While the rest of the college football world starts to gear up for the upcoming season, recruiting will first take center stage by holding one of its premier events on the other side of the country from the University of Alabama.
This year’s finals of The Opening, Nike’s three-day signature high school football camp in Beaverton, Oregon, will be July 8-10. It’ll feature 166 of the nation’s best prospects, who first participated in 14 regionals held throughout the spring to land invitations.
Seven are Crimson Tide commitments, making Alabama one of the most represented schools. They’ll participate in various testing and events like what one would see at the NFL combine, in addition to 7-on-7 play and 1-on-1 passing and linemen drills.
The finalists are divided into six separate teams except for the linemen, a group that will include Alabama commitment Alex Leatherwood, a 5-star offensive tackle.
The other six are all together on Team Vaporspeed: running back Najee Harris, quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, linebacker VanDarius Cowan, linebacker Markail Benton, safety Xavier McKinney and wide receiver Tyrell Shavers.
247Sports lists Harris, from Antioch, California, as the top player in the class of 2017, just ahead of linebacker Dylan Moses, defensive tackle Marvin Wilson, tackle Josh Myers (Ohio State) and safety Jeffrey Okudah, who are all scheduled to attend.
Except for Myers, all are Alabama targets, as are a number of players on all six teams.
Lunarbeast is second among the teams to keep an eye on, as it includes Moses, along with wide receiver Jeff Thomas and wide receiver Devonta Smith, who are both thought to be at least leaning toward the Crimson Tide.
Moses (6’2”, 220 lbs), who as a senior will play for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, after previously playing at University Lab in Baton Rogue, Louisiana, recently announced his official visits to Alabama, Miami, Texas, Southern California and Ohio State, while LSU is also in the mix. He doesn’t plan to make his final decision until December.
Both Thomas (5’10”, 170 lbs, East Saint Louis, Illinois), and Smith (6’1”, 160 lbs, Amite, Louisiana) are considered to be among the top 4-star prospects.
Vaporspeed is another team to watch, which includes 4-star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy of Deerfield Beach, Florida, another strong possibility for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama has made wide receiver a priority for this recruiting class and is expected to add at least three more to the class on national signing day in February.
Barring any last-minute major changes, Alabama will head into next weekend’s competition second in 247Sports’ composite team rankings, narrowly on the heels of Ohio State. That’s despite two of its 15 commitments being special teams players who bring down the class average.
Specifically, long snapper Thomas Fletcher, also of IMG Academy, is listed as a 2-star prospect, while kicker Brandon Ruiz is considered a 3-star talent even though they’re rated the first- and second-best players at their respective positions.
Consequently, Alabama is still very much in the running to contend for what could be its seventh straight recruiting championship from 247Sports.
Looking at its final open spots from the inside out, Alabama appears to be in good shape with a number of in-state prospects, including wide receiver Nico Collins, defensive end LaBryan Ray, tackle Kendall Randolph and wide receiver Henry Ruggs III. All are considered 4-star talents as it’s a very strong year locally.
Collins (Team Hypercool) and Ray made The Opening finals, as did one of the players for whom Alabama appears to be going toe-to-toe with Auburn, Will Ignont. The linebacker is on Team Mach Speed.
A full roster of participants can be found on The Opening website.
All recruiting rankings and information via 247Sports.
Christopher Walsh is a lead SEC college football writer. Follow Christopher on Twitter @WritingWalsh.
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