About this time last week Irish Illustrated was touching back down in the Midwest after an extended stay at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Steve Hare and Jake Brown had just spent nearly a week scouting 166 of the nation’s top high school prospects, starting with the Elite 11 and wrapping up with the 7-on-7 tournament at The Opening Finals.
Irish Illustrated provided live coverage from the event. Now here’s our opinions on the top overall prospect as well as the best players at each position.
Top Overall Prospect
Jake Brown: Foster Sarell. Maybe I'm a little biased from watching so much of the linemen, but I don't know if there was a prospect in attendance that had a better week than Sarell. True elite left tackle prospect. Unbelievable feet for his size. Defensive ends had a heck of a time solving him.
Steve Hare: Jalen Hall. The 2018 wide receiver was unstoppable in 7-on-7 action. By catching touchdown pass after touchdown pass he led Alpha Pro to the No. 1 seed in the elimination tournament. He had several acrobatic catches and his speed and length gave the top defensive backs fits throughout the event.
JB: Davis Mills. Yeah, I know, Tua Tagovailoa led his team to the 7-on-7 championship and won Elite 11 MVP. I'd still take Davis Mills with the No. 1 overall pick if I was starting a team of prospects in the Class of 2017. Accurate, strong arm, this Stanford commit has all the tools.
SH: Jake Fromm: For me, it was all about consistency. With the help of the event’s overall best player at wide receiver, Fromm drew rave reviews from the crowd in general and helped team Alpha Pro put up large numbers on the scoreboard in each game. He’s a Georgia commit.
Best Running Back
JB: Najee Harris. Probably making this pick more on reputation than actual performance at The Opening Finals. Oh well. Harris is the next big, athletic Alabama running back that'll put up huge numbers.
SH: There were plenty of big time running backs at the event, which isn’t set up to showcase a running back’s skill set. I liked what I saw out of Anthony McFarland. He turns the corner so quickly and was consistent in catching the football.
Best Wide Receiver
JB: Joseph Lewis. It's too bad Lewis missed the second day of 7-on-7 with a minor hamstring injury. He clearly stood out to me earlier in the event. I will say, his high school teammate, Jalen Hall (2018), wasn't that far behind. What a duo.
SH: Jalen Hall. This might have been a more difficult decision had Joseph Lewis, Hall’s high school teammate, not missed the second day of the 7-on-7 with an injury. Both were very, very good. Hall made big time play after big time play and dominated all the defensive backs he faced.
Best Tight End
JB: Colby Parkinson. Not sure it was a banner year for tight ends at the event. Parkinson stood out to me above the others, especially during early portions of the event. Great hands. He's a guy Notre Dame fans will get more familiar with during his career at Stanford.
SH: Colby Parkinson. I spent a lot of time watching team Fly Rush as it included several Notre Dame recruiting targets. Parkinson was especially important when Joseph Lewis went down with an injury. He reminded me of the type of tight end Notre Dame likes to recruit.
Best Offensive Lineman
JB: Foster Sarell. See above.
SH: Foster Sarell. Sarell was dominant. He’s big, strong and technically sound. He also has the demeanor you like to see in an offensive lineman. He’s humble but has a nasty streak and finishes off each rep.
Best Defensive Lineman
JB: Jaelen Phillips. How did he not win defensive line MVP? Phillips was the best pass rusher on hand, in my opinion. Size and length combined with a quick first step. UCLA got a good one. If the Bruins can hold on to Hunter Echols too, that's a nice pass rushing haul.
SH: Chase Young. Young’s speed was a problem for all the offensive linemen. He is so quick off the ball and has deceptive strength. It’s easy to see why some of the top college programs in the country have a target on his back.
JB: Dylan Moses. Athletic freak. Using him at linebacker will make some defensive coordinator look very smart down the road.
SH: Vandarius Cowan. Cowan helped to lead team Vapor Speed to the 7-on-7 championship. Vapor Speed’s defense shut down some of the top offenses and Cowan’s presence had a lot to do with that. He was fast, instinctive and showed excellent coverage skills.
Best Defensive Back
JB: Richard LeCounte. There's a few candidates here. I thought LeCounte was one of the best cover corners in attendance. USC safety commitment Bubba Bolden had three interceptions Sunday that I saw, which was impressive. I’m also a big fan of Jamyest Williams as a competitor that’s always around the ball.
SH: Ambry Thomas. Full disclosure, Thomas might have been the best overall athlete at the event. He played defensive back on Saturday and flipped over to offense on Sunday. As a DB, he’s long and has tremendous coverage skills. Like every other DB at the event, he gave up a couple of catches but the wide receivers earned it.
JB: Marvin Wilson. What a disappointment. Yeah, he won some reps in spectacular fashion. But Wilson certainly lost more reps than he won and I honestly have no clue how he won defensive line MVP.
SH: Foster Sarell. I expected him to be good. I didn’t expect to see a future first round draft pick. OK, maybe that’s a bit excessive, but he was very, very good against some of the top defensive linemen in the country.