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USC, Michigan commits shine at The Opening on day two

By Bryan Fischer | Blogger

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Day two of The Opening turned up the action several notches as six 7-on-7 teams battled for the top seed in the Nike 7ON tournament in the middle of Nike's world headquarters. The lineman also kicked off drills in the morning but the long day was almost all about the skill position talent that descended upon the Pacific Northwest.

"First game we did real well even though we lost. I felt like, offensively, we were pretty solid and just had to capitalize way more in the end zone," Sammamish (Wash.) quarterback Max Browne said. "All-in-all pretty solid and I like our team. We've got good coaches and are poised to run up this thing and it's definitely been a fun experience."

Browne captained the 'Field Generals' to a No. 2 seed in the tournament, rolling in later games with a prolific offense that utilized Norcross (Ga.) running back Alvin Kamara and Florida State commit Ryan Green underneath before taking their shots deep with good success. The USC-bound quarterback was one of eight players representing the Trojans at The Opening, the largest contingent roaming the grounds and a group full of players that seemed to make a play every few minutes.

"It means a lot, it's an honor," Mesquite (Texas) wide receiver Eldridge Massington said of having so many commits. "We're representing the cardinal and gold and not everybody gets to."

"It's great. That's a big reason why I committed early, was to lead the class and be a part of something great," Browne added. "Guys are wanting to do the same. It's real special. There's eight guys here and a handful of others that are really high on SC too so hopefully we can pick those guys up and keep this thing rolling."

The 6-foot-5, 210-pound Browne is ranked No. 2 overall in the class of 2013 and is the highest rated player at The Opening in addition to being the most visible of the USC pledges. He has already been getting a jump start on developing a rapport with his future wide receivers, having worked out with three of them two weeks ago in Atlanta and again during 7-on-7 play this week as two of them are on his team.

"When they had the draft, the first thing I did was look up at the board and I saw Steven Mitchell and looked around and saw Sebastian LaRue and a few other potential USC guys. It's awesome. When you only have four receivers and two of them are your own guys, it's definitely awesome.

"I came into this already knowing Sebastian and Steven real well and this is just another step in our relationship. It's been real fun to get to throw to them and hanging with them off the field has been great."

While LaRue showed some flashes and terrific burst on Saturday, it was Mitchell who really was on the same page as Browne. During the 'Field Generals' second game the pair hooked up for three long touchdowns, including a nifty catch and run by Mitchell who turned on the jets to reach the end zone.

"He's an awesome quarterback," Mitchell said of Browne. "He puts the ball on the money and that's the type of quarterback I like to have on my team."

As luck would have it, Mitchell is also best friends with LaRue as well. While Massington was one of the top receivers on Friday during the training camp portion, he had a nice outing for team 'Alpha Talon' by stretching the field and keeps in regular contact with his fellow commits on and off the field of play.

"We talk on a regular basis," Massington said. "I text Max all the time. With Stephen and Sebastian, we either talk on Twitter or Facebook. Kenny (Bigelow) and Chris (Hawkins) I talk to them, I probably talk to Chris the most."

Hawkins is gutting through The Opening with a broken thumb suffered at USC's Rising Stars but is one of the top corners at The Opening with savvy press coverage and an ability to turn and run with guys much bigger than him. He earned his invite to this event at the Los Angeles Nike Camp in early Spring on what happened to be the same day he committed to the Trojans and has seen the group grow into a top five recruiting class.

"It means a lot to the program and I'm sure the coaches feel the same way," Hawkins said of having so many guys at The Opening. "We have a lot of recruits in the top 100 and I think all of our recruits are in the top 300. I feel we should have the top rated class by the time we finish with 18 and I feel the 18 we get are going to be in before the time the season starts. The momentum we have going into the season is great."

"It's a real good brotherhood right there," said Mitchell. "We're all good friends and once we get to USC, we're going to be close like we are now. It's a great thing and we're all trying to stay close and everybody's coming along."

Although he was a late arrival due to flight issues, Joliet (Ill.) running back Ty Isaac is enjoying the rare time he gets to spend with his fellow commits in between games and at functions this week.

"It's awesome because I don't get to see many of them being in the Midwest," the country's top running back for 2013 said. "We took visits on different days and stuff so it's cool that I have a couple of days to get out here and get to know everybody and see who's who."

