NCAA Football

UCLA Football: Re-Evaluating Bruins' Recruiting Class After 2014 Opening

The Opening proved to be very good for Jim Mora and the future of the UCLA football program.

The committed prospects participating in the event—in addition to the vast number of interested prospects at the camp—truly does illustrate UCLA's newfound prominence on the national landscape of college football.

UCLA picked up three commitments during the camp. In addition, two previously committed prospects—Alize Jones and Josh Rosen—were also present. 

There is considerable buzz surrounding the program at this time. A good chunk of the talent in attendance do have legitimate interest in Mora's squad. These prospects will be detailed below. 


Top Targets

Of the prospects on the West Coast, the list starts and begins with elite outside linebacker/defensive end Keisean Lucier-South

The 5-star product has been compared constantly to former UCLA Bruin defender Anthony Barr. A very active Twitter user, Lucier-South constantly talks about UCLA. I'd think the Bruins will be in it until the very end for the Orange Lutheran High School product. 

Other local prospects included offensive lineman Dru Samia, defensive backs Dechaun Holiday, Marvell Tell and Iman Marshall and defensive end Rasheem Green.

Per Greg Biggins of (subscription required), UCLA is recruiting Samia extremely hard. The talented offensive tackle from Danville, California, is very impressed with the UCLA coaching staff—particularly offensive line coach Adrian Klemm. It wouldn't be a surprise to see an eventual commitment to the Bruins in the future. 

Also according to Biggins (subscription required), UCLA is doing well with Holiday. As is the case with Tell, it could ultimately become a UCLA-USC battle for the duo. The Bruins and Trojans will likely also battle over Green and Marshall. I'd expect both schools to be on their respective short lists up until the signing period in February. 

Multiple out-of-state prospects also like the Bruins considerably. 

Outside linebacker Osa Masina out of Utah currently has UCLA in his top five. Ultra-talented running back Soso Jamabo out of Plano, Texas, also has the Bruins on his short list

Other prospects at the event with sincere interest in the Bruins include receivers Cordell Broadus and Ryan Newsome, defensive end Austin Bryant, linebackers Porter Gustin and Roquan Smith and athlete Ray-Ray McCloud. 

Ironically, former Oregon State receiver and first-round NFL draft pick Brandin Cooks has been recruiting Newsome to UCLA. Cooks was committed to the Bruins under former head coach Rick Neuheisel, before switching over to the Beavers and Mike Riley. Rosen was also in the ear of the Texas receiver throughout the week. 


Commitments at the Event

Rosen and Jones entered as the two preexisting commitments at the camp. 

Jones didn't participate much in the seven-on-seven portion due to a concussion. However, he did test exceptionally well. At 6'5", 220 pounds, he's a nightmare matchup for any defensive back. His 4.67 time in the 40 was above-average, and his 4.03 shuttle time is outstanding. 

There's no question the Bishop Gorman High School product is one of the most impressive looking athletes on the West Coast. 

Per Bleacher Report analyst Michael Felder and 247Sports analyst Ryan Bartow, Rosen "wowed" at the camp with his physical tools. Tyler Donohue also had Rosen listed as the top quarterback at The Opening.

UCLA is getting a star at the position. Aside from his impressive physical tools, Rosen is an extremely intelligent individual. He's attempting to graduate early in order to enroll in January. 

With Brett Hundley likely leaving after this season, there's no reason to think Rosen can't compete for—and potentially win—the starting gig as a true freshman. 

He's that talented. 

Athlete Stephen Johnson out of San Leandro, California, was the first of the three UCLA commitments at The Opening.

The 247Sports 3-star chose the Bruins over offers from Oregon, Cal and Arizona State, among others. Johnson flashed immense explosiveness at the combine, running a 4.37 in the 40 and also registering a 34'5" vertical leap. 

Johnson performed as both a corner and a receiver. His competitiveness makes him a valuable prospect, as does his ability to return kicks and punts. At this point, Johnson told 247Sports analyst Justin Hopkins he's "done and committed. I'm 100-percent Bruin."

With Johnson's strong showing, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him eventually bumped up to a 4-star rating. 

The second of UCLA's commits came in the form of talented offensive tackle Andre James from Herriman, Utah. 

UCLA beat out Southern Cal, Ohio State, Oregon and Oklahoma for his services. It was definitely a massive coup for the coaching staff. 

At 6'4.5", 278 pounds, James still has room for physical growth. He'll need to gain both weight and strength in order to play on the next level. Regardless, he's blessed with ideal quickness and agility. His feet will enable him to potentially protect the quarterback's blind side. 

Paul Myerberg of USA Today spoke very highly of James' performance in Oregon, and specifically mentioned his potential upside. With a strong senior season, the 4-star could be propelled to a 5-star status. 

The last of UCLA's three commitments was offensive lineman Fred Ulu-Perry out of Honolulu, Hawaii. 

Ulu-Perry elected the Bruins over offers from many West Coast programs. At 6'2.5", 295 pounds, his future primarily will reside in the interior of the line—ideally at center. 

Ulu-Perry impressed considerably at the event. Biggins reported "it'd be tough to imagine a better center prospect anywhere in the country."

Scott Schrader of 247Sports also had glowing praise for the Hawaiian. Schrader mentioned Ulu-Perry showed "tremendous feet, strong hands, good hand placement, toughness and resiliency."

As a result of Ulu-Perry's performance, 247Sports recognized the talented lineman as a member of the "Dream Team" for offensive and defensive linemen in attendance. 

There's no doubt this was a massive addition for UCLA. With the commitments from Ulu-Perry, James and 4-star guard Tevita Halalilo, it has the makings of a very good offensive line class. 

If one goes by the composite ranking system, UCLA has commitments from the top center on the West Coast (Ulu-Perry), the second-best guard out West (Halalilo) and the second-best tackle (James) on the entire West Coast. 

This also doesn't include the top quarterback nationally (Rosen) and the No.2 tight end prospect (Jones) in the country. 

It's safe to say UCLA is recruiting at an elite level for '15. 

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UCLA Football: Re-Evaluating Bruins' Recruiting Class After 2014 Opening

The Opening proved to be very good for Jim Mora and the future of the UCLA football program. The committed prospects participating in the event—in addition to the vast number ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Re-Evaluating USC's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

USC football has long made its bones on the recruiting trail, and the Class of 2015 is no exception. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff already have an impressive group committed, evidenced by the performance of some of the pledged prospects last week at The Opening.

