A 3✮ quarterback that makes it to the Elite 11 is always expected to be a heavy underdog amongst a group of mostly 4✮ and 5✮. With this year’s Elite 11 class missing some highly-rated players, such as 5✮ PRO D.J. Uiagalelei, who chose not to attend, or 4✮ PRO Jack Miller, who attended, but was unable to participate due to injury. That left the door open, but Jacolby Criswell was not the man that the focus was on to benefit from it.
As one of five 3✮’s in attendance, Criswell had a hill to climb beginning on Day 1 with the Elite 11 Pro Day. Although the Elite 11 staff waited until Day 2 to put up an official leaderboard, Barton Simmons of 247Sports ranked Criswell just outside of the top eleven with his own personal ratings system. Simmons wrote following the morning session on Day 1 that Criswell was impressive in the long ball competition to end the morning session, while also showing some flashes during the pro day workout.
Day 2 was a day of preparation for the 7-on-7 tournament that dominated the final two days of competition and Criswell shined. In what is situational 7-on-7 drills, Criswell finished 7 of 10 with three touchdowns and showcased what is already one of the most polished all-around passing games of the group of 20. That was enough to land him high praise from both the coaching staff and his peers, as he landed 8th in the initial Elite 11 rankings that came out after Day 2.
Day 3 was mostly about stability for Criswell. The deep ball competition headlined what was a relatively quiet day for the Elite 11 guys and Criswell tied with 4✮ Florida State commit Jeff Sims for the sixth deepest throw in the competition with a 61 yard deep pass being his best of the day. At the end of Day 3, Criswell did drop, but only one spot to 9th to remain in the Elite 11.
The big day for Criswell, though, came on Day 4, where he put himself solidly in contention for the MVP running ahead of the final day. Criswell finished the day 26-36 and finished with five touchdowns as opposed to just the one interception in 7-on-7 group play for Team Guap. Criswell displayed a calm about that evaluators were really impressed with and combined with a good looking play sheet to complete a strong day. That performance was enough to move him up to 4th in the rankings posted after Day 4 and solidly in the hunt for what was apparently a wide open race heading into Wednesday’s final day of action.
As part of Team Guap, Criswell didn’t see a ton of action early, as the team was eliminated early in the afternoon’s festivities. That left him unable to prove himself with the likes of the other quarterbacks challenging for the MVP award, including eventual camp MVP, uncommitted 3✮ C.J. Stroud. Still, when it came time for the final votes for the Elite 11, Criswell was named amongst the prestigious group, becoming the only other 3✮ besides Stroud to make the Elite 11 in this 2020 class and giving the Tar Heels their second-straight Elite 11 quarterback (Sam Howell was committed to Florida State at the time, but flipped his commitment to Carolina after the camp had concluded).
Criswell may not have taken home MVP honors, but this was a guy who, if you go solely based on rankings, wasn’t even expected to make it out of the Dallas regionals. Criswell did exactly what he had to do to help his stock and now it seems almost certain that he will have to be elevated to a 4✮ prospect in the next installment of the 247Sports and Rivals rankings. This week’s performance should instill plenty of confidence in those around the Tar Heel football program about the quarterback that they are bringing in the 2020 class. “I texted Mack Brown and I’m like you got a good one coming,” Trent Dilfer says of Criswell. Yes we do, Trent. Yes we do.