Tag:The Opening
Posted on: July 8, 2011 12:17 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 4:37 pm
 

The Opening Day Two Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Day 2 of "The Opening" didn't finish up with a bang like day one did with a national champion being crowned in the SPARQ rating. Instead, some of the top players in the country took to the fields of the Nike campus for what amounted to a regular Nike camp in the middle of the day before getting chance to hang out for several hours before selecting 7-on-7 teams.

No more testing for some of the finest recruits in the country, it was time to get into the actual football part of the camp.

"It's been great. Playing against the top recruits, competing against each other, having fun in the lounge, it's great," Aledo (Texas) running back Johnathan Gray said.  "I expected everything. If you've got the top 150 kids in the country, you expect nothing but the best. That's what you get (from Nike). They're treating us like superstars out here. We're just enjoying our time."

When not outrunning linebackers (he out ran them all on Thursday afternoon), Gray spent a good chunk of the afternoon in the players' lounge relaxing and mingling with other recruits. As one of several players committed to Texas at the event, the 6-foot, 200-pounder has been able to spend some quality time with his future teammates and the bonding they are doing is something Gray hopes will pay off later.

"There's a couple of us here from Texas just playing and going through the drills," he said. "It's fun, I met them earlier so being up here with them, it's fun being with your fellow commits and building that team chemistry up."

Ranked as the best running back in the country and eighth overall in the class of 2012 by MaxPreps, Gray knows there are plenty of eyes on him while he's going through drills, perhaps even more than on his fellow commitments. Despite the added outside pressure, he is saying focused on the task at hand.

"I don't really look at is as number one and all that stuff, I just come out here to have fun and compete," he said. "That's what this is about. Doing your best."

A solid verbal commitment to the Longhorns, there's not much Gray has on his docket football-wise between now and when his high school begins fall camp in August. With an outside shot of breaking the national rushing record, the upbeat running back is just looking to focus on getting better over the coming month.

"This will be the last camp I do," he said. "I'll just go back to my high school and go workout and go through conditioning drills and stuff to get ready for the season."

While 40-yard dashes and weight room sessions will take up a good chuck of his time in the near future, he won't be limiting himself to the football field. Though his high school team qualified for the Texas state 7-on-7 tournament next week at Texas A&M, Gray will be somewhere where there's plenty of lights, action and air conditioning.

"I'll be in Vegas for a basketball tournament," he said. "It's going really good, the team is doing good and they're winning. This will be my first time back with them since surgery and track and all that. I'm waiting to meet up with those guys.

"I'm a defensive guy, they put me in to stop the best player on the other team."

When asked if one of the greatest offensive threats on the football field is like former NBA defensive specialist Bruce Bowen on the court, Gray takes a second to think about it.

"Yeah," he said with a laugh. "You can call me that."

Everybody is recruiting Alexander

As one of the top linebackers in the country with scholarship offers from just about every school, Kwon Alexander knows all about the recruiting process. It follows him everywhere, from his phone to his email to, it appears, The Opening.

"Kwon's a good kid, I love him," Stephenson (Ga.) running back and Florida commit Mike Davis says while wrapping his arm around Alexander. "I just hope he comes to Florida. I'm recruiting him."

"They're up there," Alexander confirms within earshot of Davis. "They're in my top ten."

Such is life for the Oxford (Ala.) five-star linebacker. Luckily Alexander is aware that he can't be as open about schools as he once was. As a result of it getting closer and closer to the season, he has started to narrow down his list and dial in on just a few schools in the recruiting process.

"Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, LSU, Oregon, USC, Ole Miss," he said. "Distance is not a factor.

"I'm looking for a family. I'm looking for good academics, a great team, some good people to be around and to just play ball."

With one of the schools he is strongly considering just down the highway from Nike's campus in Oregon, Alexander acknowledges that the situation involving the NCAA is making him a little hesitant about the Ducks but not enough to eliminate them.

"I'm still looking at them," Alexander said. "I mean, it's Oregon. They still look good."

While the two West Coast programs are receiving attention, there's still plenty of schools closer to home that are trying hard not to let Alexander get away from the region. With plenty of SEC powerhouses chasing after him, he knows that things are only just beginning to pickup among is selected few schools.

