NCAA Football

Biggest Takeaways from USC's Recruits at The Opening

USC has been touted as Quarterback U and Linebacker U, but if The Opening is any indication, it may be building toward becoming Defensive Back U in the near future...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Florida State Football: Biggest Takeaways from FSU's Recruits at the Opening

The Opening may be the best indication that the future looks very bright for the Florida State football team.

FSU's verbal commitments and a number of prospects that are considering the Seminoles were among the standouts at the four-day showcase event, which wrapped up on Thursday in Oregon.

Derwin James, a 5-star safety who has verbally committed to FSU, was named to the all-tournament team for the second straight year, according to  247Sports' Josh Newberg.

"Derwin James has been the most impressive performer at every camp or tournament he's attended in the last two years," Newberg said. "James simply plays at a higher level than everyone else."

A 4-star cornerback, Tarvarus McFadden, also made the all-tournament team, Newberg said. The 247Sports Crystal Ball predicts McFadden will choose FSU.

McFadden was "seemingly a regular returning interceptions" at the Opening, writes 247Sports' Barton Simmons. While he has not made a verbal commitment, McFadden is leaning toward FSU, writes 247Sports' Chris Nee and Newberg (subscription required).

"McFadden has a special size/speed combo," Newberg said. "He's a Richard Sherman type player with big time potential on the next level."

Here are a few takeaways from the FSU prospects at The Opening:

Derwin James can make immediate impact

FSU will start a pair of juniors at corner in 2014 in Ronald Darby and P.J. Williams. If one or both choose to leave early for the NFL, it's possible that safety Jalen Ramsey moves to corner. And that would open up a spot for James to start in 2015 as a true freshman.

At 6'2'' and 200 pounds, James has the size and physicality. He's fast (4.5 in the 40 in SPARQ testing), an aggressive tackler and should excel in both run support and pass coverage.

"He's faster, stronger and more instinctual than anyone else on the field," Newberg said. "It comes easy for him. Couple his instincts with his speed and you have a game-changer at safety."


FSU stocking up on QBs for future

Jameis Winston is eligible to declare for the NFL draft. While his father, Antonor Winston, told that he would play two more years at FSU, Winston would pass up millions if he stayed in Tallahassee in 2015. If he leaves after the 2014 season, the FSU quarterback competition could be wide open.

FSU has a verbal commitment from De'Andre Johnson, who Newberg said was listening and learning from the coaches in Oregon.

"Johnson was very inquisitive," Newberg said. "He could frequently be seen talking to Trent Dilfer or George Whitfield in-between drills. He was soaking all the coaching in like a sponge."

Johnson also displayed a quick release and touch, Simmons wrote.

FSU is also pursuing Deondre Francois, a 4-star quarterback who is leaning heavily toward the Seminoles in the 247Sports Crystal Ball. Francois is not concerned by programs that already have quarterback commitments, Nee and Newberg wrote.

"Francois has a strong arm and improved his accuracy, compared to other tournaments I've seen him in throughout the summer," Newberg said. "He had a great week."


Sweat likely won't visit FSU until fall

The nation's top defensive end, Josh Sweat, told Nee and Newberg (subscription required) that he would like to enroll early. So the big question? Where?

Sweat has visited Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Ohio State and Georgia this summer. He has not scheduled his official visits for the fall yet, but FSU remains in the mix for a player that 247Sports considers the top prospect in the nation.

He told 247Sports (subscription required) that two schools he would also like to make official visits to are Clemson and FSU. Both could happen in the fall.

"I do not expect him to visit (FSU) this summer," Newberg said. "His timeline will be sped up a bit due to his early enrollment. FSU will get its shot this fall and try to make the most of it."


FSU is making a run at Ridley

Calvin Ridley is an Alabama commitment. But Ridley, a 4-star receiver, will make a visit to FSU this summer, Newberg said.

The 6'2", 170-pound Ridley doesn't have elite speed but is a smooth receiver, Newberg writes.

"His visit to FSU this summer is a must if the 'Noles are going to flip him," Newberg said. "If something is to change, it will start with this upcoming visit."


All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. 

Bob Ferrante is the Florida State Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained first-hand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bob on Twitter. Results from the Opening courtesy of Student Sports

Read more College Football news on

The Biggest Takeaways from Notre Dame Recruits' Performances at the Opening

The marquee event of the summer recruiting season is over, with The Opening in the rearview mirror after three days of SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing, Elite 11 quarterbacking and seven-on-seven touch football at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. 

For college football fans following recruiting, The Opening gave us a rare apples-to-apples comparison of some of the nation's top recruits.

With NFL combine-like testing, live drills and reps for linemen, and a seven-on-seven tournament between teams with ridiculous names like Vapor Carbon, Fly Rush and Apocalypse, the event may be a tribute to the Swoosh, but it's a great look at recruits who will be some of the best players of tomorrow in college football.

For Notre Dame fans, The Opening gave us a first true look at commitments Shaun Crawford, Tristen Hoge, C.J. Sanders and Jerry Tillery. And all four more than held their own among the country's elite.

Let's take a closer look at how the camp went for not just the four Irish commitments, but a few key recruits still taking a long, hard look at Notre Dame. 


Shaun Crawford

The diminutive cornerback recruit showed the athleticism and speed that he displayed to the local South Bend, Indiana, media at the Irish Invasion camp, backing up that performance with elite testing numbers and solid play during the seven-on-seven tournament.

Crawford measured in at 5'8.5" and 170 pounds but dazzled with an impressive 4.48 40-yard dash and a 3.94 shuttle time. The latter was good for a top-five rating in the camp, with fellow Irish recruit Sanders leading the camp with a ridiculous 3.80 time. 

Crawford and Sanders played on the same team in the seven-on-seven tournament, with Crawford pitching in interceptions while Sanders scored a few clutch touchdowns. It's hard to think of a recruiting class where Notre Dame found speed and agility like this on both sides of the ball, but both undersized recruits (Sanders is 5'9", 177 lbs) will look very good on the FieldTurf inside Notre Dame Stadium in the near future. 


