Summer is crammed with satellite camps, coaches' camps, 7-on-7 tournaments, and a ton of other college football recruiting events. But Nike's The Opening event continues to stand atop the pile. The Opening brings together 166 of the country's top high school prospects for an invitation-only festival which includes a quarterback competition, 7-on-7 tournament, and tons of one-on-one drills in which the deck of the nation's top prospects often gets reshuffled.
Nowhere else do so many top players compete head-to-head with bragging rights and rankings on the line. The Opening is also one of the prime recruiting events of the summer, with top prospects working to change the hearts and minds of their fellow campers and build the recruiting classes that will one day form the core of national title teams.
Georgia is always well-represented at the event, but I'm not sure I remember there ever being a contingent of Bulldog commits and prospects quite like this one. Six of the Red and Black's fourteen verbal commitments are a part of the show, and as many as fifteen more campers are being recruited by the 'Dawgs and have shown at least moderate interest in coming to Athens.
QB commit Jake Fromm of Houston County will join the nation's other top signal callers as part of the Elite Eleven quarterback camp beginning today. Fromm will also be one of two quarterbacks leading Team Alpha Pro in the 7-on-7 tournament. Every current Bulldog commit eligible to play in the 7-on-7 (condolences to big D'Ante Demery) will be on this team with Fromm: Liberty County standout Richard Lecounte, III, Hapeville Charter's William Poole, III, Westlake linebacker Jaden Hunter, and Pace receiver Trey Blount.
They will square off against one team chock full of Bulldog prospects and labelled Team Fly Rush. Fly Rush will include Bulldog defensive back targets A.J. Terrell of Westlake, Jamyest Williams and Deangelo Gibbs of Grayson, Newton County receiver Jeremiah Holloman, and Alabama linebacker Kenny Britt. Fly Rush also includes Grayson linebacker Owen Pappoe, who made history as the first rising sophomore ever invited to the event. Georgia will have a ton of competition to keep the freakishly athletic Pappoe instate, but is unlikely to give up on him any time soon.
Recent events have made clear that Georgia is in need of some great tailbacks, and there will be multiple backs in Oregon who have the Bulldogs on their radar. Mississippi tailback Cam Akers has been high on the Bulldog board for a while now. The former Alabama commit has had some great visits to Athens so far, but is also being recruited heavily by the likes of Ole Miss, LSU, FSU, and Ohio State. Also on the Bulldogs' list and in attendance at The Opening will be 5'10, 205 pound speedster D'Andre Swift, rated the nation's top all-purpose back by 247Sports, for obvious reasons:
Joining the many Bulldog commitments on Team Alpha Pro will be Texas tailback Toneil Carter, who several national and regional recruiting analysts have predicted to sign with Georgia. Carter, the #5 tailback in the nation according to 247's composite of national recruiting rankings, is likely to get a lot of quality time this week with guys like Hunter, Lecounte, and Fromm who haven't been shy about pushing the UGA agenda.
Among the big men, Pace offensive tackle Andrew Thomas will commit at The Opening from among finalists Georgia, Notre Dame, and Clemson. Georgia is the odds-on favorite for his pledge, but a June unofficial visit to Notre Dame may have given him something to think about. If Thomas does indeed pick the good guys, he'd join Demery, Netori Johnson, and guard Justin Shaffer at the core of an offensive line haul that could end up being the highest quality group in recent memory for the Classic City contingent. That's to say nothing of Thomas's teammate, rising junior Jamaree Salyer. The 6'3 1/2, 325 pounder is close with Thomas, wants to play with him in college, and could be the top player in the Peach State for the class of 2018. He'll also be in Beaverton, by the way.
Mary Persons defensive lineman Malik Herring will be at The Opening trying to earn the fifth star that so many recruits covet. Herring has developed a great relationship with the UGA coaching staff and has looked like a Bulldog lean for some time. He's a guy who I could see really opening some eyes this week with his combination of size, speed, and strength.
Speaking of which, keep an eye out for Brookwood linebacker Leonard Warner. The 6'4, 210 pounder has been criminally underranked so far in the recruiting process in my opinion. He's a thumper inside with the ideal size to shut down opposing running games in a 3-4 system. One look at his offer list should make clear that college coaches agree that he's probably better than the 22nd best prospect in the Peach State. It will be interesting to see if he can make a name for himself among some of the best in the nation this week, and especially how he does in open space.
It will also be interesting to see Richard Lecounte take on all comers this week in one-on-ones. Perhaps Georgia's most vocal recruiter, the #2 ranked safety in the nation and #37 player in the country has the chance to jump up the rankings and become a top 10 prospect in the country if he consistently shows the kind of athleticism he's capable of.
ESPNU will carry 7-on-7 action and some lineman drills/competition on Saturday and Sunday. We'll obviously be back with any major recruiting news, including any commitments that come down. Until later . . .