Commentary

Miami produces The Opening invite

Booker T. Washington's Matthew Thomas dominated the day in Miami

Updated: March 6, 2012, 3:25 PM ET
By Brian Stumpf

MIAMI -- The 2012 Nike Football SPARQ Combine continued Saturday at North Miami Stadium, as more than 1,200 participants were tested and competed. One prospect shone brighter than the rest and locked up the first official invite to The Opening this July.

Booker T. Washington (Miami) linebacker Matthew Thomas burst on the scene a year ago at the Miami Nike Combine, where he clocked a 4.68 40-yard dash and threw the power ball 39 feet. Thomas earned Class 4A All-State and All-Dade County honors after a huge junior season that included 117 tackles and 13 sacks. The ESPNU Watch List prospect prospect proved on Saturday why he's considered one of the Sunshine State's best.

The 6-foot-3, 201-pounder took it to the next level Saturday, posting the combine's top SPARQ Rating at 108.36, clocking a 4.65 40, running 4.09 in the 20-yard shuttle, throwing the power ball 37 feet and jumping 33.5 inches in the vertical.

On the strength of his combine performance and his superlative junior season and performance on film, Thomas, who currently lists scholarship offers from the likes of Miami, Alabama, Florida State, Auburn, West Virginia and others, earned the first invitation to the 2012 edition of The Opening.

"I've heard a lot about The Opening from all the Miami guys that made it up there last year and I'm just happy to be chosen to go out to Oregon and represent the 305," said Thomas of the honor.

On the recruiting front, Thomas said he's in no hurry to make a decision and will probably wait until National Signing Day. Alabama, Florida State and Miami are three schools that stand out for him.

[+] EnlargeWilliam Likely
Corey Long/ESPN.comWill Likely already has offers from FSU, Florida, LSU, Alabama, Miami and Rutgers.
The 2011 Florida Gatorade State Player of the Year, athlete Will Likely out of Glades Central (Belle Glade, Fla.), is another ESPNU Watch List prospect who attended the event. Likely came into the event holding offers from Alabama, LSU, Miami, Clemson and others. The versatile performer is being recruited as a cornerback by most schools and posted a solid mark of 33.5 inches in the vertical jump and will look to win his third Nike Football Training Camp MVP award at the defensive back position this spring at the Miami NFTC.

Another highly-touted ESPNU Watch List prospect in attendance was Florida State commit Sojourn Shelton out of Plantation (Fla.). The 5-foot-9, 152-pound corner is still filling out his frame but posted one of the combine's top five shuttle times at 4.25 and also ran 4.77 in the 40 and jumped 33.8 inches in the vertical.

North Miami (Fla.) cornerback Troy McCollum is another coveted secondary prospect who showed well on Saturday, running a 4.60 40 at 6-foot, 156-pounds. McCollum recently picked up his first two offers from Ole Miss and Florida International.

Archbishop Carroll (Miami) defensive back Leroy Clark recently landed a big offer from Florida and led Dade County with 13 interceptions last fall. He checked in at 5-foot-9 , 169-pounds and had a solid 31.2-inch vertical jump. Wideout Johnell Barnes of Dunbar (Fort Myers, Fla.) reports an offer from UConn and showed great explosiveness at 5-foot-10, 151-pounds, jumping 35.6 inches in the vertical.


Top Class of 2013 Performer


Matthew Thomas, LB, Booker T. Washington (Miami)
Tabbed by many local observers as Dade County's top recruit in the Class of 2013, the athletic outside linebacker/defensive end didn't disappoint in posting the day's top SPARQ Rating at 108.36. Thanks to his strong play this past fall and his strong showing on Saturday, he'll be in Oregon this July at the elite football training event The Opening presented by Nike.


Class of 2013 Honorable Mention Performers


Alvonte Bell, DE, Everglades (Miramar, Fla.)
Bell's stock has been on the rise recently with offers in the past week from Notre Dame, Ole Miss and Louisville and he did nothing to slow his momentum on Saturday. The 6-foot-5, 218-pound defensive end ran a very strong 4.88 in the 40 while throwing the power ball 38.5 feet and jumped 27.4 inches in the vertical, finishing with a 79.08 SPARQ Rating.

Ty Griffin, QB, McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)
This 6-foot, 177-pound athlete was possibly the top sleeper in the 2013 class to emerge on Saturday. Griffin, who lost most of his junior season to injury and changing schools, finished with the day's second-best SPARQ Rating at 103.05, running a 4.55 40, a 4.25 shuttle and jumping 38 inches in the vertical. He'll need to make some plays in pads this spring and fall, but Griffin has the requisite athleticism at either QB or another position that could translate to the next level.

Shaquill Griffin, DB, Lakewood (St. Petersburg, Fla.)
Griffin, who recently picked up his first offer from Central Florida, increased his SPARQ Rating 26 points from a year ago, finishing at 87.78. The 6-foot, 182-pound safety ran a 4.70 40 and impressed in the power ball with a 38.5-foot toss while also jumping 34.4 inches in the vertical jump.

