There were 19 total linebackers who made The Opening and almost a third were from the West.
We even felt 2-3 more west coast 'backers could have made the event so it definitely goes without saying this year's crop of linebackers is as strong as we've seen in the last five years. The six players who did make it to Beaverton were all very good and probably would rank among the top 10 'backers in attendance.
Jack Lamb, Temecula (Calif.) Great Oak
Lamb was the lone linebacker in the event to make the 10 man all-defensive team. He was tremendous and helped lead his team to the 7v7 championship, drawing raves from his teams defensive coordinator as the 'heart and soul of the defense.' We've been watching Lamb in 7v7 action all spring and summer and his strong showing was expected and he has become one of the most dominant defenders in the region.
Lamb is smart and instinctive but equally physical and athletic. He can run with the backs and tight end, does a nice job re-directing guys and can make a play on the ball a well. He's a complete 'backer who can play inside or out and fit in well in any system. Notre Dame and UCLA lead Oregon, Penn State and Washington.
Rest of the Group (Alphabetical Order)
Palaie Gaoteote, Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman
Gaoteote is one of the most versatile linebackers in the country and had one of the best junior seasons for a 'backer we've ever seen. He does everything well and had a very good week in Oregon. He impressed in the RB-LB 'cat and mouse' or make you miss drills, and was fluid and athletic during 7v7 play.
The USC commit is fluid in space, is comfortably dropping in coverage and shows very good closing speed as well. He's an extremely physical player and has a nice edge to his game yet always looks under control. He may take official visits and mentioned Alabama, Ohio State, Oregon and UCLA as potential destinations but it will be very tough to flip him from USC.
Brandon Kaho, Reno (Nev.)
Kaho really flashed at several times in Oregon and is a great looking prospect. He opened a lot of eyes with a dominant MVP showing at the final Opening Regional camp in Oakland where he earned his invite to the finals and quickly showed he belonged among the nation's best in Beaverton. Kaho has the size and athleticism to play inside or outside backer in college.
He's quick enough to play on the weakside where he can run around and make plays in space but has the toughness and physicality to project as a run stuffer as well. He has a great frame and is only scratching the surface of how good he'll be in a few years. He's a longtime BYU commit but he'll visit Alabama later this month and Washington is making a big push as well.
Merlin Robertson, Gardena (Calif.) Serra
Physically, Robertson looked very good and is in great shape. We've said it many times but 7v7 really ins't his game because he's such a physical force with the pads on but he has worked really hard on his ability to play in space and cover to the point where he's a very good 7v7 linebacker as well.
Robertson is a prototype middle 'backer and will hit anything coming across the middle. He has better hands and ball skills than given credit for and is a very coordinated athlete for a 240 pound 'backer. BYU, Cal, LSU, Oklahoma, Oregon and USC are his top schools at the moment.
Raymond Scott, Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne
Scott has been tremendous at every event we've seen him and had another strong outing this past week. He's a player that just knows how to play the game, is always around the ball, has great instincts and a great feel for the position. He's not the biggest or most athletic 'backer around but is the guy making the most plays.
Scott covered very well all week and didn't give up much. He closed well on the ball and always plays very hard. Scott is a longtime USC commit but the athlete said he will take a few official visits and mentioned Nebraska, Oklahoma and Oregon as schools he wants to check out.
Solomon Tuliaupupu, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei
'Solo' had a great tournament and was among the top defensive players in the event, regardless of position. Like we mentioned with Robertson, Tuliaupupu was in tremendous shape and looked leaner and more athletic then we've seen this off-season. He was among the standouts in the 'cat and mouse' drills with the running backs and drew a lot of praise for his ability to move so easily for a bigger 'backer.
He made a lot of plays in 7v7 action as well. Tuliaupupu plays a physical game in every setting including 7v7. He's a collision player who broke up several passes with a well timed thud and showed he can run with tight ends and has really improved his speed and athleticism. Alabama, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oregon, USC and Washington are all involved with Tuliaupupu.