The 11 running backs selected to competing in the 2013 edition of The Opening won't have a chance to carry their respective teams on their back as they do during the fall, but they will have the opportunity to showcase their athleticism in SPARQ testing and by utilizing their skills as pass-catchers in the 7On competition.
Which back will prove the most athletic and most versatile? One of the biggest stages in recruiting will help provide some answers.
Charles Buchannon, Pleasant Grove, Ala.: The 5-9, 190-pound Buchanon put up one of the top SPARQ ratings of the year with a 132.21 at the Atlanta NFTC and included a 4.56 in the 40, a 4.15 shuttle time, a 41-foot power ball throw and an eye-opening 42-inch vertical. He put that athleticism to use on the field as well, rushing for 1,335 yards and 18 total yards as a junior. A member of team Alpha Pro, Buchannon is still looking for his first reported offer and is not yet rated by the services. As a result, The Opening will be an excellent time for him to earn more exposure.
Nick Chubb, Cedartown, Ga.: The 5'10, 210-pounder rushed for over 2,700 yards and 38 TDs as a junior, holding offers from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Tennessee and several others before committing to Georgia in June. A consensus four-star prospect, Chubb is the No. 73 overall player in the country according to the 247Sports composite rankings and posted the second-best SPARQ Rating at the Atlanta NFTC with a 122.43 on a 4.58 in the 40 and a 40.4-inch vertical. The team Vapor Carbon member can be found on Twitter @NickChubb21.
Dalvin Cook, Miami (Fla.) Central: Cook was Class 6A All-State as a junior when he ran for 1,452 yards and 21 touchdowns. A 5'11, 190-pounder, he's rated as the No. 3 running back in the nation by 247Sports.com and the No. 18 prospect overall by the same service's composite rankings. The team Land Sharks member committed to Florida in early April over offers from Florida State, LSU, Miami, Clemson and USC. Known for his explosiveness, the Miami product was previously committed to Clemson.
Leonard Fournette, New Orleans (La.) St. Augustine: A 6'1, 225-pounder who has drawn comparisons to Adrian Peterson, Fournette is rated as the consensus top player in the country for the 2014 class. A big, bruising back with exceptional power and excellent speed, Fournette ran for 2,136 yards and 31 touchdowns on 196 carries and added 313 yards and three touchdowns on 15 receptions as a junior. The 2012 AP Class 4A All-State and Maxpreps Junior All-American selection has offers from LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame, Florida, and Texas A&M among others. LSU is the heavy favorite to land his services, although Alabama is also in the mix. Fournette is on Twitter at @_fournette and will represent team Super Bad.
Royce Freeman, Imperial, Calif.: Freeman is as prolific of a rusher as anyone in the country, running for 2,482 yards and 34 total touchdowns as a junior after running for 2,075 yards and 35 scores his sophomore season. He's rated as the No. 7 running back nationally by 247Sports.com and the No. 71 prospect overall. A 110.58 SPARQ rating at the Los Angeles NFTC showcased Freeman's athleticism and helps explain why he has 20 offers, including almost all the Pac-12, as well as Florida, Florida State, Nebraska, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Wisconsin. He just visited Oregon in mid-June and the Ducks now look like the leader in his recruitment. The 6'0, 220-pounder will be competing for team Apocalypse.
Elijah Hood, Charlotte (NC) Catholic: The 6'0, 220-pounder had the top SPARQ Rating at the Nike Football SPARQ Combine in Charlotte when he ran a 4.56 in the 40 and jumped 37 inches in the vertical for a 108.84 SPARQ Rating. The Notre Dame commit performed on the football field as well rushing for 2,868 yards and 45 TDs with a 12.9 average per carry. Hood is rated as the No. 5 athlete in the class in the 247Sports composite rankings and the No. 52 player overall. Why the athlete label for the member of team Field Generals? Because at 220 pounds and with impressive striking ability, Hood could also play inside linebacker in college, though his height is much more prototypical for a running back. You can find the team Field Generals member on Twitter @EHood34.
Jeff Jones, Minneapolis (Minn.) Washburn: The 6'0, 195-pounder is rated as the No. 154 prospect in the nation by the 247Sports composite rankings and will stay in-state to play at Minnesota, though he is considered a soft verbal and some projections have him ending up at Iowa State. He choose the Gophers over offers from Illinois, Iowa, Michigan State, Syracuse and Wisconsin after running for 1,002 yards with nine touchowns as a junior, following up on a strong sophomore year when he ran for 1,415 yards with 28 scores. Representing team Field Generals at The Opening, Jones can be found on Twitter @WaveyJJ_10.
Shai McKenzie, Washington, Pa.: McKenzie put up huge numbers in 2012, rushing for over 2,700 yards with 42 touchdowns on the ground. A Class AA All-State selection, he has run a 10.68 in the 100 meters and is rated as the No. 14 running back in the nation by the 247Sports composite rankings. McKenzie has nearly 30 offers spanning the country, including Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Duke, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Penn State, Pitt, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In the middle of June, McKenzie named the Seminoles his leader. On Twitter @ShaiMcKenzie_, the 5'11, 210-pounder will compete with team Super Bad.
Joe Mixon, Oakley (Calif.) Freedom: The 6-1, 210-pounder is rated as the No. 45 overall prospect in the 2014 class in the 247Sports composite rankings. He rushed for 1,443 yards as a junior with 20 rushing touchdowns and also had six receiving scores. Mixon has at least 42 offers including Arizona State, California, Clemson, Georgia, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, TCU, Tennessee, Texas, UCLA, USC and Washington, though the home-state Trojans are currently considered the favorite. On Twitter, Mixon can be found @MixonItUp28 and at The Opening, he will be representing team Apocalypse.
Racean Thomas, Oxford, Ala.: A 5'10, 205-pounder, Thomas rushed for 1,768 yards with 24 touchdowns as a junior to earn Class 6A All-State honors. A consensus five-star prospect, Thomas is the No. 33 player nationally and the No. 6 running back. He ran a 4.62 40 at the Atlanta Nike Football SPARQ Combine and has offers from his early favorites of Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Oregon, and LSU, However, based on his 247Sports Crystal Ball projections, Auburn is the heavy favorite at this point to land his services after receiving four visits from Thomas in April and May. A member of team Land Sharks, Thomas is on Twitter @El_GoldenChild.
Joseph Yearby, Miami (Fla.) Central: The prolific 5'9, 190-pounder was Class 6A All-State after rushing for 1,448 yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior. Rated as the top Dade Country prospect by one source and No. 17 in the country by the 247Sports composite, he committed early to Miami after receiving offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, and West Virginia, remaining solid since then and taking two trips over to campus. Representing team Vapor Carbon at The Opening, Yearby is on Twitter @joe_yerby.