"Of the local schools, probably Auburn is recruiting me the hardest," he said. "Then probably Alabama after that. LSU is coming after me."

It often takes a unique approach to land the signature of an athlete of Alexander's caliber and there's at least one school who has thrown something different at him.

"Ole Miss offered me in basketball," he said. "That stuck out because that's my first offer in basketball. I haven't really thought about (playing both sports). It's nice but I don't know.

"I know it would be a lot of stress and stuff from playing both sports. I know I wouldn't have time to do a lot of things so I really just don't know yet."

Alexander plans to narrow his list down again before the season starts with a decision coming next year.

McCarthy down to five

Monrovia (Calif.) defensive tackle Ellis McCarthy isn't planning on making a final decision on a school until the U.S. Army All-American Bowl but that hasn't stopped him from narrowing down his list to five. With all of that time before making a decision, the top interior defensive lineman in the country is using it to his advantage and taking in a few of the schools on his list.

“Right now, it's USC, Cal, Oregon, Washington and Florida,” McCarthy said. “(Unofficals) to just the close ones like USC. I went to UCLA a couple of weeks ago. It went really well, I just talked to the coaches and they showed me around campus."

With constant contact between him and all five of the schools, the 6-foot-4, 300-pounder is mainly looking for one thing in the recruiting process.

“When I talk to all those coaches, they make me feel comfortable,” McCarthy said. “When I went to Cal, they made me feel reel comfortable with all the players and stuff like that. When I talk with the USC players, they make me feel that way.

“I haven't talked to the (USC) coaches lately. After I get home, I might call them. At USC I talk to Coach “O” (Ed Orgeron). At Cal I mainly talk to coach Tosh (Lupoi).”

Ranked seventh overall in the MaxPreps Top 100 for 2012, McCarthy realizes he's a target for plenty of schools as an uncommited player ranked so highly. While it's hard for him to say if a school is standing out, it doesn't take him that long to come up with an answer to who is recruiting him the hardest.

“Probably Cal,” he said. “It's between Cal and USC.”

McCarthy is planning on taking official visits to four of the five schools on his list. The local school, USC, will likely not receive an official visit during the season because he has been to the Coliseum for plenty of games over the years. While on any of his visits however, McCarthy has a few things that he will be looking for and checking off once he gets there.

“I just want to go to a place where I feel comfortable and if I weren't playing football I could stay for four years,” he said. “I want to major in business. It's really important, I might want to go to a really big business school.”

Aziz Shittu is ready for action

With day two of The Opening marking the transition into actual football drills, there was perhaps no player who was happier to stop running 40-yard dashes and start doing some field work than Buhach (Calif.) defensive lineman Aziz Shittu.

"With the testing, I wasn't coming out here looking forward to the testing," Shittu said. "I'm a football player-type of guys, I play football. It was fun though."

The Opening is a unique camp because players will be in football pads, which should make for some great action along the trenches. Count Shittu as one of those that can't wait for full speed, one-on-one drills. In fact, he's already picked out one of the five-star offensive linemen at the event he wants to compete against.

"I'm looking forward to going against Zach Banner," Shittu said. "For reasons he should know. If he sees this, it's Zach Banner."

One of the more outgoing players at the event, the 6-foot-4, 275-pounder is making friends at the event just as quickly as he get to the quarterback.

"Oh yeah, it's great getting acquainted," Shittu said. "Me, I'm a talkative guy. Ellis McCarthy is my roommate, Korren Kirven, Luke (Kaumatule), I'm talking to everybody."

It's not to often you'll find McCarthy and Shittu more than 20 feet away from each other when they are at the same event. The two California defensive lineman have competed before at Nike Camps and it appears the two close friends are looking to ensure that their friendship lasts well through college.

"We're going to go to the same school," Shittu said. "That's the plan, that's what we talk about. 

"Me and Ellis, we just chill. I'll be telling jokes and he'll be laughing and I'll be telling jokes and he'll be laughing. We're just compatible."

On the recruiting front, Shittu recently decommitted from Stanford because it was just too soon in the process for him to be locked into one school. Though the Cardinal are still under consideration, the door is open for several other schools to jump on the talented defensive lineman.

"Stanford is still in the mix," he said. "Everybody is kind of standing out in my top 10. Cal, USC, UCLA, Washington, all those schools are standing out, just to name a few."

