MALIBU, Calif. -- Halfway through the first evening workout at the Elite 11 quarterbacks finals, a nondescript figure strode down the stairs to the makeshift football field at Pepperdine University as the sun began to sink over the Pacific in the foreground.
A magical scene, no doubt, but no thanks to Kellen Moore.
At a few shades under his listed height of 6 foot, the senior returning All-America quarterback, 38-2 as a starter at Boise State, drew no admiring gazes from the 24 high school quarterbacks in attendance.
They're the best of the 2012 recruiting class, and none of them look much like Moore, a bit unkempt and shaggy, if not entirely forgettable.
Actually, one guy looks something like Moore, who's working as a counselor alongside other top college QBs at the weeklong event. Minutes later, as Moore got situated on the field, Nick Patti ran over between drills to excitedly greet the Boise star.
They talked for an instant, and Patti was gone -- off to convert another nonbeliever. Guess where he's committed to attend college next year.
"It's all I hear in the media," said Patti, the only quarterback among 11 Boise State pledges for 2012. "It's all I hear from anyone. But it's all fuel to my fire to go out and prove that you don't have to be 6-5 to be the best."
Moore, of course, has already proved it, following in the tracks laid by notably unorthodox Boise State quarterbacks Jared Zabransky and Ryan Dinwiddie.
It's impossible to argue with the results. Boise is 61-5 under five-year coach Chris Petersen, himself a former undersized QB who rose to prominence after a playing career at Yuba City High School, California Sacramento City College and UC Davis.
The Broncos under Petersen have won a pair of Fiesta Bowls and finished in the top seven nationally three of the past five years. Moore enjoyed the best individual season of all in 2010, throwing for 3,506 yards with 33 touchdowns and five interceptions. He earned an invite to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
Patti wants to be the next in line.
"You look at guys like Kellen," Patti said. "It can be done and done in a dominating fashion. He wasn't the most highly recruited guy out of high school, but you don't have to be a huge dude to do it."
And Patti is no huge dude. At 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, he's the smallest quarterback in Malibu, and ranked the lowest, too, at No. 119 nationally. But Patti earned his spot here by winning MVP honors at two Elite 11 regional events this spring in addition to the position MVP awards at Nike Football Training Camp events in Miami and Tallahassee, Fla.
It's no stretch to presume he's in contention for the top award again at the finals. The staff in Malibu will trim 24 to 11 later this week and pick an MVP as the camp closes Friday.
"The size is great if you have it, but it doesn't have to mean anything," said former veteran NFL quarterback Ken O'Brien, an instructor at the Elite 11 finals. "Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks out there. It's being able to know when to throw the ball and how to deliver it.
"It's not size. It's what you do with it."
Patti does a lot with it, leading Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., to a 14-1 record and a berth in state finals last year. He threw for 2,390 yards and 32 touchdowns -- and he wants more. A lot more.
Just watch him in drills. Patti's always near the front of the line, focused on instructions. He's quick to correct the rare mistakes.
Yogi Roth, a former Pittsburgh receiver and Southern Cal staffer who serves as the lead motivational man for the Elite 11 events, described it best. According to Roth, Patti "walks around here like he owns the place."
On the field here and in college, the rankings don't matter. Just ask Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East), the No. 1-rated QB nationally who competed in a group with Patti on the first day in Malibu.
"Nick Patti's a great, great player," Kiel said. "He has the intangibles to be a great player. He has great feet. He's fast. He seems like a great leader. He definitely has pinpoint accuracy. I wish the best for him, going to Boise State."
So how did Patti land 2,600 miles from home in Idaho?
With offers this spring from Central Florida, South Florida, Indiana and Lousiana Tech, Patti heard from Boise State out of the blue in early April. He knew of Moore and the Broncos' success but little else, so Patti paid his way to Boise for an unofficial visit.
"It is completely different than what I'm used to," Patti said. "I love it. It's my kind of place."
Patti and Moore met for about two hours during the visit. The connection was immediate, Patti said. He committed in May.