Issac is No. 9 on the 'Alpha Speed' team and was found lining up next to fellow pledge and Stockton (Calif.) running back Justin Davis, who wore No. 10. Although it was in part by design with the team's coach picking players, it was very fitting that the one-two punch that will be running around the Coliseum in a few years was doing the same a year early.

"I think it's good. Looking at the teams, I think it's good that I had somebody from SC. Obviously now we're going to see how we're going to work together being so closely related in terms of position," Isaac said. "We both are obviously really skilled players but our skill sets vary just a little bit. I think they have plans for both of us. I know what they showed me and I'm not quite sure what they showed him but once we get in there we'll find out."

"We complement each other very well," Davis added. "I'm more of a downhill runner and he's more of a stretch the field big guy."

Expected to take a class of 18 or fewer due to NCAA scholarship limitations, USC is not done with recruiting as a program and the commitments at The Opening are using the all-star festivities to whisper in the ears of 150 of the top recruits in the country that they should sign up to be part of the class. Already several top prospects have mentioned that USC and Los Angeles will earn an unofficial or official visit in the coming months and it appears the Trojans might be in line for a commitment or two as well.

"Who's next? I'm recruiting Eddie Vanderdoes pretty hard," Browne said. "But for me personally, I'd like to have Nico Falah. He's a big guy, a big tackle that can protect myself. We'll see I guess."

Falah is selecting between USC and UCLA next week and has already heard from the cardinal and gold group. Massington identified cornerback Jalen Ramsey as a guy he is recruiting and others are already used to the familiar shouts of 'Fight on' that are heard around The Opening.

Morris, Team 134 rolling at The Opening

As big as the USC group of commitments is, it's trailed closely by the group headed to Michigan next year. The ringleader and first commitment in the class of 2013 for the Wolverines was Warren (Mich.) quarterback Shane Morris, who was the top passer during pool play and one of the guys with a continuos smile on as he walked around.

"It's just awesome being out here at Nike headquarters," Morris said. "I knew a little from players I knew last year that came and what they told me. Everything, I couldn't picture it really. They said how amazing it was but it's huge. The players' lounge and everything, it lives up to expectations."

Leading the 'Land Sharks' to the top seed in the 7ON tournament, Morris peppered the middle of the field and utilized his dynamic check down option in Virginia Beach (Va.) running back Taquan Mizzell. Outpacing the five other players at his position is something the five-star quarterback is looking to keep doing over the next few weeks, competing with each of them at the Elite 11 in Southern California later this month.

"Definitely, everything we do out there is competition with the quarterbacks," he said. "We all want to be number one, we all want to be the best. This week, next week at the Elite 11, it's all going to prove who is the best. We're all competing for that."

A prolific Twitterer with over 10,000 followers, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Morris is one of the chief guys responsible for the group of Michigan commits being so close. Nicknamed 'Team 134' in reference to the football team number they will soon occupy in Wolverine history, the second-best class in the country is also the most close knit.

"We're kind of like a cult, all 22 of us," Morris said. "We talk all the time, iMessage, group chat, all that stuff on Twitter. It's just awesome. We have a relationship and we're going to be a family up there so we're starting early."

"Shane," Detroit (Mich.) offensive lineman David Dawson said, without hesitation, when asked who the leader of the group is. "He's the quarterback. He knows how to talk and make things sound real good."

Reloading for the second straight year under Brady Hoke, Michigan is currently up to six top 100 commits and there could be a few on the way. One of the big rumors at The Opening was that Crete (Ill.) wide receiver Laquon Treadwell would be pulling the trigger and joining the class sometime this week but while he put that noise to bed when talking to CBSSports.com, there was no question he was hearing about how great Team 134 was from a certain quarterback.

"I talk with him a lot," Morris said. "He's my guy, he said he wants to be at Michigan but who knows what he wants to do."

The Wolverines are neck-and-neck with Alabama for the top class in the country in 2013 and because the program is coming off a Sugar Bowl win and riding plenty of momentum, Morris is one of several that believes the number of players sporting the maize and blue at events like The Opening is for a reason.

"It's huge, we're proving that Michigan is again recruiting the best players in the nation," he said. "With us having the second most out here next to USC, it's huge for us and huge for Michigan as a whole. We're just coming out here and showing that we can ball and have a good time."

