- Craig Haubert, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Linemen Challenge at The Opening featured the big men in different events designed to test their unique abilities. They received instruction from players such as current pro Ndamukong Suh and former pros LeCharles Bentley and Chuck Wiley. Most of the players also competed during one-on-one drills in helmets and shoulder pads, which allowed for a little more of a realistic look. Here are some who stood out.
Chris Casher (Mobile, Ala./Faith Academy)
College: Florida State
Casher proved why he is one of the top defensive end prospects in the nation with his performance at The Opening. He is a young man who easily passes the eye test and is able to defeat blockers in an array of ways. He displayed a good initial burst and was able to at times use his size and power to get physical with and push blockers back to the quarterback. He also displayed the ability and savvy to be able to work some moves. In one rep against the monster-sized Zach Banner he came up-field hard then quickly countered back inside with a well-executed spin move. Casher possesses a nice combination of size and athleticism for the position, and he is working hard to close that narrow gap between him and a fifth star.
(San Clemente, Calif./San Clemente)
A top 30 prospect in the ESPNU 150, we knew going into the event Murphy was a very good prospect, but the big man still managed to impress and even surprise us some with his ability as a pass blocker. We knew he could be a dominating run blocker and saw the tools be a good pass protector, but at The Opening in pads he answered some questions about how far along and strong he was in that phase. He displayed the nimble feet we saw on film and was able to quickly get set and kick back and was tough to get around. He can bend well and mirror and displayed good upper-body strength to be able to punch and lock down rushers. Even more impressively Murphy still has room to grow physically and improve some, but he showed a lot and proved he can be very good as both a run and pass blocker.
Jay Guillermo (Maryville, Tenn./Maryville)
Guillermo was the only center in attendance, but he proved he was all the camp needed. Rated as the top center prospect in the nation he put forth an effort worthy of that. With the natural ability to snap the ball and quickly move his feet and play with bend, Guillermo was tough in pass protection. Also impressive was that the high school center showed he is coachable and got better every day fixing little mistakes. He still needs to work on the use of his hands and be sure not to bend at the waist, but the top center showed he has good ability with some coachable flaws and the work ethic and attitude to get better.
Vadal Alexander (Buford, Ga./Buford)
A high school tackle, Alexander is someone we project to fit better at guard at the next level, but at The Opening the No. 5 rated guard showed that a transition to the next level as a tackle still is very possible. The four-star had a solid showing the last time we saw him on the camp circuit at an NFTC, but he came to Oregon and elevated his performance. He came looking a little leaner physically and was much more consistent and improved in his play and showed signs of being a player that could play inside or on the edge. Alexander was extremely tough to come inside on as the big tackle quickly showed he could "pound the post" and take away the inside counter and wash pass rushers down. Overall, he put forth a very strong performance.
Sheldon Day (Indianapolis/Warren Central)
The ESPNU 150 defender may not have been the biggest defensive tackle in attendance, but it didn't stop him from being one of the most productive. He consistently showed throughout the camp that he could use his compact and stout build to his advantage by quickly firing out and getting under blockers' pads, winning the leverage battle and pushing them back into the pocket.
Isaac Seumalo (Corvallis, Ore./Corvallis)
College: Oregon State
The Oregon State commit is not the most physically imposing line prospect, but he continues to prove he is one of the best and most consistent. On the first day of one-on-ones, the No. 2 rated guard was outstanding, stuffing pretty much anyone who tried to rush him. He was not as dominant the other days, showing he is capable of getting beat every now again, but overall this an excellent prospect. He needs more mass, but has a nice frame to develop and is very technically sound. He is able to quickly get set and is very good with his punch and placement. He plays with bend and moves his feet well. With added size he could very well play as a freshman for the Beavers.
Ellis McCarthy (Monrovia, Calif./Monrovia)
A big defensive tackle, McCarthy can be a disruptive interior pass rusher. He needs to be more consistent and have a plan at times so he can be more efficient with his activity, but he is very active with his hands. He has a violent club move and will try and attack half-a-man. With his a combination of size and violent weapons, McCarthy proves that when he can put the pieces together he can be a real handful as a pass rusher.
Notes & observations
Joshua Garnett (Puyallup, Wash./Puyallup) is a big man who plays with a nice combination of smarts and toughness. He displayed he can play with bend and punch and mirror rushers. He was a little more consistent and productive with his reps at guard and that could be where he ends up at the next level. ... Curtis Riser (DeSoto, Texas/DeSoto) sits outside the ESPNU 150 but keeps working to make a case to crack the ranking. With the ability to play with good bend and deliver a nice punch the Texas verbal can be a stout presence inside. ... Torshiro Davis (Shreveport, La./Woodlawn) came to The Opening possessing a much thicker frame than we expected and showed he can be a dangerous speed rusher, which we did expect. With good initial quickness he can fly up field. He does need to keep expanding his pass-rush arsenal but displayed he can quickly get around the edge and offered a little more of a power rush element. ... Jamal Marcus (Durham, N.C./Hillside) is another pass rusher who needs to keep expanding his game, but he can quickly get up field and challenge blockers with a speed rush. ... Defensive ends Ifeadi Odenigbo (Centerville, Ohio/Centerville), Adolphus Washington (Cincinnati/Taft), Se'von Pittman (Canton, Ohio/McKinley) and offensive tackle Adam Bisnowaty (Pittsburgh/Fox Chapel) were prospects who unfortunately could not compete in pads due to rules in their home state. When they did go, they all showed flashes and had good overall performances though playing without pads. ... Duaron Williams (Orlando/Jones) needs to strive for more consistency in his technique, but he is a scrappy player who lines up and battles and competes. He displayed tools to work with and some nice upside and made a case for a bump in the rankings. ... Zach Banner (Lakewood, Wash./Lakewood) simply is a big boy. The tackle prospect is not someone to try and bull rush as he proved he can shut down rushers when they try and go through him, but he does need to keep developing his game to allow him to deal better with athletic rushers who can attack with speed and moves. ... Defensive tackles Dakota Ball (Lindale, Ga./Pepperell) and Aziz Shittu (Atwater, Calif./Buhach) were two prospects who struggled early on, but both rallied and finished The Opening with good performances on the last day. Both have room to improve, but it was nice to see them battle back and keep fighting. ... Offensive guard Jordan Simmons (Encino, Calif./Crespi Carmelite) and defensive tackle Korren Kirven (Lynchburg, Va./Brookville) were two prospects who put forth performances that showed they belong in the ESPNU 150.
When it comes to linemen you have to have guys who rush the passer and guys who protect the passer, and The Opening had plenty of both, writes Craig Haubert.