The biggest recruiting event of the year kicks off July 5th in Beaverton, Ore. as elite recruits from across the nation descend upon Nike's headquarters to take part in the second edition of The Opening. 46 of the MaxPreps Top 100 recruits will be in attendance on top of numerous other top players who earned a spot at the prestigious competition thanks to their performance at various camps over the past few months. From drills to coaches to competition, there's nothing quite like it and 150 future college stars are excited to take part in the four day event.
There are three major components to The Opening: The Nike 7ON, the Elite Lineman Challenge and the SPARQ National Championship. Unlike some camps, the Lineman Challenge features players in full pads so the one-on-one segments are a must-watch that gives recruits an idea of what it will be like once they step on campus for practice. The 7-on-7 portion is a great way to see skill players show off their speed and agility against top competition and how teams put together on Thursday wind up gelling by Sunday. Every camper will take part in SPARQ testing, recording updated 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, vertical jump and power ball toss numbers to see who is the best overall athlete in the country.
Position Overview: QUARTERBACKS
Six quarterbacks will head to the Northwest this year, led by the nation's No. 2 overall player, Sammamish (Wash.) signal-caller Max Browne, right. The USC commit has been on everybody's radar after taking over at Skyline High and setting numerous passing records. He earned his spot thanks to an MVP performance at the Bay Area Elite 11 and will be able to throw to several of his future Trojan teammates during the 7-on-7 portion.
Right behind Browne is Whitewright (Texas) quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, ranked No. 4 overall in the class. A dual-threat that reminds a lot of people of Vince Young, the Texas -bound Swoopes is looking to show off his arm and prove that he's a top passer and not just an elite athlete. Michigan commit Shane Morris is a veteran of the camp circuit and a well known recruit since he committed to Michigan as a sophomore. He emerged out of a tough field in Columbus and The Opening is the first of three national competitions he'll take part in this summer with Gridiron Kings and the Elite 11 being the other two.
Alabama commit and Salt Lake City (Utah) quarterback Cooper Bateman is also headed to the Elite 11 later this month but will head to The Opening looking to show off his touch and accuracy. Also joining the group is Fork Union (Va.) quarterback Christian Hackenberg, a big pro-style passer heading to Penn State, and Georgia pledge Brice Ramsey, who runs a Wing-T offense in high school but has shown he can play in just about every kind of system.
The Opening is a great place for running backs to show off all their skills as they'll be tested during pass blocking drills in addition to running and catching the ball. The top running back in the country will be in attendance as Joliet (Ill.) tailback Ty Isaac will be one of eight USC commits on the fields at Nike HQ along with fellow Trojan Justin Davis, another bigger back that had a terrific performance at the Bay Area Nike Camp.
Speedsters like Virginia Beach (Va.) running back Taquan "Smoke" Mizzell and Norcross (Ga.) back Alvin Kamara, left, should be well suited to the 7-on-7 portion of The Opening and both will likely be recruited by fellow campers as two of the uncommitted players in Beaverton. St. Louis (Mo.) running back Ezekiel Elliott is a midwest prospect looking to shine and is headed to Ohio State next fall.
This group is loaded with several top players from the South that will leave a mark if you try and stop them from reaching the end zone. Belle Glade (Fla.) back Kelvin Taylor and St. Petersburg (Fla.) standout Ryan Green probably won't spend a ton of time together as the pair is committed to Florida and Florida State respectively. Richmond (Va.) running back Derrick Green recently cut his list of schools down while Philadelphia (Pa.) back David Williams might make his commitment shortly but is ready to compete at The Opening first.
Ole Miss commit Mark Dodson Jr. and Alabama commit Altee Tenpenny add more SEC flavor to the group, with Tenpenny returning to the event for the second straight year. Oregon pulled another player out of Texas in running back Dontre Wilson, who will no doubt be looking to impress on what will be his future home turf.
The six quarterbacks will have plenty of targets to throw too as some elite pass catchers will hit the field over the coming days, including Jacksonville (Fla.) wide receiver Ahmad Fulwood who is ranked No. 9 overall and is tops at his position. Joining the Florida commit is fellow SEC pledge and Georgia-bound wideout Reggie Davis. Make no mistake about it though, this is a Pac-12 heavy group with three players going to USC (Eldridge Massington, Steven Mitchell, Sebastian LaRue), two going to Washington (Darrell Daniels, Damorea Stringfellow) and one headed to Oregon (Darren Carrington).