Of course, Alabama isn't the rival who Morris and the rest of the class is hoping to best in everything from the rankings to the final game of the regular season.

"It's definitely us and Ohio (State). It's always us and Ohio with everything we do," said Morris, referring to the Buckeyes' shortened nickname Wolverines use. "We're always on Twitter with each other and out here clowning on each other. Every little chance we get to make fun of them, or they get to make fun of Michigan, everything we do is fun.

"It's a great rivalry. I love everyone of those kids out here. All Ohio commits are great kids and great players and I can't wait to be able to play against them for the next four years."

First though, Morris and his fellow Michigan commits are ok with beating them in a little 7-on-7 at The Opening.

News and Notes

- The big news that surfaced Saturday morning was that Alpharetta (Ga.) defensive end Carl Lawson was sent home by organizers. Although there was plenty of speculation, no reason was given as to why the Auburn commit headed back to Georgia.

- Running back Ty Isaac said later in the day that he would not take an official to any other schools except USC in the fall.

- Durham (N.C.) tight end Josh McNeil was scheduled to commit during The Opening at some point but pulled out of doing so this week.

"I just felt like I was rushing my commitment and felt I wasn't making the right decision," he said. "Two days ago, I kind of thought I knew where I was going. Being a Christian man, I actually prayed on it and God gave me a signal to pull back on it. You're not supposed to rush into things, the bible says don't be anxious so I wasn't trying to be anxious."

"I just want to take a couple more visits to make sure I can make the right decision because I'm going to have to live with it the rest of my life."

McNeil mentioned visiting Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Washington State and Miami and then committing in the first week of August or so. He added he'll likely to take all five officials too.

"I just want to make sure I'm making the right decision. I just want to go somewhere and be comfortable."

- One of the players that did commit was Corona (Calif.) offensive lineman Cameron Hunt, who pledged on national television to Cal.

"I chose them because of good academics, I felt good with the coaching staff, I could fit in there and could see myself going there," Hunt said. "I can be successful there next year and not even the next four but the next 10 or 15."

Dallas (Texas) wide receiver Ra'shaad Samples also committed on Saturday, to Oklahoma State.

- LSU commit Jeryl Brazil ran one of the fastest 40 times (4.32) on Friday but was more excited about the growing Tigers' recruiting class.

"The latest is DeSean Smith and he's a good dude," Brazil said. "He went to 7-on-7 with us and as soon as we left, we got back to LSU and just chilled and stuff. I guess he really liked it because he ended up committing.

"I hope the next (guy to commit) is Ricky Jefferson, he's a really good friend of mine and I really want to be on the same squad as me. I'm really hoping that we can get him."

- Jacksonville (Fla.) defensive end Damarcus Walker has been one of the more impressive defensive linemen at The Opening, taking reps at both tackle and end and generally getting what he wants. It's been a busy few weeks for him after deciding not to commit in June and visit a few schools unofficially.

"Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, I went to Florida and that's about it," he said. "Those teams that I just named, including USC, those schools are recruiting me very hard. I just want to weigh my options."

The Crimson Tide seem to be the favorite with Walker despite his assurances that everybody is even at this point.

"Coach Saban," Walker said of the coach he has the closest connection to. "Every time we talk. People are amazed to see coach Saban smile, the only time he really does it is around me. We just crack jokes with each other. He claims he can beat me in basketball one-on-one. I'm Kevin Durant and he's Russell Westbrook. I love that guy, we talk and just have fun."

- Seffner (Fla.) wide receiver Alvin Bailey said his dream was to always come to Nike headquarters to rub sneakers with his two idols. They aren't football players, however.

“Michael Jordan and LeBron James,” Bailey said. “To be where those guys have been is a dream and great opportunity.”

He has received more than 30 offers and added he'll announce his finalists next week. Though he's enjoying his trip to the West Coast, he said he'll likely pick a college in the South.

“I'm a Southern boy,” he said. “I can't get away from that.”

- Temperatures approached 90 in Portland on Saturday and while that's a heat wave in the great Northwest, it wasn't for guys like 6-foot-4, 190-pound Ahmad Fulwood – the top wide receiver in the country.

“I'm sitting here right under the sun and not even sweating,” he said. “Yesterday I had to put on sweats and a jacket. I haven't done that back in Jacksonville since November.”

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