The Opening 2014: South Defense Preview

Over 70 prospects out of the South will travel to Oregon to compete at The Opening early in July and we take a look at those on the defensive side of the ball here...

The Opening 2014 is a five-day competition featuring the best football prospects in the nation, conducted at the Nike campus in Beaverton, Oregon.

It features 7-on-7 and lineman competition, as well as the Elite 11 quarterback competition going on in tandem. This year it takes place July 5th through July 10, and it includes 73 prospects from the South.

Here is a look at those on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive line

Starting in the middle, Daron Payne leads the way. The five-star out of Irondale (Ala.) Shades Valley is uncommitted and he will likely end up in state at Alabama or Auburn. Alabama leads at this stage. Auburn, Florida State, and Texas are others involved.

Jonathan Ledbetter, a prospect just outside the Scout 100 is committed to Alabama and he could end up playing tackle or strongside end depending on scheme on the next level. Keep an eye on Auburn and Georgia here -- both are still involved.

Payne is the top prospect in Alabama.

Plenty of talented ends will be in attendance. Five-star Byron Cowart headlines this group and like Ledbetter, his future could be as a three-technique. He is plenty athletic enough to stay outside. He is not committed yet and he is keeping his options open. Florida may be the favorite, but Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida State, Oregon, and USC among a few others remain in the hunt for the Seffner (Fla.) Armwood star.

Florida State commit Michael Barnett, Austin Bryant (Clemson lean?), and Georgia commits Natrez Patrick and Chauncey Rivers are all four-star prospects on Scout. Kendell Jones stole the show at the Birmingham NFTC this spring and he received an instant invite. The strongside end out of Pinson (Ala.) Clay-Chalkville is committed to Mississippi State. He is a three-star.


Roquan Smith, a Scout 100 inside linebacker out of Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County will be one of the top athletes competing in this event. He stays on the road visiting schools and he is wanted nation-wide. Georgia may be considered the school to beat due to its location, but Florida has been charging hard and he recently had a very good visit to UCLA.

Other inside linebackers to know are Cecil Cherry (Tennessee commit), Tevin Coney, Joshua McMillon, Arthur McGinnis, and Sherrod Pittman (South Carolina commit). McMillon and McGinnis have played some end as well and both are bigger linebackers.

Smith plans to take his time with the recruiting process.

On the outside, Adonis Thomas, a four-star out of Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett is the highest ranked prospect. He will commit to Alabama or Florida on August 1. He is scheduled to visit Tuscaloosa, Ala. the week after The Opening.

Quarte Sapp and Josh Smith are two others that are long and fairly lean athletes. Sapp runs like a safety and Smith is a versatile linebacker who could play across the second level. Neither is committed yet.

Defensive back

Plenty of the top corners will be in attendance. Kevin Toliver is the No. 1 corner in the country and the No. 5 overall prospect on Scout. The 6-foot-2, 185 pound star out of Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian is committed to LSU. He has plenty of family in the state of Louisiana. Plenty of schools are still pursuing Toliver though.

Other corners in the Scout 100 are Tavarus McFadden and Tyrek Cole, both from the state of Florida like Toliver. Just outside the Scout 100 are Mark Fields (South Carolina commit), Rico McGraw (Georgia commit) and Darius Slayton.

Donte Jackson has been a real riser this spring and he is the No. 205 overall prospect on Scout. With a strong performance at The Opening, he will continue to ascend up the rankings. Xavier Lewis (Will announce between Arkansas, LSU, Oklahoma State, and Texas at The Opening), and Mook Reynolds (Virginia Tech commit) are all four-star prospects on Scout.

Cole completely dominated at the Miami NFTC.

Duke Shelley is the lone three-star corner competing. Not great size, but very good speed and quickness.

Five-star Derwin James has been committed to Florida State for a couple of years now and the Haines City (Fla.) native was selected to compete at The Opening for the second year in a row. He has all the tools you look for in an elite safety.

Shawn Burgess-Becker (Alabama commit) and Calvin Brewton (Florida State commit), and Jaquan Johnson are members of the Scout 300.

Alabama Montrell Custis and West Virginia commit Kendrell McFadden are both just outside the Scout 300, but still a four-star prospect. Custis is a versatile defensive back who could play corner or safety.

Justin Reid, the younger brother of former first round pick Eric Reid out of Dutchtown (La.) is a prospect Scout looks forward to evaluating live soon.

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