BEAVERTON, Ore. – Deondre Francois was one of only three quarterbacks invited to the Elite 11 Finals here at Nike World Headquarters this week that Trent Dilfer hadn’t seen at a regional event.
The 2015 Florida quarterback was invited based on the advice of Dilfer’s staff and despite rocky start, the head coach of the Elite 11 has been extremely impressed with Francois so far.
“Quiet assassin,” Dilfer said when asked about Francois, who has a final four that includes Notre Dame, Auburn, Florida State and Oregon.
“I didn’t know much about him and I’m thoroughly impressed with not just his talent, but his approach. He doesn’t say much, he lets the ball speaks.”
Dilfer acknowledged Francois struggled during the six-and-a-half-hour special ops training the quarterbacks were put through on day one, but even that has turned into a positive, according to Dilfer.
“He had a tough experience and he used that step back as a launching point and from the end of that night until today, his trajectory has just been skyrocketing,” said Dilfer.
Dilfer gave some of that credit to fellow Elite 11 coach Dennis Gile.
“Dennis Gile has a very similar background to Deondre,” said Dilfer. “They bonded immediately. They were on the same team on the Team Red, White and Blue and they both struggled, but they turned it into a victory instead of a failure together. It was really a special moment. The bond they have is really cool.”
Francois didn’t have to wait long to rebound.
“He intensely dominated a 12:30 a.m. workout where he was really challenged and he thrived,” said Dilfer. “The harder it got, the more he thrived. He’s a really, really gifted passer. He can really spin it, understands tempos, understands anticipation. He understands the passing game. He came in extremely prepared.”
The IMG Academy quarterback scored high on a test designed to assess how well the signal-callers could learn a playbook and how well they could apply it with high-speed decision making.
“He’s been nothing but solid,” Dilfer said. “He’s in the hunt without a doubt. He’s been a pleasant surprise.
“He has a bunch of different kinds of accuracy; he can throw it hard, he can throw it soft, he can anticipate, he’s got boundary accuracy, he’s got middle-of-the-field accuracy. He’s a really good learner. He’s adapting to this coaching, which is important to us. He’s been very impressive.”
Francois is planning to make a decision by the end of this month and is hoping to visit South Bend soon. Should Francois choose the Irish, Dilfer has no concerns about how he would fit in offensively.
“He could absolutely fit with what Notre Dame is doing,” said Dilfer. “I know that system very well, obviously my daughter is going there. I’m a big fan of BK’s and (quarterback coach Matt) LaFleur and what they’re doing. He could play in any system.”
Dilfer sees similarities between Francois and current Irish quarterback Everett Golson, who spent three days here as part of the event.
“Obviously he has the same type of twitch in his body, explosiveness in his body,” Dilfer said. “I don’t think he’s a run-first guy, but he’s going to be able to create space for himself athletically and I think he’s probably a little bit more advanced than Everett was at this point in terms of understanding the passing game. Now Everett has really come a long way and he was really good this week.”