Tristen Hoge

Few can question Hoge's commitment to Notre Dame, with the interior offensive lineman among the ringleaders of the Irish recruiting class. But as B/R's Michael Felder discusses, the Irish might also have the best center in the country.

Hoge checked in at 6'4.5" and 291 pounds, running a more than respectable 5.15 40-yard dash. He's one of the better-put-together offensive linemen at the event and looks ready to play at the college level already. 

Hoge won't be needed with Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty both eligible for a fifth year, but Notre Dame's staff identified Hoge early as a priority target on the offensive line and his performance in Oregon cemented that reputation. 


C.J. Sanders

We already spent Wednesday raving about Sanders and his future in the slot for the Irish, and his speed and athleticism will be keys to getting him on the field early. Notre Dame fans weren't the only ones who noticed Sanders' impressive SPARQ combine, with Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman putting Sanders on his blue-chip Freaks list in the class of 2015: 

The Notre Dame commit got a lot of ND fans pumped when word spread of him clocking a 4.31 40 and vertical jumping 45 inches. Maybe even more impressive, though, was his shuttle time of 3.80.

Sanders also has quite the background. He's the son of former Ohio State WR Chris Sanders and was actually the actor who portrayed a young Ray Charles in the hit movie ‘Ray’ that starred Jamie Foxx. He's also appeared in a bunch of TV shows, including ‘Grey's Anatomy’ and ‘Six Feet Under.’

Sanders' acting career is behind him for now, with football the focus as he prepares for his senior season at Notre Dame high school in Sherman Oaks, California. It's also worth noting that even though Sanders has a connection to Ohio State, he's sticking with his decision to play for the Irish, with Notre Dame fans expecting another late push from Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer


Jerry Tillery

Tillery showed impressive athleticism in Oregon, finishing second among offensive linemen in overall SPARQ testing—a nice bit of work for the Louisiana native who checked in ready-made 6'5.5" and 317 pounds. 

Probably just as important, Tillery did his best to debunk rumors that had him giving LSU another look. 

"I wouldn't read too much into that," Tillery told's Tom Loy. "You can't believe the hype. I'm committed to Notre Dame." 

Still, Tillery will take his official visits, making it clear that Notre Dame won't stop recruiting the blue-chipper until he's on campus as an early enrollee or signed the first Wednesday of February. But Tillery is worth the effort, with pegging him as the third-best prospect in Louisiana and the No. 78 overall recruit in the country.


Still Considering Notre Dame

In addition to the four prospects currently committed, Notre Dame got good news from a few top targets who are planning on visiting South Bend this fall for an official visit.

According to, the following elite prospects are lining up official visits to Notre Dame.    

  • 5-Star cornerback Iman Marshall
  • 5-Star defensive end Byron Cowart
  • 5-Star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South
  • 4-Star outside linebacker/defensive end Porter Gustin
  • 4-Star running back Soso Jamabo
  • 4-Star defensive end Austin Bryant 

Notre Dame might have also received help in its recruitment of linebacker Tevon Coney, who also camped at The Opening.

With the quest for Coney's services looking like a two-horse race between Notre Dame and Florida, the Gators landing linebacker Jerome Baker on Friday, per 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong, might have made Coney's decision to pick the Irish even easier now that Florida has one fewer spot to fill.

Read more College Football news on

Biggest Takeaways from Oregon's Recruits at the Opening

The 2014 college football season won't kick off for another seven weeks, but the past four days gave the Oregon Ducks plenty of reason to anticipate 2015. 

Dozens of the nation's top 2015 recruits converged in the Ducks' backyard—Beaverton, Oregon—for The Opening 2014. The Nike-hosted event featured several top Oregon targets, as well as some recruits already committed to head coach Mark Helfrich's 2015 class. 


Waller Wows  

The latest addition to Oregon's 2015 recruiting class, 4-star quarterback Travis Waller, might remind Ducks fans of a very familiar face: current star quarterback Marcus Mariota. 

"I could relate myself a lot to [Mariota]. He's a fantastic runner. The way he passes the ball, he's so accurate," Waller told Aaron Kasinitz of The Oregonian

Waller's shown off his abilities before The Opening. he had a monster junior season for Southern California prep powerhouse Anaheim Servite and impressed in various camps during the offseason. Still, he said he saw noticeable improvement in his play in just a few sessions at The Opening, per The Oregonian: "Something I never thought I'd do is just go through those progressions. My footwork from when I got here to how I am now is night and day. They've taught me so much in two days."

Waller finished third in the Elite 11 and earned All-Tournament recognition.   


SEC Speed? 

Running back Taj Griffin might hail from Powder Springs, Georgia, but don't say he has SEC speed. The 4-star prospect from McEachern High School showed off his Oregon speed, clocking in with a 4.31-second 40-yard dash. Only Miami commit Jordan Scarlett at 4.30 was faster.  

Griffin was a SPARQ finalist and seventh overall with a 136.56 score, per

By committing to Oregon, Griffin spurned such suitors as Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia. As Bleacher Report's Barrett Sallee writes, the SEC will regret letting this local product go to the West Coast. 


A Texas 2-Step in Oregon's 2015 

Helfrich and Co. may not be done with their big-time running back targets in this signing class. Oregon remains in the hunt for Plano, Texas, 4-star prospect Soso Jamabo.

At 6'3", 210 pounds, Jamabo could be the perfect thunder complement to Griffin's lightning. The combination would have the Pac-12's defensive coordinators reaching for Aspirin for years to come.

Jamabo earned All-Offense honors.   


Cowart Sets His Priorities 

Byron Cowart is among the top defensive end prospects in the country, a 5-star standout capable of stepping into a team's rotation immediately. Football programs want to sign the Seffner, Florida, prospect, but Cowart told Erik C. Anderson of The Oregonian his priorities in choosing a university are off the field. 