Shittu doesn't have any visits planned and is looking to schedule his official visits after week two of the college football season once he gets a better idea of what teams he wants to visit and for what games.

Bivins doesn't mind getting schooled by a legend

Everybody knew he run some routes from the moment they saw that NFL legend Jerry Rice had on cleats and gloves. Rice was much more selective on day two of The Opening however. Though he was mainly a teacher Thursday, coaching many of the wide receivers on how to get a better release off the line for example, everybody knew he'd run a route or two against the defensive backs. 

The only question was who would he go against?

"I was with him at first," Gainesville (Fla.) cornerback Chris Bivins recounted. "But then he ran like a 20-yard comeback. It was the longest comeback I've ever had to guard."

Bivins got the opportunity of the lifetime to defend against Rice. Though the former All-Pro managed to catch the ball, the 6-foot, 170-pound Bivins did a good job of staying close for most of Rice's route before the 'oohs' and the 'ahhs' came from the crowd after he caught it.

"I can tell why he was beating everybody back in the day," Bivins said. 

A South Florida commitment, Bivins fought and clawed his way to the event with a very impressive run during the spring and summer camp circuit. One of the hardest workers in the defensive back group, the talented corner ended up with a great reward for all that he put in over the past few months.

"He only did one rep and that was with me," he said. "It was a real good experience. One of the best to ever play the game."

Posted on: July 7, 2011 12:05 pm
Edited on: July 7, 2011 12:09 pm
 

7/7 Recruiting Roundup

Posted by Bryan Fischer

Junior college linebacker Eddie Porter has Arkansas, Cal and Mississippi State as his top 3.

Clemson's prized recruits from last year are expected to make an instant impact.

Three Michigan State recruits are in Oregon for "The Opening."

Commitments

Offensive lineman Jordan Watson is following his high school teammate to Kentucky and Jon Toth is following Watson.

Linebacker Jawand Blue verbally committed to Virginia Tech yesterday.

 North Texas added two to their class of 2012.
Posted on: July 7, 2011 10:23 am
Edited on: July 11, 2011 4:39 pm
 

"The Opening" Day One Notebook

Posted by Bryan Fischer

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- With 150 of the best high school football players in attendance and several NFL players and Hall of Famer Jerry Rice looking on, Geismar (La.) safety Landon Collins knew what had to be done and, on the campus of Nike headquarters, embodied the company's motto and simply went out and did it. 

The eventful first day of “The Opening” was capped by Collins winning the Nike SPARQ national championship and hosting a trophy so large that even he admits he'll have trouble getting it home.

“I don't know,” Collins said with big grin. “I don't even know if I can make it to the gates with this.”

Collins, a 6-foot, 210-pound defensive back, ran, jumped and tossed his way to taking home the prize, which awards all-around athleticism. That he beat a majority of the top 100 players from the Class of 2012 came of no surprise to the always confident Collins.

“No I wasn't surprised,” he said. “My fastest time was a 4.39, and I knew I had it in me. After coming out and running a 4.5 (initially), I was like, 'I have to do better than this.'”

Ranked ninth overall in the Class of 2012 by MaxPreps, Collins has started to narrow down his recruiting and is focused mainly on in-state power LSU and powerhouses Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Texas.

“It's a beautiful place,” Collins said of the Longhorns. “It's got all the academics at that spot. The team is great, they always have a chance for the BCS. (Tennessee) same thing. They're coming up with a new strategy for their DBs. They have everything they're looking for. I like Alabama, it's a beautiful place, in Tuscaloosa. I love the coaches. Florida is in a great city, me and my brother came up from there not to long ago. They greeted us with open arms and wanted us to play there.

“Distance will not be a factor for me. I've been on my own at home and when I'm on my own I do everything by myself.”

Collins plans to make his decision at January’s Under Armor All-American game. Despite all of the attention that's surrounded his life over the past year or so, he tries to stay humble in the face of constant pressure from others.

“My parents keep me well trained, they keep me doing everything a kid should be doing and not getting in trouble,” he said. “Not get a big head like most people do.”