More primary targets for the Trojans in 2015 also shined at the event in Beaverton, Oregon. Expect USC to continue to make a splash in its first recruiting cycle since NCAA sanctions were lifted, particularly among prospects who commanded the spotlight at The Opening.  


USC's Top Targets

USC featured some great defenses during the program's run of seven straight conference championships in the 2000s. The 2015 recruiting class could very well bring the Trojans their next great defense, if some of the top prospects from The Opening commit to Sarkisian. 

Rasheem Green showed off his 5-star credentials in defensive line workouts last Thursday. The prospect from Southern California prep powerhouse Junipero Serra wowed those in attendance when playing to his full potential.   

Serra has been a top recruiting pipeline for USC in recent years, and the Trojans could again strike it big there in 2015. Green's not the only 5-star recruit from Serra on USC's radar. 

Linebacker John Houston did not participate at The Opening due to a back injury. He made the trip, however, and detailed his plans to Greg Biggins of

The schools I know will make the cut are Florida, Florida State, Oregon, Notre Dame, USC and UCLA. I plan to take all five of my official visits and I don't plan on making my choice until Signing Day. A lot can change over the season so I want to take as much time as I can and make sure I'm doing the right thing.

While that's a while to wait, Justin Hopkins of 247Sports tweeted one tidbit from Houston's appearance at The Opening that should excited Trojans fans: 

USC is also in the mix for another Southern California-based 5-star defensive standout, Orange Lutheran product Keisean Lucier-South.  

Lucier-South suffered an injury in the final days of The Opening but garnered praise before that. Bleacher Report's Michael Felder touted Lucier-South—currently projected at defensive end—as an outside linebacker:

USC is also targeting prospects in the secondary who made their presences felt at The Opening. DeChaun Holiday, a 4-star prospect from Mission Hills High School in San Marcos, California, told's Greg Biggins of his interest in USC. 

Holiday said the Trojans are looking at him as either a cornerback or safety. That flexibility could play a role in the talented defensive back's decision. 


USC's Top Commits 

USC scored a high-profile commitment at The Opening, when 4-star defensive back Isaiah Langley pledged to the Trojans.

Langley posed for the below photo alongside fellow 2015 Trojans commits and Opening participants Cameron Smith and Ricky Town:

With Langley en tow, USC now checks in at No. 9 on B/R college football recruiting writer Tyler Donohue's top 25.  

Meanwhile, highly touted 5-star quarterback commit Town overcame a slow start in Elite 11 competition to wow Trent Dilfer. The former Fresno State and NFL star told Paul Myerberg and Daniel Uthman of USA Today that Town turned a corner during The Opening:

It popped this morning. It was like the weight of the world was taken off his shoulders. He had so much confidence, his personality started coming out; he had some sauce to him. One play and it was like, 'This is mine. Bye, Coach Dilfer, you can go away. Everybody else can leave, I got this.' That's the first time I've seen it in him. If I see that in the 7-on-7 games, you're going to get a special kid.

Town did indeed exhibit that same fire in 7-on-7 play. Pac-12 Networks analyst Yogi Roth told Justin Hopkins of 247Sports that he saw Town make strides as the quarterback played with less pressure: 

If you look at him the last couple of months, he wasn't having a lot of fun. And now over the last 5 days, he told me yesterday he's never had more fun playing the game. He's smiling, and as he's smiling, he's completing passes, he's not attaching himself to outcomes.

Fellow 5-star prospect Chuma Edoga impressed throughout the week. The most highly rated commit in the Trojans' 2015 class demonstrated quickness and power at the line.  

All told, The Opening suggests a return to prominence in the Pac-12 may not be far for the Trojans. 


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

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Re-Evaluating USC's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

USC football has long made its bones on the recruiting trail, and the Class of 2015 is no exception. Head coach Steve Sarkisian and his staff already have an impressive group committed, ...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Carl Lawson Injury: Updates on Auburn Star's Recovery from Knee Surgery

Auburn defensive end Carl Lawson underwent knee surgery in May in hopes of being back in time for the 2014 regular season. While his progress is impressive, Tigers head coach Gus Malzahn is beginning to start the process of mitigating expectations.    

"That's yet to be determined but he is an unbelievable worker," Malzahn told Brandon Marcello of when asked if Lawsom will be back this coming season. "He's a physical specimen put together extremely well, so he's very determined and so we'll kinda see where that goes."

Lawson, a rising sophomore, underwent surgery on his left knee on May 1. The full extent of Lawson's diagnosis had not been made public, and Marcello initially reported last month that it was not an ACL tear. However, Malzahn changed course on Monday by indicating the surgery was indeed to repair his ACL.

One of the nation's highest-touted defensive end recruits in 2013, Lawson made 20 tackles (7.5 for a loss) and four sacks as a freshman. He was expected to be the Tigers' primary pass-rushing option after the departure of Dee Ford to the NFL. Coupled with fellow 2013 recruit Montravius Adams and seniors Gabe Wright and LaDarius Lewis, Auburn was expected to be among the nation's best defensive lines.

Losing Lawson casts a little shadow of doubt into a unit that Malzahn needs to be a strength. The Tigers boasted an explosive, run-oriented offense last season but saw their defense nearly collapse their season on multiple occasions. Their national championship game loss to Florida State saw the Seminoles come back from a 21-3 deficit to score a 34-31 win. 

"Carl's a young man that, he's going to work his tail off to get back as quick as he can," defensive line coach Rodney Garner told reporters last month. "It's an opportunity for somebody else to step up."

While Malzahn and Garner have kept a cautious stance, those close to Lawson insist he'll play when healthy. Carl Lawson Sr. told Marcello that missing the entire 2014 season is not even a consideration for the family at this point. 

"He definitely wants to play this year and everybody wants to get a chance to right the wrong from that 13 seconds (against Florida State in the BCS National Championship), so I think the thing is he wants to be out there contributing and trying to help Auburn win a national title," Lawson Sr. said.

