Tag:Josh Freeman
Posted on: July 10, 2011 1:34 pm
Edited on: July 11, 2011 4:28 pm
 

The Opening: Day 4 closes out all-star event

Posted by Bryan Fischer

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- As things wrapped up on Day 4 of The Opening, one couldn't help feeling a tinge of sadness on behalf of the nearly 150 athletes at the event. Knowing the end was coming and that they soon would have to hop on a plane home, many players couldn't believe the all-star event had come to a close. 

"It's a very humbling, lifetime experience," Yulee (Fla.) running back Derrick Henry said. "I'll never forget it. All this competition, the whole 150, it's a blessing. It's nice getting guys' prospectives on different colleges and stuff like that, it's been good."

As one of three sophomores at the event, Henry was just trying to soak in the event. Playing with some of the top players in the country, The Opening was a chance to learn from the best in anticipation of coming back next year as the elder statesman.

"This is my first time coming up here, and I'm starting to enjoy the whole thing," he said. "But next time it's going to be business."

The 6-foot-3, 225-pound Henry was one of the most impressive athletes, physically, at the event. Though he plays running back in high school, if he continues to grow, he might develop into a tight end -- a position he got reps at during the 7-on-7 portion of the event.

"It just gives me a chance to get out there and catch some balls and get some touchdowns," he said. "I'll do anything to get my team the win."

Though he was split out catching passes instead of running down hill, there's no question what position he wants to play at the next level.

"Oh running back, that's what I play," Henry said. "I'm just doing this because it's 7-on-7. You've got to do what you've got to do to get the ball."

The Opening also gave Henry a chance to talk with plenty of older, heavily recruited athletes such as Nelson Agholor, Terry Richardson and Dillon Lee just on his 7-on-7 team. Already solidified as one of the top players in the Class of 2013, Henry has been picking up scholarship offers at a good clip over the past few months.

"I got an offer from Stanford, North Carolina, Tennessee and some others," he said. "I know I'm over 50. It's a humbling experience. I thank god everyday for this opportunity. I just use it as motivation to keep working hard in the weight room and the classroom and the field. Hopefully I can give back to my teammates by using my talent and my name to get them opportunities for the young guys who are under (the radar)."

Although many had considered him a Florida State lean early on, it's another in-state program that has moved out in front nearly a year and a half before he eventually signs a letter of intent.

"Florida is my leader, then Georgia, Florida State and Alabama," Henry said. "I'm open to any school; it's just where I feel comfortable and at home at, that chemistry I have with the coaches and where my family likes."

Reeves down to two

With so many talented players on the fields at the Nike campus, tempers were bound to flare given the level of competition. But, surprisingly, things were mostly limited to some good-natured trash talking because of the bond the players had formed over the past few days.

"It's very competitive out here,” defensive back Armani Reeves said. “But they're all good guys. When we go inside the lounge in there, we're all family and have a good time. But when we come out to (the fields), that's the time to compete and that's what we do.”

Things have been competitive on the recruiting front for the Roxbury (Mass.) corner. Reeves recently narrowed down his list of schools to two and talked about both, starting with Notre Dame.

"They're a great school academically," he said. "Coach (Bob) Diaco, Coach (Brian) Kelly, they're trying to turn that program around and make it a championship school. When they talked they had a lot to offer. When they showed me around, the campus was beautiful and I got to hang out with a bunch of the players. I had a good time there.”

The Irish are not the only program in the running for Reeves' services, as the Nittany Lions are neck and neck with them in Reeves' eyes.

"As far as Penn State goes, it feels like home," he said. "Coach (Joe) Paterno, I talk to him every time I see him. We even Skype now. All of those coaches treat me like family and express how much they want me. I'm just enjoying the process and trying to think about everything."

Several recruits have reported they have Skyped with the coaching legend and like the others, Reeves feels it's a unique connection to one of college football's icons thanks to a bit of modern technology.

"Yeah it's pretty cool," Reeves said. "He was cracking jokes with me. He's new to the whole thing so when you have an old guy like him doing something like Skype, it's just fascinating. He was just talking and we forgot about recruiting, telling me stories and stuff. It was really fun, I had a good time."

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound defensive back returned from unofficial visits to both schools shortly before heading to Oregon for The Opening. While he is officially down to two schools, a timetable for a decision on which one he will commit to is up in the air.

"Hopefully I'll make a decision soon but if not, I don't mind waiting," he said. "I just came back from those visits like two or three weeks ago so I'm just taking this time enjoying my time out here with these fellas."

Elder getting closer to decision 

Proving that defensive backs can also have a pair of good hands, College Park (Ga.) corner Chaz Elder made one of the defensive plays of the day when he caught a beautiful over the shoulder interception in the end zone to prevent a touchdown.