Rodrigues staying a Duck

Rocklin (Calif.) quarterback Jake Rodrigues was more excited than most of the other campers to head up to Oregon. As a future commitment to the Ducks, he found The Opening offered him a chance to experience the state where he'll eventually end up moving to.

“It's been great, we're up here in beautiful Oregon and there's a lot of good guys out here, that's for sure,” Rodrigues said. “We're competing and having fun. It's great with all these guys, we all have the same goals, same things we have to worry about and same things we have to work on.

“It's cool that we're up here in Oregon, knowing that I'm going to live here the next four, five years of my life. It's just really cool and the fact that we're up here together having fun is even better.”

Rodrigues is aware of the rumors swirling around the Oregon program about a NCAA investigation. Despite the possibility there could be issues down the road, Rodrigues is sticking with his verbal pledge.

“All that is going on doesn't matter. I'm a Duck and I'm going to be a Duck for life,” he said. “That's where I stand.”

Firm in his commitment, Rodrigues has been able to proudly wear the Green and Yellow around the Nike campus and is turning into a mini-recruiter for the program with so many talented players in town.

“My roommate, Eugene Lewis, just got offered last week, so I'm trying to hit him up,” Rodrigues said. “I'm just talking good about the Ducks because they're the greatest and that's what it's all about.”

The 6-foot-2, 210-pound signal-caller will likely visit Eugene once more before the season and then take an official visit to Oregon for a game later this fall. For the moment, however, he's focused on getting better at an event filed with great coaching. 

“It's not really about stacking up; it's about getting better out here,” he said. “That's why I'm out here. I've been blessed with the talent to play football. Nike was great and they invited me out here and I'm glad to be out here because I want to get better everyday. These guys have been there before and they know what they're talking about.”

Simmons representing the West

Though Encino (Calif.) offensive guard Jordan Simmons lives nearly three hours by plane from Beaverton, the gorgeous weather during the first day of competition at The Opening wasn't too shabby for him and reminded him a bit of Los Angeles.

“It's pretty good, I love it out here,” Simmons said. “It feels like home a little. It's better (weather) than home right now. There's no weather changes in L.A.”

As one of the top offensive lineman on a West Coast region full of them, Simmons is excited to perform against defensive lineman outside of the area and prove he's the best of the best nationally. 

“Going against the guys from Georgia and Florida and comparing myself against the south,” he said of what he is most looking forward to. “West vs. South, that's all. I've already been against all the West dudes out here so I want to see where I stand against everybody.

“For me, it's not a rivalry, I just like to compete. If I do good, then I do good. It lets me know where I'm at and I can always get better.

Recruiting-wise, the 6-foot-5, 320-pounder is close to narrowing his college options. Holding offers from just about every program in the country, Simmons will cut his list after delaying a decision for roughly two weeks on which programs stay in contention. At the moment, he does know some schools that will make the list for sure.

USC, Oregon, Washington,” he said. “I'll be (at Oregon) on Sunday. I don't really know what to expect. They always have something new so I don't know what to expect. It's a pretty nice campus.”

Simmons is taking the better late than never approach.

“Next week, for sure,” he said. “It's been postponed for two weeks already.”

As someone considering Oregon and programs like Ohio State, the fact that the NCAA might hit the schools with penalties is something in the back of his mind when he is looking at where he wants to play college football.

“A little bit,” Simmons said. “A lot of schools are having NCAA problems that I stopped looking at because of it. Ohio State is still up there though.”

Keeping calm, Murphy enjoying experience

It takes something special for San Clemente (Calif.) offensive tackle Kyle Murphy to truly get excited, but the experience so far at the Nike campus has been good enough to qualify.

“It's just a cool experience with all the top players in the country trying to get better,” Murphy said. “We're just having fun. It was great flying out here to the Nike complex. There's a whole game room, and they're feeding us well and getting us all that cool stuff. It's pretty surreal. They're showing us a bunch of new products, giving us a preview of that stuff.”

With scholarship offers from most of the Pac-12, Michigan, Notre Dame and plenty of others, Murphy is just beginning to take a long look at each of his options and move toward a more manageable four or five schools.

“I'm trying to look at all that,” he said. “I'll probably have a top list pretty soon. I'm not sure who will be on it yet.”

Though he remains open to just about every school, a few of them are already standing out, and for the most part, the programs are not too far from home.

