The Oakland Opening Regional, now actually held in Richmond (Calif.), managed to send nine players to The opening Finals despite several local prospects not showing for the camp.
Sacramento (Calif.) four-star defensive end D.J. Johnson was perhaps the biggest omission from the camp’s roster, but that disappointment was quickly overshadowed by maybe the deepest and best group of defensive linemen represented at any NIKE tour stop this spring.
South Jordan (Utah) four-star Jay Tufele came into the camp with a hit rating from Scout and the 6-foot-3, 290-pound defensive tackle lived up to his billing and then some. Tufele was cat-like quick off the ball, exploding with violent hand technique before his opponent could kick step in pass protection.
Tufele did not win every rep Sunday, but he was nothing shy of dominant. Tufele said he measured in at 6-foot-3, 297-pounds Sunday, but he carries that weight extremely well. Profile wise, he didn’t look more than 280-pounds going through drills. That speaks to how powerful and lean Tufele is.
Portland (Ore.) four-star defensive tackle Marlon Tuipulotu won the MVP award for the defensive line. While Tuipulotu had a very good showing, he did not show quite the explosiveness and suddenness of Tufele.
Tuipulotu did play from a good base, showing enough strength to power through blockers and on occasion slip by them with quickness. Tuipulotu is currently committed to Washington, but says he is looking to take some unofficial visits this summer to several Pac-12 schools. Tuupulotu mentioned Utah, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington State, Stanford, Cal and UCLA as schools still pursuing him.
On the other hand, USC appears to be one of the leading candidates to land Tufele and Las Vegas (Nev.) four-star defensive tackle Greg Rogers. Like Tufele and Tuipulotu, Rogers also received an invitation to The Opening Finals.
Rogers struggled in his first four or five reps, getting stuffed in one-on-one drills a couple of times, As he simplified his approach, he had more success on his pass rush. Rogers showed good quickness of the ball, but he did not have the heavy hands of Tufele or Tuipulotu.
At the same time, Rogers got too cute with his technique early on in one-on-ones. Once he won a couple of reps with a bull rush and a rip move, his confidence grew. Toward the final series of one-on-one competition, he was flying past his blockers.
Recruiting wise, it was thought both Rogers and Tufele were USC’s two best options at defensive tackle in the class of 2017. After Sunday’s event, that belief remains intact. Rogers and Tufele were both very complimentary of defensive line coach Kenechi Udeze. Rogers seemed particularly interested in USC, noting the school’s prestige and connections post graduation.
Quarterback in cue
The only uncommitted quarterback at Sunday’s event that USC is actively recruiting was San Clemente (Calif.) three-star Jack Sears. As expected, Sears performed well and ended up earning an invitation to NIKE World Headquarters in Beaverton (Ore.). Sears was more accurate and showed better touch on the ball than he did at the Los Angeles Opening Regional in Redondo (Calif.). In fact, touch on the ball was the main difference between Sears and Honolulu (Hawaii) four-star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa Sunday.
While Tagovailoa earned an invitation to The Opening Finals, he had issues with ball placement on underneath routes. Tagovailoa did spin the ball well deep, but Sears had much better control over his pass trajectory and ball placement on short and intermediate routes. Sears won quarterback MVP honors at the camp - proving USC’s move to offer him a scholarship earlier this month correct.
USC, UCLA, Washington and Cal are all school Sears has visited in the past two weeks. At this point, Sears is being very tight lipped with his favorite schools, but said Sunday that he will narrow his list of choices down to two or three and hope to have a commitment finalized sometime in July.
Tagovailoa said Sunday that he will take all five of his official visits, and although he remains committed to Alabama, USC is expected to remain in the hunt for one of those trips. USC is still recruiting Tagovailoa and the Trojans have had some success with last minute steals from Hawaii as of late.
No soup for the offensive line
While the offensive line group had some featured players attending Sunday’s event, no offensive linemen were invited to The Opening Finals. That’s not to say there weren't some good performances.
Stockton (Calif.) defensive tackle Popo Aumavae and El Cerrito (Calif.) offensive lineman Aaron Banks both came into the camps with scholarship offers from USC. Aumavae performed at right tackle in one-on-one drills and lost a majority of the reps he took.
Aumavae, only about 6-foot-3, doesn’t have the best reach to pass protect on the edge against speed rushers, but his footwork was more of an issue. Aumavae whiffed on his first two reps with his feet stuck in quicksand. USC is recruiting Aumavae as an athlete, looking at him as an offensive and defensive lineman. He is quick, so nose tackle or offensive guard would appear to be his two best positions. Aumavae says he prefers to play defensive tackle.