Others looking to burn a few highly regarded defensive backs are Texas commits Jake Oliver and Jocorey Warrick, Florida State pledge Tony Stevens, North Carolina-bound slot receiver Ryan Switzer and recent Miami pledge Travis Johnson. Uncommitted receivers at the event include Snellville (Ga.) wideout Kyrin Priester, Crete (Ill.) receiver Laquon Treadwell, Dallas (Texas) receiver Ra'Shaad Samples, Milton (Fla.) recruit Isaiah Jones and Upper Marlboro (Md.) wide receiver Paul Harris. Torrii Hunter Jr. may have a famous father that plays baseball but he'll be at The Opening proving his football offer list is no fluke while Notre Dame commit Corey Robinson is looking to do the same and prove his father David Robinson proud.
Lining up next to the wideouts are a group of very, very athletic tight ends led by Prattville (Ala.) five-star O.J. Howard, who will bring his 6-foot-6, 230-pound frame to Alabama next year. Michigan commit Jake Butt and Ohio State pledge Marcus Baugh should have some fun battles as they wear opposing colors while Auburn commmit and Lovejoy (Ga.) tight end Arshad Jackson can go head-to-head with Howard. Uncommitted Durham (N.C.) tight end Josh McNeil was scheduled to commit at the event but has elected not to pull the trigger quite yet.
There are several players listed as athletes that will likely wind up playing on offense and catching passes includes Orlando (Fla.) slot receiver Levonte Whitfield, Jackson (La.) athlete Kendell Beckwith, Middletown (Ohio) quarterback Jalin Marshall, Notre Dame commit James Onwualu and perhaps the fastest player at The Opening, Texas A&M commit LaQuvionte Gonzalez.
In terms of evaluation, there is no better spot to see how players along the offensive line might do at the next level than the one-on-ones at The Opening. This group isn't quite as strong as it was last year but has a host of talented tackles and interior linemen that should have their hands full.
Notre Dame commits Colin McGovern and Steve Elmer should be able to hold their own while East Point (Ga.) tackle Shamire Devine had one of the best camp performances at his position in Atlanta and brings a terrific set of feet and hand placement to the table. Texas commit Jake Raulerson might be the most athletic of the group and that will come in handy against defensive ends that are just as quick as they are strong.
On the inside, Michigan pledge David Dawson was impressive at the Columbus Nike Camp while Madison (Fla.) offensive guard Ira Denson had the most dominating performance at any camp by a lineman in Orlando. It should be a great test for all of the players involved.
This is always the deepest group at events nowadays and that's certainly the case at The Opening. Leading the defensive ends as Auburn pledge Carl Lawson, who looked unstoppable at the Charlotte Nike Camp and has an explosive first step that gets him to the quarterback faster than some tackles can even react. Fellow Tigers commit Tashawn Bower also made the trip out West but is a bit bigger than Lawson even if he's not as fast.
Also on the docket are speed rushers Taco Charlton out of Pickerington (Ohio), Tarboro (N.C.) end Tyquan Lewis and Houston (Texas) defensive end Torrodney Prevot. All three are terrors off the edge but a good, strong punch from the offensive lineman might be enough to derail them just enough to prevent a sack. Louisville (Ky.) end Jason Hatcher has seen his recruitment take off as of late and is one of the big reasons why Trinity High is ranked so high in the Maxpreps team rankings for the upcoming season.
Orlando (Fla.) defensive end Devin Washington beat the nation's top offensive tackle several times at the Orlando Nike Camp to earn MVP honors and though the South Carolina commit won't be going against Laremy Tunsil at The Opening, he'll be looking to repeat the performance. Avon (Ind.) end Elijah Daniel is committed to Clemson which means there's a good chance he bookends the top overall recruit in 2013 so the one-on-ones will be a good test to prove he can do just that. Other ends committed somewhere include Chikwe Obasih (Wisconsin) and Frank Herron (LSU). Those that might be getting a pitch to join their recruiting class are Upland (Calif.) athlete Joe Mathis, Brooklyn (N.Y.) end Ebenezer Ogundeko, Jacksonville (Fla.) stud Demarcus Walker and Tampa (Fla.) defensive lineman Jordan Sherit.
