The Opening Finals: Trojan Targets

USC will have five current commitments at The Opening Finals with more than 20 other prospects placing the Trojans among their top five college choices going into the 2016 season.

Last July, eight players that attended The Opening training camp at NIKE World Headquarters ended up Trojans.

This year, USC rolls into the three day event with five current commitments and several more that could announce a pledge before the week is over. Torrance (Calif.) North five-star linebacker Mique Juarez, Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline four-star linebacker Daelin Hayes, Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei four-star offensive guard Frank Martin, Suwanee (Ga.) four-star wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe and Lancaster (Calif.) Paraclete four-star athlete Melquise Stovall will all represent the Trojans on Team Lunarbeast.

In total, 166 athletes will compete in NIKE Combine testing, a seven-on-seven tournament and position drills Tuesday through Thursday. Linemen will also go head-to-head in helmets and shoulder pads, which is a unique drill to The Opening Finals.

All players are divided up into six teams, Alpha Pro, Fly Rush, Hypercool, Lunarbeast, Mach Speed and Superbad. The event begins with camp position drills and then combine testing, where Team Alpha Pro will hope Westlake (Calif.) wide out Theo Howard can light up the 40-yard dash like he did in Oakland running a 4.38.

USC will also have targets at The Opening Finals who will make their college commitments during the week. Both Gardena (Calif.) Serra four-star safety C.J. Pollard and Bishop Amat (Calif.) four-star athlete Trevon Sidney are slated to announce commitments.

Pollard has USC Oregon, Arizona State, Michigan and Notre Dame among his final list of choices, while Sidney has USC, Michigan, Notre Dame, Washington and UCLA as his top options going into the event.

USC, however, is still considered the favorite to land both players. Pollard and Sidney are expected to make their intentions known live on ESPNU July 10. Additional commits for USC are possible throughout the week as well.

[THE OPENING FINALS FULL TEAM ROSTERS]

ALPHA PRO TARGETS
RB Najee Harris WR Nate Craig WR Trevon Sidney
DL Rashan Gary DB Nigel Knott DB Lamar Jackson DB C.J. Pollard DB Jack Jones
While Team Lunarbeast has all of the USC commits, Team Alpha Pro has the defensive backfield the Trojans still covet. Long Beach (Calif.) Poly five-star athlete Jack Jones could play either side of the football, but his best position this off season has been cornerback.

Trevon Sidney can also play both sides of the football, but the defensive backfield for Alpha is stacked. Pollard and Elk Grove (Calif.) Franklin four-star Lamar Jackson will be featured at safety, while Starkville (Miss.) four-star Nigel Knott could team up with Jones to make for a pretty good duo at cornerback. Knott was the best cornerback at the USC Rising Stars Camp a week ago. Overall, this may be the most skilled team of the seven-on-seven tournament.

In the trenches, Paramus (N.J.) five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary returns to The Opening after a dominant performance last year as an underclassmen. Gary says he wasn't to officially visit USC, but it’s clear the Trojans are playing from behind in his recruitment as Michigan, Auburn, Ohio State and Georgia have established leads with unofficial visits.

Montgomery (Ala.) Carver four-star linebacker Lyndell Wilson has also expressed interest in officially visiting USC, although very few people believe he will leave Alabama to play college football let along the Southeast. Tampa (Fla.) Catholic five-star wide out Nate Craig may fall into that same long shot category as Wilson with USC filling up on wide receiver commits.

FLY RUSH TARGETS
TE Devin Asiasi DB Byron Murphy DB JoeJuan Williams
Concord (Calif.) De La Salle four-star tight end Devin Asiasi is the most recognized target on Team Fly Rush for USC fans, although Scottsdale (Ariz.) Saguaro four-star cornerback Byron Murphy has also been a priority recruit for the Trojans for quite some time.

Asiasi is a giant tight end at 6-foot-5, 270-pounds, and his impact for Fly Rush in the seven-on-seven tournament will be especially interesting to watch. The recent commitment of Exton (Pa.) four-star tight end Cary Angeline isn’t expected to affect his interest in USC, but after an average performance at The Opening Regional in Oakland, Asiasi has to show himself a legitimate receiving prospect.

