The Opening: Eye Openers

Here are a handful of prospects from outside the south that really caught my attention like Royce Freeman, Jonathan Lockett, Jalen Tabor and many more.'s complete coverage of The Opening 2013 presented by NIKE
I am a guy from the south and live in the state of Florida. I am used to good football and great prospects, especially from the Sunshine State. This is my area of focus when it comes to my job along with scouting players from this region.

And that is why I love an event like The Opening. Actually, it's one of a kind because it brings together 160 of the nation's very best prospects before the season. It's in this setting where you really get an appreciation of the recruits from across the country.

Leaving the Opening I walked away really impressed with some guys west of the Mississippi and from up north in the Midwest and Atlantic.

The state of Florida is blessed to have an unreal running back class of 2014 with players like Sony Michel (Plantation American Heritage) and Miami Central teammates Dalvin Cook and Joseph Yearby. But a guy I was blown away with out at the Opening was Royce Freeman (Imperial, Calif.). They don't make them like that in Florida, at least not in this class. Freeman checked in at 5-11.5 and 227-pounds. This kid is rocked up and looks great coming off the bus so to speak. He was impressive as anyone in the drills last Monday and tested exceptionally well, jumping close to 34-inches in the vertical and running an impressive short shuttle of 4.07. The latter is a much better number then Yearby and Cook who were both participants at the Opening and far smaller backs. Remember that he's close to 230-pounds. I also thought that Freeman looked very good in 7-on, catching the ball well and displaying elusiveness for a big back in the open field. He was one of my favorite players at this event.

Another impressive back was Joe Mixon (Oakley, Calif./Freeman). He's rated much higher than Freeman in the overall running back rankings (No. 4 compared to No. 25). This is a big (6-1/209) and very smooth player with the ball in his hands. He makes things look easy. Mixon didn't test quite as well as Freeman but did a little more on Tuesday and Wednesday in 7-ons.

As much as I love my running backs from the south, these two gems from the west coast impressed the heck out of me.

On the wide receiver front two guys really caught my eye in Justin Brent (Speedway, Ind.), Kd Cannon (Mount Pleasant, Texas), and Austin Roberts (Carmel, Ind.). Brent and Roberts are two standouts from the Midwest. Brent has committed to Notre Dame while Roberts is still undecided. I thought Brent was one of the opening day stars on Monday. He was terrific in one on one drills and tested well. He's a long 6-foot-1 and can make things happen with the ball in his hands after the catch. Roberts is bigger at 6-foot-2 and 211-pounds. He posted outstanding numbers, running a 4.51 [forty] and very good short shuttle and a 38.5-inch vertical jump. Roberts did some nice things and I liked his ability to get deep. Then you have Cannon. He's smaller than these two at 6-foot-0, 162-pounds. This is a very smooth big play threat that seems to play better than his [testing] numbers.

My big surprise offensively was tight end Henry Mondeaux (Portland, Ore./Jesuit). He got a late invitation but showed he deserved to be there. In fact, you could make a strong case that he had the top tight end performance overall. He was simply outstanding on Wednesday. He has size (6-5/252) and very good hand-eye coordination. Mondeaux made some ridiculous catches look easy. He deceptively quick and plays with a great motor.

As good as Cameron Robinson and Damien Mama looked at the Opening you could make a strong case that the top offensive line performer was center J.C. Hassenauer (Woodbury, Minn./East Ridge). If there's a better center prospect in the country then I want to see him.

Hassenauer had an incredible three days. This kid was a wall. He's got good size, great feet, quickness off the ball and plays with outstanding leverage. He also has a little nasty in him.

Speaking of Mama, I think this kid has a chance to be an unreal player at the next level. To come out to the Opening, against this caliber of competition for the very first time and perform the way he did at 370-pounds, was impressive. Just wait until he really works himself into better football shape after he sheds some pounds. I think this Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco standout has serious long term upside at offensive guard and he has a chance to play this game for a very long time.

