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WR Jhamon Ausbon, OT Robert Hainsey steal the show at The Opening Orlando Regional recruiting camp

Welcome to The Crootletter (sign up to get this in your inbox every morning!). I'm Bud Elliott, SB Nation's National Recruiting Analyst, and in this space I'll be sharing news, rumors and musings on the world of college football recruiting.

Student Sports

Ahh, it's the return of camp season. Over the weekend, I checked out the Nike's The Opening Orlando Regional. It's a preliminary camp, with the best talent getting invited back for The Opening itself, which takes place in July in Oregon.

More than 300 of the state's best players attended. Monday, I am breaking down the offensive side of the ball, and Tuesday, I'll break down the defense.

I am only one person. I can only see only about 20 percent of all the reps the players take, as there are typically five stations operating simultaneously. It's entirely possible that someone could come away with very different observations than I did. To supplement them, I confer with coaches at the event to see if the talent I saw flashing during one drill carried over to a drill I didn't get to see.


First, a disclaimer: Quarterback drills and 7-on-7 are not real football. I look at this setting as a necessary but not sufficient condition for success. If you can't consistently throw accurately with no rush in your face and perfect conditions, you probably won't in games, either. But doing so does not necessarily mean it will translate with chaos all around you.

Florida is almost never the place to go for top quarterbacks, and that held true again Sunday. Two prospects committed to Power 5 programs did stand out, however, in IMG Academy's Kellen Mond, a transfer from San Antonio committed to Baylor, and Mac Jones, a Kentucky commitment from Jacksonville (Fla.) Bolles School.

Mond and Jones showed similar skill sets Sunday: accuracy, mechanics and quick releases. Neither has a big arm, but I wouldn't list it as a weakness, either. I know from watching their film that Mond is more athletic, but athleticism is not really on display during the Elite 11 portion of the Opening Regionals. In this setting, it's all about throwing. Mond is currently the No. 5 dual-threat quarterback in the 247Sports Composite ranking for 2017, which seems fine. Mond earned an invite to the Elite 11 Finals, to be held in Los Angeles later this summer.

But Jones is the No. 34 pro-style QB, with six other pro-style QBs listed ahead of him in Florida alone. I think he's several spots too low.

Jones tells me he is solid to Kentucky, but he will take some visits to make sure he has made the right decision. He really likes Kentucky's staff. Mond will also likely take some visits, but he loves Baylor. As has been the case with pretty much every IMG transfer, I expect him to return to his home region. That lines up well for Baylor.

Then there's N'Kosi Perry, of Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard, who was probably the most talented QB at the event. The 6'3.5, 175-pound Perry has a strong arm and is tremendously athletic, but he's quite raw and struggled in the latter portions of the event. Perry told SB Nation that while he recently decommitted from Miami, he has not totally shut the door to the Hurricanes. He is, however, mostly focused on Tennessee and Auburn. I think picking a school that does not prominently feature his athleticism would be a mistake, so I am happy to see he is considering schools that would be likelier to use the full range of his skills.

Among the underclassmen, Michael Penix Jr., of Pasco (Fla.), caught my eye. Penix claims an offer from FAU, a school that has been doing a good job of identifying talent early. He's still two years away from signing anywhere.

Running back

After a depressingly down year in Florida for running backs, the talent has returned.

When I look at running backs in a non-contact camp setting, I look for big backs who show better finesse skills than I expected. This setting is perfect for small scat backs, so for those types to stand out, they have to really shine. It's easy to fall in love with 10 tiny backs in this format.

Darrian Felix, of Fort Myers (Fla.) is a smaller back (5'11, 180) who won the running back MVP and the Nike+ ratings award (most athletic). Felix is a perfect fit for a spread offense, and he told SB Nation that Oregon is his squad, though he also has good relationships with Miami and Louisville, and would like a Clemson offer. One problem: Oregon has not yet offered. Florida kids always say they want to go to Oregon and then almost never even take a visit, but the Ducks should offer Felix, who insists he is serious.

Adarius Lemons, of Clearwater (Fla.) is a violent slasher who made his case for the top running back in Florida. Lemons spoke of how he is excited to put his newly added muscle to use and be even more physical, and on Sunday he showed good athleticism. North Carolina seems to be in great position for Lemons, with Auburn also pushing.

I also liked: A.J. Davis, of Lakeland (Fla.) who showed off good hands, and Lorenzo Lingard, of Orange City (Fla.) University. The smart money on Davis is for Florida, although Oklahoma is also in the race. Lingard might be the best underclassman back in the state for 2018 and likes Florida State.


Florida always produces receivers, and there were close to 30 receivers with Power 5 offers here. Combine that with underwhelming defensive backs in North Florida this year, and the recipe for a receiver show was in place – except the underwhelming quarterbacks didn't cooperate, often badly missing open targets.

The most consistent receiver at the event was probably Jhamon Ausbon, of IMG Academy. The Baylor commit caught everything and did a great job getting open. Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian's D.J. Matthews, a Florida State commit, was the best in positional drills before going down with cramps.

Florida commitment Daquon Green of Tampa Bay (Fla.) Tech showed off great hands, and James Robinson, of Lakeland (Fla.) looks like a Sammy Watkins clone even down to the haircut and his ability to get open, though Robinson did have too many drops. Robinson grew up a Florida fan, but I fully expect him to end up at Clemson. Trey Blount of the Powder Springs (Ga.) Pace Academy made a number of very tough grabs, and I think he is better than his No. 41 receiver ranking nationally. Blount has multiple top SEC offers.

Matt Landers of St. Petersburg (Fla.) Admiral Farragut Academy and Brandon Myers of Plant City (Fla.) Durant High School both have good size and could develop into solid players. Clevan Thomas of Pembroke Pines (Fla.) Flanagan High School also made a number of plays.

Among the underclassmen, two looked like they really belonged: Brian Hightower of IMG Academy, and Jacob Copeland of Pensacola (Fla.) Pine Forest. Alabama is seen as the very early favorite for Hightower, while Copeland likes Alabama, Florida and Georgia. He grew up a fan of Alabama. Both players have college-ready size. Justin Watkins of North Marion is also a superstar slot.

At tight end, I liked Tre' McKitty, who has added significant muscle since last season. I expect McKitty to commit to Florida. And Larry Hodges, of Tampa (Fla.) Jesuit, is a name to watch in the 2019 class.

Offensive line

This was not the best offensive line group, and three of the best were from IMG. Tackle Robert Hainsey showed good movement skills and technique. Penn State, Michigan State and Michigan are all hard after the Pennsylvania native. Center Cesar Ruiz had a strong showing and is one of the nation's best centers, and Michigan has done a good job with the New Jersey native's recruitment. Guard Broc Bando is a player who has improved a lot of late and is worth keeping an eye on. I believe he is a Power 5 prospect. Hainsey and Ruiz earned invites to The Opening.

From the non-IMG division, Notre Dame commit Dillan Gibbons of Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic showed a lot of aggressiveness. Two others to watch are Orlando (Fla.) Oak Ridge's Calvin Francis, an interior line prospect who, in my opinion, is better than his current mid-major offers, and Tampa (Fla.) Jefferson guard Jean Marcellus. I believe both should have multiple Power 5 offers.


If you're a recent signup or missed a day, that's OK. I link my previous Crootletters in this section.

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