The Opening: a fan’s perspective and predictions
It’s great being around future college and perhaps even NFL stars when at The Opening, but it’s equally fun to see how the fans follow and enjoy the event as well as the journey that’s led up to it.
From the media side, we know there are your casual fans and the hardcore fanatics, but few are like aspiring sports journalist Kevin Mobley from Clarke Central High in Athens, Ga.
Kevin writes on the sports staff for the school newsmagazine, the ODYSSEY, and is a hard-core follower of The Opening. This week we came across his very impressive research, facts, opinions and predictions around The Opening, which we’re happy to share with you here.
Let us here throw in the obligatory “the views and opinions offered by Kevin don’t necessarily represent those of the Student Sports staff”… but add we still think they’re pretty darn cool and well researched anyways.
And one final thing… Kevin’s only 15-years-old.
SPARQ National Championship Preview
July 1st 7-8:30 PM ET on ESPNU
Here are some of The Opening invitees who ranked in the Top 10 of the SPARQ Ratings test at a Nike SPARQ Football Combine this year:
No. 6 Treon Harris, 5-11, 180 ATH—SPARQ Rating: 92.61
No. 7 Anthony Moten 6-4, 279 DL— SPARQ Rating: 91.68
No. 9 Arrion Springs 5-11, 185 CB—SPARQ Rating: 107.07
No. 2 Dillon Bates 6-3, 213 OLB—SPARQ Rating: 109.05
No. 6 Royce Freeman 6-0, 215 RB—SPARQ Rating: 100.41
No. 2 Corey Holmes 6-2, 175 WR—SPARQ Rating: 103.44
No. 1 Elijah Hood 6-0, 220 RB—SPARQ Rating: 108.84
No. 1 Kavin Alexander 5-9, 182 CB—SPARQ Rating:148.17
… here are some who tested at Nike Football Training Camps and their Top 10 finish:
No. 3 Royce Freeman 6-0, 215 RB—SPARQ Rating: 110.58
No. 2 George Campbell (‘15) 6-3.5, 185—SPARQ Rating: 106.86
No. 1 Charles Buchannon 5-8, 181—SPARQ Rating: 132.21
No. 2 Nick Chubb 5-10, 211—SPARQ Rating: 122.43
No. 3 Lorenzo Carter 6-5, 228—SPARQ Rating: 114.60
No. 8 Terrance Alexander 5-9.5, 177—SPARQ Rating: 105.54
No. 2 Curtis Samuel 5-11, 178—SPARQ Rating: 111.87
No. 1 Terry McLaurin 6-0, 185—SPARQ Rating: 126.96
No. 5 Joey Alfieri 6-2, 213—SPARQ Rating: 109.35
***SPARQ National Championship Prediction
Apocalypse CB Kavin Alexander
Alexander’s performance at the Dallas SPARQ combine of a 148.17 SPARQ Rating, the second best SPARQ rating ever, was no fluke. Last year, at the Dallas NFTC, he put up a rating of 129.24. This year at Dallas, he posted a 135.09. At the Nike Football SPARQ Combine, Alexander ran a blazing 4.36 in the 40 (No. 1 at the Dallas NFSC) and a 3.90 in the 20-yard shuttle (No. 3 at Dallas). However, the key to Alexander’s amazing rating was his power ball toss. He recorded a 42.5 foot throw, ranking No. 8 at the Dallas combine. It remains to be seen if Alexander will be able to perform in the bright lights on the big stage that is The Opening, but no one can question his superior athleticism.
7ON Tournament Preview
Round Play July 2nd 9-11:30 PM ET on ESPNU
Semifinals and Championship July 3rd 9-12 PM ET on ESPNU
7ON Roster Analysis
Best Running Backs
Landsharks: Dalvin Cook and Racean Thomas
Not only are both of these running backs guys that I think are in the top five at their position, they are both excellent options in the flat as a check down or at running a draw. Thomas can even line up in the slot and be highly effective in that regard. These two will be very valuable to their quarterbacks.
Best Wide Receivers
Apocalypse: Michiah Quick, KD Cannon, Artavis Scott and Trevion Thompson
This really is a star-studded group. Quick and Thompson are great vertical threats, not to mention K-Zone25 prospects. Cannon is a true burner and lives up to his name when he turns on the jets. He’s a guy that I think compares a lot to Percy Harvin, physically as well as skill-wise. Don’t sleep on Scott either. He’s a highly-touted speedster as well, an attribute that helps immensely in the 7ON.
Best Tight End
Apocalypse: Jeb Blazevich
Some may be wondering why I didn’t go with the guy who many think is the No. 1 TE in the country, Tyler Luatua. He is certainly an excellent prospect, but Luatua is much more physical; he’s not built for the high-flying speed and athleticism that is the 7ON. Blazevich, on the other hand, is a lean, lengthy prospect that is much more suited for the passing tournament. At 6-foot-5, he will be a defensive nightmare in a jump-ball situation in the red zone. He also runs crisp routes and his great hands. Look for him to be a huge target for the Apocalypse QBs
Super Bad: Clifton Garrett, Christian Miller and Edwin Freeman
This was a tough call as there are so many great and talented linebackers that will be showcasing their skill at The Opening. I had to break this group down and analyze to the slightest detail. As an outside linebacker/safety hybrid, I think Freeman has the potential to have an excellent performance in the 7ON because he’ll be able to match up pound for pound with running backs, while having the agility to stay with them. With Miller’s height and lengthy frame, he’ll be able to pick up tight ends or even taller receivers in the slot. Last but not least, Garrett is a true playmaker in pass defense and with his athleticism and ability to get from sideline to sideline and yet being to lock down the middle like an inside linebacker is why he’ll be able to captain this group. All of that makes the Super Bad linebackers the best group at The Opening.