As for the size issue, Moore said it means little. Petersen doesn't search for the underdog QB. It just seems that way.
"I think Pete doesn't care one bit," Moore said. "He just wants to find a guy who's accurate and can make plays. They've never talked to us about it. I've never heard them say this guy is probably more talented because he's 6-4. Who cares?"
Elite 11 instructor Matt James offers an educated perspective. He played quarterback under Petersen at Portland State 20 years ago. James saw it then. He sees it now: Petersen knows what he wants in a QB and refuses succumb to the industry standard.
This year, he wanted Patti.
"I think they look for that kid who might have a chip on his shoulder," James said.
He said it's there in Patti -- the intelligence, competitiveness, quick decision-making ability and hunger.
"There's something to be said for that kind of athlete," James said. "Boise is not going to necessarily take the five-star guy. But they're going to get the guy who knows how to play. They're going to take him and coach him.
"And then they're going to start him in a BCS bowl game."
Mitch Sherman is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Mitch Sherman on Twitter @mitchshermanMALIBU, Calif. -- Monday and Tuesday were like night and day for many prospects at the Elite 11 in terms of performance. They have now been able to adjust to time change, schedule demands, chalk talks and, most importantly, what has been expected on the field in the drill circuit.
Most, if not all, prospects spent most of Monday feeling each other out and gauging their surroundings. When you are thinking and not focused on the specific rep it is difficult to be accurate and consistent, but Tuesday it was evident these guys are here to compete. They worked through drill stations with more confidence, better footwork and more overall accuracy.
Throwing to standing targets and working routes versus air is one thing, but when the live bullets start flying it is an entirely different ballgame. On Wednesday and throughout the rest of the week, more X's and O's, reads, progressions and moving choices will be introduced and that is when you will likely begin to see guys separate -- when the sessions become more pressure-filled and game-like.
Football cannot be duplicated in shirts and shorts and certainly not for QBs. The goal is to try to create a competitive environment, push the prospects, challenge them in areas they are not comfortable in and see how they respond. Things that seem simple, such as posture, using a new ball instead of an old one, changing ball speeds, shoulder tilt and eye placement, can be very foreign to young QB prospects, even the most talented.
Below is a look at guys who seem to be rising to the top as well as guys who continue to impress. Prospects are listed alphabetically within each group.
Rising to the top
6-foot-2, 190 pounds
Consistency and anticipation are staples of Brewer's game. Clean, crisp and sound. If it has to do with touch, timing and accuracy he is generally at the top of the group in that particular drill. Flashed some impressive pocket movement and ballhandling skills in stations that created pressure and movement situations and throwing on the run.
Preston Dewey (Austin, Texas/St. Andrews)
6-2, 200 pounds
Dewey had some accuracy issues early in the day -- something with which he has not struggled -- but rebounded in the second hour. He possesses many of the same traits Brewer has, but Dewey may have slightly more power and pop.
Chad Kelly (Buffalo, N.Y./Saint Joseph's)
6-2, 205 pounds
While Kelly impressed last week at The Opening at Nike, he actually looks more relaxed and consistent here. His overall skill set has showcased his feet and running ability almost exclusively on tape, so it has been nice to see him continue to make real strides in the passing game. He continues to make the throws, and he showed more consistent wrist snap and ball control on Tuesday than we have seen from him. He also is highly competitive.
Gunner Kiel (Columbus, Ind./Columbus East)
6-3, 215 pounds
After suffering a bout of dehydration following practice on Monday, Kiel responded with an impressive performance Tuesday morning. In terms of physical makeup, he could end up being a guy that looks like camp counselor/Oklahoma State QB Brandon Weedon in 2 or 3 years. Big, physical, strong and a better athlete than one might think.
Zach Kline (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley)
6-2, 205 pounds
The most important trait Kline needs to develop is touch and how/when to use it. His natural inclination is to drive and hum the ball with speed and velocity, but there are times for him to become a finesse passer depending on the route or coverage. This goes against his nature, so it is a challenge for him and a good one. There is no doubt he can fit the ball into tight spaces, but he needs to be able to just play pitch and catch, too. Can't get enough of that release, though.