I'm not going anywhere for football. When it's time for football, it will take care of itself...That Nike platform is crazy, it's big. I just want to see how big it is. That's why I'm interested in Oregon..If I did go to Oregon I could come [to Nike]. My biggest thing is interning, not even for credit-wise. Just for experience... You need experience.

As for Cowart's on-field performance, he lived up to his lofty billing by winning defensive line one-on-one Most Valuable Player. 


Recruiting rankings and information culled from composite scores unless otherwise noted.  

Read more College Football news on

Biggest Takeaways from Oregon's Recruits at the Opening

The 2014 college football season won't kick off for another seven weeks, but the past four days gave the Oregon Ducks plenty of reason to anticipate 2015...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

The Biggest Takeaways from Alabama's Recruits Performance at The Opening

Alabama was represented well at Nike's The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon, this past week, sending 10 of its 19 committed players—and many more of its targets—to the nation's most high-profile recruiting exhibition.

All of the future Crimson Tide players acquitted themselves well at the camp, and some of them were awarded MVP honors in the process. That shouldn't come as a surprise, though, as Alabama once again checks in with the No. 1 class on the 247Sports team rankings.

In this regard, we didn't really "learn" anything new about Alabama's class so much as we had things re-affirmed.

But there were some things that stuck out over others.


Takeaway No. 1: Blake Barnett to Calvin Ridley Will Be Special

Conspiracy theorists will say it was planned this way. Statisticians will tell you it was probable, based on numbers. But no matter how or why it happened, Blake Barnett and Calvin Ridley were paired together on Team #Apocalypse for the seven-on-seven tournament.

And the results were…well, incredible.

The team won the tournament, Barnett was named the tournament MVP (along with the Elite 11 MVP) and Ridley was named the overall MVP of The Opening. Neither could have done it without the other, and the chemistry they flashed was enough to get Tide fans giddy.

"We really found a rhythm together," Barnett told Bleacher Report's on-location recruiting columnist, Tyler Donohue, of playing with Ridley. "He's such a talented receiver, and it's big that we have a chance to build some chemistry before we both arrive at Alabama."

Here, take a look:

(Ridley showed out with other QBs as well):

One of the coolest things about The Opening is watching potential future teammates play together. Alabama wasn't the only team to experience this—within its own division, Texas A&M saw committed quarterback Kyler Murray establish a nice rapport with targeted receiver Christian Kirk—but it was by far the most successful.

Ridley is the No. 40 overall prospect in the class, and Barnett checks in at No. 63. After the performance each had in Beaverton, there's a chance those numbers will rise in the updated set of rankings.

But, really, who cares at this point about "pedigree?"

They both showed how well they can play.


Takeaway No. 2: Minkah Fitzpatrick is a Specimen

Minkah Fitzpatrick is the No. 33 overall player in the country, higher than all of his 18 fellow Alabama commits. The smart money says he won't remain the top-ranked recruit in the class—when has Saban ever not landed a handful of top-30 recruits?—but for now, the New Jersey cornerback was the player for Tide fans to watch.

And he didn't disappoint.

Fitzpatrick made the SPARQ National Championship with a preliminary score of 130.41. At 6'1" with rare athletic ability—anything over 130 is considered "elite"—he is an ideal outside cornerback prospect.

Alabama's secondary is an area of concern this season. Five-star freshmen Tony Brown and Marlon Humphrey are supposed to become impact players, in time, but that they're both competing to start in 2014 speaks volumes about the lack of depth at cornerback.

However, as the years go on, that experience could prove valuable. Once Fitzpatrick joins the ranks in 2015, he, Brown and Humphrey could form one of the best position groups in recent college football memory. Their skill sets complement one another well, and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart knows how to develop a good prospect.

Fitzpatrick has all the skills needed to be the next in that line.


Takeaway No. 3: Talent in the Trenches

Not a ton of analysis here. Just a couple quick videos. Georgia is coming after Jonathan Ledbetter hard, and there's a reason why:

That is nice agility for a player Ledbetter's size (6'4", 265 lbs). Alabama better work its butt off to keep him—he could turn into a good one.

On the other side of the ball, offensive lineman Richie Petitbon, whom the Tide scooped from Washington D.C., caught the attention of Bleacher Report's on-site analyst Michael Felder:

Power in the trenches has always been a staple of Alabama football. Scratch that: It's the identity of Alabama football. 

And that doesn't look to change any time soon.


Note: All recruiting info refers to the 247Sports composite rankings.

Read more College Football news on

SEC Extra Points with Barrett Sallee: RB Kenyan Drake on Thin Ice at Alabama?

Different Verse, Same as the First?

Alabama running back Kenyan Drake isn't doing anything alarmingly bad, but it seems like he's always getting into trouble.

He was suspended for violation of team rules in 2012 and didn't make the trip to Atlanta to open the 2013 season vs. Virginia Tech after getting into head coach Nick Saban's doghouse, according to's Mike Herndon. Last weekend, he was arrested for misdemeanor obstruction of governmental operations. 

"I'm aware of the situation with Kenyan and will handle it once I've had a chance to review all of the information and talk to the appropriate people," Saban said, according to's Drew Champlin.

Is it the worst crime in the world? No. His vehicle was parked inside a crime scene and he didn't stay outside of the crime scene tape.

But on top of other minor transgressions, Drake has become an "incident guy." He's not doing anything that will get him tossed from the team, he's just a bit of a nuisance at times.

That's not a good place for him to be. If there's any place on the Alabama roster where you don't want to be in the doghouse, it's at running back. T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry are vying for the top spot on the depth chart (or "1A" and "1B," if you will), with Drake being that changeup back that's capable of hitting the home run. Behind him, there's H-back/bruiser Jalston Fowler, Altee Tenpenny, Tyren Jones and a partridge in a pear tree. 

