The commitment of Stephen Johnson, the WR/DB from San Leandro, wasn’t really unexpected, since he was fluctuating between UCLA and Oregon over the last couple of days. But the feeling was that it could go either way, so the fact that he verballed to UCLA and put on that Bruin hat on the first day of The Opening was a good momentum starter.
Johnson looked very good in drills Tuesday, when we saw him working with the defensive backs. He ran one of the best 40 times of the day, a 4.37, and had a great shuttle time of 4.09. At just about 5-11 and 187 he has good size, with some good weight in his lower body, which is exactly what you want with a guy who can run a 4.37 40 – a little bit of thickness coming at you with that speed. He showed great feet in all of the DB drills and very good hands, with a nice pass-catching technique. Greg Biggins spoke with the DB coaches at the event about Johnson: “They loved him too. Clocked a sub 4.4-40 and plays like it on the field. He has a big time burst to him, is a very competitive kid and I think has a chance to be very good down the road.”
|UCLA-commited Stephen Johnson.|
Among the other UCLA DB recruits that we had a chance to watch, Marvell Tell, the safety prospect from Encino Crespi, stood out. He measured at 6-2 and 184, and ran a 4.55 40, with a 4.19 shuttle, which is really impressive for a guy his size. He looked very sharp in the drills, with excellent agility, and was working hard, which is always a good sign at these events. He was easily among the best DBs on the first day, and the buzz we’ve heard is that UCLA looks to have a slight edge over USC at this time. Tell publicly said he's narrowed down his list privately and release it before the end of the summer. The two local schools, USC and UCLA will definitely make it, while Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Notre Dame will all likely make it.
Iman Marshall, the prospect from Long Beach Poly, also was among the best of the DBs. He measured at 6-2 and 195, but didn’t record a 40 or a shuttle. In the one-on-ones he was one of the better cover guys on the day. Even though we feel he’d make a better safety he definitely has the talent to play corner in college. He’s good enough, too, that he doesn’t have to hold as much as he does, often times having a receiver well-blanketed when he holds. But that’s a small quibble. He was, on the first day, also hanging quite a bit with UCLA-committed quarterback Josh Rosen and UCLA-leaning receiver Cordell Broadus. Not only did they take some photos together earlier, but they were hanging on the field together during warm-ups. We continue to be told that UCLA is definitely a player for Marshall.
Dechaun Holiday, the DB from San Marcos Mission Hills, had an overall good showing. We had last seen him at the B2G, where he took some reps off, so it was good to see him here where he was aggressively stepping in to take reps in the one-on-ones. He measured at 6-2.5 and 208, but didn’t record a 40. He’s such a big body and he definitely would bring some very good cover skills to the safety position, and even though he had a good day in coverage Tuesday, it wasn’t good enough in this environment to sway us from believing he’s a safety on the next level.
Donte Jackson, the cornerback from Jefferson (La.) Riverdale, who UCLA has been pursuing, looked very quick in the drills, despite being a little nicked up. So his 4.47 in the 40 and 4.19 in the shuttle, he said, should have an asterisk, but it was still pretty darn fast. He measured at 5-10 and weighed 165, and looked like one of the quickest prospects in the defensive back drills. We have an interview on the way.
The highly-touted Kendall Sheffield, the cornerback from Missouri City (Tex.) Marshall, the #2-ranked corner in the nation, was impressive physically, at 6-0 and 181, and well-put-together with good length. He looked good, but not spectacular, in the drills.
Among the receivers, Christian Kirk, the prospect from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro, was easily one of the best. He was 5-11 and 203, which is very thick for his height going into his senior season, and he ran a very good 4.47 40 and 4.25 in the shuttle. While we still maintain he projects better at running back on the college level, he certainly is capable of excelling at receiver. He comes out of his breaks very quick and then has that burst that gets him separation. The feeling is that UCLA is fading for Kirk.
