- Jamie Newberg, RecruitingNation
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BUFORD, Ga. -- The lucky seven.
That's the number of invites for The Opening that were handed out today at the Atlanta Nike Football Training Camp.
Running back Alvin Kamara (Norcross, Ga.), wide receiver Ryan Jenkins (Marietta, Ga./Lassiter), offensive tackle Shamire Devine (East Point, Ga./Tri-Cities), middle linebacker Reuben Foster (Auburn, Ala.), cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Tyrone, Ga./Sandy Creek), safety Tray Matthews (Newnan, Ga.) and athlete Brendan Langley (Marietta, Ga./Kell) all walked away with their golden ticket to Beaverton, Ore., for the July event.
"I feel so grateful and blessed," Matthews said. "It's humbling. It just shows me and tells me that the hard work does pay off. I am so thankful. And to think I almost didn't come out today."
Wiggins and Langley will both join Matthews in the secondary at the event. And Wiggins just can't wait to see how he measures up against the competition.
"That's why you love things like this," Wiggins said. "To get the opportunity to go to this and play against the best of the best receivers and defensive backs is an amazing thing. And to do it in Oregon, it's going to be special."
Special is the appropriate word to describe Foster. He's the nation's top linebacker prospect and the No. 2 prospect overall in the ESPN 150. Many consider him to be the top recruit at his position in quite some time. He knows he's been blessed, given opportunities like The Opening that he never knew even existed.
"Recruiting and football have opened up so many doors and experiences for me," Foster said. "I can't even explain it. Not in my wildest dreams would I have ever imagined that I would have a chance like this. This is what I love about this process. This is why I came here today. It's a great accomplishment. Heck, I have never really been away from home before. I know my entire family will be so proud. I can't tell you how much this means."
Jenkins and Kamara are two other stories altogether. They had their sights set on The Opening for quite some time.
"I watched it last year," Kamara said. "I have been thinking about it like crazy. Finally."
Jenkins has been so enamored with the event he watches it over and over on the Internet.
"I watch the YouTube videos of it all the time," Jenkins said. "It's one of the reasons why I train the way I do. I want to play against the best. It is one of those things that has really driven me this offseason."
Then there is Devine. The big man from Atlanta had no idea what he earned at Buford.
"Honestly, I didn't know what The Opening was until about 30 seconds ago," Devine admitted. "But it sounds cool. I guess I impressed someone today."
Foster leads strong linebacker group
There was a buzz on Saturday morning when Foster made it to the Atlanta NFTC. And the 6-foot-1, 241-pound five-star middle linebacker prospect didn't disappoint.
"Wow, that kid has some size and is so put together," said linebacker coach Michael Fletcher. "He's amazing, especially the way he moves around. Reuben is so fluid and so good at chasing and closing the gap. He can rush the passer and be a threat on the edge. He's a man in the middle. But the best part of this kid is the kid. He's infectious with the other guys. He's a leader challenging and encouraging the players."
Foster almost didn't make the event. But he came and did his thing. More than anything he just wanted to show his peers and the coaches that he was just a football player trying hard to learn his craft.
"People think that because I am a highly ranked recruit that I am stuck up and don't work hard," Foster said. "But that's not true at all. I am just like everyone else out here and I work my tail off. I wanted to show that today. I wanted to compete hard today. I love to compete and I don't sit on my butt and live off the past. You have to compete every day or this can all be taken away from you. I understand that and it drives me."
Another linebacker prospect who impressed Fletcher was Chequan Burkett (Montgomery, Ala./Jefferson Davis).
"This is a fast-twitch kid that's long," Fletcher said. "He's strong and runs like a deer. He just ate up the running backs all day. He has a great vertical jump and runs like a DB. You can put that cat all over the place."
Auburn commit and ESPN 150 member Trey Johnson (Lawrenceville, Ga./Central Gwinnett) also had a strong showing and he's a kid that Fletcher was also very high on.
"That's a long-framed kid that will get bigger in the right way," Fletcher said. "He's the type of guy that's a real thumper and he has a real hard body. And he has run to easily add another 20 pounds."
Reggie Carter (Snellville, Ga./South Gwinnett) is a Georgia commit who tore up his knee in the first game of last fall. He was cleared to play two weeks ago and was anxious but cautious to get back on the field and in the action.
"Honestly, the knee felt real good to me," Carter said. "It really did. I just have to learn to trust it again. It's a mental thing with me now. But this is my first real competition, so I know it will come."