“My teammate told me to watch for the corner,” Elder said. “So I went over to try and get over the top. I got over there a little to late, but luckily the wide receiver missed it and I was able to catch it.”

Coming a long way from home and making plays is something new for Elder, but the overall experience in Portland has been a rewarding one for the talented cornerback.

“It's been great,” he said. “This is the furthest I've ever been outside of Georgia. I like it. (The plane ride) is kind of long. It's very long but it's alright.”

One of the top players in a deep pool of talent in Georgia this year, Elder has more than 25 scholarship offers from major powerhouses, but he has narrowed his list to three schools.

“With (Georgia), I like the fact that me and Coach Mark Richt have a good relationship,” Elder said. “South Carolina, I like the fact that they're known for having good DB's. Plus I like the defense they run because it's similar to what I run now in high school. With Vanderbilt, they're upcoming and I could help change the face of the program.”

Vanderbilt is making news in the recruiting world by picking several major commitments, including one from Top 100 running back Brian Kimbrow. The momentum the school has under new coach James Franklin is something that matters to Elder.

“That's a big factor,” he admitted. 

Elder won't open up as to which of the three programs is out in front but plans to make a decision soon, likely in August before his senior seasons begins. 

Howard staying open

There were plenty of players who had fun at The Opening, but it was hard to top the excitement about the event that Miramar (Fla.) defensive back Tracy Howard had following a 7-on-7 win.

“It's been one of the best experiences of my life,” Howard said. “To come way out to Portland, Oregon, I know I haven't been this far from home. The only place I've been is the Bahamas on a cruise. It's definitely a blessing to get out here with the top talent and compete against those guys.”

A talkative player on the field, Howard doesn't mind finding a player on the opposing team and talking a little trash to back up his coverage skills

“Oh Sean Price,” Howard responds almost instantly about who he talks the most trash with. “We're good friends, it's not bad talk, we're just getting each other better.”

Though Howard has been leaning toward Florida for a good portion of the recruiting process, he's narrowed his list of schools he's considering and looking at all of the options equally.

“I'm just staying open right now,” he said. “I'm down to a few: Miami, Florida, Florida State, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina and Notre Dame.”

Notes 

-- Very impressive day by defensive linemen Sheldon Day and Ellis McCarthy. Though Day was named position group MVP, McCarthy was unblockable during one-on-ones and went around and through his man, all on a bad ankle. Aziz Shittu rebounded from a sub-par day Friday to perform well. Curtis Riser was the top offensive lineman of the group on Saturday to go with good performances from Vadal Alexander and Issac Seumalo.

-- No matter what position he played, Fresno (Calif.) athlete Deontay Greenberry was a flat-out player. From skying on jump balls in the end zone to intercepting passes during limited time on defense, the Notre Dame-bound Greenberry was consistently a top performer over all three days of competition.

-- Geismar (La.) safety Landon Collins was named the 7-on-7 MVP and overall MVP of The Opening. He was everywhere on the field and quite literally had too many interceptions to count over the two days of 7-on-7. He more than lived up to his billing as a top 10 player in the class of 2012 and might even be underrated based on what he has done this summer.

-- Another defensive back that stood out was Clemson commit and Tallahassee (Fla.) safety Travis Blanks. Blanks had two interceptions in the opening game Saturday (and nearly had two more) and continued his stellar play throughout the day. He is one of the most versatile defensive backs in that he's equally good as a safety and cornerback.

-- There weren't many of them, but the walking wounded on the sidelines generally sported cardinal and gold. USC commits Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick (stitches) and Jabari Ruffin (fractured wrist) were both out of action Saturday.

-- Team Alpha Talon, with honorary coaches Josh Freeman and Dwayne Bowe, won the 7-on-7 tournament. The team featured Bralon Addison, Nelson Agholor, Deon Bush, Landon Collins, Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick, Trae Elston, Justin Ferguson, Derrick Henry, Germone Hopper, Chad Kelly, Duke Johnson, Dillon Lee, Kaiwan Lewis, Steven Longa, Lamar Louis, Marcus Maye, Armani Reeves, Terry Richardson and Randy Uzoma.  

-- The overall offensive line MVP was Vadal Alexander while Sheldon Day took home the same honors on the defensive line. Offensive tackle Kyle Murphy and defensive end Jamal Marcus were one-on-one champions.

-- The 7-on-7 All-Tournament team was Travis Blanks, Cyrus Jones, Johnathan Gray, Deontay Greenberry, Marcus Maye, Bryce Treggs and Tee Shepard.

Posted on: July 9, 2011 1:17 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 4:33 pm
 

The Opening: Day 3 -- Pads and 7-on-7

Posted by Bryan Fischer

BEAVERTON, Ore. – Day three of The Opening could not have turned out any better for the assembled campers as wall-to-wall 7-on-7 action and a lineman challenge took place on a picturesque day at the Nike campus.