Kyle Shortridge, DL, Seminole Ridge (Loxahatchee, Fla.)
An All-Palm Beach County and honorable mention Class 8A All-State pick this past season, Shortridge showed why he is emerging as one of the top defensive line prospects in South Florida with a big outing Saturday. The 6-foot-2, 273-pounder ran 5.22 in the 40 and jumped an amazing 32.2 inches in the vertical to finish with an 88.50 SPARQ Rating. Louisville, Indiana and Western Kentucky have already offered.

Anthony Walker, LB/ATH, Monsignor Pace (Miami)
Walker showed an impressive combination of size and speed Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 208-pound talent posted the event's fastest 40 time at 4.48 seconds. He also showed well with a 35.1-inch vertical jump on the way to the day's fourth-best SPARQ Rating at 97.71. Walker earned Class 4A second team all-state honors last fall, totaling 65 tackles and four interceptions. He's still awaiting his first offer.


Top Underclass Performer


Corey Holmes ('14), WR, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.)
Holmes showed the athletic ability on Saturday that has many calling him the next big talent to come out of national power St. Thomas Aquinas. The 6-foot-1, 172-pounder carved out a consistent role last fall as a sophomore with his playmaking ability, and flashed that explosiveness with a 4.56 40 and whopping 39-inch vertical jump.


Other impressive underclassmen:

WR Henderson Gray ('14), 5-10, 175, Monsignor Pace (Miami)
RB Taj Griffin ('15), 5-9, 163, McEachern (Powder Springs, Ga.)
DB Jaquan Johnson ('15), 5-10, 173, Killian (Miami)
WR Jake McCrary ('14), 6-0, 182, Coral Reef (Miami)

Below is a list of top five performers from each testing category. Stay tuned to ESPNHS.com and the Nike Football SPARQ Combine homepage the rest of the week for more coverage from the Miami Nike Combine.

Miami Nike Combine Top Fives

SPARQ Rating
1. Matthew Thomas, LB, 6-3, 201, Booker T. Washington (Miami) -- 108.36
2. Ty Griffin, QB, 6-0, 177, McEachern (Kennesaw, Ga.) -- 103.05
3. Henderson Gray ('14), WR, 5-10, 175, Monsignor Pace (Miami) -- 100.62
4. Anthony Walker, LB, 6-1, 208, Monsignor Pace (Miami) -- 97.71
5. Sheldon Fleming, TE, 6-3, 237, East Lee County (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) -- 94.89

40-yard dash
1. Anthony Walker, LB, 6-1, 208, Monsignor Pace (Miami) -- 4.48
2. Taj Griffin ('15), RB, 5-9, 163, McEachern (Kennesaw, Ga.) -- 4.51
3. Logan Oce, DB, 5-11, 170, Monsignor Pace (Miami) -- 4.54
4. Rishad Carrigan, WR, 5-9, 136, Glades Central (Belle Glade, Fla.) -- 4.55
4. Ty Griffin, QB, 6-0, 177, McEachern (Kennesaw, Ga.)-- 4.55

20-yard shuttle
1. Matthew Thomas, LB, 6-3, 201, Booker T. Washington (Miami) -- 4.09
2. Franklin Labady ('14), RB, 5-6.5, 149, Edison (Miami) -- 4.12
3. Anthony Burney, LB, 5-8.5, 161, Norland (Miami) -- 4.18
4. Ty Griffin, QB, 6-0, 177, McEachern (Kennesaw, Ga.) -- 4.25
4. Guy Lemonier, WR, 5-11, 183, Monsignor Pace (Miami) -- 4.25
4. Sojourn Shelton, DB, 5-9, 152, Plantation (Plantation, Fla.) -- 4.25
4. Simeon Thomas, DB, 6-3, 173, Carol City (Miami) -- 4.25

Kneeling Power Ball toss
1. Charles Strippoli, OL, 6-2, 236, Boca Raton (Boca Raton, Fla.) -- 43 feet
2. Sheldon Fleming, TE, 6-3, 237, East Lee County (Lehigh Acres, Fla.) -- 42 feet
3. Joe Jenkins, OL, 6-3, 285, Northwestern (Miami) -- 41 feet
4. Khairi Clark ('14), DT, 6-2.5, 311, Chaminade-Madonna (Hollywood, Fla) -- 40 feet
4. Mario Elliott, TE, 6-5, 210, Park Hill (Kansas City, Mo.) -- 40 feet

Vertical Jump
1. Taj Griffin ('15), RB, 5-9, 163, McEachern (Kennesaw, Ga.) -- 40.9 inches
2. Elie Turene, LB, 5-9, 184, Seminole Ridge (Loxahatchee, Fla.) -- 39.6 inches
3. Corey Holmes ('14), WR, 6-1, 172, St. Thomas Aquinas (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) -- 39.0 inches
4. Henderson Gray ('14), WR, 5-10, 175, Monsignor Pace (Miami) -- 38.9 inches
5. Jarny Cetoute, RB, 5-5, 139, Ft. Lauderdale (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) -- 38.2 inches
5. Jamal Dorvilier, WR, 6-0, 168, Killian (Miami) -- 38.2 inches