The Opening: L.A. Regional Preview

The NIKE Football Training Camp has given way to The Opening Regional Camps. Sunday, Southern California will get its chance to have a piece of football heaven as prospects throughout the region vie for a shot at the big stage in Beaverton (Ore.) this summer.

Locally, the class of 2016 has been lauded for its depth at wide receiver. Six players attending The Los Angeles Opening will take the field already holding scholarship offers from USC. Of those six, Bishop Amat wide out Tyler Vaughns is rated the highest. Ranked No. 1 at his position nationally, Vaughns will have several competitors in wait to outshine him at wide out.

Perhaps the most well-rounded receiver of the group is out with a bad back. Corona Centennial wide receiver Javon McKinley had a very impressive 91 receptions for 1,900 yards and 20 touchdowns last season, but will sit out this leg of the tour and camp at The Opening Northern California Regional in Oakland.

In his place, players like Rancho Santa Margarita (Calif.) wide out Dylan Crawford, Bishop Amat wide out Trevon Sidney and Long Beach (Calif.) Poly wide out Jack Jones will challenge for camp notoriety. Words like “explosive” and “fast” are often overused superlatives when describing this deep group of wide outs, but Sunday, several top receivers can earn those lofty descriptions in SPARQ testing.

SPEED is something USC wants to recruit tangibly at the wide receiver position. Upland (Calif.) wide receiver Grant Porter has the bloodlines of a thoroughbred racehorse. His father and mother both ran track at USC. But with no real track times to bolster his greatest asset, the 6-foot-1, 180-pound will try to separate himself from defensive backs on the field and against other wide receiver on the clock.

Porter is the type of player that can use the 40-yard dash and vertical leap to his advantage, but testing can also help put some players on the map with a school like USC. Fontana (Calif.) wide out Damion Alloway has been a standout on the passing league circuit the past two seasons, but he can show Sunday that his speed and quickness translate head-to-head against higher rated players. And then there’s Los Angeles (Calif.) Hawkins School sophomore Joseph Lewis, who could end up stealing the show from the entire 2016 class of wide outs with a big day. Lewis may prove to have the best combination of size, speed and skills at the event.

POWER is a part of the equation when it comes to explosive football players. Gardena (Calif.) Serra defensive end Oluwole Betiku is one of the most impressive physical specimens of the class, and his raw, explosive power will be put to the test against a group of fast risers along the offensive line.

Led by Mater Dei offensive guard Frank Martin and Murrieta Mesa offensive tackle Nathan Smith, Oluwole will have a chance to prove that he is more than just a good looking player on the hoof. With so much physical upside, Oluwole must begin to display that he has made the game of football his own and that he will develop into a productive defender off the edge.

Martin, who carries a USC scholarship offer, has become a national prospect in recent months. Thought to be more of an interior linemen, Martin will have his hands full in space against the likes Crespi’s Marcus Moore and San Gorgonio’s Shemiah Unutoa-Whitson. A relative unknown, Unutoa-Whitson had 12 sacks last season.

Smith has been offered a scholarship by almost every Pac-12 school but USC and Stanford. At 6-foot-7, 260-pounds, this will be the first time Smith gets a one-on-one look against a vast array of D-I caliber pass rushers.

AGILITY is what makes linebackers like Rialto (Calif.) four-star Lokeni Toailoa and Bakersfield (calif.) four-star Krys Barnes so highly recruited. Non-contact camps make evaluating linebackers difficult, but with the offensive skill players holding all of the cards, one-on-one coverage drills against the running backs can turn a lot of heads.

USC is especially enamored with Barnes, who at 6-foot-2, 215-pounds, shows plenty of versatility on film. But how he plays in space as opposed to over a man could help determine whether he is best suited for inside or outside linebacker in a 3-4 system like the Trojans’ use. Barnes and Toailoa helped their club passing team Ground Zero win the Pylon Regional Championship last week, but this week, they play for a spot at The Opening. Also watch out for Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Los Osos linebacker Bryce Youngquist to emerge. While the Ground Zero duo have gotten more attention from USC thus far, Youngquist has proven to excel in pass coverage as a linebacker.

REACTION may be what comes of the defensive backs performances at Sunday’s camp. While the junior wide receiver class has been highly touted, the sophomore defensive back class is making its own waves at this early stage of the evaluation process. Led by Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian cornerback Deommodore Lenoir, there are several underclassmen in the defensive secondary who could make life difficult for this rockstar group of wide outs.

Newbury Park defensive back Darnay Holmes is already a national recruit and St. John Bosco defensive back Keith Taylor is also garnering new scholarship offers weekly. Sophomore Jaylon Redd has been a standout running back prospect in the 2017 class, but he is expected to perform as a cornerback Sunday. Add in Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt sophomore Thomas Graham and the reaction by observers Sunday may be that of surprise when this sophomore onslaught of secondary talent hits the field.

QUICKNESS is the final SPARQ attribute evaluated at The Opening Regional Camp. While 40-yard dash times are a good measure of top end speed among the wide receivers and defensive backs, the game of football is build around quickness. At the quarterback position, it’s about quick reads and a quick release of the football.

Last year, USC quarterback commit Ricky Town was noted for his quick release. This year, two junior quarterback targets will be put under the same microscope. Santa Margarita quarterback K.J. Costello comes into the camp with a USC scholarship offer. With USC, Michigan and Stanford all contending for his pending commitment, Costello will compete against a group of quarterbacks with much less notoriety.

Glendora (Calif.) quarterback Matt Fink maybe the most intriguing of the group. More of a dual-threat quarterback than pocket passer, Fink has the ability to turn heads with a solid 40-yard dash, but his true test will come when the footballs start flying. Fink and Costello are different types of quarterbacks stylistically, but at the end of the day, success will be achieved by competing passes quickly and efficiently. If Fink can spin the ball with accuracy Sunday, Steve Sarkisian may have to re-evaluate his recruiting board.


USCFootball.com Top Stories