After NFL players and Nike coaching staff members drafted teams from the nearly 150 players at the event on Thursday night, the pressure was on to gel quickly during round-robin play all day Friday. One of the consistent playmakers at the event with his blazing speed, fluid routes and soft hands was Tampa (Fla.) athlete Nelson Agholor.

A threat at multiple positions on the field, the talented Floridian was a touchdown threat every time he touched the ball on offense. Despite standing out on the field, it was hard to get him to talk about himself off it as he personified the definition of a team player.

"Yeah, I hope we have a good one the next day. We're ready to go and play hard," Agholor said. "We've got a great team."

NFL stars Josh Freeman of Agholor's local team, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Kansas City Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe were the honorary coaches of “Team Alpha Talon.” The 7-on-7 setting provided the players they picked a chance to spread the field and allow players such as Agholor to go up and make plays.

"We were blessed with two great coaches that put a bunch of athletes on the team," Agholor said. "We're going to do well. There's not one bad guy on our team. Everyone on our team is really good."

Featuring quarterback Chad Kelly (committed to Clemson), receiver Bralon Addison (Texas A&M) and  running back Duke Johnson (Miami) among others, Agholor's team was one of the best in the field. Boasting players from 10 states, the all-star squad was an opportunity for Agholor and others to bond with players they had only heard about.

"These are guys you want to compete against everyday,” he said. “They say everyone around the nation is getting better, these are the guys that they're talking about. Now we're all together having fun and winning together."

Ranked 22nd overall in the MaxPreps Top 100, schools such as Florida, Florida State, Miami, Texas and USC are heavily pursuing the talented athlete as both a receiver and defensive back. With so much attention on the recruiting trail, Agholor is almost to the point where he narrows his list down to a more manageable five to 10.

"I have sort of an idea of a shorter list," he said. "That's between me and my coaches and parents right now. We're going to work something out and hopefully narrow it down soon.

"There's many things I'm looking for. When I first started recruiting, it was all about people and their morals, that was always number one. Academics is number two because I feel like there's a degree out there for everyone, it's up to you to go get it."

In terms of a decision, that will be awhile for the five-star athlete.

"I think I want to sign on National Signing Day," Agholor said. "I really want to think this all through. Schools know, who I'm in contact with, they know what type of interest is coming in and if not, I'm going to make it a little bit clearer soon."

Miller enjoys getting some pad work

While most of the skill position athletes were playing games, the big fellas down in the trenches were also having some fun and it came in something unique to The Opening: pads.

"It was fun, I haven't put pads on in awhile since I didn't play in the spring game," West Palm Beach (Fla.) offensive tackle Patrick Miller said. "It was sweet, I got a little hitting time in."

Armed with full shoulder pads and helmets, the one-on-one drills between the offensive and defensive linemen were one of the highlights of the camp. For some players, such as Miller, who have largely been without contact, it did take a bit of an adjustment.

"Definitely, you're getting the cob webs out," he said. "You kind of forget how to pass set or something like that. But you're with all these great coaches and stuff and you get your technique back to where it was and everything. It's just part of getting ready for the season."

Working with former NFL lineman LeCharles Bentley among others, the 6-foot-7, 270-pound Miller has been able to pickup plenty of small tips and tricks that should serve him well going into his senior year.

"There's just so many small, miscellaneous things," Miller said. "I mean a pro tells you, and you're like, alright and you listen to him then. The only people I like to listen to is my head coach, my position coach but obviously, if an NFL player says it, you know it's right."

As one of the top offensive tackles in South Florida, Miller has offers from just about every SEC school, as well as Notre Dame, Florida State, Miami and others. He has taken several unofficial visits recently and will likely take a few more between now and trimming his list down.

"I think I'm going to narrow it down in the middle of the season," Miller said. "I know I'm going to visit Oklahoma and North Carolina. I've already visited Auburn, LSU and Tennessee and Florida too. I liked them all a lot, I liked Auburn a lot obviously. After taking these visits, I definitely was thinking I wanted to commit somewhere but now I realize I just want to wait and weigh my options. There might be something better out there for me."
 
Mangum sharp again in 7-on-7 setting

If you wanted to have a good 7-on-7 team at an event like this, you needed to pick a good quarterback. Noted quarterback guru George Whitfield Jr., who has worked Ben Roethlisberger and Cam Newton among others, was in charge of drafting “Team Vapor Carbon” with rookie Patrick Peterson. It's no surprise that Whitfield's acumen was on the money as Eagle (Idaho) quarterback Tanner Mangum was the top signal caller throughout the day.

"I'm just doing my best to make them look good," Mangum said. "I know they're talented, they're playmakers, so I'm just doing my best to make good decisions and keep up with them. It's an honor to be playing with them so I don't want to make them look bad."

