Portland, Ore. – The Opening, college football’s top recruiting showcase, wrapped a five-day run on Sunday. We spent the week at Nike’s campus covering the event, and we’ve put together an All-Opening team of its top performers.
We decided not to be bound by strict limits on roster size, in the interest of painting the fullest picture possible of how things went. Here’s what we’ve got:
Quarterback performances varied wildly during the two 7-on-7 competition days, but DeVito, a Syracuse commit, and Alabama’s Tagovailoa were the most consistent. Stanford commitment Davis Mills may have made the most next-level tosses, but he also had some down moments in a strong tournament overall.
Give the Elite 11 some credit for taking 12 quarterbacks who all looked more or less like they belonged. This is a welcome change from taking 18 in previous years.
USC commit Carr kept showing up on film, because he’s good at making himself available and then doing more than just stepping out of bounds.
Ohio State commit Dobbins is a physical marvel. He’s also pretty agile:
The Opening’s primary competition mode is seven-on-seven with no pads. This is a setting which doesn’t favor all backs.
So, a lot of guys here. But hear us out.
Only Clemson’s Higgins, LSU’s Ausbon and Florida State’s Matthews are committed out of this group.
Lewis has a legitimate argument for the top receiver spot in the class, Smith is an excellent athlete with hands, and there might not be a more all-around talent in the class than Jeudy. He showed a lot of chemistry with Tagovailoa, the Alabama commit, and it was hard not to wonder if there might be a future between those two.
Higgins made one of our favorite catches of the week. He’s not the best receiver just yet, but he’s every bit of 6’5 and will be a terrific player for Clemson.
And Smith can do this, which, well ...
The most surprising player here is Martin, a three-star from Iowa whose recruiting hype doesn’t match the rest. But Martin is always around the ball, and he’s got top-level hands. He made precious few mistakes.
Newly minted Michigan State commit Dotson stuck out, even in a non-contact environment that doesn’t favor brutish blockers. Falo showed an aptitude for making himself open in the middle of the field, which’ll serve him well once the pads go on. He is a huge target.
Tight end was a spot where almost everyone performed well. We also have plenty of highlights coming from Oklahoma commit Grant Calcaterra and Stanford commit Colby Parkinson.
We did not get to see enough reps to fill out an All-Opening squad on the offensive or defensive lines, due to the ridiculous setup that prevented media from getting a clear view or any hope of filming.
However, the offensive line group did completely dominate the defensive linemen. Offensive linemen Foster Sarell (uncommitted), Jamaree Salyer (uncommitted underclassman), Walker Little (uncommitted), Alex Leatherwood (Alabama commitment) and Wyatt Davis (Ohio State commitment) all won multiple reps during the time we were able to observe.
Sarrell is focused on Washington, Stanford and Notre Dame, while Little likes Stanford, Ole Miss and Texas. If he can deal with the distance from his Houston-area home, Stanford might be the pick. He has already visited three times. This is an excellent offensive line year and a weak defensive line crop.
Hopefully, next year, Nike will figure out a way to not erect a wall of humanity in front of the linemen as they compete. They deserve better coverage, and their parents who flew out on their own dime to watch their sons do, too. (Several were furious.)
Moses is rated as the No. 2 player in the country, in large part because he was out-of-this-world good when he was very young. We’re not sure he should still be ranked quite that high, but he is still an excellent player. He regularly stymied top overall prospect Harris in one cat-and-mouse drill, though seven-on-seven is not the best part of his game. Word from The Opening is that Texas and LSU will be battling until the end for Moses.
Cowan is a lot like Moses in that they both look like they have spent several years in a college strength program. He’s the Next Terrifying Alabama Linebacker, and while many assume he’ll end up as an outside linebacker or defensive end type, this is the second time this year we’ve seen him have strong coverage performances relative to his size.
Browning is better in coverage than either one of them, and he might just turn out to be the best linebacker in the 2017 class. His game has no real holes, though he is learning to blitz having recently converted from safety to linebacker. He is a target of all major Texas schools and the likes of Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, etc.
Georgia commitment Jaden Hunter also came away with numerous pass breakups and interceptions.
Stanford Samuels III
Terrell was consistently around the ball, and he kept showing up as we cut highlight footage throughout the week. (You’ll see some of that in the days and weeks to come.) Oklahoma safety commit Barnes was really dominant at times, making two interceptions and generally imposing his will with a big frame and closing speed.
FSU commit Samuels almost never got thrown at, for apparent good reason:
St-Juste might still fly a little bit under the radar, even though he’s a Michigan commit. He’s about 6’4 and very athletic, and we wonder if he hasn’t been a bit slept on because he comes from Quebec, not a typical Power 5 talent pipeline.
It’s totally possible that Holmes is the best player in the country. He was born with athletic gifts that even most other five-stars simply don’t have. He’s going to be a great DB in college, but he’s absolutely a blue-chip receiver, too.
Bolden was all around the ball and has a knack for making the big play. The USC commitment outjumped five-star receiver Trevon Grimes for a crucial pass breakup that turned a game.
Jamyest Williams similarly made play after play, and though he is short, proved he belonged. Word from The Opening is that he may be buying in to being a feature player at South Carolina. Stay tuned to see if the Gamecocks can land Williams.
Georgia’s LeCounte does not test off the charts, but when he’s actually playing football, he’s as competitive as any safety in the country.