On the interior, Auburn (Calif.) defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes is the only uncommitted player at the position and might be the most intriguing with his size and power. Joining him are Texas commit A'Shawn Robinson, Florida soft verbal Caleb Brantley, Wisconsin pledge Darius Latham and Nebraska commit Christian LaCouture. Jack of all trades Elijah Qualls may be committed to Washington but could leave a good impression at tackle during the week as well.
Perhaps there's no group that will be tested more than the inside linebackers at The Opening. Because there's a heavy emphasis on pass coverage skills, the guys that play downhill will have to adjust to covering running backs and tight ends instead of hitting them. Auburn (Ala.) linebacker Reuben Foster, right, was named MVP of the Atlanta Nike Camp and is one of the headliners of the entire camp with his No. 3 overall ranking in the class of 2013. He'll be joined by recent Stanford decommit Isaac Savaiinaea and Lawrenceville (Ga.) linebacker and Auburn commit Trey Johnson.
At the outside linebacker spot, South Carolina commit Larenz Bryant is a top 100 guy looking to duplicate his performance at the Charlotte Nike Camp by locking down opponents. He could team with fellow Gamecocks pledge Matt Rolin among others during the 7-on-7 competition.
If you're looking for one guy out of the group that the event might be uniquely suited to however, Fort Wayne (Ind.) linebacker Jaylon Smith, a Notre Dame commit, might be the guy. He has great size at 6-foot-3, 220-pounds but also has the instincts and speed to make him an impact defender at the next level. Others to keep an eye out for are UCLA commit Deon Hollins Jr., future Virginia Tech linebacker Holland Fisher, Florida pledge Quinton Powell, USC commit Michael Hutchings, Stanford-bound 'backers Doug Randolph and Pete Kalambayi, Clemson commit Dorian O'Daniel and Michigan commit Mike McCray.
A pair of uncommitted South Floridians will go up against some top notch competition and should more than hold their own in Miami (Fla.) linebacker Matthew Thomas and Miramar (Fla.) linebacker Jermaine Grace. Thomas has some incredible junior year game film and impressed at the Miami Nike Camp stop earlier in the year. Other uncommitted players include local Wilsonville (Ore.) linebacker Johnny Ragin and Plano (Texas) defender Mike Mitchell. Wyomissing (Pa.) linebacker Alex Anzalone will make his commitment at The Opening later in the week as well.
As talented as the receivers are this year, it will be tough for them to get open against a loaded group of defensive backs. One of the top players of the group is Seffner (Fla.) safety Leon McQuay III, who recently narrowed down his list and has the size and speed to roam the secondary against anybody. Playing a bit further to the North is Newnan (Ga.) safety Tray Matthews, who is good friends with Reuben Foster and could be backing him up in college in addition to doing so at The Opening. Tennessee commit Kameron Miles, Ohio State pledge Jayme Thompson and Orlando (Fla.) defensive back Marcell Harris are three bigger safeties at the event as well.
A trio of uncommitted Californians -- Tyler Foreman, Hatari Byrd and Tahaan Goodman -- are also playing safety and looking to leave an impression. Florida commits Keanu Neal and Nick Washington will also be in attendance along with North Carolina-bound safety Korrin Wiggins and Iowa pledge Delano Hill.
The corner group is very good and full of scrappy defenders who will lock down their man and give quarterbacks issues all day long. The headliner of the group is undoubtedly Tampa (Fla.) corner Vernon Hargreaves III, a five-star with the complete package of cover skills, speed and size. Olney (Md.) corner Kendall Fuller is another top player who is right there with Hargreaves and should give any wideout a run for their money.
Ohio State commits Eli Woodard and Cam Burrows - who also might play a little safety - are two to keep an eye on. Recent Texas A&M pledge Noel Ellis, Brentwood (Tenn.) defensive back Jalen Ramsey and Miami (Fla.) corner Artie Burns are among those that can turn and run with just about anybody as well. There are several guys that may look on the smaller side without pads but play smart and nasty, including Michigan-bound Jourdan Lewis, Georgia commit Shaq Wiggins, USC pledge Chris Hawkins, Florida State verbal Sojourn Shelton, Belle Glade (Fla.) corner Will Likely and Penn State commit Ross Douglas.