Banks also had his struggles, although as one of the bigger offensive linemen at the camp, he has the physical tools to possibly play offensive tackle in college. Based off his reps Sunday, guard may play more toward his athletic ability and overwhelming size.
Concord (Calif.) offensive tackle Jalen McKenzie and Kingsburg (Calif,) offensive tackle Andrew Vorhees were two of the more interesting prospects on the offensive line without USC scholarship offers. McKenzie is recovering from an ACL injury, which forced him to miss his entire junior season.
Sunday was his first big event since rehab, and while he got caught grabbing and pushed back on his heels too much, his 6-foot-6, 310-pound frame is hard to overlook. McKenzie is the brother of Khalil McKenzie, the nation’s No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2016. Jalen has heard quite a bit from USC this past month and is making plans to attend the Rising Stars Camp next month.
Vorhees is 6-foot-6, 295-pounds with very little body fat. While he may not be the athlete that a healthy McKenzie is, Vorhees moved well for a player his size. More than likely a right tackle in college, he is still a prospect to watch for den the line. However, while McKenzie talked up his interest in USC, Vorhees is already satisfied with the scholarship offers he has.
Tight ends run deep
Interestingly, the wide receiver group was void of any USC scholarship holders Sunday — at least for most f the camp. Sacramento (Calif.) tight end Josh Falo originally worked out with the wide receiver group in position drills. He struggled early to catch the football, carrying her from a subpar performance at the Passing Down Best of the West Tournament.
However, as skeleton drills began, Falo slid over with the tight ends and began catching everything in sight. Falo continues to look the pat at 6-foot-4, 230-pounds, but he finally showed flashes of putting his physical tools to use.
While Falo was good, Westlake Village (Calif.) four-star tight end Colby Parkinson was great. The best tight end among a good group of tight ends, Parkinson was by far the most natural receiver of the bunch. Parkinson is committed to Stanford and appears solid in that pledge.
Roseville (Calif.) tight end Jimmy Jaggers couldn’t compete with Parkinson as a receiver, but seeing his value as a blocker, Jaggers performed well Sunday. Both Jaggers and Stanford commit Tusker Fisk battled to catch the ball cleanly in skeleton drills, but Jaggers was still quick enough in space to maneuver and get open. Danville (Calif.) tight end Erik Krommenhoek falls somewhere between Parkinson and Jaggers as a receiver. He bodied the ball on catches more than Parkinson, but showed more straight line speed deep than Jaggers.
Jaggers continues to rave about USC, but he is also interested in UCLA and Washington. After meeting Trojans tight ends coach John Baxter, Jaggers is excited about USC’s increased emphasis on being more physical up front. He has the ability to be a traditional in-line tight end or an H-back used to lead block.
Concord (Calif.) De La Salle tight end Isaiah Foskey is a big time player to watch for in the future. While he won’t see a ton of passes thrown his way in the Spartans offense, Foskey has the size and athletic ability as a freshman to be national name come next year.
Johnson and Ahmed close The Opening
Fresno (Calif.) four-star cornerback Jaylon Johnson may have had his struggles at the Pro Way Passing Tournament in April, but any questions about his rating as one of the West Coast top players were put to rest Sunday. As 6-foot-2, 185-pounds, Johnson manhandled most of the wide receivers he played against and looked flawless in drills.
But where Johnson really stunned onlookers is when he ran a 4.55 40-yard dash. He then won the latest man competition against Muir cornerback Elijah Blades, who ran one of the latest 40-yard dash times at the L.A. Regional Opening.
USC has developed a great relationship with Johnson, and while he has no plans to make a commitment before the start of the season, the Trojans have to be considered the favorites in his recruitment. Oklahoma and Michigan will have something to say about that if USC cannot build some momentum this season.
Kirkland (Wash.) four-star athlete Salvon Ahmed had a solid camp playing cornerback. Ahmed was a little stiff breaking down in the space, whiffing on a few potential tackles. However, when he was in press man coverage, Ahmed gave the wide receivers no breathing room at all. Ahmed could play corner, safety or running back in college.
USC continues to recruit him as an athlete, although Ahmed says his main recruiter, Johnny Nansen now wants him as a cornerback. When Nansen was a running backs coach at USC, he recruited Ahmed as a tailback. Now, new USC running backs coach Tommie Robinson is making the tailback pitch for USC. Stanford is recruiting Ahmed as a running back, while Oregon and Washington are taking the athlete angle like the Trojans.
Ahmed may not be the 6-foot-3, 226-pound freak that Antioch (Calif.) five-star running back Najee Harris is, but he has tremendous agility and is surprisingly strong. Stanford’s interest in him as a running back will immediately drum up comparisons with Christian McCaffrey.