Having goals and accomplishing them are two different things when it comes to knee injuries. It's best not only for Auburn but also Lawson himself to make sure he's 100 percent healthy when he returns. If that means missing the entire 2014 campaign, Malzahn can throw a medical redshirt on him and retain his last three years of eligibility.

With more than a month still remaining before Auburn kicks off its season Aug. 30, it's safe to say we'll get a better idea of Lawson's status in the coming weeks.


Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter.

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5 Issues We Would Love Michigan's Brady Hoke to Address at Big Ten Media Days

The Big Ten begins gearing up for the season with its annual event for media and fans in Chicago. Big Ten Media Days and Kickoff Luncheon will be held July 28-29 and feature 42 players and coaches from the conference schools.

Brady Hoke enters this season with his honeymoon in Ann Arbor definitely over after a late-season slide that knocked his team out of Big Ten title contention and included disappointing losses to both Michigan State and Ohio State.

Hoke will be joined in Chicago by a trio of seniors—defensive end Frank Clark, quarterback Devin Gardner and linebacker Jake Ryan.

Here is a wish list of issues fans would love to hear Brady Hoke address as his team prepares for a season that could make or break his tenure at Michigan.

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5 Defensive Players Who Could Be Heisman Trophy Finalists in 2014

In all likelihood, regardless of how immaculate the resumes may look by the time December rolls around, a defensive player will not win the Heisman in 2014.

Such proclamations don’t exactly require the “BREAKING NEWS!” or “SPOILER ALERT!” tag at this point. The force field standing between defensive players and the most prestigious award in all of college football seems impenetrable, despite a handful of quality attempts in recent years.

Ndamukong Suh should have won the award for Nebraska in 2009. Unfortunately, not enough voters felt that way at the time. Manti Te’o made things interesting in a dream season at Notre Dame just a short time ago, finishing second in voting with good—but not great—overall numbers. And just last year, Aaron Donald generated a few Heisman ripples with his Suh-ian performance for Pitt. The overall team performance simply didn’t cooperate, thus his campaign fell short.

Admittedly, I’ve longed for a defensive winner for as long as I can remember. It’s not that I’m simply a subscriber to chaos. The award—including the way players are selectively chosen—is in dire need of a reboot.

As it stands now, the notion of a reboot seems like a stretch in 2014. There is no Jadeveon Clowney-like buzz for a defensive player, at least as the season inches closer. That doesn’t mean winning the award is impossible, but the preseason hoopla is an integral part of the process.

A combination of wins, statistics, marquee moments and flair will be essential for defensive player to alter the Heisman trend. It doesn’t hurt to contribute in other ways, either. As for the select few who are capable of turning the brass statue on its side if everything plays out perfectly, here are a few defenders to keep an eye on.


Vernon Hargreaves (Florida, CB)

As a true sophomore, he might be the most important defensive player in the country. As we’re well aware by now, however, oftentimes this label doesn’t equate to Heisman success and acclaim.

The evaluation process on cornerbacks is unique from any other position on the field. Silence is a valued commodity and, ultimately, that likely will be what keeps Florida’s magnificent cornerback out of consideration for an award that is about generating noise. Well, that or an offense that might not keep the team in enough games.

If Florida is able to bounce back after a dismal, injury-filled year, however, its best player will undoubtedly get the praise he deserves. And if Hargreaves is able to come up with a few interceptions on the limited instances quarterbacks throw in his direction, perhaps he can sneak into the conversation.

A few snaps on offense and a few more punt and kick return attempts wouldn’t hurt, either. He returned three punts and one kickoff last season. Ultimately, those chances will have to increase for him to receive serious consideration.

Regardless of whether he gets those opportunities, this is one—especially if you’re an SEC quarterback thinking about throwing to his side—worth keeping an eye on.


Mario Edwards Jr. (Florida State, DE)

The Heisman conversation for Mario Edwards begins with the team he plays on. That is by no means an insult to his unique style and unlimited potential, but rather an understanding of the state of the award.

Florida State will likely be favored by double digits in every regular-season matchup in 2014, and the value of collecting wins in large amounts cannot be overstated. For proof of this, Edwards can talk to teammate Jameis Winston.

Edwards, however, will have to win the Heisman in much different fashion. In fact, part of his inclusion is simply assuming that he takes that next step that he has yet to reach.

At nearly 300 pounds, Edwards will likely move up and down the Seminoles’ defensive line in 2014. While the sack totals and overall numbers may not equal some of the others included in this piece, his influence could be far greater than any defender in the country.

Again, it comes down to evaluating. If voters are looking beyond simply sack totals and batted balls—and goodness, they better—then Edwards could surprise.


Joey Bosa (Ohio State, DE)

At 6’5” and 285 pounds, Joey Bosa can do a backflip. Here’s proof.

I’m not exactly sure what that tells us about the sophomore’s Heisman chances, but it does provide a glimpse of how much athleticism is bottled up in this colossal frame.

Bosa meets a few of the necessary checklist items for hopeful defensive players, the first being the team he plays for. Ohio State, much like a season ago, is poised for another national championship run. Zeroing in on his scenario a bit closer, Bosa won’t be terrorizing quarterbacks by his lonesome.

Playing alongside Michael Bennett, Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, Bosa will be given ample opportunities to dominate one-on-one matchups, and thus enhance his sack total. Last season he finished with seven-and-a-half sacks, although his production increased as he got deeper into his freshman season.

For Bosa to have a serious chance at the award, he’ll likely have to double that total. Given Ohio State’s schedule—along with the talent on the defensive side—such lofty goals should not be considered unreachable.


Vic Beasley (Clemson, DE)

Here’s where the resumes become a bit more familiar.

After forgoing a shot at the NFL, Vic Beasley returns to a Clemson defense that should be one of nation’s elite. While that’s not something we’re accustomed to saying about the Tigers, this has the makings to be a ferocious group. And such ferocity begins with a star defensive end who was everywhere in 2013.

Beasley’s 12 sacks in 2013 put him on the map. The buzz surrounding his play isn’t Clowney-esque yet, but he made a name—and a whole lot of money—for himself last year.

Now, what does he have in store for an encore? And what does Clemson have in store after an Orange Bowl win?

For Beasley to be in the Heisman conversation, the Tigers must first find replacements for quarterback Tajh Boyd and wide receiver Sammy Watkins. That may seem like a strange place to begin, but again, this award focuses on wins as much as it does individuals numbers. The offense has some catching up to do.

