In the brief history of the NLA Elite 7on7 tournament in Las Vegas, there has been superb talent (NFL players like Brock Osweiler and Vontaze Burfict), bowl game MVPs (both 2013 Fiesta Bowl MVP's Marcus Mariota and Michael Clay) and unanimous All-American's (Zach Ertz at tight end in 2012).
What's made the event memorable have been some of the great teams to assemble, either in the first year, where they were put together, or in the years since, the select teams that were comprised.
In 2008, the vaunted "CaliOne" squad featured a handful of players that were at that time, committed to USC or leaning there. Burfict was one of them (though he'd later sign with Arizona State), and was joined by Morrell Presley and Randall Carroll, who would both end up switching to UCLA and Chris Metcalf, who would sign with Nevada.
In fact, T.J. McDonald was the only one who would sign with USC from that group of commits (Byron Moore would later switch from UCLA to USC before leaving Troy and ending up at Tennessee).
That team also featured Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick and former Oregon All-American Cliff Harris among others.
The prohibitive favorite to win the 2008 tournament, they went 2-2 in pool play and then were knocked out by Team Washington, an upstart who had a lot of youth but made a nice run to the finals.
Coached by Bob Lichtenfels, Team Washington featured a sophomore Jake Heaps (now at Kansas) and a freshman Kasen Williams, and advanced to the championship. They also had Washington State players Nolan Washington and Gino Simone, who were going both ways, and Dylan Zylstra, now a starting defensive lineman and FCS power Eastern Washington.
But their run ended in the finals against "CaliOne", which featured future Stanford tight end tandem Zach Ertz and Levine Toilolo. It also boasted Clay on defense along with Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood and Oregon State quarterback Cody Vaz.
CaliOne would win the tournament, going unbeaten, the only team to go unblemished until last year, when Utah went unbeaten.
Team Washington was loaded in 2009, returning Heaps and Williams, but also adding in future Pac-12 players like Jermaine Kearse (Washington) and Chris Young (Arizona State), plus another stellar tight end in then-sophomore Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who like Ertz, was a finalist for the Mackey Award this past season.
After going unbeaten in pool play, they were stunned in the first round of the playoffs.
The winners would be a California team featuring a number of players from the AIGA Foundation. Led by MVP Jesse Scroggins at quarterback (now at Arizona), and featuring three Pac-12 starting linebackers (John Timu and Princeton Fuimaono at Washington and Dion Bailey at USC), AIGA knocked off Utah in the finals.
That Utah team featured Stanford quarterback Dallas Lloyd and Utah running back Harvey Langi.
Still, possibly the most talented team in the field that year was B2G's California team, which boased Joshua Shaw (USC), Shaquille Richardson (Arizona), Bryan Bennett (formerly of Oregon), Paul Richardson (Colorado), D.J. Morgan (USC), Dietrich Riley (UCLA), Brennan Clay (Oklahoma) and Dillon Baxter (the U.S. Army Player of the Year), but who wouldn't win but one game in the playoffs.
Another California team that year included former all-Big 12 receiver Kenny Stills (Oklahoma), five-star Chris Martin (now at Kansas) and former Stanford
passer Brett Nottingham. Nottingham and Stills provided one of the more
explosive pass-catch combos and Stills is still one of the top receivers to ever
participate in the Vegas 7on7.
The matchup between B2G and that California squad turned into a circus, each team doing backflips and cartwheels, yes, cartwheels, after each big play. Martin, one of the bigger athletes there, simply did the electric snake, instead of backflips. One of the more memorable moments in the tournament, 10-12 D-I prospects turning a 7on7 tournament into a gymnastics match.
The 2010 tournament provided a chance for DeAnthony Thomas and Marcus Mariota to shine on a big stage, despite neither guy having a lot of talent around them (or mostly, it being young talent). Thomas had a then-freshman quarterback, Hayden Rettig, getting him the ball, the future U.S. Army All-American and LSU signee showing some nice flashes. Mariota, one of the premier dual-threat quarterbacks in the
country, showed off his arm, primarily targeting future Semper Fi All-American
and Texas A&M signee Jeremy Tabuyo, also a freshman.
Another freshman in that event was Washington signee Troy Williams, the top
quarterback in California in the 2013 class, who split the quarterback duties
with current USC signal-caller Max Wittek. Leading 1925, they also boasted
USC players like Victor Blackwell and Greg Townsend and UCLA players like
Ishmael Adams and Jordan Payton as well as Cal cornerback Kameron Jackson.
But B2G would win the title that year behind the arm of MVP Michael Bercovici,
now at Arizona State, and with players like receiver Gabe Marks (Washington
State), Nelson Spruce (Colorado), Richard Mullaney (Oregon State) and Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (USC) helping on offense and defenders like Matthew Lyons
The Utah team they would edge in the finals included Langi, one of the best
multi-year performers in the event history, as well as BYU linebackers Manoa Pikula and Rhett Sandlin.
The 2011 tournament would see B2G beat 1925 in one of the best finals ever, an
overtime victory by B2G, still the only two-time winner of the event.
While Bercovici was gone, Marks and Cope-Fitzpatrick were back and this time,
running back Robert Lewis (Washington State) quarterback Marc Evans would lead
them to a tournament title over a 1925 squad that featured Payton and Adams and
newcomers like Bryce Treggs and Chris Harper (Cal), Randall Goforth (UCLA) Chaz Anderson (Boise State) and Jeremiah Allison (Washington State).
Washington nearly beat 1925 in the quarterfinals behind a squad that had Jeff Lindquist (Washington), Tyler Hasty and Caleb Smith (Oregon State), Trent Sewell
(Wyoming) and Cedric Dozier (Cal).
In 2012, Utah would win the elusive title, thanks to a big weekend from Jake Lloyd at quarterback, and targets like Dalton Schultz (the #2 tight end in
2014), Harrison Handley (Utah) and linebacker Uaea Masina (Utah).
1925 was again loaded with Williams, Tyler Foreman (UCLA), Brandon Arnold
(Oregon State), Francis Owusu (Stanford), John Ross (Washington) and Steven Mitchell (USC), while DB Guru out of Fresno featured Oklahoma signees Hatari Byrd and L.J. Moore as well as the top-ranked receiver in 2014, Michiah Quick.
But B2G, which had it's top team knocked out in the quarterfinals, had arguably
the most talented roster in the event's history, especially on defense,
featuring four defensive backs that were All-Americans, UnderArmour All-American
Priest Willis (UCLA), U.S. Army All-American's Chris Hawkins (USC) and Tahaan Goodman (UCLA) and Semper Fi All-American Daquawn Brown (Washington State), plus
one of the elite 2015 prospects in the country, Iman Marshall.