On Wednesday, Nike’s premier recruiting combine, The Opening, will officially kick off from its Beaverton (Ore.) campus. The event – the culmination of nearly five months of regional combines – brings 166 of the country’s best high school football players to the Pacific Northwest for a slice of “Football Heaven.”
Half competition and half celebration, Nike puts on a show that every high school football player in the country dreams of being a part of. There are three primary events that will take place over the week: The Nike+ Football Rating Championship, the Final Five Lineman Challenge and the Nike 7on Championship, which will pit the country’s top prospects against one another in an intense 7-on-7 tournament.
- What: Nike’s The Opening
- Where: Nike HQ, Beaverton (Ore.)
- When: July 6-10
- TV: ESPNU
- Coverage: Dawgnation.com | Landof10.com | SECCountry.com
- Twitter: Jeff Sentell | Chris Kirschner | Jeremy Birmingham | Zach Abolverdi
Ohio State has 14 commitments in their 2017 recruiting class and 11 of those players were selected for The Opening this week, although only nine of them will participate in the event.
If Urban Meyer and his assistant coaches in Columbus had their way, the Buckeyes would have upwards of 20. Ohio State has the nation’s best recruiting class but it’s not close to finished and every single one of the top remaining – and realistic – targets for the class will be at The Opening.
Who are the names to watch?
Running back • Cam Akers • Clinton (Miss.) • 7-on Team: Vaporspeed
The Skinny: Ohio State is in a battle for the 5-star running back from Mississippi who was once committed to Alabama. Tennessee, Georgia, Ole Miss, LSU, Florida State and others will try to dissuade him from heading north. Akers will visit Ohio State for the third time on the weekend of July 22.
Running back • Jaelen Gill • South (Westerville, Ohio) • 7-on Team: Mach Speed
The Skinny: Jaelen Gill is one of only six underclassmen participating this week and the Columbus native is hoping that a big outing in Oregon will take his brand national. Ohio State is the leader for his services but Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA and others are making this a closer battle than you’d expect.
Wide receiver • Trevon Grimes • St. Thomas Aquinas (Fort Lauderdale) • 7-on Team: Alpha Pro
The Skinny: One of the most dynamic players in the country, the 6-foot-4, 185-pound Grimes will get a chance to see exactly how his future could play, teaming up with Tate Martell at The Opening. Grimes will announce his college decision August 24th and the Buckeyes have been his leader for years despite not making a visit to campus since 2014. Florida, Miami, Florida State and Georgia commits will also be in his ear when they can in Beaverton.
Wide receiver • Tyjon Lindsey • Centennial (Corona, Calif.) • 7-on Team: Alpha Pro
The Skinny: Another 5-star wide receiver on team Alpha Pro, Lindsey will line up opposite Grimes in what could be a preview of the future at Ohio State. He’s been thinking Nebraska a lot lately, but the smart money on his recruitment right now would still be placed on the Buckeyes. The Opening will serve as a reunion of sorts for Lindsey and Martell: the wide receiver lived with Martell’s family for three years and they won two national titles together at Bishop Gorman prior to Lindsey’s transfer in January. He’ll make his college choice August 22 and right now the Cornhuskers are emerging as the biggest threat to Urban Meyer and Ohio State.
Wide receiver • Donovan Peoples-Jones • Cass Tech (Detroit) • 7-on Team: Hypercool
The Skinny: The third of four 5-star wide receivers that the Buckeyes are still zeroed in on, Detroit’s Donovan Peoples-Jones will be surrounded by Michigan commitments and targets on team Hypercool and that’s only going to further serve the narrative that he’s “all Blue.” Beyond Michigan, it’s Florida, Ohio State, USC and Florida State that will take their swings at DPJ this week.
Defensive end • Chase Young • DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Md.)
The Skinny: The only defensive end being seriously pursued by Ohio State for the 2017 class, Maryland 5-star prospect Chase Young is saying all the right things to all the right people and has the Buckeyes staff feeling confident in their position. Young is expected to be in Columbus on July 22 for Friday Night Lights and right now this is a three-team race between Ohio State, Maryland and Alabama.
Defensive tackle • Jay Tufele • Bingham (South Jordan, Utah)
The Skinny: The nation’s third-ranked defensive tackle has listed the Buckeyes as the leader in his recruitment though he’s not yet been on campus. This week, Haskell Garrett and others will get their first shot to really get into Tufele’s ear and see exactly where he’s at with his recruitment. Michigan, BYU and Oregon are three of the teams with the best chance to keep him out of the Buckeyes class.
Linebacker • Baron Browning • Kennedale (Texas) • 7-on Team: Fly Rush
It’s pretty much 5-star prospects or bust for the Buckeyes at this point and linebacker Baron Browning – the country’s second-ranked linebacker – is another one at the top of the list. A former Baylor commitment, Browning visited Ohio State in May and will return to campus with his parents for Friday Night Lights in two weeks. Notre Dame, Michigan, Alabama and UCLA are among the programs that can muddy the waters for the Buckeyes in his recruitment.
Linebacker • Anthony Hines III • East (Plano, Texas) • 7-on Team: Lunarbeast
Another top linebacker prospect interested in the Buckeyes, Hines lists 90 offers and will narrow down his list to 10 schools on July 11, the day after The Opening concludes. He’s visited Columbus three times and as a pure inside linebacker he’s going to find out this week exactly if all those offers have him prepared for the big time. Oklahoma, Texas and Baylor are among the programs trying to keep him closer to home.
Defensive back • Amir Riep • Colerain (Cincinnati) • 7-on Team: Lunarbeast
It’s rare that an Ohio prospect with a Buckeyes scholarship offer on the table holds out from committing to Ohio State, but that’s what Amir Riep has done. The 4-star prospect from Cincinnati burst onto the national recruiting scene this past winter and is now one of the most offered defensive backs in America. One of Ohio State or Michigan State – with a slight chance for dark horses Florida or Alabama – is almost certainly going to be the choice when July 23, Riep’s decision date, comes around. This week it’s about relationship building for the Buckeyes commits, who want to show the Queen City standout that he fits into their plans on the field and off.
Defensive back • Lamont Wade • Clairton (Pennsylvania) • 7-on Team: Mach Speed
A year ago it seemed that Pennsylvania 4-star cornerback Lamont Wade was as close to a sure thing as there could be for Ohio State, but as numbers and names have shifted there seems to be a slight disconnect between the two sides. The Opening gives Ohio State’s recruits a chance to bridge that gap and gives Wade a chance to show that he’s not second fiddle to anyone in the country at defensive back. Penn State and Pittsburgh have picked up the slack in the Buckeyes wake and he’ll be hounded by anyone close to the Nittany Lions while in Oregon.
Defensive back • Jeffrey Okudah • South (Grand Prairie, Texas) • 7-on Team: Alpha Pro
If the Buckeyes want to see how Jeffrey Okudah, Marcus Williamson, Isaiah Pryor and Amir Riep could fit on the field at once, they just need to turn on ESPNU this week. Okudah, the 5-star defensive back from Texas has Ohio State out front with Oklahoma, Texas and a few others hoping to create some havoc and get him to delay what seems to be the inevitable conclusion to his recruitment: an Ohio State commitment.
There are dozens more players in attendance this week that have an offer from Ohio State, but that’s the list of the players who are the closest to joining the juggernaut being built in Columbus.