I have a new respect for many of the defensive backs from around the country. Virginia commitment Quin Blanding (Virginia Beach, Va./Bayside) is as solid and steady as they come. He made plays everywhere and was a rock in the secondary at safety. The Cavaliers landed a great one that should have a stellar career in Charlottesville.

Staying in that part of the country I come away extremely impressed with Jalen Tabor (Washington D.C./Edison-Friendship). He lacks elite speed but he has super size (6-1/195) and length. Tabor is physical on the perimeter. Those big, aggressive cornerbacks are extremely hard to find.

Two more defensive backs that really caught my attention were Dylan Sumner-Gardner (Mesquite, Texas/West Mesquite) and Brandon Simmons (Arlington, Texas/Mansfield Timberview). Both of these Lone Star four-star standouts. Neither player tested well. In fact, Sumner-Garnder ran 4.75 [forty] and Simmons clocked 4.87. But when it came time to play the 7-on competition they performed very well. Sumner-Gardner, a Texas A&M commit, was fantastic on day two while Stanford pledge Simmons helped led his team to the championship on the final day. John Bonney (Houston, Texas/Lamar) is another Texas safety that did some very nice things at the Opening.

One of the surprises out west was Jonathan Lockett (Santa Ana, Calif./Mater Dei). This cornerback recently committed to Washington. The Huskies landed a nice lockdown here. He has also the tools to be a terrific player. Lockett isn't slight at 5-11 and 170 pounds but could stand to bulk up. He really had a nice showing at the Opening.

Another surprise to me was USC commitment Jaleel Wadood (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco). He was one of the smaller cornerbacks there but I thought he was stout, especially playing inside against the slot. He had numerous pass break ups that I saw, showing a nice break on the ball time and time again. Of course how can you talk about defensive backs and not mention the Texas gems – cornerback Tony Brown (Beaumont, Texas/Ozen) and safety Jamal Adams (Lewisville, Texas/Hebron). They are five-stars for a reason. Brown has it all and just needs more experience and time to work on his technique. Meanwhile, Adams is a sensational ball hawk on the backend.

It's fitting to end this article talking about three sensational players from the west coast in Budda Baker (Bellevue, Wa.), Juju Smith (Long Beach, Calif./Poly) and Adoree Jackson (Gardena, Calif./Serra). If there was ever a time to have an athlete category on this is it. This trio was super on both sides of the ball. At times they would just take over games. They come from different programs and have different body styles but they have a few things in common – they are all incredible athletes with ball skills and can make explosive plays on either side of the ball.

It's hard to gauge linebackers at a camp setting but a few caught my eye like Dwight Williams (Gardena, Calif./Serra)., Kyle Berger (Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius) and Dante Booker (Akron,Ohio/ St. Vincent-St. Mary). No question that Booker is the most athletic of this trio. He has tremendous size and speed and made some splash plays. It seemed as though every time I turned to watch Williams he was making something happen, whether it was a pass breakup or even an interception. He was solid. Then there is Berger; he doesn't seem as athletic as Booker or Williams but that guy was always around the Ball.

Booker and Berger are both headed to Columbus. Another Ohio State commitment that had a really good Opening was Damon Webb (Detroit, Mi./Cass Tech). Heck, all the Buckeye commitments looked good. The others were defensive end Jalyn Holmes (Norfolk, Va./Lake Taylor) and Paris Campbell (Akron,Ohio/ St. Vincent-St. Mary). Wide receiver Terry McLaurin (Indianapolis, Ind./Cathedral) is not the biggest player but he has explosiveness.

Miami fans are starting to learn more and more about one of their quarterback commitments Brad Kaaya. This signal caller from West Hills, Calif./Chaminade College Prep, got some very good reviews from some of the Elite 11 coaches. This is a big kid with a strong arm that could really blow up on the west coast this fall with a big season in '13.

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