Landsharks: Tony Brown, Arrion Springs, Chris Lammons and Jonathan Lockett
This one also wasn’t the easiest decision; each team has a premier corner. However, when I looked at this group for the Landsharks, I see talent, athleticism, and a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. Tony Brown is the standout corner in this group, but he didn’t play to his potential in his junior season, playing a little out of his comfort zone at safety and only improving by one tackle and two PBUs from his sophomore season. Look for him to come to The Opening, make a big statement and start off his senior season with a bang. Springs is a well-sized corner and very athletic, but he was a guy whose recruitment didn’t really take off until this spring. Lockett is a very instinctive player that has very fluid hips, but doesn’t have the raw speed to stay with faster receivers on vertical routes. Lammons will likely pick up running backs and slot receivers as he’s got great agility but doesn’t have the size to be effective against the larger, more physical flankers. All of these guys have defects in their game, but they’ve all got great athleticism and skill. I think they’ll prove that at The Opening.
Vapor Carbon Quin Blanding and Dylan Sumner-Gardner
These two are going to be a nightmare for quarterbacks and their offenses. Blanding is a very physical, ball-hawking strong safety who will captain the Vapor Carbon defense. Sumner-Gardner’s skill set and frame, contrary to that of Blanding’s, is geared up more for that of a free safety. He’s got great length and will patrol the deep part of the field. These two are very different, but that is why they will complement each other so well.
Apocalypse Budda Baker
Baker is one of the guys in The Opening that I think could have a breakout week and assert himself as one of the elite high school prospects in the country; he’s just on the cusp right now. Yes, he may be undersized, but that won’t be much of a factor, if any, at this competition. He’s such an explosive player, one that will be a valuable weapon in the passing game as well as a key defender with slot receivers. Baker’s versatility is what makes him so special.
***7ON Tournament Prediction
It’s tough to make a prediction when the most important position to a team’s success in the 7ON, quarterback, is still to be decided. Nonetheless, there is a team that stands out to me above all the rest: Team Apocalypse.
They’ve got an excellent offensive arsenal, with a great passing and rushing duo (remember that teams can run draws in 7ON) in Joe Mixon and Royce Freeman, and arguably the best group of receivers The Opening has ever seen with Michiah Quick, Trevion Thompson, KD Cannon, Artavis Scott and Jeb Blazevich, all guys who I think are in the top 10 nationally at their position. Budda Baker is also a two-way player that will be a big target in the passing game and a great asset to the defense as well.
Their defense is led by the best inside linebacker in the country, Raekwon McMillan. He is joined by DJ Calhoun, a very solid linebacker/safety hybrid known for his coverage skills, Rashaan Evans, an athletic and physical outside linebacker, Quincy Wilson, a corner/safety that is set for a breakout week, Kavin Alexander, a speedy corner who posted the second best SPARQ rating of all time, John Plattenburg, defensive back MVP of the Oakland NFTC, Terrance Alexander, another athletic corner, John Bonney and CJ Hampton, two talented safeties with great instincts.
Apocalypse has a highly-touted and skilled offense; combine that with a very athletic defense and I see a team that has the best shot at taking home the 7ON title.
Linemen Challenge Preview
July 3rd 9-12 PM ET on ESPNU
Each team was also assigned six to seven linemen to represent in the Linemen Challenge.
Linemen Challenge Roster Analysis
Best Offensive Linemen
Landsharks: Cameron Robinson, Kenyon Frison and Corey Martinez
Robinson being a five-star prospect and the No. 1 offensive lineman does pull a lot of weight, but Frison and Martinez are underrated yet excellent lineman for the Landsharks. Frison is poised for a breakout performance at The Opening and with his incredible length and frame—combined with a solid punch—should be able to hold his own against the best in the country. Martinez is a very strong interior lineman that is getting looks from some of the top programs in the country. This group is very strong and skilled.
Best Defensive Linemen
Alpha Pro: Andrew Brown, Josh Frazier and Andrew Williams
Landsharks and Vapor Carbon are right up there, but in the end I had to go with Alpha Pro. Brown is a consensus top 10 recruit, and a guy that I see as the best prospect in the country. He’s a versatile prospect because he’s more built for defensive tackle, but in a 3-4 would fit well as a defensive end. Frazier is more of a nose guard prospect at 6-foot5, 320 pounds. With his size and excellent strength, he’ll be able to overpower interior lineman. Williams is the pure edge rusher of this group, some recruiting services even have him listed as an OLB. He’s got great length, but even better strength and explosion off the edge; he’ll be giving exterior lineman fits. Even though they’re only three players, each one brings their own unique skill set that will allow them to shine at The Opening.