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July 15, 2012

The Opening: What We Learned

MORE: The Opening full coverage

The Opening took place on the NIKE campus in Oregon last weekend and after seeing many of the top prospects in the country again, the Rivals.com staff has learned many things about this group of players. Here is a look at some of the lessons learned while in Beaverton, Ore., last weekend:

Chasing that fifth star

An event of this caliber always proves whether players on that cusp of five-star status deserve to move up, stay where they're ranked or drop down. A few players proved they belong in the five-star rankings, especially Alabama tight end commit O.J. Howard.

The Autauga (Ala.) Autauga Academy tight end is arguably one of the most impressive-looking prospects in recent memory and he moves so well there might be a chance he could play wide receiver for the Crimson Tide. He has excellent hands, made some amazing catches and is just a physical specimen that is rarely seen on the high school level.

Others that could be in the conversation include Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, who turned in a dominant performance at The Opening, and Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy cornerback Jalen Ramsey, who shined at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge in Atlanta and did again at The Opening.

All three might not be five-stars in the next round of rankings, but they could surely be in the conversation after outstanding performances.

Year of the cornerback

Every year it seems one position stands out more than the others and this recruiting cycle, the cornerback spot is loaded.

Five-star Kendall Fuller looks great at every event and it was unfortunate that Vernon Hargreaves III got injured during SPARQ training because there are some who believe he could push for top billing at the position. That's how loaded cornerback is this season.

Cameron Burrows was hit and miss during The Opening, but he's a great physical specimen who had one of the nicest interceptions at the event during 7-on-7 play. Ramsey was exceptional and Chris Hawkins was impressive at both the Rivals100 Challenge and The Opening as well.

Then there is Eli Woodard, Priest Willis, Jourdan Lewis, Will Likely, Noel Ellis and the list continues. It is an outstanding position loaded with playmakers and many of them shined at The Opening last weekend.

Great group of RBs

Usually, running backs are forgotten at these events because 7-on-7 play is not suited for them, but that was not the case at The Opening.

What we saw was a strong group of athletic, speedy playmakers who all could catch the ball out of the backfield. They were nightmares for linebackers trying to keep pace and a blessing for quarterbacks looking to dump the ball down and keep the chains moving.

St. Petersburg (Fla.) Catholic's Ryan Green, Virginia Beach (Va.) Bayside's Taquan Mizzell and Norcross (Ga.) recruit Alvin Kamara were all impressive and did spectacular things coming out of the backfield.

Offensive line surprises

Compared to last recruiting cycle and many before it, this group of offensive linemen is a little weak but it bucked up during one-on-one drills at The Opening and generally beat the defensive linemen in competition.

What was especially impressive was that many of them were players who were undervalued from a rankings standpoint and have emerged as quality prospects at their positions.

Madison (Fla.) recruit Ira Denson was outstanding and even though he's more than 300 pounds, the big boy moved well and played with lots of power.

Oregon commit Alex Redmond, from Los Alamitos (Calif.), has not been to many camps this off-season but he plays with a lot of toughness and grit. He gets the job done with the best of them.

Another big-time performer was recent UCLA commit Christian Morris, who moves well for his size and could even add more weight to his frame. There were others that stood out as well as the offensive line did a nice job competing in a down year.

Hot and cold quarterbacks

Some quarterbacks proved they belong among the elite in the class and others, well, did not have the best showing.

USC commit Max Browne, the top-rated quarterback by Rivals.com, was surgical on Sunday during 7-on-7 play and had an overall strong showing all weekend. Perhaps most impressive about the Sammamish (Wash.) Skyline prospect is his intelligence and his maturity not to force bad passes.

Michigan commit Shane Morris also had a strong weekend. He zips the ball in better than most quarterbacks and had a cadre of outstanding receivers on his team, which helped him make big plays. The lefty has a strong arm and is definitely one of the top quarterbacks in the class.

This is not the best setting for a player such as Texas commit Tyrone Swoopes, who is an outstanding playmaker but still struggles throwing the ball. He was better at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge than The Opening, but it's still a question whether he's among that top group of quarterbacks in this class.



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