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The Opening wraps up with Fuller, Hunter Jr. making plays

By Bryan Fischer | Blogger

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- The 2012 edition of The Opening wrapped up on Sunday at Nike's world headquarters with a mix of big plays, upsets and plenty of talented recruits on hand. Most of the day was dedicated to the 7ON tournament with play running from early morning to dusk and in the end it was the 'Super Bad' team that rode a dominating defense and mixed in some big plays deep to pull the upset of the undefeated 'Field Generals' to capture the trophy.

"It feels good," Olney (Md.) cornerback Kendall Fuller said. "We had an overall good weekend. The first semifinals game we kind of struggled but came back to the championship."

The four-star was part of a defense that featured Miami (Fla.) linebacker Matthew Thomas, Jersey City (N.J.) corner Tre' Bell and Fresno (Calif.) safety Hatari Byrd among others. However it was Fuller, who picked off USC-bound quarterback Max Browne by baiting him into an ill-advised throw, that was undoubtedly the biggest part of the Super Bad strategy by taking away an entire half of the field all day long.

"Early on I don't think I was getting a lot of action," Fuller said. "I was kind of getting mad because I wasn't getting as many interceptions as I wanted. I just had to stay patient and let it come to me."

The four-day event featured nearly 150 of the top players in the country and like many of them, Fuller was simply awestruck by what he experienced and saw over the past few nights thanks to Nike.

"I don't even thing words can explain it," he said. "Just being out here with all these guys… nice facilities ... it's a blessing."

For the second successive year The Opening players' lounge featured a barbershop for recruits to get any number of things cut into their hair. Fuller was one of several to take advantage of the perk, shaving Virginia Tech and Clemson's -- his two finalists -- logos into the left and right side of his head.

"I'm going to Virginia Tech next weekend and Clemson the weekend after that," he said. "I'm just going to see how I feel."

It is certainly possible a commitment could be forthcoming from the No. 42 player in the country after the two unofficial visits. While the tea leaves have been hard to read regarding which school he is leaning toward (he also says Michigan is a third team in the running), it should be noted that Fuller has two brothers currently on the Hokies' football team even if he says it's not a huge factor.

"A little bit but not a lot," the 2013 cornerback said. "When I get to [school], I'm going to have to go through all the hard work and play the games. To me it doesn't really matter."

Clemson recently picked up the No. 1 recruit in the country last month in Robert Nkemdiche and several Clemson commits at The Opening were joking/prodding for Fuller to be the latest top-100 commit for the Tigers. When he heard the news that the program landed the top recruit in his class, Fuller's ears definitely perked up.

"It's a really big draw," Fuller said. "It shows how special of a school Clemson is. They have such a good coaching staff and they're definitely coming up."

Fuller was also named to the Nike All-Tournament team following the conclusion of the 7ON portion of The Opening as well.

HUNTER MAKES AN MVP STATEMENT

The conversation in the stands was repeated over and over on Sunday, 'Who's that?' Upon digging through their programs it was almost on cue that spectators' said, 'Ohhh,' when seeing Prosper (Texas) wide receiver Torii Hunter Junior's name. The reason they had to look him was because he didn't have the most recognizable face but he did end up making the biggest plays -- long touchdown after long touchdown for the winning squad -- during the 7ON tournament to be named overall MVP.

"It's a lot of fun playing against these guys," Hunter said. "It was definitely a big thing to get invited, I wasn't expecting it. For the longest, it was getting near the camp and I hadn't gotten invited. I went to the Dallas [Nike Camp] and did pretty good but didn't get an invitation. So I kind of waited it out and got a call two or three weeks ago.

"I'm thankful I got invited and am blessed to be here."

No stranger to the bright lights and media attention thanks to his father, the Los Angeles Angeles outfielder of the same name, Hunter Jr. was unsure of what The Opening would actually be like. Upon arriving in Oregon for a quick tour and getting to see what he'd be wearing over the weekend, it quickly became clear to the 6-foot, 175-pound wideout.

"The gear is probably the biggest surprise," he said. "It's crazy. Everything matches your team color, they gave you SPARQ training gear, everything. It's been great."

One of the top players in North Texas, the savvy route runner let his game do the talking in stringing together three consecutive days of impressive play. Although older folks in the stands recognized his names, Hunter Jr. was somewhat anonymous among his fellow recruits except when he let his play do the talking.

"Not really, a lot of people don't even recognize the name or expect Torii Hunter Jr. to be here," he said. "People didn't notice. I actually stayed with Corey Robinson, and his dad is [NBA Hall of Famer] David Robinson. So that was pretty good."

