Skill guys live up to their billing
Some receivers, corners have chance to move up ESPNU 150
BEAVERTON, Ore. -- Because of Nike's 7on tournament, the skill players at The Opening were featured in a much different format than the linemen. We saw them several times in a highly competitive team event.
Coaches at the special Nike camp drafted players for the 7-on-7 passing tournament. Quarterbacks, naturally, were the first players to be selected. Cornerbacks stuck around on the board, but not because of a lack of talent at the position. To the contrary, the cover guys probably were the deepest group in attendance, and good ones could be had in later rounds.
National recruiting director Tom Luginbill jotted down his scouting notes on a team-by-team basis, with the teams and players under each team heading listed alphabetically. Here is what he saw:
Team Alpha Speed
WR Jody Fuller -- Thickly built and physical in his style of play. What he lacks in elite top-end speed he makes up for with savvy and strong hands. He is a strong pass-catcher who was able to muscle through coverage at times.
ILB Peter Jinkens -- A true sideline-to-sideline player who can cover a lot of ground in a hurry in a 7-on-7 setting. This was a challenging environment for all the linebackers, as they were often matched up with elite slots or pass-catching backs, but Jinkens can hold his own in space.
QB Zach Kline -- Kline's quick, compact release stands out. He must continue to develop touch and the ability to change ball speeds depending on the throw. Kline and Jake Rodrigues exhibited the best vertical arms on hand.
ATH Davonte Neal -- Much like Cyrus Jones, Neal is a serious threat on both sides of the football, and given his ideal blend of speed, quickness and ability to stop and start on a dime, he was able to match up with just about any wideout in the tournament at the 7on.
TE Dominic Ramacher -- This jack-of-all-trades offensive weapon was utilized exclusively as a tight end which is where we feel he will end up. He is a just a good football player, much like Sean Price, another tight end in The Opening.
Team Alpha Talon
ATHs Bralon Addison and Germone Hopper -- Both are "space" players with the ability to create serious mismatches out of the slot. Speed, quickness and big plays after the catch were staples of these guys' games at The Opening. Quick hands and the ability to stretch the field make them threats in all three phases of the passing game.
S Landon Collins -- Difference-maker, 'nuff said. He was so much better in coverage that when we saw him this past fall, we felt that when he keeps the ball in front of him, he can really wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks trying to throw between the numbers. The 2011 SPARQ rating champion is big, physical and fast and actually translated his athletic feats in a combine setting to the gridiron with ease.
S Trae Elston and CB Deon Bush -- Both were as advertised and made a ton of the plays on the ball. We aren't convinced Bush will remain at corner, but he might. Both are tall and rangy and can run very well.
WR Justin Ferguson -- He is a great-looking kid on the hoof physically. He had his on and off moments, but when it counted in the clutch, he came up with two huge grabs, the last being the game winner. The Notre Dame commit is built like Dez Bryant was coming out in 2007.
ATH/RB Duke Johnson -- We always have thought that Johnson may project best as a cornerback, but you could argue that he was the most electrifying player on hand at The Opening. Short in stature but not small, Johnson was a nightmare with the ball in his hands and exhibited elite ball skills. If Miami keeps him at running back, look out.
QB Chad Kelly -- Hot-and-cold would be the best way to describe Kelly throughout the event, but in the championship game, he was hot. In this setting he does not get to display his impressive running skills. At some times he looks authoritative and powerful as a passer, but at others he looks hesitant and tries to aim the ball. He has size and more than adequate arm strength, and he is very competitive. Being surrounded by this caliber of competition was an eye opener, and he adjusted nicely.
OLB Dillon Lee -- The Alabama commit almost won the SPARQ championship as a linebacker -- yes, a linebacker. He is so technically sound and savvy; he's very smart and knows where to be. Lee is much better in space than you might think.
CBs Armani Reeves and Terry Richardson -- Reeves is the bigger of the two, but let's just say that Team Alpha Talon gave up very few deep balls on the perimeter. These two locked down their opponents, and Reeves really impressed on the big stage with pass breakups, picks and technique to be in the right place at the right time. Richardson may be lean in stature, but he plays big and likes to mix it up.
WR Nelson Agholor -- He's tall, lean and very smooth. We came away very impressed with his ability to catch the ball away from his frame consistently as well as outside-his-catch radius. He is a long-striding, smooth route-runner who plays with a lot of confidence.
Team Field Generals
WR Corey Coleman -- Coleman was clearly one of the fastest playmakers on hand and very good in space. He, too, was reminiscent of Bralon Addison. He has good size and a lean frame with fluidity through the hips to make people miss after the catch.