There was also an underclassman that caught Fletcher's eye in Raekwon McMillan (Hinesville, Ga./Liberty County). McMillian has already made quite the name for himself after two high school seasons.
"He has a really nice frame and moves around so well," said Fletcher. "He really reminds me a lot of Reuben (Foster). It's like they are brothers or something. Raekwon closes so well. He eats on space and is a downhill guy. You can just tell."
Terrific defensive backs
There were a handful of defensive backs that grabbed the attention of secondary coach Eugene Jackson. This veteran of the Nike Camp circuit was particularly blown away by Wiggins, a Georgia commit.
"Shaq has the best feet I have seen this camp season and that's four of these camps," Jackson said. "He can make plays on the ball and he can run. He has those hips and those darn feet. And he plays with confidence. I love it. Not only did he catch my eye but he caught the eye of every coach here."
From the safety perspective, Jackson also loved Wiggins' future teammate in Athens, Tray Matthews. Matthews, 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds, has bulked up over the past few months. Despite the added size, he can still move around and be a ball hawk from the safety position.
"That's one big safety," Jackson said. "That kid will play. He's aggressive and can jump. My only concern with Tray is that sometimes he's too aggressive and it gets him in trouble."
Jackson was also impressed with the bounce back that Langley showed.
"He got beat early and then came back very strong," Jackson said. "I am not sure if he's a safety or cornerback. But I liked how he came back later in the day and made a lot of plays."
Matthews, Wiggins and Langley are all members of the ESPN 150.
Jenkins leads deep WR corps
Jenkins led a solid receiving group on the Buford practice fields. And he totally impressed Chris Angel, one of his position coaches for the day.
"That kid is hungry," Angel said. "He loves the competition and wanted reps against the best guys. He beat them all. He's aggressive and dominant on every snap. He didn't take a play off. Ryan was a step above everyone else out there."
The 5-foot-11, 176-pound Jenkins even impressed Wiggins, which is no small feat.
"Man, that dude runs great routes," Wiggins said. "He's crisp and very fast. He's a really good receiver and the guy that gave me the most trouble today."
Jenkins received scholarship offers this past week from both UCLA and Wake Forest. He already held offers from schools like Clemson, Missouri and Louisville.
"That was a lot of fun today," Jenkins said. "The competition was great and that's why you come to something like this. To compete against Shaq (Wiggins) and Brendan (Langley) was awesome. Those guys are great."
Another player that made a name for himself today was Cameron Luper (Auburn, Ala.). The 5-foot-11, 190-pounder plays quarterback for his high school team but decided he wanted to be a receiver today. And boy, did he make play after play after play.
"What an athlete that kid is," Angel said. "He's so physical and so fast. He has a great burst and hands. He made some outstanding plays and catches out there."
Luper, the stepson of Auburn assistant coach Curtis Luper, is also a standout track athlete.
"My heart is set on wide receiver," Luper said. "So that's what I wanted to come out here and do. I had a good day."
"Deangelo had a really good day," Angel said. "He doesn't knock you out by watching him run but the kid gets open and catches everything.
"Myles is a smaller guy, a slot guy. But no one could handle him in the slot. He was unstoppable in the one on ones and made some great catches.
"Demarre is not your average sophomore. He's so mature and patient. He understands concepts. I thought he had an awesome day."
Joshua Dobbs (Alpharetta, Ga.) didn't make it to Friday's Elite 11 regional at Buford. But this quarterback prospect showed up on Saturday and took home MVP honors.
"That was awesome," Dobbs said. "To finally get here and compete with the group of guys that were here was so much fun. And to win MVP was a great honor."
Dobbs, 6-foot-3 and 190 pounds, missed Friday's event because he was playing baseball. His high school team was playing a rival at a very special place.
"We were playing North Forsyth at Turner Field, where the Braves play," Dobbs said. "That was a big region game for us and we won 6-3.
"Of course I would have loved to have come to Elite 11 and be coached by Trent Dilfer and the rest of the guys. They are great."
Dobbs knows exactly what he missed. He participated in the Dallas Elite 11 regional last month and was one of six finalists.
"I want that Elite 11 bid bad."
Dobbs is a standout at shortstop and third base and has a baseball scholarship offer from Duke. Boston College, Illinois, Arizona State and Princeton (first offer) have all offered him in football. Playing both sports, even at the same time, has become old hat for Dobbs.
"You know, I have been doing it so long I am used to it," Dobbs said. "Playing baseball one day and being a quarterback the next is not difficult for me anymore."