The Opening: Sean Clifford, Jake Ferguson, O’Maury Samuels stand out for Big Ten commits in Oregon
PORTLAND, Ore. – As the dust settles on The Opening, Nike’s biggest and most prestigious recruiting event, it’s time to take a look back and see how the players committed to schools around the Big Ten fared in Oregon.
In the interest of space and with the hope of remaining non-repetitious, we’ve decided to not include the ten players that participated that committed to Ohio State. You can, however, read up on the future Buckeyes if that’s where your loyalties are.
RELATED: JK Dobbins, Wyatt Davis standout among Ohio State commits in Oregon
Overall, there were five Big Ten teams represented by commitments at Nike’s World Headquarters. We’ll start with the team that had the second-most in attendance, breaking down what we saw and the providing a two-word, takeaway impression of the prospect.
Michigan – Six Commitments
Dylan McCaffrey • Quarterback • Nike+ Rating: 71.01
McCaffery came into the event as one of the country’s most revered quarterbacks and while he certainly wasn’t “bad,” it’s hard to say that he lived up to his lofty ranking as the No. 2-ranked pocket passer. He struggled early in the Elite 11 event with accuracy and for a prospect of his substantial size, he lacked the “zip” you’d expect to see. However, he was much better on Saturday and Sunday as the 7-on-7 tournament began, although he lost some reps to LSU commit Myles Brennan on Sunday because he had the hot hand. Bottom line, McCaffery isn’t going to wow you physically (his Nike+ rating was the third-lowest in the event among prospects who did every test) but he’s going to get better and he’s got the genetics and smarts to earn a little reprieve from the worrywarts.
Two words: High ceiling
A.J. Dillon • Running back • Nike+ Rating: 135.39
Whereas McCaffrey isn’t going to wow you with his physicality, Groton (Mass.) running back A.J. Dillon absolutely will. He’s a big, bruising tailback that put up impressive numbers in the testing portions of the event. At 6-foot-1 and 232-pounds, Dillon’s 4.54 time in the 40-yard-dash, 4.18 in the pro-shuttle agility drill, and 38.6-inch vertical jump were good enough for a Top 10 finish in the Nike+ Ratings Championship. During 7-on-7 games, Dillon was a bit obsolete because teams rarely run the ball and he’s not as polished as a pass-catcher as his teammate was.
Two words: Punishing runner
O’Maury Samuels • Running back • Nike+ Rating: 126.54
Dillon’s future teammate in Ann Arbor, New Mexico’s O’Maury Samuels, was his more-polished-as-a-pass-catcher teammate in Oregon. As a physical specimen, there may not have been a player in attendance more ripped that Samuels, whose muscles appear to have muscles. He’s explosive (41-inch vertical jump, 44.3 feet in the powerball toss), he’s fast (4.59 in the 40-yard-dash) and he was excellent out of the backfield for Team Hypercool.
Two words: Absolutely jacked
Kai-Leon Herbert • Offensive lineman • Nike+ Rating: 81.66
The most recent Michigan commitment, Herbert pledged to the Wolverines on Tuesday and immediately got to work. He has a very good interior lineman frame (6-foot-4, 282-pounds) and moved fairly well for a prospect of his size. Watching him in 1-on-1 drills, you can see a lot of potential but right now the American Heritage (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) lineman is a bit raw. Tim Drevno will change that.
Two words: Raw talent
Benjamin St-Juste • Defensive back • Nike+ Rating: 123.72
The only Canadian prospect in attendance (and second-ever after Oklahoma defensive lineman Neville Gallimore in 2014), St-Juste was one more Michigan commit that was a pleasant surprise from a physical standpoint. He was one of the event’s longer defensive backs (6-foot-3), but that didn’t stop him from running sideline-t0-sideline very well. He runs like a gazelle (4.58 in the 40) and turns and runs with wide receivers without much problem. He could be an absolute steal for Jim Harbaugh’s program.
Two words: Very intriguing
Joshua Ross • Linebacker • Nike+ Rating: 89.79
He’s not the biggest linebacker you’ll ever see, but Orchard Lake (Mich.) St. Mary’s Joshua Ross doesn’t appear to have an ounce of back-down in him. The 6-foot-1, 220-pound linebacker showed that he definitely belonged at The Opening and made a number of plays for Hypercool over the middle of the field. He and Ohio State commitment J.K. Dobbins had a close matchup in the “Cat and Mouse” drill, though Dobbins edged him out ever so slightly, winning two out of the three reps. Ross ran a 4.84 in the 40-yard-dash and a very respectable 4.36 in the pro-shuttle.
Two words: Consistent effort
Penn State – One Commitment
Sean Clifford • Quarterback • Nike+ Rating: 103.71
Prior to the event, there was a little stigma around Cincinnati Colerain’s Sean Clifford. The thinking is that he’s a “game manager” and less dynamic as an athlete than some of his peers, but Clifford certainly looked like he belonged at The Opening. He threw the ball with consistency all week, routinely putting it right where it needed to be for his Mach Speed teammates. Clifford put up impressive numbers on ratings day as well with a 4.71 time in the 40-yard-dash, 4.24 in the pro-shuttle, a 40-foot powerball throw and a 30.3-inch vertical jump at 6-foot-2 and 209 pounds. What impressed me the most about Clifford was that after a very rough morning on Saturday, he kept his cool and came back with one of the weekend’s better performances from a quarterback.
Two words: Cool customer
Michigan State – One Commitment
Matt Dotson • Tight end • Nike+ Rating: N/A
Dotson committed to Michigan State during the event and it was a huge pickup for the Spartans. He measured in at a legitimate 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds and posted very impressive numbers in the pro-shuttle (4.32), powerball throw (42 feet) and vertical jump (33.7) inches but did not run a 40-yard-dash, so his Nike+ Rating was incomplete. One of just six tight ends from around the country invited to The Opening, Dotson was a safety valve on Saturday and Sunday for Sean Clifford and Clemson commitment Hunter Johnson. With a big senior season, Dotson could vault himself into the discussion as a Top 5 tight end nationally.
Two words: Untapped potential
Maryland – One Commitment
Joshua Kaindoh • Defensive end • Nike+ Rating: N/A
If there’s one player that I expected to see “flash” a bit more this weekend than he did, it’s probably Maryland pledge Joshua Kaindoh. The IMG 5-star prospect absolutely looks like you want a defensive end to look, but there were times when it just seemed he wasn’t really into the competition in Beaverton. Not everyone is a “camp guy” but at an event like this, one thing separates the best from the rest is the desire to mix it up as much as possible. I’d like to see more aggression from Kaindoh, because I know he’s got the ability to be a game-changer. One thing to watch? Rumors of a potential decommitment from the Terrapins are beginning to emerge – or at least a re-evaluation process – and Notre Dame, Penn State and others would love for that to happen.
Two words: Got juice?
Wisconsin – One Commitment
Jake Ferguson • Tight end • Nike+ Rating: 113.01
One of the surprises of the camp for me personally was Wisconsin commitment Jake Ferguson, the country’s 12th-ranked tight end. I had not heard much of the 6-foot-5, 210-pound Ferguson, but I was definitely paying attention by the time The Opening ended. He lined up on Team Alpha Pro and was a favorite target of Georgia commitment Jake Fromm and provided a number of splash plays down the middle of the field. Ferguson had the second-highest tight end ratings score thanks to a 4.74 time in the 40-yard-dash, a 4.3 pro-shuttle time and an explosive 34.4 inches in the vertical jump. He’s going to be a big-time target in Madison.
Two words: Attention grabber