Here's a Look At The Top Defensive Players We Saw at The Opening Regional Camp in Redondo

Mar. 3 -- There was a ton of talent on hand at this past weekend's The Opening Regional Camp in Redondo. We'll break down the defensive side of the ball led by a very good group of defensive backs...

Six total players Got Open on the defensive side of the ball including four defensive backs. From talking with some of the defensive coaches from the NIKE staff as well as our own evaluations, here's a look at a few of the players that caught our eye.

The Defensive Line:

Jaelan Phillips was the top guy on our board and he had a tremendous day. The scary part is he has barely played any defensive line as he lines up primarily as a linebacker for his Redlands East Valley (Calif.) squad. You could tell in the pass rush drills as he lined up in a two-point stance and isn't quite comfortable playing with his hand on the ground just yet.

That will come as he has a great frame and will easily be able to play at 250-260 pounds without a problem. He has a very nice burst off the ball, does a great job getting opposing tackles off him with his hands and shows above average closing speed as well. 

The coaches talked up his work ethic and how coachable he was. When you combine his size and natural talent with his desire to be coached and get better, you have a very good prospect. He's currently rated outside the Scout 100 but that will change as he's a no brainer top 50-75 prospect nationally. Stanford and UCLA look good early along with AlabamaMichiganUSCWashington and a few others.

* Moving inside, Haskell Garrett had an interesting day that started off with a bang on the testing front. The Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman athlete meausured in at a solid 297 pounds and threw the power ball almost 50'. 

In the position drills, he had some dominant one on one reps but then surprisingly lost a few reps as well. Just when we were about to wonder what was going on with him, he went out and beat 5-star OL Wyatt Davis three reps in a row at the end of the day in the 'best on best' matchup.

Garrett really does have all the tools to be a dominant college player. He has the frame you're looking for in an interior lineman, is very strong, has good short area quickness, advanced technique and will be able to play both the run and the pass in college. Garrett is currently committed to Ohio State.

* Taking home MVP honors from the NIKE staff was Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco's Jacob Callier. Callier reminds us a little of former Brave rush end and current USC player Malik Dorton in terms of his size but Callier looks like a better athlete with a better burst.

He was unstoppable in the pass rush drills and drew a nice comparison to former Oregon rush end Kenny Rowe from Student Sports lead line coach Todd Huber. He's a high motor player that is very tough to block because of his burst off the edge and the leverage he gets. Arizona State and Hawaii have both offered at this point.

* Another edge pass rusher we liked was Los Angeles (Calif.) Cathedral's Hunter Echols. The UCLA commit had no problem beating any tackle off the edge with his speed and the only time he had any issues is when he tried to mix things up a bit and work on a few moves.

He'll need to add some weight and improve his strength but there is a lot to like here. He's competitive and you can tell he wants to be good. He has a motor to him, is fluid in his movement and is a natural athlete. When you look at his frame and long arms, you can tell he's not done growing yet and there's a lot of upside to him.

Others who stood out:

Shane Irwin- Nice frame, good athlete, strong in the pass rush drills.

Kurtis Brown- Big jump in the last year, bigger, stronger, faster, solid camp

Sal Spina ('18)- High motor kid who loves the weight room, pure football player

Keyon Ware-Hudson ('19)- Very intriguing freshman, athletic and advanced pass rusher already

The Linebackers:

* La Mesa (Calif.) Helix inside 'backer Ezekiel Noa took home MVP honors and it was well deserved. We liked Noa a lot and he had a very good day. At 6-foot-0, 220 pounds, Noa is a well built kid with good speed and lateral mobility.

He can change direction, stop and start and has good balance. He can get downhill and plays wtih a lot of fire and emotion. He's a naturally physical player who you can tell had to really restrain himself from teeing off on a few would be ball carriers.

He projects as a linebacker who could play inside in a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme, is a natural leader and should see his recruitment really explode this spring. Colorado and Washington State have both offered.

* Right there with Noa early on in the camp was Gardena (Calif.) Serra '18 'backer Merlin Robertson. Robertson busted his head open in a nasty collision and wasn't able to finish the camp but prior to his injury, showed why he's already one of the top overall players in the west coast 2018 class.

Robertson has a nice combination of size, fluidity and toughness. He's a strong kid and shows the frame to add a ton of weight and could play inside or outside at the next level. BYUIllinoisMiamiUSC and Utah have all offered and he looks like a national top 100 prospect in his class.

* Another player we love in that top three was Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis athlete Isaac Slade-Matautia. Slade-Matautia might have been the most athletic of any of the 'backers and also had the top SPARQ Rating in this group.

