conclude on Thursday in Los Angeles.

McDaniel, a senior-to-be for the Huskies, burnished his reputation as one of the top quarterbacks in Northern California by earning the starting job as a freshman in 2021, then leading Hughson to back-to-back Sac-Joaquin Section Division 6 crowns, including the state’s Division 5-AA championship in 2022.

McDaniel committed to play at Cal in March, but backed out of the agreement weeks later in favor of playing at Arizona, which has left the Pac-12 Conference and will become a member of the Big 12 beginning this coming year.

Now, with McDaniel’s advancement to the Elite 11 finals, it would appear the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder is more than just one of Northern California’s best.

“This makes me feel a lot better about my decision to pull him up when he was freshman,” joked Hughson head coach Shaun King. “I don’t think too many people know how big a deal Elite 11 is. Have you seen some of the names associated with it?”

Founded in 1999, Elite 11 has become the premier quarterback competition in the nation. At regional events, quarterbacks undergo evaluation from a team of coaches and experts. The quarterbacks participate in a series of drills and tests designed to evaluate throwing ability, accuracy, footwork, decision-making, and athleticism. The top 11 — hence the name — advance to the finals, though in recent years they’ve selected more than 11 for the finals.

More than a third of all draft-eligible finalists (82 of 225) were selected by NFL teams, with a third of those (27) taken in the first round. Eight were Heisman Trophy winners and another 12 were Heisman finalists.

Some of the more familiar names to reach the finals include Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Matthew Stafford, Tim Tebow, Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, Jared Goff, DeShaun Watson, Tua Tagovailoa, Trevor Lawrence, Kyler Murray, Justin Fields, Jayden Daniels,, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Drake Maye, J.J. McCarthy and Caleb Williams.

McDaniel was unavailable for comment.

“His nose is definitely in a book right now,” explained King. “They sent a 38-page playbook (Monday) night and he has to know that by (today).”

Before it was announced that McDaniel had reached the finals, he was scheduled to take part in several local events.

Today at 3 p.m., Hughson will travel to Modesto to take on powerful Central Catholic in a 7-on-7 competition. On Thursday, Central Catholic will visit Hughson for a 7-on-7 competition against the South All-Stars, who are practicing at Husky Memorial Stadium in preparation for Saturday’s Lions All-Star Game in Tracy. King and Central Catholic coach Roger Canepa are the co-head coaches for the South all-stars.

The following week, Hughson has practice on Monday before a 7-on-7 event at Downey High (Modesto). That will be followed by practices on June 25 and 26 before yet another 7-on-7 tournament at UC Davis on June 28.

That will conclude the Huskies summer program until official practices begin on July 29.

Also this summer, the Huskies offensive line unit of Landin Reisz, Colton Taylor, Travis Harkrader, Carlos Guizar and Dominic Aguiar won the Hughson High lineman challenge, while that same unit — with Ivan Rivera in for Guizar — was victorious at the Stagg (Stockton) High lineman challenge.

The units compete in various events — bench press, deadlift, obstacle course, tire flip, relay race, and tug o’ war — to amass the highest overall score.