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Clemson, Georgia, Florida State recruits dazzle at The Opening Atlanta

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.

12 players earned invites to The Opening
12 players earned invites to The Opening
Bud Elliott

I spent my weekend in Atlanta for the Nike Opening Regional Camp. The Southeast did not disappoint, earning 12 invites to The Opening Finals, Nike's elite national camp in Portland in July.

Finally, some quarterbacks

I've been disappointed with the selection of quarterbacks at the Orlando, Miami and Dallas regionals (I did not attend the Los Angeles tour stop, as I was at a wedding). Atlanta lived up to the hype.

Georgia commitment Jake Fromm of Houston County is 6'2.5 or 6'3-ish and every bit of 220 pounds. I knew the former Alabama commitment had a big arm and a nice delivery, but I was surprised at how flexible he was, given his stout stature. Stacking Fromm behind 2016's No. 1 QB, Jacob Eason, is a win for the Bulldogs.

Clemson has to be over the moon with Loganville Grayson commitment Chase Brice. The 6'3, 205-pounder showed consistent accuracy and arm strength and seemed to make the right decisions when challenged by various coverages. Many recruiting followers think Brice is the No. 2 to fellow Clemson commitment Hunter Johnson's No. 1, but I am not convinced that the gap is huge. In fact, Brice might be better.

Powder Springs (Ga.) McEachern's Bailey Hockman, a former Georgia commitment, made some nice throws, but has some footwork to clean up. Jake Bentley, who has not decided where he will play his senior year after his dad was hired by South Carolina, also showed well.

Arkansas commitment Daulton Hyatt of Etowah (Ala.) has tools, but is all arms and legs right now and may take a while to put everything together.

But it was the youngsters who really showed off their skills. Cartersville's Trevor Lawrence, the early No. 1 QB in the class of 2018, looked like he belonged with the best upperclassmen at the event. Insiders feel Lawrence is going to be a Georgia-Tennessee battle.

Other 2018 names to keep an eye on include Harrison's Justin Fields and Heard County's Emory Jones, who heavily favors Tennessee.

Two other names recruitniks should know are 2019's Max Johnson of Prince Avenue Christian and Harrison Bailey of Hilgrove. Johnson is the son of former Florida State and NFL QB Brad Johnson.

Terrific trenches

I had also been disappointed in the defensive linemen so far on the camp circuit. But Atlanta delivered elite players and the offensive linemen to block them, too.

Perhaps the best player of the entire event was Jamaree Salyer of Atlanta's Pace Academy. Salyer is a 2018 and was whipping upperclassmen on a consistent basis. It's rare to see a big man so young, yet adept at using his large body. Often, younger big men are awkward and not fully comfortable with using their size. Salyer didn't reach or lunge. He showed good patience and balance, delivered a huge punch and then drove his feet. Salyer claims more than 20 offers, and I'd be surprised if there's a better underclassman guard.

Here is Salyer winning a rep against Florida State commit Ja'Len Parks. Notice he is bending at the knees and hips, not the back. That's awesome.

Check out monstrous OL Jamaree Salyer, who's only a 2018 junior #rolltide #godawgs #woopig

A video posted by SB Nation College Football (@sbnationcollegefootball) on

Brunswick's D'Antre Demery earned an invite to The Opening thanks to good foot quickness playing tackle. Georgia is a strong favorite.

Interior offensive linemen were the story, however. Florida State commitments Parks and Corey Durden, cousins from Newberry (Fla.), both earned Opening invites. Parks is a rock-solid 6'4, 302, while Durden checks in at 6'5, 315. Parks' father played with Florida State defensive tackle coach Odell Haggins, and signing this dynamic duo from a school just 20 minutes from Florida's campus is a major coup, especially considering the defensive tackle talent in the state is not very good this year aside from the pair.

After learning of the invites, their mothers celebrated, but said, "We are going to be so broke," a reference to the cost of the week-long trip to Portland for The Opening. Recruits are paid for, but parents are not.

LaBryan Ray of Madison (Ala.) James Clemens was also quite impressive. Ray showed off excellent athleticism and offers great positional versatility, perhaps capable of being a jumbo end or an athletic tackle. He told me that if he had to make a top 10, he knows Alabama, Mississippi State, Tennessee, Florida State and Ole Miss would make the cut.

Two ends also stood out: Malik Herring of Forsythe Persons and Drew Jordan of Suwanee North Gwinnett. Jordan earned an invite to The Opening. Georgia, Clemson and FSU are high on Herring's list. I expect Jordan's recruitment to heat up considerably, following his performance.

With my focus on quarterbacks and linemen, I did not get to watch much of the linebackers, running backs, receivers and defensive backs, but will quickly list players I observed with good reps in drills and competition.


Owen Pappoe of Grayson, a 2019 prospect, is nicknamed "Freak," and he lived up to the billing, showing great quickness at 6'1 and 200-plus pounds. Willie Gay of Starkville (Miss.) looked like one of the best linebackers in the country at 6'2 and 215 or so with great range. Gay has offers from all over the country, and I'll eat my hat if there are 17 better outside linebacker recruits, as his ranking currently indicates. (Remember, early rankings aren't worth much and are adjusted heavily after each camp.) Markail Benton, of Phenix City (Ala.) Central looked a bit heavy, but his top-level athleticism showed through. I fully expect Benton to pick Auburn as long as nothing happens to the Tigers' staff. Gay and Benton earned Opening invites.

Georgia commit Jaden Hunter of Atlanta Westlake also earned an invite, but somehow I kept missing his reps.

Running back

The player everyone was raving about was Kylin Hill of Columbus (Miss.). Most of the South's elite schools have offered.


Pinson (Ala.) Clay-Chalkville's Nico Collins might be the best player in Alabama and earned an Opening invite. The 6'5 deep threat gave SB Nation his four top schools: Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Georgia, in no order.

Superstar receiver recruit Nico Collins tells us if he had to make a top four, it would be Alabama, Michigan, Clemson and Georgia (no order).

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Clemson commitment Amari Rodgers of Knoxille (Tenn.) Catholic earned an Opening invite. I love Rodgers' ability to make things happen after the catch in space.

IMG Academy (Fla.) tight end Tre' McKitty also earned an invite. He shows the muscle of a player who is already in what is basically a college-type program.

Defensive back

William Poole II of Atlanta Hapeville Charter earned an invite. I've seen Poole II before and know he's a star. Florida and Georgia are battling for Poole's services.