Beasley, if healthy, will post numbers. The defense, if healthy, will be one of the best in the country. If the offense can do its part and Beasley shows out in the Tigers’ high-profile games—zeroing in on a Sept. 20 matchup against Florida State—perhaps the Heisman chatter will start to hum.


Myles Jack (UCLA, LB)

UCLA’s best running back might be the best linebacker in the country. If you watched Myles Jack operate for the Bruins as a freshman—which is still somewhat hard to fathom—this bizarre statement should also seem to fit.

The whole thing is so natural, it’s almost scary.

Jack wasn’t just one of the best defensive players in all of college football out of the gate—finishing with 77 tackles, a sack, two interceptions and a touchdown—but he also averaged seven yards per carry and found the end zone seven times on 38 attempts.

Because of his unique, two-way presence, Jack feels like a logical front-runner in this category. Obviously this will depend a great deal on how he’s used going forward, although the splash has already been made.

Linebacker is his position of the future. There’s no questioning this. But even if Jack plays a small (but impactful) role on short yardage plays and red-zone opportunities, the rest of his resume will look a little more pronounced.

Aiding this potential Heisman run is a team loaded with young talent on defense, intriguing wideouts on offense and a quarterback on the brink of stardom. Outside of Auburn, there is no team in the country with more program momentum.

The ingredients for a Heisman run are all in place. Now it’s a matter of tackling history. Or, in the case of this potential two-way star, running right over it.

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Re-Evaluating Oregon's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Recruiting for the 2015 cycle is gaining steam for the Oregon Ducks, with six of their 11 total commits pledging since June. Oregon climbed to No. 18 nationally, per 247Sports, and the performance of a few Ducks prospects last week at The Opening points to a home run haul for head coach Mark Helfrich and Co. come national signing day. 


Oregon's Top Targets

Byron Cowart proved his 5-star standing at The Opening. Charles Power of 247Sports praised him as the top defensive lineman in attendance, writing: 

Cowart led the linemen in Tuesday’s NFTC portion of The Opening, showing off his burst off the ball and an array of pass rushing moves that left offensive tackles asking for a crack at a rep against the 6'4", 250-pounder...[He] went undefeated in one-on-ones, making quick work of Clemson commitment Mitch Hyatt and 5-star offensive tackle Martez Ivey.

Below is Cowart at work during The Opening, via Craig Haubert of ESPN: 

Cowart is just the piece Oregon needs in its 2015 signing class. Defensive line coach Ron Aiken is his primary recruiter, and he'll likely have a few more months to pitch the 5-star prospect. Luke Stampini of 247Sports reports that Cowart plans to announce his commitment in January at the Under Armour All-American Game. 

Oregon has not pursued 4-star safety Marvell Tell quite as intensely as it has Cowart, but that may change after his performance at The Opening. 

The prospect out of Crespi High School in Encino, California, has a top three of UCLA, USC and Texas A&M. However, Tell told Aaron Kasinitz of The Oregonian that the Ducks intrigue him:

I actually like Oregon a lot. ... I want to take an official up there and learn more about the program. I don't know too much. I've talked to the coaches more off and on, but I definitely want to take that trip.

Fellow Southern California-based defensive back recruit DeChaun Holiday is another standout from The Opening for whom the Ducks could make a late push.

Holiday told Greg Biggins of, "I like UCLA and USC a lot," but Oregon is also a factor. Should the 4-star recruit from Mission Hills High School in San Marcos not make a choice soon, Ducks defensive backs coach John Neal will have time to make a push:

As for when I'll decide, I'm still battling that right now. A part of me wants to commit early but I want to wait until I'm 100% on that and right now, I'm only 50-50. If I'm not ready by the end of the summer, I'll take my official visits and wait until the fall to commit anywhere.

Currently, Oregon has two defensive backs committed to its 2015 signing class: 3-star prospects Jihree Stewart and PJ Locke. The addition of Tell or Holiday—or both—gives this unit the kind of juice that the Oregon secondary is known for. 


Oregon's Top Commits

Running back Taj Griffin came to The Opening with 5-star billing from 247Sports, but his Composite score rated him as a 4-star prospect. His blazing speed and No. 7 overall SPARQ score, via, might land Griffin that coveted fifth star. 

The speedy Griffin proved himself as exactly the type of back that flourishes in the Ducks' uptempo offense. 

Likewise, quarterback Travis Waller should find himself right at home in Oregon. Waller pledged to the Ducks just days before The Opening.

The 4-star dual-threat prospect out of Servite High School in Anaheim, California, commemorated the occasion with the first of what could be many stellar performances in the state of Oregon. 

Waller finished No. 3 in the Elite 11 quarterback competition through last Thursday. His combination of mobility on the run and presence in the pocket make him an invaluable addition to this signing class, particularly after the Ducks missed on recruits Kyler Murray and Blake Barnett. 

Waller's pass to Alabama commit Calvin Ridley was perhaps the play of The Opening. 


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

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Re-Evaluating Oregon's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Recruiting for the 2015 cycle is gaining steam for the Oregon Ducks, with six of their 11 total commits pledging since June. Oregon climbed to No...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Bleacher Report's Top 25 2015 Recruiting Classes After The Opening

The 2015 recruiting cycle reaches a pivotal stretch this time of the year, as just a few weeks of summer separate us from the senior seasons of top college prospects. Many of these premier recruits attended The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon last week.

Bleacher Report was on hand for all the action at Nike's world headquarters, where several players announced commitments and shook up the recruiting spectrum moving forward. In the wake of a star-studded event, we rank the country's top 25 recruiting classes at this point, placing more value on quality than quantity.

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Re-Evaluating Alabama's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

According to the 247Sports team rankings, Alabama has had the top recruiting class in the country in each of the past four seasons, and it's out to the pole position once again in 2015.

That was made clear last week at Nike's The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon, which was attended by 10 of the Tide's 19 committed players. More than half of their current class was deemed good enough to join the most prestigious camp in America.

But it wasn't just committed Alabama players in attendance in the Beaver State. A small group of top Alabama targets was there as well.

Even though they're staked out to a pretty substantial lead, the Tide cannot hold onto their No. 1 ranking by resting on their laurels. They don't have a current commitment from any of the top 30 players in the country. For context, they had five in the top 15 last cycle.

Here's a post-Opening look at the state of Alabama's 2015 class, including both targets and current commitments.

How did everyone fare during their week in Beaverton?


Top Targets

Alabama's top uncommitted targets at The Opening included a pair of 5-star defensive linemen and a 4-star (but top-100) offensive tackle.

Here's a quick look at all of them:


DE Byron Cowart (Seffner, Florida)

Florida native Byron Cowart is the No. 15 overall player in the class, and he showed why in Beaverton. He earned rave reviews throughout the week, earning a flurry of glowing tweets from analysts:

The videos that came out do not belie those reviews:

Cowart is enamored with Oregon and is also fond of nearby Florida. Of the top three Alabama targets at The Opening, he is probably the longest shot to end up in Tuscaloosa.

But he did have some nice things to say about the Crimson Tide in March, per Mike Herndon of, and after the showing he just had in Beaverton, Saban should prioritize his recruitment.


DT Daron Payne (Birmingham, Alabama)

Daron Payne from nearby Birmingham, Alabama, is the No. 16 overall player in the class, and even though he didn't perform as well as Cowart did, he definitely didn't look poor up in Beaverton.

At 348 pounds, Payne has the size and frame to become a nose guard in Alabama's 3-4 defense. He could be an anchor against the run.

His bullrush already looked SEC-capable:

Payne also got a stuff test (and perhaps future practice preview?) against Alabama offensive line commit Lester Cotton:

Payne was once a strong Auburn lean on the 247Sports Crystal Ball, but he has since skewed heavily toward Alabama. He is currently listed as a 96 percent favorite to land in Tuscaloosa.


OT Drew Richmond (Memphis, Tennessee)

Offensive tackle Drew Richmond made an impact on and off the practice field in Beaverton, stepping up as one of the best blockers but also one of the most affable, well-liked players in the camp.

Here he is chiming in on No. 2 overall prospect Josh Sweat:

Richmond is the No. 78 overall player in the class and would fill a need for the Tide, who do not have a big-time 2015 offensive tackle.

He spoke with Charles Power of 247Sports (subscription required) during the event to give an update on his recruitment, listing Ole Miss, Alabama, Tennessee, Ohio State, Memphis (yes, Memphis), North Carolina and UCLA as teams that are after him the hardest.

"[The May visit] was cool getting to know [the Alabama offensive linemen], because I had one type of perception that I thought they were and they are way cooler than I thought," Richmond said of his official visit to Tuscaloosa. "I still talk to Josh Casher sometimes and Cam [Robinson] and I Tweet from time to time."

Richmond will announce his decision on September 9.


Current Alabama Commits

Alabama sent 10 already committed players to The Opening, and, especially toward the top of the class, those players showed very well.

I went into further depth on the subject here, but three of the Tide's highest-rated players—cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick, receiver Calvin Ridley and quarterback Blake Barnett—all received some sort of tangible accolade during the week in Beaverton. Fitzpatrick made the SPARQ National Championship with a preliminary score of 130.41, Ridley was named the overall MVP of The Opening and Barnett was named the MVP of the seven-on-seven tournament and the Elite 11.

Cotton, who was shown blocking Payne in the previous section, also showed well, and fellow offensive line commit Richie Petitbon caught the eye of Bleacher Report's on-site analyst, Michael Felder:

Athlete Shawn Burgess-Becker didn't flash as often as 'Bama fans might have hoped, but he did show some nice instincts and had a few impressive pass breakups during the seven-on-seven games:

He could be the next in the line of physical, athletic safeties.

The most important takeaway from The Opening, though, might have been the cohesion between the Alabama recruits.

The players all got along with one another—or at least it seemed that way to an outside observer who was following along from the opposite end of the country—and no one was talking about seriously reopening their recruitment to other schools this coming season.

Here's a group of former Tide players with Barnett's family:

There's a reason this class ranks No. 1 on the 247Sports team rankings. And there's a reason it will probably stay there.


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

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Re-Evaluating LSU's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

The Opening proved LSU has much to look forward to in the near future. 

Only the best high school prospects are invited to The Opening, the most coveted preseason camp in Beaverton, Oregon. Luckily enough for the Tigers, they are in the running for numerous players who competed. 

The biggest news from the The Opening was arguably the re-commitment of 4-star cornerback Xavier Lewis. Lewis gave his original vow to the Tigers last August but de-committed in February, per The Advocate

Lewis' decision now gives LSU 13 commitments in the 2015 class, four of whom competed in The Opening. The Tigers now rank No. 10 on 247Sports' Recruiting Team Ranking, which is good for sixth in the SEC.  

There were plenty of other LSU targets that competed as well, some of whom Les Miles would love to see commit to the Tigers.


Top Targets

LSU, like many other elite programs, is hoping to bring in elite 5-star recruits. The nation's No. 1 defensive end Josh Sweat and offensive tackle Martez Ivey both turned heads. No defensive end came close to Sweat's amazing SPARQ score, while Ivey was voted the offensive-line MVP.

LSU will probably not land Sweat or Ivey, but the two are on Miles' radar. Other 5-star hopefuls who shined include Malik Jefferson, Iman Marshall and Torrance Gibson. 

The most likely 5-star commitment for LSU will be Tyron Johnson. There were few receivers, if any, better than Johnson in The Opening's seven-on-seven tournament. He, alongside quarterback and USC commit Ricky Town, carried the Land Sharks team to the finals.

One of the most fascinating prospects was Johnson's fellow New Orleans playmaker Deonte Jackson. The 5'11'' Jackson played impressively on both sides of the ball, earning a spot on 247Sports' Barton Simmons' "Opening Dream Team." Simmons said Jackson was a candidate for the overall MVP.


LSU's Top Commitments

The future "Defensive Back University" looks pretty bright with the performances of Lewis and Kevin Toliver II. They both picked off multiple interceptions in the seven-on-seven tournament and looked fluid in all drills. 

LSU offensive tackle Maea Teuhema was measured at 6'5'', 340 pounds per ESPN's Gerry Hamilton. But Teuhema did not compete in the one-on-one drills, which was a big opportunity for him to show off his skills against other elite prospects.

Nick Brossette was LSU's lone offensive skill-position commit to compete at The Opening. Brossette showed off his catching ability coming out of the backfield but will be remembered for his slick move against Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry. 



The overall talent in the state of Louisiana is down after 2014's historic crop, but that doesn't mean there aren't difference-makers throughout The Boot.

Lewis proved this weekend that he has phenomenal playmaking ability. He plays his high school football at East St. John, the same school that produced Ryan Perrilloux, but his name gets lost in the elite cornerback class of 2015. 

If uncommitted prospects Johnson, Jackson and Destrehan, Louisiana's Kirk Merritt join the Tigers, expect LSU to rise dramatically in the team rankings. Merritt was the surprise winner of the SPARQ title and can play both running back and receiver.  


*Rankings and additional recruiting information provided Follow me on Twitter @CarterthePower.  

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Lombardi Award Watch List 2014: Full List Released

The 2014 college football season is approaching fast, and the focus has shifted to the Rotary Lombardi Award watch list and which linemen and linebackers will be fighting for the prestigious honor throughout the season.

The award is given to the best lineman (offensive or defensive) or linebacker in the country, and the voting is done by Division I head coaches, sports media and former winners and finalists of the honor.

While 123 names on the list is a lot right now, over the course of the regular season, the top players will prove their worth and others will falter under the pressure. By the end of the year, there will be a clear tier of elite players to be considered.

Here is the full watch list and a breakdown for one of the top contenders to win the 2014 Lombardi Award.


Player to Watch: Robert Nkemdiche, DT, Ole Miss

There are few players who entered the college football ranks with as much publicity as Ole Miss defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche. In his freshman season with Mississippi, Nkemdiche learned on the job and blossomed into an elite player.

The Rebels are hoping for even more progress in 2014.

With his older brother Denzel on the team as well, the transition to college football was seamless and Robert has taken advantage of every opportunity afforded to him on the field. Not only is the team proud to have the defensive star, but now he is also garnering the national attention he deserves.

Besides the Lombardi Award nomination, Ole Miss reporter Evelyn VanPelt talked about the other watch list Nkemdiche made this summer:

Rotary Lombardi Award committee chair Brian Carr commented on why he loves the summer and the watch list, via James Crepea of the Montgomery Advertiser:

This is one of our favorite times of the year. The dog days of summer are when people start thinking about college football again. We are ready to see who is going to distinguish themselves this year, and we look forward to tracking the progress of each player on this list.

Nkemdiche should be one of those players who progresses with each passing week.

There are high expectations on the sophomore after such a strong freshman campaign, but he has the potential to live up to them. Nkemdiche managed to rack up an impressive 34 tackles, eight tackles for loss and two sacks in just 11 games.

With a year to develop under the training staff of Ole Miss and the focus on improving his game this offseason, the Rebels will be looking for Nkemdiche to become a difference-maker starting in Week 1 and help carry the team throughout the season.

Ole miss has a real chance to contend in the SEC, and Nkemdiche will be one of the keys to how much success the program finds. If he embraces a leadership role and leads by example on and off the field, a Lombardi Award is a very realistic possibility.

Yet he'll have plenty of worthy competition, as evidenced by the impressive list of names he's set to contend with for the honor.


*Stats via

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College Football Gets a New Championship Trophy for the Playoff Era

College football is getting a brand new trophy to go along with the new playoff format starting this year. 

The trophy was unveiled at a press conference on Monday:

ESPN's Brett McMurphy provided some more details on the trophy: 

Here's a look at the crystal ball trophy that has been presented since 1986 and will still be awarded to the team at the top of the final coaches poll of the season: 

[College Football Playoff, Associated Press]

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Notre Dame Football: 6 Backups Critical to the Irish's Success in 2014

With fall camp around the corner, Notre Dame football position battles are set to be won and lost.

Starters will be named, and the depth charts will be penciled in.

And while the starters and the decisions behind those choices will deservedly garner plenty of attention, let’s focus here on the indispensable backups—the lifeblood of a great and deep team—who are vital to Notre Dame’s success in 2014.

In some cases, it’s unclear if a player here will, in fact, be a backup when the season kicks off. There are some assumptions that certain players will begin the season as second-stringers.

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SEC Media Days 2014: Tracking Highlights, Comments, Twitter Reaction from Day 1

Following a long offseason—too long for SEC fans—the college football season is nearly here. Before the season gets underway in late August, the SEC Media Days are always special for one of the biggest conferences in the country. 

Multiple new faces will be in attendance on Monday, including first-year head coach Derek Mason of Vanderbilt. After taking over for James Franklin, Mason has a quarterback battle and expectations to address in his first appearance at the event.

As for some that won't be present, Nick Marshall will not attend after a recent marijuana citation. That leaves coach Gus Malzahn, who led the team to the National Championship Game last year, answering questions for his star quarterback.

With the opening day of the event in Hoover, Alabama getting underway on Monday morning, here's a look at all of the latest from the always entertaining occasion.



While last year's event was headlined by a polarizing figure in Johnny Manziel, the 2014 version already has controversy before it starts.

Marshall choosing not to attend the event leaves three of his teammates and Malzahn to respond to constant queries about his recent citation. Prior to the announcement, Barrett Sallee of Bleacher Report wrote what he believed Marshall should have done on Monday:

Being a leader and owning the moment will make those columns published Monday night and the radio fodder that follows seem silly and outlandish. 

Marshall should take advantage of the cards he dealt himself, not fold when the stakes are high.

For some, the decision was hardly an attempt to hide but more of a chance for Malzahn to help the situation. Paul Finebaum of ESPN and Larry Williams of Rivals provide their thoughts on Marshall's absence:

After last season with a loaded quarterback crop that included Manziel, A.J. McCarron, Aaron Murray and Zach Mettenberger, this year doesn't quite have the same list. Without Marshall, the other signal-callers on the program are Jeff Driskel, Bo Wallace, Dak Prescott, Maty Mauk and Dylan Thompson.

That's hardly comparable to the 2013 slate. In fact, Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports believes Marshall would have been at the top of the list:

As the official opening of the event nears, Auburn will have plenty of buzz surrounding their team. While they should after a great season last year, much of the questioning will be about their absent quarterback.


Follow R. Cory Smith on Twitter:

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Butkus Award Watch List 2014: Full List Released

The 2014 college football season is on the horizon, and the Butkus Award watch list has officially been announced with several hopeful linebackers on the tally. With notable names like Eric Striker, Shaq Thompson and Terrance Smith on the illustrious program, there will be a fight all season for the trophy.

One of the most coveted honors to work toward on the field, the Butkus Award is given to the best linebacker in the country at the end of a long year. While the Heisman, Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards are slightly more prestigious, past winners prove the Butkus Award is special.

Those names include NFL stars Von Miller, Luke Kuechly and Patrick Willis in the last decade. Though the names on this list might not be recognizable just yet, the winner will likely have a bright future ahead.

At the start, 51 names are entered—Dick Butkus' number when he played—but just one will emerge. Here's a look at the full watch list for the 2014 Butkus Award and a breakdown of some select players.


Eric Striker, Oklahoma

With a last name like Striker, this Oklahoma linebacker is expected to be a big hitter. He lives up to his name.

Last season, he put his name in the elite category with 6.5 sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss. Just how dangerous is he on the football field? Bryan Fischer of explains why he's one of the scariest players in the college game:

Just ask an Alabama player how scary it is to play against Striker. He is one of the best blitzers in the country and should be even more dangerous as the Stoops brothers continue to put him in good spots on the field. A ferocious hitter, offenses will know where he's lining up before every snap.

The Sooners front seven will be stout this season, but Striker is the clear leader in the middle. With his combination of speed and hard-hitting style, he might be an early favorite to be a finalist for the award.

Striker has also been on other watch lists, as Oklahoma Football notes:

Given the fact that past standouts like Kuechly and Miller won the award, Striker will have to put together a nearly flawless season to win. After breaking out with the Sooners last season, expect big things from the junior.


Reggie Ragland, Alabama

Just a year after C.J. Mosley took home the hardware, another Alabama linebacker hopes to step up.

After two years of sitting behind supremely talented players like Mosley and others, Reggie Ragland is now getting his opportunity and is sure to make the most of it. Ragland spoke about getting the chance to start this season, per Andrew Gribble of

It didn't frustrate me at all. I knew I had two years to learn behind the best, and I did.

... Since C.J.'s gone it's time for me to step up and become a leader on the defense. At first it was hard going, trying to get a grasp of it, but now it's better. I understand it more than I did the last two years.

The new starter was a 5-star linebacker in high school, so he has the talent to get the job done. But in a tough SEC, the emerging star will have his hands full with the speed and athleticism on the field.

Ragland isn't the only player on the list for Alabama, with Trey DePriest also hoping to finish at the top of the list. Both will have a chance to shine this season, but Ragland might be an underdog to emerge with the Crimson Tide.

Following in the footsteps of Mosley won't be easy, but Ragland certainly seems up to the task. On an Alabama team that will get plenty of attention all year, he has a chance to become a star and possibly hoist the Butkus Award at season's end.


Shaq Thompson, Washington

Coming into his junior season, Thompson has shown flashes of brilliance.

He recorded 70 tackles last season, but just .5 sacks. As a freshman, Thompson put up similar numbers for Washington, but hasn't quite broken out to this point.

Lining up at linebacker might not be the only position for Thompson this year, though. The former high school running back spoke about the potential of playing on offense this season, per Lindsay Schnell of Sports Illustrated:

It feels a little natural still. I haven't touched the ball for almost two years. [Former Washington coach Steve] Sarkisian had told me they'd do something for me [on offense] but nothing really happened. I'm wasn't tripping though -- I came here for linebacker, defense and special teams.

The two-way talent might just play an old school game this year, but he'll have to shine at linebacker to win the award. With his immense talent and speed on the field, Thompson has a chance to run away—pun intended—with the honor if he puts up huge numbers this year.


Follow @RCorySmith on Twitter.

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What 2016 4-Star DT Benito Jones' Commitment Means for Alabama

Alabama added the first player to its 2016 class this weekend, securing a commitment from Waynesboro, Mississippi, defensive tackle Benito Jones, the No. 98 overall prospect on the 247Sports composite rankings.

"A lot of people don't want me to leave the state," Jones said after picking up his 'Bama offer in May, per Wesley Sinor of (who confirmed his commitment). "But I'm going to go where I want to go."

Jones gets Alabama off the schneid in the class of rising juniors, moving it all the way up to No. 11 on the 247Sports team rankings.

At such an early stage of recruitment, though, those rankings speak more to the quantity of committed players than the quality of committed players. In time, the Tide will push for the No. 1 class.

Jones is undersized for a defensive tackle (6'2", 260 lbs) and won't be able to play in the middle of Alabama's 3-4 defense unless the scheme changes or he hits a growth spurt. He does appear capable of carrying more weight than he currently does, but Kirby Smart's scheme calls for a Terrence Cody-esque run-stuffer up the middle.

However, Jones excels with his hands and his technique and is a constant presence in opposing backfields. Think of a slighter-built Aaron Donald. He would probably fit better as a tackle in a 4-3, but if he makes the proper changes to his body, he can become a useful defensive end in the 3-4 scheme in Tuscaloosa.

Per Bleacher Report's Tyler Donohue, he had 58 tackles and five sacks as a sophomore at Wayne County High School last season:

Because of the way the Crimson Tide recruit, defensive line was not an area of "need." Nothing is. The 2014 class included 5-star recruit Da'Shawn Hand (the No. 4 overall player in the country) and 4-star recruit Josh Frazier (who weighs 325 pounds). The 2015 class already has five defensive linemen and counting, headlined by a pair of top-100 prospects (Mekhi Brown and Jonathan Ledbetter) and another 4-star recruit in T.D. Moton (who also weighs 300-plus pounds).

Jones' commitment brings the Tide security more than anything else. He is another dart thrown at the board, and his eligibility will be staggered from the group of prospects above. Especially if he takes a redshirt year to work on his body and frame—which, at this early stage, seems logical—he could be a part of this team until 2020.

Obviously, Alabama still wants to land top 2015 targets such as Daron Payne and top 2016 targets such as Rashan Gary, but having Jones provides a safety net of sorts should it get beaten out.

And he has the potential to be much, much more than that.

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Re-Evaluating Ohio State's Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Ohio State's recruiting class was well-represented at The Opening—an exclusive football camp for 162 of the nation's top high school prospects.

Three of the Buckeyes' 12 current commitments made the trip to Beaverton, Oregon, to compete against an elite field of talent. A number of Urban Meyer's top targets were also in attendance, proving that Ohio State has its sights set high for the 2015 recruiting cycle.

For Meyer to sign his fourth consecutive top-five class, the Buckeyes need to cover a lot of ground.


Top Targets

Many of Ohio State's top remaining targets competed at The Opening, but none were more impressive than Josh Sweat.

The 6'5", 240-pound bruiser out of Chesapeake, Virginia, is rated the nation's top defensive end and the No. 2 prospect overall. He has offers from more than 50 schools, including programs such Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Michigan and Notre Dame.

Virginia Tech leads for Sweat over Florida State, Ohio State, Tennessee and Georgia, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball, but he told Max Preps that he doesn't have a top-five or 10 list yet. 

Whether he has a list or not, current Ohio State commits Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell spent a lot of time recruiting him—and others—on behalf of Meyer at The Opening.

In addition to Sweat, the dynamic duo connected with 5-star quarterback Torrance Gibson, 5-star running back Damien Harris, 4-star wide receiver Christian Kirk and 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell

Each player ranks inside 247Sports Composite's top 60, and landing a commitment from any of them would be a huge boost to Ohio State's class. The Buckeyes, though, have the best chance of landing Burrell and Harris, according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball.

Other players on Ohio State's radar—such as 4-star offensive tackle Drew Richmond, 4-star defensive tackle Neville Gallimore and 4-star wide receiver Van Jefferson—made waves at the Nike camp. Gallimore, in particular, benefited greatly, as the Canada Prep Football Academy in Ontario doesn't provide the top-end coaching he received in Oregon.

"I know that unlike a lot of these guys, I haven't had a lifetime worth of training and teaching, but I learned so much from being here," Gallimore said, according to Jeremy Birmingham of Eleven Warriors. "I'll never forget this experience and it will make me a better player for whatever school I end up at."

Meyer, who has recruited along the defensive line very well throughout his career, is hoping that school is Ohio State.


Ohio State's Commits

Hilliard and Cornell spent a good portion of their week backing up their 5-star rankings. 

Hilliard, the nation's top-rated outside linebacker, showed off his speed and strength in the SPARQ preliminaries, and his playmaking ability was on full display during the seven-on-seven competition. 

Cornell impressed as well. His versatility is his greatest strength, and he proved that by showing an ability to play on the edge rushing the passer or moving to the inside to clog the run. 

The Buckeyes' other commit—Tyler Green—had a big week.

Rated the No. 522 recruit in the country and the No. 35 safety, Green could have been overshadowed among some of the top defenders in the country. Instead, he shined, showing instincts and skill that suggest he's highly underrated.

While the Buckeyes are hoping to land new commitments, one of the current members of their 2015 class could be on the verge of shooting up the rankings.


All recruiting information per 247Sports.

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

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Georgia Football: Reevaluating Dawgs' Recruiting Class After the 2014 Opening

Many of the country's top football recruits got the opportunity to shine at The Opening presented by Nike last week.  Not surprisingly, the nation's premier event for high school recruits was well attended by Georgia Bulldog targets and commitments.

After several days of combine testing, seven-on-seven passing games and battles in the trenches, here's an updated evaluation of Georgia's 2015 recruiting class.


Top Targets

Georgia's top overall target and the nation's best prospect, according to the 247Sports Composite, Trent Thompson, did not attend The Opening, but several other potential Bulldog commits were in attendance.

Most notably, defensive end Josh Sweat made a tremendous impression by showcasing his size, athleticism and relentless pursuit.  Sweat, regarded as the nation's second-best recruit by the 247Sports Composite, is pushing Thompson for that top spot, according to Barton Simmons of 247Sports:

Quietly, maybe nobody had a more impressive week than Sweat. He was battling a hip injury all week but never complained, still fought to compete and still showed scary edge speed and athleticism. In a battle for the No. 1 spot in the national ranking, Sweat stated a strong case by showcasing athleticism and toughness.

Sweat is still considering a host of schools, but landing him would undoubtedly bolster this class both in national ranking and in college-ready talent.

Linebacker Roquan Smith also performed well at The Opening.  Although he's still on the smaller side (he measured 6'1", 205 pounds), Smith showed more than competent speed with a 4.55 40 and posted a vertical jump in excess of 35 inches, according to Student Sports.

The best news surrounding Smith—at least for Georgia fans—was with whom he spent his time at camp.  According to Rusty Mansell of 247Sports (subscription required), Georgia commit Terry Godwin stayed in his ear all weak.

"Basically it was me and him the whole time," Smith told Mansell of Godwin.


Georgia's Commits

For the most part, Georgia's commits acquitted themselves quite nicely against the nation's best. 

When he wasn't planting a bug in Smith's ear, Godwin was establishing himself as one of the better receivers in the class. His speed and raw athleticism did not overwhelm, but his hands certainly made an impression.

Chauncey Rivers and Natrez Patrick showcased two very distinct skill sets (see Michael Felder's video above), which, in a way, adds value to the class by making the range of commitments more versatile.  Rivers demonstrated strength and use of hands where Patrick demonstrated length and speed, but those traits don't necessarily show up on a plain recruiting board.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports (subscription required) also offered up a glowing review of tight end Jackson Harris:

I came away from this event even more bullish on Harris than I was going in. He's one of the biggest tight ends in the country, but what were his ball skills going to be like after only catching nine passes as a junior? He never fought the ball once that I noticed. He sees the ball well, runs good routes. I don't think he's going to really scare anybody with his up-field athleticism, but he has the frame that more than compensates for that. He'll be a good one for Georgia.

Meanwhile, defensive back Rico McGraw noted at The Opening that he was still receiving serious interest from Tennessee and Alabama and told Simmons he would continue to explore his options. 



At huge events like this, no news is often good news.  Georgia did not lose a commitment nor did a top recruit make a name for himself in a negative way (on or off the field) at The Opening.

All in all, Godwin remains the most impressive among this group, but Sweat sure gave Georgia fans something to add to their wish list.

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