Drake—or any Alabama running back for that matter—doesn't need to put himself in a position to fight an uphill battle, because that's a steep hill.

Poor timing on Drake's part.


Is the Requirement Really Met, Missouri?

The SEC made waves earlier in the offseason when it announced that it is sticking with the eight-game conference schedule and adding a requirement that every team play an out-of-conference game against a team from a power-five conference starting in 2016.

Missouri has met that requirement for 2017 and 2018.

Purdue announced a home-and-home series with the Tigers, with the 2017 game being played at Missouri and the 2018 game at Purdue. As of now, the only other out-of-conference game Missouri has on the docket in either of those two seasons is a home date with Wyoming in 2018, according to

It prompts the question, though. Even though Purdue is technically in the Big Ten, does that really count as a power-five matchup?


Fanning the Flames of the Rivalry

Andrew Butcher, a 4-star defensive end from Alpharetta, Georgia, committed to Tennessee last year. 

What's his intention once he gets to Rocky Top? Beating Alabama seems to be top of mind.

As future Alabama quarterback Blake Barnett and wide receiver Calvin Ridley were tearing up "The Opening" en route to Elite 11 and 7-on-7 MVP honors, respectively, Butcher took to Twitter (post have since been deleted) to take a few shots at the 900-pound elephant in the SEC West.

"I can't wait to beat Alabama's (expletive deleted) with my boys," Butcher said, according to Drew Champlin of "Bring the hate I DON'T CARE (sic)."

Over the line?

Not at all.

Butcher has every right to call out one of Tennessee's primary rivals and to use social media how he sees fit. Plus, he was excited. Tennessee landed a huge (literally) commitment Thursday night at "The Opening," when 5-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie committed to the Vols.

When you pick a fight with the neighborhood bully, though, don't be upset when the bully fights back.


South Carolina's Class on the Brink of a Disaster

Florida received good news last month when all 24 members of its 2014 recruiting class were officially cleared to enroll. The same was true at Auburn, when head coach Gus Malzahn welcomed 24 new Tigers to the Plains.

South Carolina, on the other hand, is "struggling." 

According to Josh Kendall of The State, eight members of the Gamecocks' 2014 class are either in academic limbo or failed to qualify.

Included in that group are 4-star cornerbacks Wesley Green and Chris Lammons, as well as 3-star cornerback Darin Smalls. That's a big problem for head coach Steve Spurrier, because, considering the loads of inexperience he has at that position, that trio was being counted on to, at the very least, provide depth.

The head coach better hope that this is just a temporary problem and that some of his defensive backs qualify, otherwise a promising season could turn south in a hurry. After all, pass-happy Texas A&M is looming in Game 1.


Standing in the Hall of Fame

The new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta has been in the works for quite some time, and now we know the date it will open.

The new facility in downtown Atlanta near the Georgia Dome and Philips Arena, will open its doors to the public on Saturday, Aug. 23, with tickets going on sale on on Aug. 1. 

What should fans expect?

Interactive features will be a dominant theme, including a touch-sensitive, 52-foot media wall filled with dynamic content, such as photos and videos of players, fans, cheerleaders, marching bands, and a multi-touch, content-specific system designed to tailor the experience to the individual.

"The real wow pieces are our 150-seat theater with a 40-foot by 10-foot, 4K, ultra-high definition screen, which is nowhere else in the world," said John Stephenson, president and CEO of Atlanta Hall Management and and the College Football Hall of Fame. "There's a 360-degree viewer where you get to stand on the field and experience what it's like to stand in the middle of the stadium.

"This is a fun, celebratory, fully immersive attraction that takes the college football fan into the game as never before."

With the Hall of Fame, Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl now in the semifinal rotation and one of the biggest kickoff games in the country, Atlanta is rapidly becoming the center of the college football world.


Aaron Murray's Bachelorette Cameo

Former Georgia Bulldog and minor league baseball player Josh Murray has (spoiler alert) advanced to the final three in the chase to win the love of Andi Dorfman on The Bachelorette.

The big news on Monday was the appearance of Josh's younger brother Aaron Murray, former Georgia quarterback and current Kansas City Chief. 

During the hometown date, the Murray family talked football and then played a little backyard football. How did Aaron do? The scene, which was filmed prior to May's NFL draft, included the record-setting former Bulldog signal-caller short-arming passes and lead-blocking, despite the fact that he was just a few months removed from ACL surgery (h/t: Morgan Weeks of

Pretty solid form from Aaron, getting the seal block on his sister and getting to the second level to get to his older brother, springing Dorfman for a big gain.

The Chiefs didn't seem to care about his fullback potential. He was drafted in the fifth round—as a quarterback. 


Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.


Read more College Football news on

The Opening 2014: Meet the 9 Recruits Who Committed in Beaverton

The Opening is over, and a lot went down this week in Beaverton, Oregon.

While the focus of the event concerned on-field performance and competition, several recruits used the camp as a platform to announce where they will play college football.

A 5-star defensive tackle made his decision, while Miami got itself another 4-star running back. Plus, a pair of Pac-12 programs made some noise.

This list will not be complicated, as we will quickly run down all of the prospects who committed during the week at Nike headquarters.



All recruiting ratings and rankings are from 247Sports' Composite RankingsPlayer evaluations are based on review of tape at Scout.comRivals and 247Sports.

Begin Slideshow

Michigan Football: Keys to Doug Nussmeier's Retooling the Running Attack

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke lured offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier away from Alabama with a clear mandate to rebuild the running game.

Michigan’s offense, once known for producing a steady stream of elite collegiate running backs and offensive linemen, had devolved during the post-Lloyd Carr era into one that relied on the quarterback position to power its running attack.

Last season was supposed to be different—but a patchwork offensive line and tentative running by senior back Fitzgerald Toussaint again had quarterback Devin Gardner scrambling for yards and taking a beating.