Stanford's always coming after me pretty hard, along with Cal," Murphy said. “USC, Florida too. I've visited USC, Cal, Stanford and Oregon and they all pressed me pretty well.” 

As one of the top offensive tackles who haven't selected a school, the 6-foot-7, 280-pound Murphy has become a target of sorts for plenty of the committed players, who aren't shy talking about why he should join them at their school. 

“There's plenty of guys that are committed and joking around and that stuff,” Murphy said. “Nothing too bad though.”

Adolphus Washington

Cincinnati (Ohio) defensive end Adolphus Washington is a bit of a perfectionist. That's why he wasn't truly happy with the 4.87 40-yard dash he ran during testing Wednesday evening. 

“It could have been a lot better,” Washington said. “I'd like it to be at least a 4.7, 4.6. I just have to get somebody to work with me on it, that's all.”

Taking part in the inaugural “The Opening” is a source of pride for the talented Ohioan. In addition to representing his school, his state and the Midwest, Washington is excited to be part of the initial group to go through the all-star camp.

“It feels good to be the first,” he said. “We're the first to get this thing started. If some of us make it to the league, maybe some of us can come back like (Ndamunkong) Suh and them did and talk to the kids. It could be pretty cool.

“This was a really nice experience to see all of the competition and all the rankings and stuff like that. It's cool to see who's ranked higher and who's where and how they actually look in person.”

On the recruiting trail, things can change daily but as of the moment there's one program that seems to be out in front in Washington’s mind.

“It's going good; I'm really liking Michigan State right now because I've been talking to Se'Von (Pittman),” he said. “Me and him really like the same kind of things so I'm going to start listening to them heavily.”

In addition to being close to Pittman, Washington is very close with Taft High teammate and wide receiver Dwayne Stanford. The two are planning on taking most of their official visits together and the possibility they play at the same college remains high.

“We're definitely trying to go to the same school,” Washington said. “We're probably going to take an official to Alabama. I'm probably going to go to Michigan State but I'll have to talk to him to see if he wants to go. We'll probably take an unofficial to Kentucky and stuff like that.”

With well over 15 scholarship offers from programs around the country, the visits should help the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Washington trim his list but as of the moment, it remains hard to put his finger on the schools standing out.

“Probably by the middle of the football season,” he said. “Then I'll probably make my decision after the football season. There's really not anybody standing out.”

Like plenty of other prospects who are from the state of Ohio, the ongoing NCAA mess in Columbus will have an affect on his decision to consider the school but it is such a deep-rooted connection that the Buckeyes will still be considered.

“I still love Ohio State,” he said. “I just want to see how the probation thing is going to work out. I haven't really been talking to them about it because I don't want to make them seem like I'm not interested anymore. I just talk to them to see how they're doing.”

Posted on: June 30, 2011 9:39 am
Edited on: June 30, 2011 1:28 pm
 

6/30 Recruiting Roundup

Posted by Bryan Fischer

- One columnist asks if recruiting rankings are fair.

Lots of talented players coming to Nike's "The Opening" next week.

 Wisconsin coach Brett Bielema talked about recruiting baseball player/transfer student Russell Wilson. 

 Michigan State has 10 commitments and they are looking for more.

  Georgia's "fastest recruit," corner Jonathan Jones, recently accepted an offer from Auburn after visiting there. 

Commitments:

 N.C. State grabbed commitments from tight end David Grinnage, linebacker Manny Stocker and quarterback A.J. Doyle. Duke also landed quarterback Thomas Sirk.

 Nice add for Virginia in offensive tackle Sean Karl. 

 Penn State received a verbal pledge from out-of-state offensive lineman Joey O'Connor.
Posted on: June 9, 2011 9:44 am
Edited on: June 9, 2011 9:44 am
 

6/9 Recruiting Roundup

Posted by Bryan Fischer
- Michigan State's recruiting in Ohio remains strong and could get stronger with the issues at Ohio State. 

- With a national TV contract in hand, the newly independent BYU is looking to broaden their recruiting

- Defensive tackle Trae Clark added offers from Michigan State and North Carolina

- Offensive tackle Kyle Murphy is headed to the elite competition "The Opening" hosted by Nike.

 
 
 
 
 
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