At 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, he can really run, shows a nice burst to the football and was strong in pass coverage. He'll put on weight without a problem but looks like a prototype weakside 'backer who can cover running backs and tight ends out of the backfield, play in space as well as be physical in the run game.

Slade-Matautia has already been offered by ArizonaArizona StateNebraskaWashington and Washington State and there is no doubt he has the talent to play for any school out West.

UCLA commit Rahyme Johnson drew raves from NIKE lead coach Michael Fletcher, who said the athlete has unlimited upside once he can settle in to one position and not worry about moving around so much.

He's a very good pass rusher already and the key for Johnson will be maintaining his speed and flexibility when he adds the weight he'll need to compete at the next level. He shows plenty of toughness and physicality on film so he's an intriguing player for sure.

Others Who Stood out:

Faavae Faavae- A downhill 'backer who can fly off the edge and get to the QB.

Colin School- Smart, disciplined and very athletic.

Salua Masina ('18)- Long and rangy with a nice motor 

Reggie Hughes ('18)- Athletic, rangy and versatile with the ability to play inside or outside. 

The Defensive Backs:

* Calabasas (Calif.) five-star Darnay Holmes came in to the camp with a loty reputation and more than lived up to it. Physically, he has a great combination of short area quickness, top end speed, balance, instincts and always competes at a high level.

He has the ball awareness to make a play, can flip his hips and is very good in jump ball situations. He's a tough kid who will battle you all day and loves the challenge of taking on another team's top wide out.

Holmes will make a decision in June and said UCLAStanford and Nebraska are his likely top three right now.

Deommodore Lenoir had a strong day at corner as well. He has always been known as a tough, physical corner, strong in press coverage and plays with a nice edge to him.

Where he has really improved is in his overall speed and ability to break on the ball. He's noticeably faster and more explosive than he was a year ago and it has taken his game to another level. Like Holmes, Lenoir loves the challenge of going against the best and he more than held his own Sunday.

The Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian athlete could make a summer commitment and mentioned LouisvilleNebraskaMichiganOregon and Texas A&M on his short list. 

* Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) athlete Thomas Graham was yet another corner who landed a golden ticket to The Opening following the camp. We've been watching the athlete since he was a sophomore and he brings a lot to the table.

He's still growing and will likely end up in that 6-foot-1 range with long arms and the speed to run with anyone. He's continuing to refine his technique and can still get better in this area. He's a physical player who is stronger than he looks and plays with plenty of toughness. 

Graham gave an early commitment to USC but said he'll give schools like Notre Dame,  Oklahoma and UCLA a long look.

* Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman's Bubba Bolden was the lone safety to be invited to The Opening. Bolden showed excellent footwork and agility in the ladder drills and is a lot more athletic than given credit for.

He moves extremely well for a tall, rangy safety, showed good ball skills and covers a ton of ground. We already know he enjoys the physical side of the game and when you combine it with his improved athleticism, it makes for a very good looking safety prospect.

Bolden gave an early commitment to USC but will take a few visits and mentioned Texas A&M and Michigan as likely destinations.

* Los Angeles (Calif.) Hawkins athlete Greg Johnson can play multiple spots but corner is where his heart is. He's a physical kid, very well built and is strong in press coverage. 

Johnson has good straight line speed and has improved his lateral quickness and agility in the last year as well. He's an instinctual player, always around the ball and highly competitive with good ball skills as well. Offers have come in from everywhere and he has already visited both Arizona schools, UCLA and USC and will visit Tennessee later in the summer.

* La Mirada's (Calif.) Elijah Hicks had an impressive day and took as many reps as just about anyone in the camp. He's a very good athlete with a nice combination of quickness out of his breaks and the downfield speed to turn and run. He was aggressive defending the football and is a player we think has a very high celing. Both Arizona schools plus CalColorado and UCLA are just a few who have offered.

* Pasadena (Calif.) Muir's Elijah Blades might have had the best all around day for any DB. At 6-foot-2, he won the fastest man competition with a 4.42 clocking. He then went out and looked very natural as a pure corner. He's physical and fluid and just keeps getting better every time we see him. Arizona and Fresno State have offered. 

Others Who Stood out:

Josh Talbott- Pure safety who showed very good cover skills all day

Olaijah Griffin ('18)- Long and athletic, good speed and unlimited upside

Isaac Taylor ('18)- Very intriguing player and one of the fastest athletes in the state

Eric Fuller ('18)- Dynamic two-way player who had a good day at corner

Darren Hall- No one could get open on Hall when we saw him

Jaylon Redd- Tough, physical and scrappy, Redd always competes at a high level

Brandon McKinney- Very smooth, the game looks easy for him

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