Extra Points: The Opening L.A.

REDONDO, Calif. — The Opening Regional of Los Angeles reinforced the notion that the class of 2016 locally is loaded at two positions and short on depth at others. Both the wide receiver and linebacker positions were full of talent Sunday. We strip away the superfluous camp jargon and get to the point of how the event impacts recruiting.

  • In any camp setting, the players who get reps are usually the players who take reps. Sunday, Long Beach Poly defensive back and wide out Jack Jones took reps. Jones weaved and cut his way through line at defensive back and receiver. With four interceptions on the day in one-on-one or seven-on-seven periods, he was the overall camp MVP.

  • Jones will play cornerback in college and Tyler Vaughns might too. Although shifty and quick, Jones ability to anticipate receiver's routes was the reason he had four interceptions on the day. Jones and Tyler Vaughns went at each other several times in one-on-one drills. It was a great match up to watch in a bubble, but neither player is winning any track meets. Turn the tables and Vaughns may have been camp MVP at cornerback. His length and ability to track the ball in the air are tremendous.

  • The 2016 receiver class ducked the 40-yards dash. That’s why Dylan Crawford stepping up and running a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash is impressive. Crawford is a year younger than his class and his game isn’t about strtching the field vertically. A SPARQ laser time of 4.6 on squishy field turf was MVP worthy.

  • Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco running back Sean McGrew runs 10.64 in the 100-meters. McGrew ran 4.44 in the 40-yards dash Sunday.

  • San Diego (Calif.) Mira Mesa receiver Steffon McKnight was Dr. Jeckell and Mr. Hyde Sunday. While McKnight is a fluid athlete who runs well in the open field, he dropped some catchable passes and had instances where he could not get off the line cleanly against press coverage.

  • The best combination of speed and size at the wide receiver group was 2017 Hawkins School sophomore Joseph Lewis. While Lewis is raw in his route running and leans towards just outrunning defenders, he has extremely strong hands in traffic. With more refinement, Lewis can be better than any receiver in the 2016 class.

    RECRUITING: Lewis was offered a scholarship Saturday by USC along with his sophomore teammate Greg Johnson and his freshman teammate Jalen Hall. Lewis is the youngest of the group at 15-years-old. None of the Hawkins School three made any grand statements about being offered a scholarship by USC, although Johnson did say it was the scholarship offer he had been waiting on the most. All three acknowledged being offered together by USC was a positive as well.

  • Hawkins School sophomore Greg Johnson could be a great strong safety in two years. Selected as a first-team all-camp defender for the final session of drills, Johnson has good feet, tracks the ball well in the air and has the physical prowess to make plays near the line of scrimmage. He also has that quiet, serious demeanor of a good safety.

  • USC is recruiting almost every top wide receiver locally harder than any other school. Thus, it’s hard to get a true read on how the Trojans board stacks up.

  • The Southern California sophomore defensive back class is legit. Johnson, Corona (Calif.) Roosevelt defensive back Thomas Graham, Los Angeles (Calif.) Salesian cornerback Deommodore Lenoir and Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) cornerback Jaylon Redd all showed flashes of potential. The biggest issue in a camp this big is how players get split up. Regardless of how good they handle drills, some underclassmen get grouped with the second team campers just because.

  • Jaylon Redd is sneaky good. Of the 2017 defensive back group, Redd was the best in early SPARQ agility drills. While Thomas and Johnson are more impressive in their stature, Redd’s footwork and balance are tremendous. Redd doesn’t have the lean, rangy frame of his sophomore counterparts, but he bounces around like a rubber ball on concrete.

    RECRUITING: Redd was also offered a scholarship by USC last weekend. He said Sunday at the camp that he grew up in the shadow of USC living in Carson, and that Trojan football is all he knew in his formative years. Redd has a lot of USC ties, so it fair to say the Trojans will be the team to beat here.

  • After Gardena (Calif.) Serra safety C.J. Pollard ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash, everything else he did at the camp Sunday was gravy. While some high school seniors look like 28-year-olds these days, Pollard is steadily getting bigger, faster and stronger. Pollard now an invitation to The Opening Finals.

    RECRUITING: Pollard may decide to announce a commitment at The Opening Finals in July. He knows he does not want his recruitment to play out until signing day, so prolonging the process is more about securing exposure and officials visit dates to some prime locations during the season. Safe bet is, his last official visit will be to USC next January as a Trojan commit.

  • USC linebacker commit Mique Juarez and Trojan targets Krys Barnes and Lokeni Toaliloa were all excellent Sunday in different ways. Juarez was the best athlete of the group, although not the most consistent performance wise. Bakersfield (Calif.) Liberty linebacker Krys Barnes earned that title and was well deserving of his MVP nod Sunday. Barnes was the only linebacker with an interception and multiple pass deflections in running back/linebacker one-on-one drills.

    RECRUITING: Juarez commitment to USC was reported publicly prematurely, which did not go over well with his family. USC is Juarez dream school and his relationship with the coaching staff is strong. But his family wants him to visit other schools, with Notre Dame and Michigan at the top of the list. The main issue with Juarez and USC is the linebacker class the Trojans signed last February. The vibe is that Juarez will not venture that far from home. And with an invitation to The Opening Finals and the Army All-American Bowl this week, Juarez is getting all of the national exposure he feared wouldn’t come because of his early commitment.

  • Rialto (Calif.) Carter linebacker Lokeni Toailoa didn’t get an invite to The Opening Sunday, but there wasn’t a better defender in space at the camp. While it was a no-contact camp, the drill of running back versus linebacker simulated open field tackling with two hand touch. Toailoa displayed excellent agility, lateral quickness and balance keeping the offensive player in front of him. Although Barnes and Juarez were better in coverage drills, Toailoa was the most instinctive player in space.