Hunter Jr. holds offers from schools such as Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Texas Tech among others and had nearly 750 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns last season as a junior. Recruited by some of the top programs in the country has meant an additional distraction from everyday life but the calm and collected receiver deals with the process by just taking it as it comes along.

"I got my 18th offer not too long ago so I'm sitting pretty good right now," he said. "I'm just going through the recruiting process and take some more visits. Hopefully I can narrow it down soon and get this thing done with."

The issue with visits is the busy summer baseball schedule that has Hunter Jr. scurrying all around. With only a limited window, he may run his unofficial visits together in a condensed period in order to see the schools he needs to before possibly picking one in the coming months. A solid baseball prospect in his own right (in addition to the good genes), he wants to play both sports in college and is undecided which one he would pick if forced to choose.

Also complicating Hunter Jr.'s recruiting is his two brothers, Money and Darius Hunter. Both hold several offers and the trio even has a few in common if they wanted to go to the same school. Darius was recently arrested for an alleged sexual assault and that has thrown the family for a loop and has his brother wishing for the best.

"I just hope he stays level-headed and gets his mind right," Hunter Jr. said. "I know it wasn't true [what he was accused of] and everything but I just want this to be an eye-opener. Hopefully he gets his priorities straight and focus on the task at hand and try and make it."

Hunter's father recently took a leave of absence from the Angels to deal with the situation but has since returned. While Hunter Jr. was catching touchdown passes on the fields of the Nike Campus, his dad went 1 for 3 and scored a run in a 6-0 victory against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Though the two don't see each other as often as they like, each tries to make time to share the secrets of the game in both football and basketball.

"I can't really watch him a lot because I'm doing my own stuff," Junior said. "If I'm doing something wrong [in baseball] he'll give me just a quick tip and the next game I'll go 3 for 4 or something crazy. He just gives me tips and he's pretty good with that because he knows everything, well not everything, that I need to know. So I can tweak my game and make it better."

News and Notes

- The full 2012 The Opening 7ON All-Tournament team was wide receiver Ryan Switzer, linebacker Matthew Thomas, defensive back Cameron Burrows, corner Jourdan Lewis, running back Ryan Green, quarterback Max Browne, tight end Michigan Butt, linebacker Larenz Bryant and tight end O.J. Howard.

- The offensive line MVP was Denver Kirkland while 1-on-1 MVP for the big boys was Florida State commit Ira Denson. Defensive line MVP was Eddie Vanderdoes while Texas commit A'Shawn Robinson took home the one-on-one MVP for the d-line.

- Brentwood (Tenn.) defensive back Jalen Ramsey was one of the top corners at The Opening and tested extremely well during the SPARQ portion. He said he would announce his commitment on July 16th but will take an unofficial visit to Washington on the 9th before pulling the decision. USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn are his finalists.

"I'm pretty comfortable with a few schools, probably one in particular," he said. "I felt the 16th was a good date and initially wanted to do it on the 24th, my brother's birthday but my dad was going to be at work that day and I wanted to make sure my family is there for me."

- Milton (Fla.) wide receiver Isaiah Jones committed to Florida State while at The Opening in a surprise decision timing-wise. He cited the tradition the Seminoles have and the relationship he has with the coaching staff.

- Upland (Calif.) defensive lineman Joe Mathis listed his top 10: Alabama, USC, UCLA, Washington, Michigan, Nebraska, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Hawaii.

- Tampa (Fla.) defensive end Jordan Sherit said he will take a visit to Florida State soon but will hold off and likely take official visits to Stanford and Notre Dame. Those three schools are on his short list in addition to Vandy, Florida, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Miami. He mentioned that the Commodores coaching staff sent him a piece of mail to his hotel at The Opening.

"That goes to show that they're going out of their way to recruit me," Sherit said.

- Riverside (Calif.) tight end and Ohio State pledge Marcus Baugh had an interesting surprise when he first arrived at The Opening: his roommate was none other than Michigan-commit Butt.

"When I walked in the room, I saw his name on the other bed," Baugh said. "I knew who he was and where he was going. All I could do is laugh. We haven't done any talking about it."

As far as his commitment to Ohio State, Baugh said he can't wait to head out to Columbus in August. “I just want to get out there,” he said, noting he speaks to coach Urban Meyer about once a week. “He seems like a pretty good and humble guy. But he doesn't show a lot of personality on the phone.”

- Fresno (Calif.) safety Hatari Byrd said he's narrowed his college choices between UCLA, Washington, Cal, Notre Dame and Oklahoma.

"It's going to be a pretty hard decision," he said.

Asked what the best part of the recruiting process is: "A lot of people want to talk to you." And the worst part? "They want to talk to you all the time. I'm not complaining. Overall, it's all worth it."

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