Bigger corners who can make an impact include Fresno (Calif.) defensive back L.J. Moore, Oakland (Calif.) corner Kevin King, Notre Dame commit Devin Butler, Marietta (Ga.) athlete Brendan Langley and Tempe (Ariz.) corner Priest Willis. Among those we're interested in seeing perform against top flight competition are future Florida Gator Tre' Bell and Alabama commitment Maurice Smith.
|More on The Opening|
Thursday, July 5
All day -- Athletes arrive at Nike headquarters.
Friday, July 6
9 AM - 11 AM (all times PT)
2 PM - 3:30 PM
Nike training camp
5 PM - 6:30 PM
SPARQ National championship (on ESPN)
Saturday, July 7
10 AM - Noon
Noon - 6:30 PM
7ON Pool play (on ESPN at 5 PT)
Sunday, July 8
10 AM - Noon
4 PM - 5 PM
5 PM - 6 PM
6 PM - 7 PM
Players to Watch
Brantley struggled at the Orlando Nike camp and The Opening not only offers a chance for redemption but stiffer competition. He looks like an SEC-caliber tackle on film but sometimes uses the wrong move or loses leverage against some offensive linemen. He's a guy that should be looking to prove himself and it wouldn't surprise anybody if he exceeds expectations and has a good week.
One of Notre Dame's early commitments, Elmer doesn't see anybody in high school like some of the defensive linemen he'll see at The Opening. He's got a lot of the attributes you look for but how he handles speed rushing ends and others that will put two moves on you will be interesting to watch.
Green is one of the guys in the mix to be the top guy in the state of Florida in what is proving to be a very deep year at the position in the state. He's got the all-around game to be the best but can he distance himself from a guy like Kelvin Taylor, who wants to do well just as much as Green does is the question. It's too bad Delray Beach (Fla.) and Oklahoma commit Greg Bryant had to withdraw (family issues) because having all three going through the gauntlet would have been really fun to watch.
One of only three 2014 players in attendance, Hand could be the top prospect in his class and be close to a consensus guy like Robert Nkemdiche is this year. He's got athleticism and size to cause trouble for every offensive lineman so it will be interesting to see if he goes out and dominates against older competition. He looks like he could be a rising senior but still has much to learn this week.
Prevot is one of the top uncommitted guys in the state of Texas and had a great performance at the Dallas Nike Camp very early in the year. He's very intriguing with his frame and ability to get into the backfield. He faces some pretty solid competition in high school but will he be able to perform at the same level against elite guys is something folks will excitedly find out about at The Opening.
Despite the Elite 11 Finals invite, Swoopes is still raw as a passer. His potential -- there's a reason he's compared to Vince Young every time -- has him as a top five prospect for this class but he's made strides throwing the football around and it will be interesting to see how he's tested against some secondaries that will be as good if not better than what he'll see in the Big 12. Can he hang with elite QB's without using his legs is the unanswered question and he has a chance to put a lot of those doubts to rest this week.
Of all the corners at The Opening, Willis might be the first one to past the 'eye test' at the position. Big and physical, he still has much to learn in terms of coverage skills so this could be a big weekend for him. He's improved over the summer with all of the 7-on-7's and camps he's been to but the elite wideouts he'll see present an even bigger test.
Commitments at The Opening
Hunt burst onto the scene with a huge performance at the Bay Area Nike Camp and has been sorting out his recruitment ever since. He will pick between Arizona State, California and Washington at The Opening but it's probably down to the Sun Devils and Huskies at this point. He was in Seattle when UW grabbed a ton of commitments so that could be a factor but he'll likely follow the Centennial pipeline to Tempe.
Better known for his issues at the Ohio State spring game earlier this year, Anzalone has is one of several notable players to make his commitment at The Opening. He recently visited Penn State among others and the Nittany Lions are definitely one of his finalists as he makes his decision. His father went to Florida and he could wind up there but most consider him a Notre Dame lean.
A savvy receiver, Jenkins is down to two and will pull the trigger at The Opening and commit to either Clemson or Oklahoma State. It would be pretty surprising if he picks the Cowboys over the Tigers but you never know which pass-happy offense he's more comfortable in.
There's only a few spots left but Samples is expected to become the latest commitment to Texas A&M for 2013. Texas Tech and several others are in the running but considered long shots.