After a late-season collapse that crushed hopes of a Big Ten title, Hoke decided he had seen enough and handed the reins of the offense over to Nussmeier during the offseason.

Nussmeier inherits some of the same problems that hampered the running game under his predecessor—his ability to overcome them will be the main storyline for Michigan this season

Begin Slideshow

Notre Dame Football: 5 Irish Stars with Best Chance to Win 2014 National Awards

Beginning on Monday with the Bednarik and Maxwell Awards, the watch lists for a variety of college football’s top honors were released.

The names and watch lists will continue to roll in between now and next Friday, when the watch list for the Walter Camp Award (nation’s most outstanding player) is named.

So far, seven different Notre Dame football players have earned nine citations on various watch lists.

Of Notre Dame’s selections thus far to these preliminary watch lists, which Irish players have the best chance to win those national awards in 2014?

For now, we’ll only consider the awards for which the watch lists have already been released. That means we’re not including the Biletnikoff, Butkus, Davey O’Brien, Doak Walker, Jim Thorpe, Lombardi and Walter Camp Awards for consideration.

Begin Slideshow

The Biggest Takeaways from Tennessee's Recruits' Performance at The Opening

It would be difficult to script a much better result from The Opening for the Tennessee Volunteers, who went into the event with two commitments and had three by the time everybody left Beaverton, Oregon.

That third—5-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who won the event's Defensive Lineman MVP award—is the crown jewel of Butch Jones' second recruiting class.

All three of the future Vols acquitted themselves admirably in the camp setting laid out to separate the best from a group of the top players across the country.

McKenzie's performance was one of The Opening's most buzz-worthy stories, and he cemented his status as one of the top overall players.

Fellow 5-star and UT commit Preston Williams was one of the best receivers at the event, and inside linebacker Cecil Cherry also had a surprising showing, drawing some rave reviews.

UT had many more targets participating who showed up—guys like Van Jefferson, Josh Sweat and Bryce Love. But their recruitment status is up in the air, so let's stick with the players who've vowed to be Vols.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from The Opening for UT.


Kahlil McKenzie is a Destroyer of Worlds (Or, At Least, Offensive Linemen)

If you followed coverage of The Opening, chances are you heard McKenzie's name…a couple dozen times.

The Vols were the recipient of one of the biggest prizes—if not THE biggest—in this year's recruiting cycle Thursday night when the 6'4", 341-pound stopgap chose UT over Arizona, along with pretty much every major college football team in the nation, per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue.

McKenzie has grown up around the NFL (his dad, Reggie, is the Oakland Raiders general manager, and both he and Kahlil's uncle, Raleigh, played in the league), and he already looks like an NFL rookie.

He treated high school linemen like ragdolls the past few days as well, tossing them aside and surging into the backfield. While camps like The Opening are set up for more athletic players like defensive ends to excel, McKenzie's name was called as much as anybody's.

Barton Simmons, 247Sports director of scouting, noted after Wednesday's drills (subscription required):

No prospect brings the kind of punch at the point of attack that Kahlil McKenzie brings. Predictably, the offensive linemen dread going up against him. The massive wide-bodied tackle is a threat to put an offensive lineman on his back on every rep because of his power and initial punch.

Here are a couple of examples of his dominance, against Alabama commitment Richie Petitbon and one of the nation's top tackle prospects, Matthew Burrell.

Words like "freak" and "beast" were thrown around by B/R's Michael Felder describing McKenzie, and those were backed up by his SPARQ score.

Basically, everybody who watched him was wowed by his size, surge and freakish athleticism. He will be a force at UT for years to come and will play right away.


Preston Williams Has His Work Cut Out To Remain Nation's Top Wide Receiver

There is elite talent across the nation at wide receiver, and UT has a commitment from the nation's top-ranked target in Lovejoy, Georgia 5-star Preston Williams.

Well, he's the nation's top target for now, at least.

Williams did nothing to disappoint this week, measuring in at 6'4", 191 pounds and turning in some impressive plays. According to 247Sports' Jamie Oakes (subscription required), Williams was singled out as one of the top performers:

Hampton (Ga.) Lovejoy wide receiver Preston Williams faced constant double teams today and some times tripled. And he still produced. The five-star Tennessee commitment has more than impressed.

But others, such as Alabama commit Calvin Ridley and his one-handed catch in-stride and UT target Christian Kirk, also garnered high praise.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports (subscription required) said Ridley was the "best receiver on the field Tuesday." B/R's Felder said he believed Kirk was the best on the field on Wednesday.

Considering Williams set out to prove he's "the best," according to 247Sports' Luke Stampini, he has a difficult task.

Williams was excellent at The Opening, but others were, too.

With his combination of size, route-running and strong speed for his size, Williams may be the most complete receiver in the class.

Is he the best? He's considered that for now, but while he didn't do anything to harm that status at the event, a couple of others may have done enough to jump him in the rankings.


Cecil Cherry Packs an Impressive Punch

It's extremely difficult to cause a fumble in two-hand touch football, but that's exactly what 3-star inside linebacker and UT commit Cherry did this week to running back Mike Weber.

Here's the video:

Cherry measured at 6', 230 pounds and is an ideal candidate to battle Gavin Bryant and Kenny Bynum to replace A.J. Johnson in the middle of the Vols' defense next year.

The Lakeland, Florida product doesn't have the best lateral speed, but he can punish runners when he gets there.

Even though Cherry is one of the lowest-rated players invited to The Opening as a 247Sports Composite 3-star, he had a nice showing.

After the first day of action, Simmons (subscription required) named Cherry among the "best of the best" at his position. Said Simmons:

Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry is going to bring Volunteer fans plenty of highlight reel hits. Even in this camp setting, you can tell that the stocky linebacker is itching to stick his forehead on somebody’s chest.

There wasn't much chatter from Cherry afterward, but he did show some flashes. Cherry's hit on Weber also was noted as the "signature play" of the day from the group by Simmons.