Jeff Lindquist (Mercer Island, Wash./Mercer Island)
6-3, 225 pounds
On pure arm strength, Lindquist may be the best of the group. When he unleashes it he can really drive the ball. He is a strong, powerful guy as it is, so he derives a lot from his lower body and a strong, over-the-top delivery. He is also a prospect -- like many the first two days -- who needs to wean himself off the old, worn-in football that can accentuate RPMs and velocity that you likely will not get with newer balls. He took the change pretty well on Tuesday and did not miss a beat.
Chad Voytik (Cleveland, Tenn./Cleveland)
6-0, 195 pounds
Mr. Consistency. Voytik is just so sound no matter what type of throw he is asked to make. He threw the skinny post on time with zip and ball placement as well as anyone on Tuesday. He adapts and applies instruction to the next rep as well as anyone, and you rarely see a poor throw or a ball get away from him. He has a knack for passing and ball control.
Jameis Winston (Hueytown, Ala./Hueytown)
6-3, 195 pounds
Where Winston jumped out on Tuesday was on timing routes to intermediate levels of the field -- deep digs, skinny posts, sluggos (slant and go) and streaks. He does not carry much weight or strength in his lower body yet, so much of what he accomplishes is from pure arm talent. His frame is going to allow him to carry at least another 20-25 pounds and develop into an imposing passer to go along with his ideal athleticism.
Making an impression
Neal Burcham (Greenbrier, Ark./Greenbrier)
6-2, 175 pounds
Burcham was not a flash in the pan Monday and continued to impress with his touch, zip and a quick release. Standing next to him Tuesday, he is taller and more filled out than you think at first glance and still has significant room for further bulk. He is only going to get bigger. His arm will gain more strength, and he has an extremely high ceiling. Don't be surprised if he garners significant interest/offers in the fall.
Tyler Cameron (Jupiter, Fla./Jupiter)
6-3, 216 pounds
Perhaps no player in attendance made more of an improvement from Day 1 to Day 2 than Cameron. The physically impressive lefty went from throwing with uncertainty on Monday to grippin' and rippin' on Tuesday. He looked confident and sure of himself and, while he is quiet and mild mannered, he goes about his business quite seriously. He showed zip and the ability to display touch, which we did not see from him on Tuesday.
Tyler O'Connor (Lima, Ohio/Lima Central Catholic)
6-2, 205 pounds
College: Michigan State
O'Connor and Cameron are very similar in many ways, only O'Connor is right-handed. Strong and well built, O'Connor shows flashes of becoming a powerful downhill passer. He's not much different than current Michigan State starter Kirk Cousins was when he came out, and Cousins is a camp counselor here. O'Connor is a guy that is going to win with his arm in the pocket.
Nick Patti (Orlando, Fla./Dr. Phillips)
5-10, 185 pounds
College: Boise State
Doug Flutie is the most accurate comparison that can be made to Patti for those who have not seen him perform. If he turns out to have any of the intangibles and innate qualities that Flutie possessed he could really surprise, especially since he will be signing with the right school for his skill set. Being in the right place at the right time in the right scheme is half the battle.
Zeke Pike (Fort Mitchell, Ky./Dixie Heights)
6-4, 233 pounds
This guy is competing and it is nice to watch him continually get better. He has his moments with accuracy, but with Pike it is all about mechanics and feet. They are working with him and his posture, shoulder tilt and balance to drive off his back foot and transfer his weight. He has a tendency to play shorter than he is and did a better job standing tall on Tuesday.
Grant Rohach (Moorpark, Calif./Moorpark)
6-2, 185 pounds
College: Iowa State
Paul Rhoades and the Iowa State staff deserve some credit for dialing in on Rohach. He is definitely an under-the-radar guy who shares many qualities with fellow sleeper Neal Burcham. He shows flashes of being sharp, has a late bloomer's frame and is a very solid pitch-and-catch guy. He is only going to get stronger, and thus more physically impressive, over time.
Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting.