NCAA Football News

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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The Biggest Takeaways from Florida Recruits' Performances at the Opening

The Florida Gators' 2015 recruiting class has gotten off to a rocky start, but there were plenty of possible future players representing at this year’s edition of The Opening.

Many of the nation’s top recruits gathered over the week to show exactly why they are ranked as highly as they are.

Unlike other schools, Florida didn’t receive a commitment from anybody during these practices, but several top targets solidified their rankings, which should make the coaching staff push that much harder for their services.

Here are the biggest takeaways from the recent event.


More Reasons to Love George Campbell 

George Campbell is a must-get player for Florida this year. He's not just an elite athlete; he’s arguably the top player at wide receiver, a position the Gators need to address in the worst way.

Well, Campbell did just about everything to show that the hype is real, including running the 40-yard-dash in 4.36 seconds. According to Student Sports, that was the fifth-fastest time of any player who participated in the event.

Josh Newberg of 247Sports provides proof of the run:

Yeah. That’s what a 6’3” guy running abnormally fast looks like.

There were some minor concerns with Campbell, such as the fact that he still has a hard time catching the ball cleanly. He drops passes at times, and his receptions look a little awkward. But that’s nothing we didn’t already know.

Campbell’s raw talent and elite skill set were on full display this week.


Martez Ivey Also Held His Own

While Martez Ivey’s slow 40 time of 5.27 seconds may worry some Florida fans, it shouldn’t be that much of an issue. Ivey doesn’t play slowly on the field, and he is actually one of the more athletic offensive linemen in this class.

If you’re able to overlook that number, you’ll realize that Ivey had a solid practice. Ivey was often lined up against some of the best defensive players in the country, and he didn’t lose many of those battles.

Here’s Ivey against 5-star recruit Josh Sweat:

The last play showed that Ivey is still a bit raw and clearly needs to improve his technique. He also could bulk up his smaller frame. However, his upside is tremendous, and he played well enough to be named the Offensive Line MVP of The Opening.

The Florida coaching staff has to be thrilled with some of its top targets performing at the highest level.


Recruiting Updates

Running back Ray-Ray McCloud III is going to make his announcement on July 28, and he already knows which school it’s going to be, according to 247Sports (subscription required).

"I think I know where my heart wants to go," McCloud said. "I'm still going to take my time with it, (but) just from Day 1 when I talked to those coaches and went to that campus it just felt right to me."

McCloud has visited Florida numerous times, and Florida is the last school he spoke to, according to the report.

"I talked to coach Muschamp two nights ago," he said. "He was just asking how I was doing [at The Opening], because he knew I got sick and stuff, was throwing up the day I got here. Just a catching up thing."

In probably the most interesting story of the event, defensive lineman Byron Cowart named Oregon and Florida his top two schools. While there was talk about Cowart and CeCe Jefferson teaming up, they’re trying to add another player to the package deal, according to 247Sports (subscription required).

"We're trying to get Martez (Ivey)," Cowart said. "I would love to play with him. We're just trying to get those guys in a package. It's not more 'come to this school,' because we don't know where we're going to go yet, but it's more just talking it over."

Of course, all three players are high on Florida's list, and Florida is considered a favorite to land them. While things could certainly change overnight, landing those three players would easily give Florida a top-10 class. 

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The Opening 2014: 10 Breakout Stars from Beaverton

If a recruit feels he is flying under the radar and wants more attention, then he needs to get to The Opening and show out.

The event is the biggest platform for recruits to display their talent. Many highly touted and elite prospects were in attendance in Beaverton, Oregon, this week, but the competition also featured some players who weren't as well-known as some of their peers.

A center had such a great week that an offer from a national powerhouse could be on its way. A receiver used his speed to elevate his stock, while a safety committed to Ohio State turned some heads.

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Which Big-Time Athletes Surprised Everyone at The Opening?

The Opening has come to an end out in Beaverton. The biggest recruits in the country were out in Oregon competing to show the world that they are the best athletes in the nation.

A few recruits were turning heads this week as the most surprising breakout players. Who do you think will go on to have the most successful collegiate career?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down his top athletes that were most surprising at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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At the Opening, Florida Target George Campbell Showed Why He Will Dominate SEC

The Florida Gators should be excited about this offensive weapon for the future. Out at The Opening in Oregon, this future Gator was putting on a show against some of the best players in the country. How well do you think this stud will do at the collegiate level?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down this future monster's performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.

Rankings From 247Sports Composite

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Notre Dame Commit CJ Sanders Reveals His Playmaking Ability at the Opening

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish should be excited about this offensive weapon for the future. Out at The Opening in Oregon, this future playmaker was putting on a show against some of the best players in the country. How well do you think this stud will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down this future monster's performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.

Rankings From 247Sports Composite

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LSU Commit Kevin Toliver Proves to Be Next Great LSU CB at The Opening

The LSU Tigers should be excited about these defensive studs for the future. Out at The Opening in Oregon, these future Tigers were putting on a show against some of the best players in the country. How well do you think these two will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down these future monsters' performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.


Rankings from 247Sports Composite.

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Vols DL Commit Kahlil McKenzie Dominates the Opening, 'Future 1st Rd Draft Pick'

The Tennessee Volunteers should be stoked to have these two playmakers in the future in wide receiver Preston Williams and defensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie. Out at The Opening in Oregon, this duo was showing that they have the potential to make some big time plays in Knoxville. How well do you think these two will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down these future monsters' performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.

Rankings From 247Sports Composite

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Iman Marshall Proves at the Opening That He Is a Must-Have for USC Trojans

The USC Trojans should be excited about these studs for the future. Out at The Opening in Oregon, these future Trojans and a big time target—Ricky Town, Isaiah Langley and Iman Marshall—were putting on a show against some of the best players in the country. What are the odds that these three all end up at USC?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down these future monsters' performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.

Rankings From 247Sports Composite

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Alabama's Barnett and Ridley Connection Grows Strong at the Opening

The Alabama Crimson Tide should be excited to have these two studs in the future. Out at The Opening in Oregon, this dynamic duo was connecting on many occasions for some highlight reel plays. How well do you think these two will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down these future monsters' performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.

Rankings From 247Sports Composite

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Georgia Defensive Duo Commits Patrick and Rivers Wreak Havoc at the Opening

The Georgia Bulldogs should be excited to have these two defensive studs in the future. Out at The Opening in Oregon, this dynamic duo has shown that they will have an immediate impact in Athens. How well do you think these two will do at the next level?

Watch Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder break down these future monsters' performance out in Beaverton at The Opening.

Rankings From 247Sports Composite

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