The Opening: ASU prospect evaluations

More than a dozen Arizona State targets competed at Nike's The Opening, which is the highest profile football camp of its kind. SunDevilSource.com was on hand for the event and here's our take many recruits' performances.

Dillon Sterling-Cole -- One of 16 quarterbacks participating in the Elite-11 finals that immediately preceded The Opening (which all the quarterbacks also participated in), Sterling-Cole didn't earn a spot in the coveted Elite-11. He measured 6-foot-3 and 191 pounds, ran 4.84 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 4.66 in the shuttle and had a 31 inch vertical jump. Sterling-Cole was a little bigger-framed that I anticipated, and will not be undersized at the position at the highest college level, though he didn't test quite as well from an athletic standpoint as I thought he might. He has an above average to good arm for a major college quarterback prospect and mechanics that are not deficient in any way, but also not as polished as many of the others on hand, in a group of excellent prospects. He had a tendency to overthrow receivers in short to intermediate attempts in The Opening 7v7, but on his final drive in the Elite-11 he completed all six of his attempts, though one came late and was caught out of bounds. At the high end of the spectrum, quarterbacks in this era have remarkable polish already because they've been honing the craft for many years already with quarterback gurus. Sterling-Cole is later in the process than others, but more than held his own in this setting, which is impressive because projecting forward he has more room to develop than a lot of others in attendance who are closer to maxing out from a physical tools standpoint.

Byron Murphy -- In one of the two games we watched Murphy play, he was frequently tasked with defending the most athletic 2016 wide receiver in attendance, Tyrie Cleveland. Murphy came away from the experience unscathed. He was not exposed at all to vertical attacks, despite Cleveland being a 4.32 40-yard dash burner and Murphy having a modest 4.63 speed. A big reason for that is Murphy's really impressive situational understanding. he knows when and how to leave a recovery cushion without the space becoming unmanageable on aggressive re-directs or returns to the ball. That's extremely hard to do well against any type of athleticism, but especially someone with truly elite speed. Murphy measured 5-foot-10 and 163 pounds, which is smaller than he looks on the field or up close in a conversation. Size isn't an issue at all, and he plays more athletically than he tested. Just based on watching most of the teams in attendance twice, the two best cornerbacks in the West appeared to be Murphy and Jack Jones.

Connor Murphy -- Murphy has great length and uses it very well, and his feel as a pass rusher for his size is advanced and borderline excellent. Murphy isn't a great athlete in terms speed measurable, and he opted out of 40-yard dash and shuttle run testing, perhaps due to an awareness of this fact. However, given that he is legitimately 6-foot-7 and 246 pounds, the way he's able to put offensive tackles off balance and get into the backfield is extremely impressive. His long arms give him a real advantage over other ends, and puts him on an equal footing with most offensive tackles, if not an edge over some. He tends to get his hands where he wants them more cleanly than other players, and then is able to use a few different well conceived and quickly executed maneuvers that are not alike, in order to keep offensive tackles guessing. Murphy has a good interior spin for his size working off a hard set tackle, and he uses downward strikes to keep hands off of him. Ultimately, he's going to be a 270 pound end with very good versatility and has an NFL ceiling.

Michael Eletise -- Though he was one of the lesser performing testers at the Opening (6-foot-2.5 and 300 pounds, 5.39 40-yard dash, 4.96 shuttle, 33 foot power ball, 25.6 inch vertical jump), Eletise was a standout in 1v1 action. As an offensive guard, Eletise has a great combination of low center of gravity and balance that he uses to manage interior rushers. He won a vast majority of the individual reps he was involved in, and did so against some of the nation's best defensive tackle prospects. The anticipation Eletise displayed was very good and he seems to have high level instincts and thinks the game very effectively. It's something we felt on our first viewing of Eletise, when he was a standout at The Opening regional in Redondo Beach, Calif. He doesn't have as high a ceiling, perhaps, as others in attendance, but nobody was more effective among offensive linemen in the West.

Johncarlo Valentin -- Extremely stout and thickly constructed, Valentin probably came into the event a bit heavier than he'd like to be, at 340 pounds, but was not at all sloppy for being such a big man. He gets an incomplete review though because even though he was powerful in some of the testing and other work linemen did, he was either a non-participant or very limited in the 1v1 segment, which is critical to evaluating the linemen.

Naseir Upshur -- At 6-foot-1 and 239 pounds, Upshur was a little smaller in terms of height and frame than I expected, though he plays bigger. He's another player who either didn't do the full testing or didn't want the results registered, and that's always a concern for those who are able bodied -- because it leads to speculation about concerns of sub-par numbers -- and certainly Upshur Upshur is able-bodied because a day after testing he went out and made several acrobatic catches that wouldn't have otherwise be possible. In an event like this, it's tough to get a full perspective on a tight end/h-back because so many of the skills related to blocking and how good a prospect looks when operating out of a 3-point stance are not on display. But Upshur has good hands and playmaking skills and above average range as a receiver for the position he'll play at the next level.

Tyrie Cleveland -- Athletically, this guy is truly elite and a standout even among the best skill players in the country. At 6-foot-2.5 and 190 pounds he ran 4.32 in the 40 (electronically timed), had a 3.94 short shuttle, a 41.3 vertical jump and a 40 foot powerball toss for a Nike Football Training score of 147.96, which was 4.5 points higher than any other participant among 100-plus high profile athletes, in the preliminary testing phase. Cleveland would have been the talk of the NFL Combine with numbers like that, not just the talk of The Opening. All of this remarkable athleticism doesn't yet entirely translate to the football field at the highly technical receiver position, where learning how to sync hips and hands when transitioning routes and developing economical footwork can be a career-long pursuit. But Cleveland's potential is as high as anyone on this list.

Donnie Corley -- At 6-foot-2 and 182 pounds, Corley didn't test nearly as well as Cleveland, with a a modest 4.67 40-yard dash, 4.25 shuttle and 36.4 inch vertical jump, but he owns his route lane as a receiver and has the type of frame to add a good bit of size without losing athleticism and be more of a power player who is possession weapon at the position as his career unfolds. He's got a lot of in-route composure and is able to make plays on the ball when blanketed, so he's a different type of receiver all around than Cleveland, but similarly early in his skill development.

Brandon Burton -- A talented two-way athlete, Burton worked at safety here and that's probably his best overall upside position. He's not a burner or quick twitch athlete and has hips that are more like a safety than a corner or wide receiver. He has good spatial recognition and manages coverage really well in zone, with impressive feel and a good understanding of where to move and how to orientate himself within a rep based on peripheral vision and understanding route concepts and what he's likely up against. He was earlier in the diagnostic phase of these than other high profile safeties at this event, and has a nice frame for a safety, at 187 pounds with a 4.66 40-yard dash. He's a clear-cut middle tier or better Pac-12 prospect at the position, probably more so on the boundary side of the field but someone who will be able to play on the wide side.


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