ATH Cyrus Jones -- After seeing Jones in this environment, there is no doubt he is not only of the best cornerbacks in this class but also one of quickest and fastest wide receivers. He has such a knack for the game and could literally play any skill spot on the field.
WR Jaydon Mickens -- Mickens and Richard Smith were almost mirror images of each other, and both appeared bigger in person than they do on film. These were two of the most explosive players in one-on-one situations at The Opening.
CB P.J. Williams -- We initially had projected him as a safety and still believe he will end up at that position, but Williams held his own on the perimeter and made a lot of plays on the ball. He was savvy when baiting and keying quarterbacks, forcing them into bad throws. He was smart, tall and rangy. He and Joshua Holsey are very similar in many ways.
RB Trey Williams -- Williams looks like a woven ball of nylon. He is a muscle ball that is short and extremely explosive much in the same way Duke Johnson is.
Team Land Sharks
LBs Kwon Alexander, Reggie Ragland and Jabari Ruffin -- All looked the part and played well, especially when they were able to keep the ball in front of them. Ruffin may have the most athletic range in terms of smoothness in drops. They are big and physical. Ragland could end up moving into a defensive end role. As mentioned, this was a challenging environment for each linebacker on hand. Alexander could be special.
WRs Cayleb Jones, Darius Powe and Malik Gilmore -- There wasn't a better-looking trio of wide receivers on the hoof, but this team did not have many small, quick playmakers. Jones and Powe are the most athletic and quick-twitch of the three, while Gilmore is more of a possession guy. All three have huge wingspans and strong hands to haul in poorly thrown passes.
QB Jake Rodrigues -- He possessed the strongest arm of any quarterback in attendance when it came to driving the ball with velocity and power. He must control his ball speed like Zach Kline. His feet can be inconsistent, and that affects his accuracy. Like Chad Kelly, Rodrigues has swagger, and we like how he carries himself. His live arm and quick release can't be coached.
RB Johnathan Gray -- Special.
WR Angelo Jean-Louis -- This guy is explosive and fast. Jean-Louis is really a playmaker with elite change of direction and a second gear. He creates mismatches.
TE Sean Price -- It was a pleasant surprise to see Price had packed on some serious weight, and he made a ton of plays in the red zone. He is a great leaper and catches the ball nicely away from his frame. Now possesses the bulk to be a factor as a run-blocker and can create mismatches down the seams.
WR LaTroy Pittman -- He may not be a blazer, but you'd better put your big-boy pads on when matching up with this guy. He is so physical and strong and has not good but great hands and ball skills.
ATH Daje Johnson -- This Johnson is like Duke Johnson on offense, but as a corner, he really impressed last week. He is short and stout and can really run. His short-shuttle times in the SPARQ rating championships reflected the ideal change of direction he has to become a top-notch physical cover corner if he stays on defense.
Team Vapor Carbon
ATH Ricardo Louis -- For a guy who has spent most of his time at quarterback, Louis looked natural out wide and in our opinion was the most impressive blend of size, speed and playmaking ability that this event had to offer. We will be stunned if he doesn't impact the Auburn Tigers instantly; he is that good.
ATH Joel Caleb -- More raw than Louis but bigger and similar in skill set, Caleb also spends a lot of time under center. His best football is ahead of him once he becomes more polished. He is big and can run.
S Lucas Thompson -- Thompson is the most underrated guy in this class, and considering he is from Florida, we wonder how he has slid under the radar so much to this point. Big, rangy and physical, Thompson was all over the place last week and should continue to see his stock soar as a senior.
WR Bryce Treggs -- Cal's newest addition to its 2012 class had one of the most impressive showings of any offensive skill player at the event. Treggs may not be a burner, but he is smart and quick, has exceptional hands, and is a very, very savvy route-runner for a young player.
CB Tracy Howard -- Our No. 1-ranked cornerback in the class is so well-rounded in his game. He is very similar to Nick Waisome from the 2011 class, only slightly bigger. He was capable of matching up and keeping pace with the top receivers in attendance.
QB Tanner Mangum -- Mangum came into the event with a grade of 77 off junior tape, and we can tell you his grade will raise significantly. The BYU commit took charge of his team and never looked back. Throwing darts and laying the ball into tight spots downfield on deep routes, Mangum was calm and cool and got better each day. He does not have an elite arm, but it's certainly good enough, and he makes good decisions with the football. He is a steal for the Cougars and could be a Kellen Moore type.
Tom Luginbill is ESPN's national director of football recruiting.
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Many of the nation's best battled in The Opening, a Nike five-day football event. RosterWrapup Notes: The 'U' adds two after flight home Day 5