All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports Composite

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:


Read more College Football news on

The Biggest Takeaways from Auburn Recruits' Performances at The Opening

While a quick start to the 2015 recruiting cycle currently has Auburn at No. 5 in 247Sports' Composite Team Rankings, the Tigers have a lot more room to improve their already star-studded class.

For proof of that fact, look no further than The Opening.

Nike hosted 163 of the nation's top high school football players at its Oregon headquarters this week for four days of prestigious skills testing and head-to-head competition.

None of The Opening's attendees are currently committed to Auburn, but the Tigers are in the hunt for more than a dozen of the elite athletes who were on Nike's campus. 

Several of those targets saw their stock rise in the national spotlight, while Auburn emerged as a new contender for a couple of standout performers.

Here are three things Auburn fans should take away from The Opening as this year's recruiting cycle heads into the late summer months.


Offensive Line MVP Martez Ivey Is a "Friday Night Guy"

Despite his ranking as the nation's top offensive lineman, 5-star tackle Martez Ivey finished toward the bottom of the results list of recruits who received a full SPARQ rating at The Opening.

Ivey's combine numbers, which included a 5.27 in the 40-yard dash, were not spectacular, but 247Sports' Keith Niebuhr said the scores were not reason for any alarm:

The 6'6" Florida native proved that in the one-on-one lineman challenge, impressing those in attendance with his work against some of the country's top defensive players. He further defended his lofty positional ranking by winning the camp's offensive line MVP award.

"I like competing," Ivey told Niebuhr (subscription required) earlier this week. "Whenever you’re going up against the best out there and you’re putting your hand in the ground, you don’t want anybody to be better than you. When you’re facing the best in the nation, there is no patty-caking around."

Ivey said Auburn and Florida currently stand out in his recruitment, and he expects to visit each school soon. While Ivey grew up a fan of his home state Gators, Apopka HS teammate Chandler Cox is a 3-star Auburn commitment who is pushing America's top tackle to be a part of another dominant offensive line on the Plains.


The Tigers' Key Targets at WR Are Athletic Freaks

Several high SPARQ ratings of Auburn's top targets at The Opening belonged to players who are currently recruited to play wide receiver. Notables include 4-star K.J. Hill (133.95), 4-star Christian Kirk (129.30), 5-star George Campbell (122.70) and 5-star Georgia commitment Terry Godwin (103.17).

Hill had the third-fastest agility shuttle time at 3.88 seconds. Kirk, who is interested in a handful of elite programs with spread offenses, carried his standout performance from the SPARQ drills over to the seven-on-seven competition, where he caught several touchdowns Wednesday.

Campbell, a Florida native and the nation's No. 2 wide receiver, ran a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash and made several spectacular downfield plays in the passing game.

Another 4-star, Kirk Merritt, won the SPARQ National Championship with a stunning 147.60 rating, which featured a 4.46-second 40-yard dash and a 43-inch vertical. He is currently the nation's No. 3 all-purpose back, but the Tigers have emerged as contenders for him, per 247Sports (subscription required), as he likes "how they use receivers in space."

Finally, 5-star Torrance Gibson went through drills as a wide receiver after going through the famed Elite 11 camp as a dual-threat quarterback earlier in the week. Some recruiting analysts believe he has more of a future at wide receiver than his preferred spot as a signal-caller.


Top In-State Recruit Daron Payne's Game Is Still Developing

Daron Payne, the No. 1 player in the state of Alabama, has got the power game all figured out as one of the nation's strongest defensive tackles.

But the 5-star from Shades Valley HS said he wants to work on doing more than just manhandling offensive linemen in order to become a more complete player at the next level.

"I really need to work on my speed rush," Payne said at The Opening, per's Gary Laney. "Just working the edge is something I need to do."

If the 330-pound Payne can develop more of an edge rush, he could be an instant starter at Auburn, who will be without Gabe Wright, Ben Bradley, Angelo Blackson and Jeffrey Whitaker after this season. He was able to showcase some of his all-around skills in the final one-on-one battles of The Opening.

The Tigers still have a lot of work to do to secure the top star from their home state. Rival Alabama is said to be a slight leader in front of Auburn, and Payne said this week Texas is also in the mix for his commitment. 


Justin Ferguson is Bleacher Report's lead Auburn writer. Follow him on Twitter @JFergusonAU. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All recruiting rankings and information courtesy of 247Sports

Read more College Football news on

B/R Digital Exclusive: 4-Star Athlete Jerome Baker Commits, Reaction

Jerome Baker is the No. 4 athlete in the 2015 class, according to 247Sports' composite rankings.

Bleacher Report was able to sit down with this amazing talent while he made his decision on where he will be taking his talents.

How well do you think this monster recruit will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report's SEC lead writer Barrett Sallee interview Baker while he makes his decision.


Rankings from 247Sports' composite rankings.

Highlights courtesy of XOs Digital.

Read more College Football news on

2014 Stat Predictions for Every Big Ten Football Starting QB

The Big Ten hasn't exactly been a breeding ground for quarterbacks the past few seasons.

But with a two-time conference offensive player of the year, the reigning Rose Bowl champion and a former top-ranked prospect all returning, among others, 2014 has a chance to be a seminal year for the position in the league.

In reading the projection of the stats of these players, a few things must be kept in mind. Some of the Big Ten QB situations haven't been settled, and in those cases, this list is a projection of who will win the job. Furthermore, it's also a projection of good health, since predicting injuries seemed too random.

The numbers are based on a full 12-game schedule.

Other factors that came into play were the player's stats from last year, the scheme he plays in, how he's improved this offseason (based on reports from camp) and who returns on the offense around him.

Sound off below and let me know if anything sticks out.

Begin Slideshow

The Biggest Takeaways from Ohio State Recruits' Performances at The Opening

A number of Ohio State's top commits and targets in the 2015 recruiting class attended The Opening, Nike's premier high school football camp. 

Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes were well represented.

Some Ohio State commits spent the week reaffirming their elite status, while one future Buckeye shined brightly despite his meager ranking. One of Ohio State's top targets showed why he's considered one of the best prospects in the country.

Of course, players already committed to Ohio State were also recruiting on Meyer's behalf.


Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell Are the Real Deal

Three of 12 Buckeyes commits were at The Opening, but most eyes were on 5-star studs Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell

According to Bleacher Report's Michael Felder, Hilliard (the nation's top outside linebacker) and Cornell (the No. 3 weak-side defensive end) showed why so many schools wanted their commitments:

Hilliard has the speed to cover like a safety but the size and strength to adequately support the run. Cornell is a versatile lineman with the skills to rush the passer from the edge or stuff the middle on the interior. 


Josh Sweat Is Not of This World

Josh Sweat is the No. 2 overall recruit in the country and the top defensive end, and he spent the week in Beaverton, Oregon, proving why.

His athleticism was on full display, especially Tuesday morning, when the campers participated in the SPARQ Rating National Championship preliminaries. The event consisted of four drills to determine the best athlete among a group of elite recruits. 

Sweat, a 6'5" and 240-pound defensive lineman, moved more like a wide receiver, running a 4.46 40-yard dash and a 4.25 20-yard shuttle. He made it to the finals, where he came just .66 points away from winning the event—which is incredible, as he was slowed by a hip injury.

The Buckeyes are in the running for Sweat along with Florida State, Georgia, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia Tech.


Tyler Green Is Underrated

Tyler Green is the No. 522 recruit in the country, but The Opening only sends invitations to 162 recruits in an effort to get the best talent in the same place.

Green's invitation to the event was the first indicator that he might be undervalued. His play on the field confirmed that.

After initially going through drills as a cornerback, where he struggled, the 6'3", 195-pound ball hawk was slotted in his natural position at safety, where he shined.  

It wouldn't be surprising to see Green shoot up the rankings soon.


Ohio State's Commits Aren't Shy About Recruiting

The Opening isn't just a football camp—it's also an opportunity for players who have already committed to do a little recruiting on behalf of their schools.

The Buckeyes commits certainly did their part this week.

Hilliard, Cornell and Green keyed in on some of Ohio State's top targets, including Sweat, Torrance Gibson, Damien Harris, Christian Kirk and Matthew Burrell

Don't expect the player-to-player recruiting to stop now that the event is over. Hilliard and Cornell are two of the most well-connected recruits in the country, and they'll continue to enhance those relationships on behalf of Ohio State throughout the year.


All recruiting information per 247Sports.

David Regimbal is the lead Ohio State football writer for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412

Read more College Football news on

Biggest Takeaways from the Texas Longhorn Recruits' Performance at The Opening

There were six 2015 recruits that are considering the Texas Longhorns in attendance at The Opening, Nike's four-day showcase of the nation's top talent. Each had a strong week in his own right, which makes it almost unbelievable that none may ever wear a Texas uniform.

Guard and top commit Patrick Vahe declined to participate in the event, leaving the Longhorns without a commit in attendance. With 22 Texas natives participating, chalk it up as more evidence that the past four years have ruined the program's equity on the recruiting trail.

The good news is that could change in the near future. Florida receiver John Burt is already talking like a Longhorn, probable commits Ryan Newsome and Holton Hill each had spectacular weeks and any team that has even the slightest chance of landing Malik Jefferson should be excited.

With that said, the biggest takeaway from the national showcase is that Texas needs to start nailing down some of the incredible talent that is there for the taking.


John Burt Sounds Like the Next Commit

The 'Horns secured a commit this week from Louisiana guard Garrett Thomas, but the biggest news has to be the impending commitment of fellow out-of-state target John Burt.

Long considered to be a Texas lean, Burt continues to look like a No. 1 receiver. The 6'3" Florida native declined to run the 40-yard dash, but a four-flat time in the 20-yard shuttle along with a 36.5-inch vertical leap indicate a matchup nightmare. Being that big and explosive with good hands will make him a nice take for whoever lands him.

As expected, that lucky suitor sounds like Texas. Speaking to's Chad Simmons, Burt had this to say about recruitment:

Texas is my No. 1 school. They are recruiting me very hard and I talk to them a lot. I like the coaching staff, the facilities, and I was always a fan of Texas growing up with family working there.

I will be spending some time out there the last week of July and I am looking forward to that. Texas is a little ahead right now.

Burt also said that he likes Auburn, but the 'Horns should feel good about where they stand with the future deep threat.


Hill, Newsome Make Names for Themselves

Both cornerback Holton Hill and receiver Ryan Newsome are outside 247Sports' list of the top 175 recruits. That will change when the rankings are updated, and these two are about to get a lot of national attention.

If Charlie Strong isn't waiting on Hill's doorstep when he returns from Oregon, the Texas head coach better have a good excuse. The supposed Texas lean was named a defensive MVP at the event and looks like the do-it-all defensive back the 'Horns need from this class. 

On the other side of the ball, Newsome proved he's a stud despite his overanalyzed 5'8" frame. The Aledo product ran a 4.5, had a 40-feet kneeling power ball toss and posted a 37-inch vertical leap to prove he's more than just a jitterbug. 

Showing out among such a loaded field means the recruiting process is just getting started with these two. For Texas to remain in the discussion, it needs to bust out the red carpet, especially for Hill.


Malik Jefferson Is Something Else

We're running out of adjectives to describe Malik Jefferson. Beast, man-child, specimen and/or freak no longer cover it.

Jefferson's 4.39 in the 40-yard dash is already the stuff of legend, and rightfully so. That mark is faster than any linebacker has posted at the NFL combine since 2006 and faster than all but seven players at this year's combine, according to SB Nation's Jason Kirk. And he posted an almost 40-inch vertical leap.

