Our crew of reporters from SEC Country filled their notebooks at The Opening, the elite camp for the nation’s top recruits. But just because they were watching their players of interest didn’t mean they didn’t have their eyes opened by some Big 12 commitments.
Here’s a brief recap of some of their thoughts about Big 12 recruits and recruiting at the mammoth camp at Beaverton, Ore. Monday.
Which recruit surprised you the most at The Opening Finals?
Kirschner: LSU defensive back commit Kelvin Joseph had his best performance at any camp I’ve seen him compete in. He looked leaner and was faster and physical. In a secondary with 5-star prospect BJ Foster and one of the top CBs in the country in Isaac Taylor-Stuart, Joseph was the best in the group.
Spiegelman: Corione Harris. The 4-star corner has been one of the better prospects from Louisiana since he was a freshman, but he continues to fall under the radar entering his senior year at Landry-Walker High School in New Orleans. Harris, a Kansas verbal commitment, was lights out for the entire week. The scary part: he is only a few weeks removed from an appendectomy. While you and I would not have been able to even run drills in that condition, Harris shadowed some of the best wide receivers in the country and played all over the secondary. His coaches had him at corner and safety, and he thrived in both positions. Whether Harris sticks with the Jayhawks or flips to Big 12 rival Texas, Mississippi State or LSU, one Power 5 school is going to get a truly elite talent and driven player.
Birmingham: I think that the player who caught my eye immediately and then continued to impress throughout the weekend was Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) American Heritage defensive tackle Nesta Silvera. It was a combination of things, but the biggest thing about Silvera was a size/speed combination that is just very rare to see from a high school defensive tackle. He was nasty — just mean — when the whistle blew and went 100 mph every single time. Somehow, he currently ranks as the No. 23 DT in the country in the 247Sports composite. If there are even two better than him anywhere I’d be surprised, but there’s zero chance there are 22 of them.
Beyond Silvera, no player caught me off-guard the way Penn State commitment Justin Shorter did. Wow was he good. This is a future All-Big Ten player if the Nittany Lions offense gives him the chance to succeed, and I think it will.
Which recruit disappointed you the most at The Opening Finals?
Kirschner: Tyreke Johnson didn’t perform well in 1-on-1 drills. The problem, in my opinion, with the 5-star defensive back is he is hellbent on playing cornerback. He’d be better suited at safety. Johnson is a press corner, which is fine. But when he didn’t lock down the receiver at the line of scrimmage, we saw the receiver get by with ease.
Spiegelman: For one, NFL Network. I know that network isn’t a recruit, but what went down with Ja’Marr Chase was absolutely atrocious. Chase, a 4-star wide receiver from New Orleans, was supposed to commit on July 2. That’s his recently deceased grandmother’s birthday, so his commitment was a way to honor her. NFL Network officials convinced Chase to hold off on announcing his commitment to either LSU or TCU until July 3 so that the network could broadcast it live. That also allowed Chase’s family back in Louisiana to tune in. However, when it was Chase’s time to shine, NFL Network spent extra time with Emerson after he surprisingly committed to Tennessee. They squeezed out Chase and took away his moment, a cold-hearted move done to a bright young man.
From a football standpoint, it was Harold Joiner. The 6-foot-3, 218-pound running back from Alabama was among the most-discussed players in the country this spring, yet nothing the 4-star recruit did in Oregon showed what all the buzz was about. Even more disappointing were some of his comments about his top schools. Joiner dropped LSU and UGA from contention because they added running backs to their respective classes. He said he didn’t want to compete at Alabama and was afraid it could be too cold at Michigan State — while naming the Spartans his new leader. For one of the best running backs in the country, his play and comments did not add up.
Birmingham: I will be careful here in how I say this, because I don’t think it’s really fair to be “disappointed” in high school athletes I don’t know after just one or two days at a camp of this magnitude. Everyone has a bad day once in a while, and that’s part of life and sports.
I will however, say this: I was not entirely impressed by the quarterback play at The Opening Finals on the whole. Fields was phenomenal. Lawrence was good, so too was Tanner McKee, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Matt Corral and Justin Rogers. But this group wasn’t as consistent as I would have liked and the rest of the group was just OK.
I think that some recruits come into this event with such high expectations, guys such as Palaie Gaoteote for example, but then we don’t see them do much and people say “Oh, I didn’t hear his name.” But in reality he wasn’t doing much. Linebackers are virtually invisible in 7-on-7 play and there was less of a chance for linebackers, running backs, etc., to shine this year than in the past when the Nike Football Ratings Championships (SPARQ testing) celebrated that kind of powerhouse player.
Sentell: I think the entire offensive tackle class as a whole was really disappointing. There really isn’t an elite tackle this year. Jackson Carman, the highest-rated tackle, looks more like an elite guard to me. He even lined up at guard and tackle out in Oregon. He’s a good tackle, don’t get me wrong there. But he might have barely been a top-5 tackle in the 2017 class.
Abolverdi: Johnson. Most recruiting services have the 5-star defensive back from Jacksonville, Fla., rated as a safety, but Johnson insists that he will play cornerback in college. His performance at The Opening Finals left a lot to be desired. Johnson was able to jam some receivers at the line scrimmage, but had trouble consistently covering the wideouts who were able to get into their routes.