The Opening: Big Ten Thursday Notebook highlights improvement for committed quarterbacks in Oregon
BEAVERTON, Ore. – We’re live at The Opening, Nike football’s recruiting showcase talking about the most important storylines affecting Big Ten teams and the players they’re chasing. Join us nightly from Nike’s world headquarters for the news and notes about your favorite school and their recruiting efforts.
Cam Akers arrives wearing Buckeyes gear, Wade in Penn State
The Buckeyes have one running back ranked in the nation’s top 50 players already committed (4-star Texas native J.K. Dobbins) but they’re hoping that this week at The Opening they’ll get closer to sealing the deal on another. Mississippi 5-star running back Cam Akers, the country’s second-ranked tailback, arrived in Oregon on Thursday afternoon and his choice in headwear should make Buckeyes fans happy.
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) July 7, 2016
Of course, clothing doesn’t always make the man – especially in recruiting – but it’s a good omen for Ohio State as the real meat and potatoes of The Opening begins Friday. Another of the Big Ten region’s top players, Clairton (Pa.) 4-star defensive back also made noise with his hat choice.
— Steve Wiltfong (@SWiltfong247) July 7, 2016
Ohio State and Penn State are fighting off Pittsburgh for the country’s seventh-ranked cornerback, but it appears things are trending in a positive direction for the Nittany Lions right now.
McCaffrey, Martell, Clifford shine on Day Two
After an up-and-down day on Wednesday, a trio of Big Ten quarterbacks stepped up their games on Thursday and provided much more consistent outings during Day 2 of the Elite 11 quarterback camp.
Penn State commitment Sean Clifford continues to impress pretty much everyone who has ever seen him anywhere, despite being one of the event’s lower-rated quarterbacks. He has a knack for putting the ball exactly where it needs to be and is a calm, steady leader as fans of Cincinnati’s St. Xavier High School have known for two years. Clifford reminds me a bit of Auburn quarterback Sean White, who excelled at The Opening in 2014 and became a national name at the event.
After a rocky start on Wednesday, Ohio State commitment Tate Martell really looked comfortable today in Oregon, establishing a rhythm early and delivering accurate balls all morning. There’s occasionally a little inconsistency with his delivery and the ball isn’t always a clean spiral but he’s got a big arm and can put the ball on the money with zip. Thursday was a good day for Martell.
Another player who struggled a bit on Wednesday but stepped up his game on Thursday was Michigan commitment Dylan McCaffrey. There’s work to be done, but it was easy to see why he’s ranked as the country’s second-ranked pro-style quarterback. When the Littleton, Colorado prospect gets into a college weight program and gains some needed physical strength, he’ll really come into his own but all the tools are there to be a great one: accuracy, timing, mechanics and leadership.
Why does James Robinson keep talking about Ohio State?
On Wednesday, Lakeland (Fla.) 4-star wide receiver James Robinson told Scout.com that he’s got a top three schools list that includes Clemson, Florida and Ohio State.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Robinson has routinely listed the Buckeyes among his favorites, and speaks glowingly about Urban Meyer and his program whenever he can.
— Bucknuts (@Bucknuts247) July 6, 2016
The Buckeyes have no wide receiver commitments yet in 2017 and Robinson, the country’s sixth-ranked wideout, would love the chance to see Ohio State but there’s a little bit of a disconnect in the things that are said and the things that, well, are. Right now, there’s a zero percent chance that the Buckeyes would take Robinson and it’s debatable whether or not they’re really recruiting him at all.
So why is he still talking about the Buckeyes? According to one source, it may be to try and let them know he’s hoping to get some more attention from them and the other schools he’s listing. A number of potential red flags off the field have some teams in a very “wait and see” mode with the Lakeland star.
It’s July and a number of things can change in recruiting, but as of today there’s not much to pay attention to when it comes to Ohio State and James Robinson.
Alabama 4-star wide receiver Nico Collins says Michigan leads
Michigan is right at the top of the list for 5-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones and, according to AL.com, the Wolverines are the leader in the clubhouse for another Top 100 wide receiver, 6-foot-5, 195-pound Pinson (Ala.) 4-star prospect Nico Collins.
Alabama, Georgia and others are working hard to keep Collins out of the Big Ten but he’s in Oregon this week as a teammate of Dylan McCaffrey and his Hypercool teammate says landing the Clay-Chalkville wide receiver is a priority of his.
“Nico is awesome. Obviously I really want him to come to Michigan,” McCaffrey told Landof10. “He’s a great dude and I want him to go where he thinks is a fit. We’ve built a good relationship, and I think he fits at Michigan. I would love to spend four years with him in the future. I’d love to throw to him. He’s such a good target and such a good guy. I think he’d really fit there just from hanging around with him.”
What are the odds that Michigan can hang on to that lead? McCaffrey is optimistic.
“I think we do have a good chance. I’m just going to keep pushing him,” he added. “I couldn’t really peak into his mind, but I think we have a great chance and I keep pushing him to make that decision.”
Dotson working for Michigan State, looking for potential teammates
Michigan State added a key commitment today, landing Ohio tight end Matt Dotson, who picked the Spartans over Penn State. Now that he’s officially a member of the Spartans 2017 recruiting class, Dotson will focus on becoming a recruiter for Michigan State.
“I’ve got to really look over the guys that we want,” he said. “Then I will start recruiting everyone I can. I really want to help build a national championship-type of class. I know there are guys like K.J. Hamler here and I told him ‘you’re coming with me.’ I will be recruiting more than anyone here.”
Dotson is the only Spartans commitment at The Opening and will look to help reel in a number of players interested in Michigan State, including the 4-star wide receiver Hamler, 4-star defensive backs Ambry Thomas and Jaylen Kelly-Powell and others.
Hines releases Top 10, Ohio State earns a spot
Finally tonight, the country’s top-ranked inside linebacker, 4-star Plano (Texas) prospect Anthony Hines III has narrowed his school choices from his 90 reported offers to a much more manageable list of 10 schools.
Ohio State is the only Big Ten school to make the list and the Buckeyes are in a great position to land the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Hines, who made a three-day visit to Columbus in June. To get the star linebacker out of Texas, Ohio State will have to show him that it is a better fit for him than Texas and Oklahoma, two of the schools most people consider to be his eventual landing spot.
Hines will line up with Team Lunarbeast this weekend in Beaverton, teaming up with Ohio State commitments J.K. Dobbins, Antjuan Simmons, Shaun Wade, Marcus Williamson, Isaiah Pryor and Brendon White, so he’ll have plenty of Buckeyes in his ear at The Opening.
Unless otherwise noted, all rankings come courtesy of 247Sports.com.