Murphy missed the Trojans Rising Stars Camp a week ago, and USC finds themselves in a battle with Texas A&M, Washington and Arizona State for his services. Murphy will player cornerback next to Hendersonville (Tenn.) four-star safety JoeJuan Williams, who did attend the Rising Stars Camp. Williams is still without a scholarship offer from USC, but he remains a player to watch. Gardena (Calif.) Serra five-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku is also on Fly Rush, although he publicly eliminated USC from consideration in May.

HYPERCOOL TARGETS
RB Elijah Holyfield WR Javon McKinley WR Tyler Vaughns WR Tyjon Lindsey
DL Dexter Lawrence LB Jeffrey McCulloch DB Jaylon Jones DB David Long
Team Hypercool is new to the NIKE line up, and with temperatures forecast for the high 90's all week long, everyone watching from Ronaldo Field will want to get Hypercool. If Team Lunarbeast is the “USC/Ohio State squad," then Hypercool is the “Stanford/Auburn squad" with several Cardinal commits and leans on the roster. That includes Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola four-star cornerback David Long.

However, Trojan fans will have a handful of legitimate targets to watch as well. Corona (Calif.) Centennial four-star wide receiver Javon McKinley has long been thought a USC lean, but with no plans to commit this summer, it remains to be seen rather he will be willing to join what could be a very crowded receiver class later in the year. La Puente (Calif.) five-star wide receiver Tyler Vaughns will make his college commitment in August, and while he too has been a heavy USC lean for more than year, the class is filling up fast.

Las Vegas (Nev.) Bishop Gorman four-star wide out Tyjon Lindsey also has USC high on his list of favorite schools as one of the few juniors invited to The Opening Finals. Lindsey is joined by a couple of prospects USC just hopes to eventually secure official visits from. Wake Forest (N.C.) five-star defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence and Allen (Texas) four-star cornerback Jaylon Jones both talk the talk of being interested in USC, but neither were on campus last month, which immediately put USC behind the eight ball for both.

LUNARBEAST TARGETS
RB Melquise Stovall WR Josh Imatorbhebhe OL Frank Martin DL Antwuan Jackson
LB Daelin Hayes LB Mique Juarez DB Jordan Parker DB Eric Cuffee
Team Werewolf… Lunarbeast is represented with five Trojan commits and two Rising Star participants. Both Cedar Grove (Ga.) four-star defensive tackle Antwaun Jackson and Waco (Texas) four-star cornerback Eric Cuffee were at USC a week ago, although both are thought to be leaning toward staying closer to home for college.

Pittsburg (Calif.) four-star cornerback Jordan Parker was notably absent from the USC Rising Stars Camp. After stating all spring long he would camp and officially visit USC after committing to UCLA, Parker was not at either school that week. If actions speak louder than words in recruiting, the Trojans’ relentless charge after Parker may be coming to a halt.

For USC’s committed prospects, The Opening Finals will be about match ups. The two players who should excel are linebacker Mique Juarez and athlete Melquise Stovall. Juarez is rated as the nation’s No. 2 outside linebacker, so he is supposed to do well testing and in coverage. However, in a seven-on-seven environment, Stovall should turn some heads and surprise observers who do not know him outside the West Coast. Stovall could play any one of three positions during the week, including running back, receiver and cornerback.

MACH SPEED TARGETS
WR Freddie Swain WR Donovan Peoples-Jones DL Derrick Brown DL Janarius Robinson
Citra (Fla.) North Marion four-star wide receiver Freddie Swain and Detroit (Mich.) four-star junior wide out Donovan Peoples-Jones made the USC Rising Stars Camp a week ago, but Team Mach Speed almost void of any other targets with serious interest in the Trojans.

Swain has the Trojans among his final four college choices, although most believe his decision will probably come down to Florida and USC. Interestingly, Mach Speed is a team with seven Florida State commits. Panama City (Fla.) Bay four-star defensive end Janarius Robinson is one of those players. Robinson was slated to attend Rising Stars, but did not make it. He could still officially visit USC, but has to be considered a ling shot.

SUPERBAD TARGETS
TE Naseir Upshur DL Rashard Lawrence DB Brandon Jones
As with Mach Speed, team Superbad has few serious USC targets. Philadelphia (Pa.) Imhotep four-star tight end Naseir Upshur talked about unofficially visiting USC this summer, but has yet to do so. Nacogdoches (Texas) four-star safety Brandon Jones did get a visit from the USC coaching staff in May, and has the Trojans in his top five going into the season. USC has been pushing hard in Texas lately, but Jones is going to be a very tough pull.


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