Mangum team featured Notre Dame-bound receiver Deontay Greenberry, Florida-bound running back Mike Davis and plenty of other impressive skill position players. Being able to throw to such a talented group was nice for the 6-foot-3, 200-pound quarterback but that wasn't the biggest take away from the event.

"There's so many things but I think it's forming relationships with these guys," Mangum said. "These are the top players from across the country and you wouldn't have any other chance to meet them but here. It's an honor to be considered among them and it's been even better getting to know them."

As a BYU commitment for several months, Mangum is one of several players who are already dead-set on their college of choice. With 11 players on his team who have not made a commitment and plenty more at the event, there has surprisingly not been many conversations asking him for advice on the recruiting process.

"Not too much," he said. "Everyone here is pretty set in where they're going, there's a few guys that aren't committed. There aren't any here, but I'm doing my best to recruit some guys to get to the "Y." Dylan Collie and I are working together to get some guys to BYU. There's some big recruits that have committed there and I think that 2012 recruiting class will be pretty good."

The recruiting class that the pair is apart of is the Cougar's first as a football independent. The opportunity to go out on their own and the advantages with that are a big draw for several recruits according to Mangum.

"I think it's helping a lot, it's a big positive," he said. "It allows us to play some big time teams on national television and I think guys draw to that and want to play for that. It's helping out a lot."

The Opening is not the only national competition Mangum is taking part in. He will head down to Pepperdine in a little over a week for the prestigious Elite 11 quarterback camp, something he lights up when asked about it.

"I'm very excited," Mangum said. "I've grown up watching that since I was a kid and it's always been a dream of mine. So it's a dream come true for sure."

Dawson sees two recruiting him hard

One of the more physically imposing defenders on the field was 6-foot-3, 230-pound linebacker Nick Dawson. Flying across the country from Charlotte (N.C.) to the Nike campus was no problem for the talented athlete as he's having a blast so far at The Opening.

"Everything's great," Dawson said. "It's so unique it doesn't make sense. And every day it gets better and better. I'm just out here to compete with the top 150 and I'm doing going good."

Like many players, the opportunity to interact and learn from NFL players has been a moment that often leaves Dawson in awe as he receives tips from the best of the best.

"I'm just getting coached up, you can't ask for any more than this,” he said. “Aaron Curry is out here coaching the linebackers Ray Rice with the running backs. Dwayne Bowe with the receivers, there's just so many unique athletes out here."

Holding offers from schools such as Arkansas, Auburn, Miami, USC and others, Dawson is trying to begin the arduous task of narrowing down his list of programs he is considering.

"Everything is going great with my recruiting," he said. "I'm trying to narrow it down but I don't really have a top five right now."

Just because it's tough to limit his options going forward, doesn't mean a few schools aren't standing out.

"Louisville and Clemson are recruiting me the hardest," he said. "I went to Clemson's camp and Louisville's also. They were great, everything was great. Both of the schools were perfect. I'm just trying to figure out which one is the best, best, best for me. I'm in the process of doing that right now."

Dawson had entertained thoughts of committing during The Opening but could not decide on a school enough to give his verbal pledge. He said he was unsure when he would eventually pull the trigger and commit.

Notes:

- It wasn't a great day of football for USC commitment Jalen Cope-Fitzpatrick. He banged his head against another player while making a play for a ball and ended up having to sit out most of the day (against his wishes it should be noted) after receiving stitches above his eye.

"Four. It wasn't too bad," Cope-Fitzpatrick said before getting to the bad news. "If football doesn't work out, I'm trying to be a model for Nike."

- Oregon commit Jake Rodrigues struggled mightily during 7-on-7, tossing more interceptions than touchdowns and misreading the defense a few times. He was able to throw the ball better as the day went on but he just wasn't as sharp as he was yesterday.

- USF-bound tight end Sean Price has performed well in 7-on-7 events before and did so once again Friday afternoon. He was able to use his big frame and speed to create mismatches and was a nice target in the red zone.

- All-around athlete Cedric Dozier is really rangy as a defensive back. He grabbed quite a few interceptions, including a nice one off Cal commit Zach Kline. Top ten defensive back Landon Collins also impressed in the secondary.

-  Number one ranked running back Johnathan Gray is a special back. Known for his rushing skills, he was explosive out of the backfield and displayed some soft hands. He lined up next to future Texas teammate Connor Brewer and the pair definitely had some chemistry out on the field.

- Tight end Taylor McNamara, headed to Arizona, had a really nice day and went up and caught some throws that very few people could get to. Ray Rice jokingly started calling him Todd Heap after making so many plays.

- The play of the day came from receiver Jaydon Mickens. The USC-bound athlete took a short pass and turned it into a 40+ yard touchdown by traversing the field three times and leaving several defenders unable to move. Even speedy Dwayne Bowe was impressed and quite excited about the play.

 
 
 
 
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