Broadus had some good moments Tuesday. He measured at 6-2.5 and 192, and looks great physically. In the one-on-one drills he had a couple of very good catches, but also struggled a bit to get separation from some of the elite DBs. He and his buddy, Marshall, arranged to go head-to-head on one rep, and Marshall had him blanketed, just being too physical in the first five yards for Broadus to get into a route.
Equanimeous St. Brown measured 6-5 and weighed 191 and also looked very good physically. He will easily put on another 20 pounds in college, and has the frame that can hold it. Big receivers like him and Broadus, who are used to dominating at local events, had a tougher time Tuesday with the athleticism they went up against in the DBs at The Opening. St. Brown, to his credit, looked very aggressive in the one-on-ones, being very physical in using his body to offset the quickness he was up against. He caught just a couple of balls, but was impressive in his effort and aggressiveness.
UCLA-committed tight end Alize Jones hadn’t competed in an event since last summer, but he showed why he was considered a rare athlete for his size. He measured 6-5 and weighed 220, and ran a very impressive 4.67 40 and an even more impressive 4.03 shuttle. He was perhaps one of the best, if not the best, athletes at the event over 6-4. He was quick and fluid in the drills. In the one-on-ones, from what we could see, he took one rep, where he looked very good matching up with a small, quick cornerback, but then didn’t take another rep after that. The word was that he might have tweaked something, so we’ll check into his status for Wednesday.
After seeing running back Sotonye Jamabo at B2G and concluding he was the real deal, even in this environment with the highest-end talent he still held up well. He came in at 6-2.5 and 203, and ran a 4.61 40 and a 4.28 shuttle, which are good times for a guy his size. In the one-on-ones with linebackers he was easily one of the best RBs, showing again a surprising elusiveness for his size. Scout.com’s Jamie Newberg wrote: “I thought the one running back prospect that had the best day was Jamabo. He’s big and long, and at an event like this you can’t see his power but he did show very good quickness, speed and agility for a bigger back. He runs upright and has short, choppy steps, but he keeps his balance and has deceptive moves in tight areas. I also thought he showed a good burst of speed when he needed it and caught the ball very well. He’s the nation’s No. 2 rated running back by Scout.”
We admittedly didn’t watch Rosen that much Tuesday, since we’ve seen him so much and the Opening offers us a chance to see so many other UCLA prospects. Many observers told us he had had a couple of good days in the Elite 11 prior to the first day of the Opening. We watched him some in the one-on-ones Tuesday, and what stood out was his effortlessness in making many different throws. He measured at 6-3.5 and 206, and appears big and strong, with a strong arm that enables him not to have to force throws.
Rosen has been instrumental in recruiting for UCLA. He’s probably one of the main reasons Broadus is leaning toward UCLA, and he told us Tuesday he’s continuing to target Broadus and Kirk this week at the Opening. He also said the Bruins could be getting a couple of offensive linemen to commit soon.
UCLA has a number of linebackers it’s targeting that are participating in the Opening. We tended to watch Roquan Smith, the prospect from Montezuma (Ga.) Macon County, since we hadn’t seen him in the camp environment before. He was 6-1 and 203, and you could project him ending up 6-1 and 225-230 in college, with a body that could easily add good weight. He ran a fast 4.5 40, which was the second-fastest for linebackers on the day (behind the Freak of Malik Jefferson’s 4.39) and a very good shuttle at 4.25, and jumped a strong 35.3 inches in the vertical. In the drills he looked very raw, like he hadn’t done many of them previously, but then he’d flash some quickness and feet. He’s a raw athlete that has a ways to go technically, but the athleticism is on the elite level.
|Andre James and Osa Masina|
Adonis Thomas, the linebacker prospect from Lawrenceville (Ga.) Central Gwinnett, was one of the more impressive linebacker prospects on the day. He was 6-3 and 219, with the prototypical body you’d want for a linebacker prospect going into his high school senior year. He showed a great awareness in the drills.