The scary part is that this is sustainable. Jefferson measured out at 6'2.5" and 215 pounds, which is at least 20-30 pounds heavier than a majority of the pass-catchers in attendance. Even if he plays at 240, he's still going to flirt with 4.4 times.

Jefferson's MVP week, along with the relatively quiet one for Kendall Sheffield, makes his a compelling case for the state's top recruit. He told SB Nation that he likes Texas, along with A&M and Baylor, but it's going to take a big season for the Longhorns to reel in this supreme talent.


Texas Needs to Pick It Up

Go down the roster, check the MVP list below. There's your proof that this event was like a trade show for the state of Texas' bevy of football talent. And none of it was repping the Longhorns.

Sure Vahe was invited, and the Longhorns have several 2015 commits that are better than their ranking. But Jefferson, Sheffield, Newsome, Hill, Kris Boyd and Soso Jamabo are all still out there, and none are total locks to be Longhorns. In truth, all but two of them are distinct long shots.

The 'Horns are downright desperate for defensive backs like Sheffield, Hill and Boyd. They have five linebackers and two powerful running backs that will be seniors in 2014. The replacements for these guys are out there and ready to contribute from the moment they arrive, but they're imaginary at this stage in the process.

Even though winning football games will matter most to Texas' recruiting fortunes, more can be done to reel in the state's elite talent.

Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting data and rankings courtesy of

Testing results from The Opening courtesy of

Read more College Football news on

The Opening 2014: Grading the Performance of the Top 10 Recruits

The Opening ended Thursday after three days of incredible action in Beaverton, Oregon. Top college football prospects from across the country flocked to the Nike World Headquarters for an event that annually features the finest athletes in America.

SPARQ testing, one-on-one linemen showdowns and seven-on-seven matchups highlighted an action-packed week. Bleacher Report was live for all the action and dissected the efforts of The Opening's top 10 recruits, as rated by 247Sports' composite rankings.

We handed out grades to each of the coveted playmakers based on how they performed against the very best of their peers.

Begin Slideshow

The Greatest Characters of SEC Media Days

Earlier this month, we dissected the 10 best moments from SEC Media Days over the BCS era.

Those moments are not possible without characters, and there are characters aplenty in the SEC.

From the Head Ball Coach to the Mad Hatter to crazy Robbie Caldwell to the lobby lurkers, the people you see and hear from at the Hyatt Regency Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Alabama make this event the circus that it has become.

Who are the best characters at Media Days?

Begin Slideshow

The Biggest Takeaways from Georgia Recruits' Performances at the Opening

Defined equally by its wealth of talent and diverse array of drills, testing and competition, it’s no wonder Nike’s The Opening is the premier summer event for the nation’s best high school football players.

Whether competing in SPARQ testing, sparring in one-on-one drills or participating in seven-on-seven games, this event gives the country’s most elite recruits an opportunity to perform at the highest level possible.

Several Georgia commits and targets did just that this week.


Georgia Must Keep Terry Godwin

Terry Godwin, a 5-star athlete according to 247Sports, told BamaOnline at The Opening that he will take all of his official visits, and his decision is going to come down to national signing day. Although it’s not unusual for a firmly committed player to take his visits, Godwin’s impressive summer performance—highlighted by a stellar showing this week—has made him one of the nation’s most coveted recruits.

Although his SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing was not overwhelmingly impressive, Godwin turned heads in seven-on-seven play when he was able to fully showcase his ability to track and meet the ball while securing it with some of the best hands in the nation.


Two Defensive Linemen, Two Different Skill Sets

As Bleacher Report’s own Michael Felder points out in the video above, Georgia is getting two very different skill sets from committed defensive linemen Chauncey Rivers and Natrez Patrick. Although highlight tape probably could have said as much, The Opening did a lot to differentiate these two players.

Rivers, who measured just over 6’1” and weighed in at 252 pounds according to Student Sports, didn’t show as much explosiveness as some had hoped for this week—at least not in the testing portion of the event. His 5.09-second 40 time did little to impress, and his 25.1-inch vertical jump was a far cry from eye-popping. That being said, Rivers projects much more as a strong bull-rusher from the defensive end position, and he proved perfectly capable of filling that role in lineman drills.

Patrick, on the other hand, showcased much more in the form of traditional athleticism. He was faster, more explosive on jumps and more agile. Patrick fits the mold of Georgia’s current hybrid defensive end/linebacker, much like a Leonard Floyd or Jordan Jenkins. With that in mind, the fact that he measured 6’3.5” and 254 pounds (per Student Sports) is incredibly impressive. If he arrives in Athens next summer with top-level athleticism and college-ready size, he could be competing for playing time in 2015.


Josh Sweat Needs to Bea Bulldog

Sweat, a 5-star defensive end and the nation’s second-best overall prospect according to the 247Sports Composite, put up downright Jadeveon Clowney-like numbers in SPARQ testing. At just under 6’5”, he weighed in at 240 pounds, ran a 4.46-second 40 and posted a 39.1-inch vertical jump, all per Student Sports.

Sweat is considering a handful of other schools, including Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon and Tennessee, but his performance this week showed why he’s one of the nation’s best overall prospects. More importantly for Georgia fans, he set himself apart as a potentially electric piece for Jeremy Pruitt’s defense.

Sweat has the length and athleticism of Floyd, but his motor was even more relentless this week.

Read more College Football news on

Georgia Football: 8 Best Bulldog Recruits from BCS Era

The BCS era has come to an end, and there were a lot of talented players to come across the college football landscape during the 15-year span.

It was no different for the Georgia Bulldogs, as they had a top-10 recruiting class almost every season during the BCS period.

But who were some of the most talented Bulldog recruits? Who were the ones that succeeded in high school and college and went on to play in the NFL?

Here’s a look at the eight best Georgia Bulldog recruits during the BCS era.

Begin Slideshow