Beaverton, Oregon - Perhaps the most anticipated event of The Opening are the one on one battles in the trenches between the offensive and defensive linemen. Today was not a disappointment as it was best on best to close out the event.
This final group was led by the nation’s top prospect, Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla.). This five-star prospect from central Florida had his best day. Ivey, 6-foot-6, 271-pounds, was matched up with the most dominant defensive end at the event, Byron Cowart (Seffner, Fla./Armwood). I would give a slight edge to Ivey. The first rep Ivey ran Cowart on the outside, looping him around the blocking dummy. One the second, Ivey buried Cowart who was trying for an outside pass rush. On the third, Cowart destroyed Ivey with an inside spin move.(video just below on these three reps).
How good was Cowart here? The Nike OL coaches said that Ivey's final three reps were the best that any offensive linemen did against Cowart over the three days.
Ivey is improving by the day in his pass pro. This kid has one of the longest frames who will ever see at this level and could easily put on 30-40 pounds. Ivey also needs to work on technique. He is blessed with outstanding feet and short area quickness. He just needs to put this area of his game together. On the flip side, he’s a dominant run blocker and he showed that in the one on one run blocking session. He just explodes off the ball, stays low and shows super flexibility and bend.
Keenan Walker (Scottsdale, Az./Chaparral) was opposite Ivey and made the finals at the right tackle spot. While he lost here to Rasheem Green (Gardena, Calif./Serra) he had a very good overall day. This kid is feisty. Or as Scout West Recruiting Analyst Greg Biggins said me to while we were watching – “this kid always plays with an edge.”
Simply, he has a lot of dog in him and that’s what you want in an offensive lineman. He has very good size (6-foot-6, 274-pounds, good length and feet. He showed the ability to stay with the edge rushers here. And he wouldn’t be fooled by inside moves and showed quickness to stay with their counter moves. Walker plays with good balance and shows he can mirror and stay in front of the defender.
Walker is staying home to play for Arizona.
Lester Cotton (Tuscaloosa, Ala./Central) made the final group at left guard. He stands 6-foot-4, 325-pounds and carries it well. He battled his good buddy and future teammate at Alabama, Daron Payne (Irondale, Ala./Shades Valley) in the finals. I would give Cotton the edge here.
He’s strong at the point of attack and showed he can really move his feet. He didn’t win every rep but did some nice things.
Another finalist at guard was Chuma Edoga (Powder Springs, Ga./McEachern). He battled Rashan Gary (Paramus, N.J./Catholic) in best on best and it was a stalemate against the No. 1 junior in the nation.
Edoga, 6-foot-4, 277-pounds, played guard and tackle today. He has good length and is pretty athletic with good feet. He got beat pretty handily by Cowart early but more than held his own for the rest of the day.
Perhaps the biggest upset of the finals was turned in by Richie Petitbon (Washinton D.C./Gonzaga College) versus defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie (Concord, Calif./Clayton Valley Charter). This Alabama commit won two of the three reps. He buried McKenzie on the first rep. On the second rep he let McKenzie get to his body on a powerful bull rush. On the third, Petitbon stone McKenzie at the point of attack. This kid sets quickly and as the strength to counter guys that try and use power moves. He plays with balance and good feet.
The last member of the final OL group was center Tommy Hatton (Montvale, N.J./St. Joseph Regional). He’s undersized but competitive as heck. He plays with an attitude and is tough as nails. He took on Dylan Mack (Gladewater, Texas) in the finals and got hurt (ankle) on the third rep.
Hatton (video below) has good technique and strength. He showed he can handle bigger, stronger and more athletic guys because he’s so sound and has such good feet. Hatton looks like a terrific center prospect headed to Chapel Hill and North Carolina.
Don’t let the final six fool you, as there were some very good performances today from this group, especially from the west coast contingent.
I thought tackles Andre James (Herriman, Utah) and Dru Samia (Danville, Calif./San Ramon Valley) were good enough to make the finals, especially James. I thought he was outstanding today.
James, 6-foot-4, 275-pounds, is the one guy that handled Cowart in one on one run blocking. He gets off the ball and is strong and athletic enough to handle a guy like Cowart. In pass pro he played both tackle and guard and looked better on the outside. But that versatility certainly increases his value.
In pass pro he has the length and footwork to ride the edge rushers and the agility to stay in front of them on inside moves.
Samia, 6-foot-5, 296-pounds, also played both tackle and guard. Like James, he was impressive in the run blocking one on ones. This kid gets off the ball and can bend and move. He’s strong and buried Natrez Patrick (Atlanta, Ga./Mayes) on back to back plays today. He showed the same power traits in pass pro and also showed the agility to move and slide.
Center Fred Ulu-Perry (Honolulu, Hi./St. Louis) wasn’t dominant as he was yesterday but he still had a solid day. He’s so strong and tough to bull rush. Ulu-Perry definitely uses leverage to his advantage.
Clemson commit Mitch Hyatt (Suwannee, Ga./North Gwinnett) did some nice things today at left tackle. He had two terrific reps against Austin Bryant (Thomasville, Ga./Thomas County Central), winning on both occasions. He had the athletic ability to ride Bryant out wide on a loop on the first rep. On the second, Bryant just could shake him, as Hyatt just mirrored him step for step. Hyatt is a long 6-foot-6, 274-pounds. Like Ivey, he has plenty of room to fill out his frame and bulk up, especially up top. He also had a couple of pretty good reps against Cowart.
Jerry Tillery (Shreveport, La./Evangel Christian Academy) didn’t play yesterday because of a turf toe but he took some reps at right guard today. This Notre Dame commitment can play tackle or on the inside. He has long arms on his 6-foot-6, 315-pound frame. He showed good feet in pass pro.