Easily among the most impressive linebacker prospects was Ben Humphreys, from Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei. He was 6-1 and 201, but still on the skinny side, and it’s clear he’s added some good weight since the L.A. Nike Camp in spring. He was perhaps the best linebacker in the one-on-ones with the running backs, very smart and with such good instincts and balance that the RBs had no chance to get around him. UCLA hasn’t been recruiting him much in the last couple of months, and we know that they are doing well with a number of LBs, but Humphreys is going to be a very good college player.
Quarte Sapp, the prospect from Alpharetta (Ga.) Milton, was 6-1.5 and 200, and has a good body that can project weight, and generally looked solid in the drills. He said he ran a 4.76, and said he was disappointed in that number, that he’s usually faster. He had some good moments in the one-on-ones where he showed good instincts in holding his ground. He recently was offered by UCLA and we have an interview on the way.
Then, of course, there was Jefferson. All that needs to be said: 6-2.5, 215, 4.39 in the 40, 4.19 in the shuttle, a 39-inch vertical and the second-highest SPARQ score of the day at 145.65, which is probably among the best 20 of the last several years . He didn’t compete in the drills since he was a SPARQ finalist.
Andre James, the offensive lineman from Herriman (Utah), who many think will verbally commit to UCLA on Thursday at the Opening, had a good first day. He was 6-4.5 and 278 and showed good athleticism. He got caught lunging a little, but that’s understandable when, as a tackle, he was going up against the freakiest group of DEs ever seemingly assembled. He got better in the one-on-ones as the day went on, showing a great ability to keep his balance and get low. He was easily among the best tackle prospects on Tuesday.
Also among the best was Dru Samia, the prospect from Danville (Calif.) San Ramon. He worked with the right tackles, and was probably the best in the group on the day. He’s so athletic for his size, at 6-6 and 295, with great, quick feet, and is also good technically, especially with his hands. He can get to the spot quickly, but he also did well against the bull rushers, able to physically drive them out. He says he knows where he’s going and UCLA is recruiting him the hardest.
We didn’t get a chance to see Drew Richmond, the prospect from Memphis (Tenn.) Memphis School. He measured at 6-5.5 and weighed 320. What we did see of him, he looked like he moved well for his size, but he could also do some work on his body, and shed some weight.
Fred Ulu-Perry, from Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis, was among the best OLs overall, and probably the best prospect working at center. He got beat once early, but that seemed to piss him off and he won all his remaining reps, including those against elite DL Tim Settle. At 6-2-5 and 295, and with great bend, he can really get low and keep his center of gravity low, so it’s difficult to move him out. Settle did chuck out Ulu-Perry on one rep but it was still pretty even. UCLA has offered Ulu-Perry, and likes him also as a defensive tackle.
The defensive linemen were truly an elite group. Defensive tackle Neville Gallimore is a specimen, at 6-3, 311, and running a 4.96 40, which is really trucking for a guy that size. His first step is really quick, and while he’s raw technically, popping up at times, his size and burst are at such a level that he was unblockable most of the time.
Rasheem Green, the DL from Gardena Serra, definitely fits in among the physical specimens at the Opening, but he looked disinterested a bit. There definitely is a motor question with Green, and without good energy he didn’t stand out in the one-on-ones. He looked athletic in the figure 8s and other drills, but disengaged in the one-on-ones.
The group of DEs was really one of the freakiest group I’ve ever seen at a camp. Byron Cowart, the defensive end from Florida, led the freaky brigade, at 6-3.5 and 258, with really long arms and a great first step. We were told he’s the opposite of a diva, too, that he was talking with the coaches on technique and trying to get better at every opportunity. UCLA is trying.
Keisean Lucier-South, who is one of the best prospects on the west coast, looked a little slim in this DE group, at 6-4, 211. When he was able to show off his speed and athleticism, he was tough to block; when an OL got in front of him, he struggled with the physicality and strength. He did run right around USC OL commit, Chuma Edoga, on one rep, though.
Lucier-South partnered up with Austin Bryant, the defensive end prospect from Georgia, in the drills, and both are exceptionally impressive standing next to each other. Bryant looks great physically, well-built but lean at 6-4 and 250, and he looked very agile in the drills.