    RECRUITING: Toailoa had a very good day playing middle linebacker, but physically, he is a stout linebacker without much length. USC has yet to go after Toailoa hard despite the early scholarship offer, which suggests his profile may not fit their defense. On the other hand, USC is after Krys Barnes, who grew up a Trojan fan. Barnes isn’t quite as big as USC 2015 signee Cameron Smith, but he has enough height and length to play MIKE or WILL in a 3-4 system. It’s possible Barnes makes a decision on a college before his senior season.

  • Downey (Calif.) linebacker Darrian Franklin should play inside linebacker. While Franklin struggled to run with the running backs on vertical routes, he had a fair amount of success playing the pass on more realistic passing routes closer to the line of scrimmage. Franklin plays with nastiness and monopolized the rep count at linebacker. He probably quadrupled the amount of reps most other linebackers took Sunday. Athletically, Franklin isn't a John Houston or Su’a Cravens. He really seems a better fit gaining weight and playing inside linebacker rather than SAM.

    RECRUITING: Franklin says he will most likely make a commitment in May. Wearing NIKE Trojan gloves and socks Sunday, USC is far and away his favorite school at present date. Franklin wants to graduate in December, so at this point, the ball is in USC’s court as to whether to take his pledge before the Rising Stars Camp.

  • Non-contact camps were made for Lancaster (Calif.) Paraclete running back Melquise Stovall. His lightning quick, compact frame is almost impossible to corral in space. Stovall ran a 4.57 in the 40-yard dash, which confirmed he is build more for short area quickness than outrunning defensive backs in the open field.

    RECRUITING: USC offered Stovall a scholarship Saturday, which was a bit of a surprise because of their lack of size at running back heading into the 2016 season. Stovall isn’t necessarily small, but at 5-foot-8, 185-pounds, he’s not really moving the pile as a tailback either. Stovall is high on USC and wants to get a decision done relatively early and he is working toward being a midyear graduate. However, a scholarship offer from Oregon would make a major impact on his recruitment. He sees himself fitting in well with the Ducks offense and will wait on that scholarship offer if need be.

  • San Bernardino running back Alexander Mattison should end up with a handful of scholarship offers. At 5-foot-11, 210-pounds, Mattison was one of the best looking athletes on the field and has the moves and quickness of a much smaller running back. Mattison carries a 4.8 GPA, so he has the grades and ability to garner multiple D-I scholarship offers.

  • Inland Valley sophomore running backs Stephen Carr (photo below) and Nathan Tilford are already as good as any local tailbacks in the 2016 class. In non-contact drills, there’s not a lot to evaluate with running backs, especially when they’re not of the scat back variety. Carr is a powerful runner with good lateral quickness shifting his weight to his outside foot. Although he was inconsistent catching the ball Sunday, Carr still managed to make it to the first team offensive seven-on-seven session Sunday.

  • Chandler (Ariz.) running back Chase Lucas is a safety in college. Physically, Lucas as a lean frame and does not carry a low center of gravity when he runs. While he made a few decent receptions as a tailback, his body type screams defensive back. Lucas unofficially visited USC Monday, but came away without a scholarship offer.

  • The offensive or defensive lines were just okay Sunday. While Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei offensive lineman Frank Martin was solid in drills and showed up to the camp in really good shape, he still grades out more as an interior lineman than a trie offensive tackle. Martin gave up the inside move a few times in one-on-one drills because he was concerned about staying with the speed rush to the outside. In pads, he would have mauled his main on the inside shade, but in no pads, the defender slipped through.

  • Murrieta Mesa offensive tackle Nathan Smith was the best looking offensive tackle in attendance physically, but he had a tendency to play high and a bit stiff in drills. He didn’t get many one-on-one reps either, while Martin was much more aggressive getting looks. Overall, Martin gets kudos for his physicality and willingness to play out of his comfort zone as a pass blocker.

  • Honolulu (Hawaii) Kaiser offensive guard Michael Eletise was listed as the region’s top player at his position and he backed that up Sunday. While it wasn’t the greatest group of offensive linemen, Eletise had the cleanest day during one-on-ones.

  • Harbor City (Calif.) Narbonne offensive tackle Alex Akingbulu might be a good forward. Listed at 255-pounds, Akingbulu is now closer to 235-pounds because of basketball season. While USC has recruited players like Chad Wheeler and Tyron Smith at 260-pounds out of high school, Akingbulu does not compare physically with either of those players.

  • The camp quarterbacks need a mulligan. Santa Margarita quarterback K.J. Costello was one of the better performers among a group that had trouble being consistently accurate. Costello will attend The Opening Regional in Oakland as he wasn’t satisfied with his own performance Sunday.

    RECRUITING: Costello could make a decision within the next few weeks, and at this point, all signs point to USC. Since missing out on the nation’s No. 1 quarterback in Shea Patterson last month, USC has focused almost solely on Costello. While Stanford and Michigan continue to make a push, USC is Costello’s dream school, and as of the camp, sources are confident that will be his pick. That is if USC is prepared to take a quarterback before May Evaluations.

  • Glendora (Calif.) quarterback Matt Fink missed an opportunity to shine Sunday. While Fink is an athletic quarterback with the ability to run by design, he struggled to throw an accurate football with velocity Sunday. Even under optimal conditions, the slightest breeze seemed to send his passes fluttering. The 2016 class of quarterback in Southern California just doesn’t compare to the stellar group the camp hated last year.

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