Ahh, it's the return of camp season. Over the weekend, I checked out 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 broke down the offensive side of the ball, so Tuesday I'll bring you the defense. I'll go position by position.
I am only one person, and as such can see only about 20 percent of all the reps as there are typically five stations operating simultaneously. It's entirely possible that someone could come away with very different observations than myself. To supplement, 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. All players are from Florida unless otherwise noted.
This was not the best defensive line group. For a time, it did feature freakish defensive end Joshua Kaindoh of IMG Academy, but he pulled a hamstring and wisely stopped trying to play on it. Kaindoh is the No. 1 defensive end in the country and wants to be a doctor, as he said in this video interview. He also discussed which Big Ten schools he likes, and whether he'll head back up North to play his college ball.
Defensive end Zachary Carter of Tampa Hillsborough looked thicker than I remember and had a good showing. I believe it will be Clemson or Florida for the four-star.
Two under-the-radar players who caught my eye were defensive tackle Kelvin Pinkney of Sarasota Booker and De'Marco Artis of Seminole. Pinkney, who played with great leverage and has solid size, only claims a Western Kentucky offer and should see his list improve a lot. Virginia, Louisville and North Carolina were early offers for the explosive pass rusher in Artis.
Some underclassmen also caught my eye. Defensive end Stacy Kirby of Orlando Jones will be a top strong-side defensive end. Florida and Florida State have offered Kirby. Taron Vincent, a defensive tackle from IMG Academy, is the son of NFL star Troy Vincent and was the top 2018 defensive tackle in attendance, and holds offers from just about everyone early on. And Ka'Darian Hill of Eufala (Ala.), a 6'2 or 6'3 squatty defensive end, showed nice hand work and power. Hill doesn't list any offers, and is a good lesson in needing to use your real name on recruiting profiles, as it took me forever to find his Hudl and recruiting profile listed under "KD Hill."
Linebacker was a loaded group, with 15 or so holding Power 5 offers. This setting is more suited to athleticism than physicality, so it is important not to fall in love with small linebackers.
Jordan Anthony of the IMG Academy showed great quickness and closing speed, earning an invite to The Opening. Anthony, originally from Good Counsel (Md.) is high on Penn State, Clemson and Oklahoma. The Tigers have done a good job with players from Maryland
Also from IMG, linebacker Will Ignont is a freakish athlete with great size at 6'3, 235. He's also a stud running back, and earned an invite to The Opening. Originally from Alabama, Ignont spoke with me in this video about his top schools and what he wants to study, as well as what the average day is like at the football finishing school.
Ventrell Miller of Lakeland Kathleen profiles as a good run-and-hit linebacker, with offers from North Carolina, Miami and Nebraska.
Bradley Jennings Jr. of Jacksonville Sandalwood showed good athleticism for a bigger linebacker (6'2, 220-ish). Jennings is committed to Florida State and is a legacy.
Northwestern commitment Blake Gallagher was a player I watched closely. Being from Needham (Mass.) St. Sebastian's meant there could be some culture shock with the much higher quality of athlete in the South, but Gallagher more than held his own and looked like any other stud from Florida.
Two undersized players also showed well, which tends to happen in this setting. A.J. Deshazor of Lakeland Lake Gibson flew all over the field and won MVP honors. Miami, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and Louisville have offered. And Decalon Brooks, the son of NFL Hsll of Famer Derrick Brooks, is extremely undersized, but showed good coverage skills and could perhaps contribute in some sub packages. Florida State has offered.
The defensive back group was not as strong as it was in previous years, due to injuries to top players and a disproportionate amount of safeties rather than corners. If the quarterbacks had been decent, the defensive backs would have been exposed.
Ohio State's Marcus Williamson, of IMG, was the top true cornerback and stuck with receivers like glue all day. He earned an invite to The Opening and has the athleticism to justify his elite ranking despite not being 6'0.
Speaking of Ohio State, cornerback Shaun Wade of Jacksonville Trinity Christian did not participate after pulling his groin in the 7-on-7 event the previous day. I spoke to the five-star, however, and he said that he is "100%" committed to Ohio State, but in this video he also says he'll be taking visits, is being recruited heavily by several schools and will probably make a final decision over the summer.
One very popular name in recent weeks is Ameer Speed of Jacksonville Sandalwood. Speed, who has an awesome name for a cornerback, actually makes his money with his 6'3 length. Florida State, Ole Miss and North Carolina have offered recently, and Speed discussed his recruitment in this video.
One name to watch with very little hype is Kobe Green of Deerfield Beach. At 5'11 and 180 pounds, Green was aggressive and physical but played well in space. I believe Green is better than the Temple and Buffalo offers he currently holds.
There were several top safeties at the event as well.
Richard LeCounte of Riceboro (Ga.) Liberty County was a stud all day. The five-star Georgia commit is listed as an athlete, but I see him filling the Lamarcus Joyner/Jalen Ramsey/Javier Arenas slot role as the nickel in Kirby Smart's defense (basically the same scheme run at Alabama, FSU and elsewhere). LeCounte did not duck any reps, was physical, fast and flipped his hips at 6'1. He earned an invite to The Opening.
Ohio State commitment Isaiah Pryor of IMG is also a star. I am not sure if he will end up at safety or linebacker (Pryor is built like a linebacker but moves more like a strong safety). He acquitted himself well covering receivers and was eager to take rep after rep, earning an invite to The Opening.
Amari Burney of Clearwater Central Catholic is an underclassman to watch with great length who might grow into a linebacker.