The Opening takes place this week from Nike’s world headquarters in Oregon.
Not sure what that is all about? Well, that’s an all-star showcase event where 166 of the nation’s top players were chosen to compete against their peers in drills, competition and 7-on-7 games to see just who the best players are in the nation really are.
Can a big-time tackle from Tennessee hold it down against a five-star defensive end from California? Those teams were never going to face off in their regular high school seasons. The Opening affords a platform to find that out.
There are dozens of UGA storylines at The Opening this week with ESPNU set to broadcast the action on Saturday and Sunday. The quarterbacks will compete first and then they will be joined by the rest of nation’s best over the weekend.
Georgia has six commitments at the event, plus at least another 10 top targets who might eventually sign with the Class of 2017. Here’s the A-to-Z on what to look for this week.
Here’s the A-to-Z from a UGA perspective:
A is for Team Alpha Pro: The trend of stacking UGA commitments up on the same 7-on-7 squad for the Nike tournament continues. UGA quarterback commit Jake Fromm is one of two quarterbacks on the team. The Bulldogs have six commits in Oregon this week and every one of them that is eligible for the 7-on-7 format is on Alpha Pro. That’s defensive backs Richard LeCounte III and William Poole III, outside linebacker Jaden Hunter and receiver Trey Blount. D’Antne Demery, the four-star offensive tackle from Brunswick, is the other UGA commit at the event.
B is for Beaverton: That’s the city where all of this “Get Open” stuff takes place on the campus of Nike’s world headquarters in Oregon. Look for the DawgNation travel expense report to be stuffed with digital photos of receipts from Beaverton this week. It could very well also stand for Blount. The four-star UGA commit at receiver will be in action this week and his stock should rise after a strong showing. The senior had a great live chat with DawgNation last week.
C stands for Cam Akers: UGA could stand to land an elite running back or two. They Bulldogs tend to sign those in bunches. What are their chances with Mississippi five-star back Cam Akers? Akers, the nation’s No. 2 running back for 2017, will answer that question plenty of times for several teams this week. Akers likes UGA a lot, but maybe not as much as a couple of other prospects at his position this week.
D means watch out for D’Andre Swift: We just mentioned Cam Akers so it seems like the perfect time to bring up the aptly-named Swift. Who currently stands as the most likely target to re-stock the UGA backfield when Nick Chubb and Sony Michel make their way to the NFL? That’s Swift. The 5-foot-11, 215-pounder from Pennsylvania is rated as the nation’s No. 1 all-purpose back and No. 31 overall prospect. He is set to make his commitment sometime in August before his senior season. He really has Georgia on his mind.
E is for ESPNU: The worldwide leader will televise the thrills from the Opening on Saturday and Sunday.
F stands for Team Fly Rush: Let’s go ahead and call that the “UGA targets” team in short order. Alpha Pro has all the Bulldog commits, but Fly Rush has all the top targets. Will the future UGA secondary include the names DeAngelo Gibbs, A.J. Terrell and Jamyest Williams? Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker surely hopes so. Jeremiah Holloman, who is perhaps UGA’s top uncommitted target at receiver, is also on Fly Rush along with four-star inside linebacker Kenney Britt from Alabama.
G means Commit to the G: There are six UGA commitments in Oregon this week plus another 14 prospects that likely will have UGA in their final three. Those 14 recruits are so talented that the Bulldogs would likely take their commitment at any time.
H is for Holloman and Herring: That’s four-star receiver Jeremiah Hollman (Newton High School / Covington, Ga.) and four-star Malik Herring (Mary Persons/ Forsyth, Ga.) at defensive end. Those two guys must sign with UGA in February if the Class of 2017 hopes to contend for the nation’s top-rated recruiting class. Holloman made it clear earlier this month he had no leaders while Herring has a strong connection to Georgia coach Kirby Smart.
I is for ILB and Will Ignont: Bet you were wondering how hard it was going to be to find an “I” in this little missive, huh? Well, that gap was plugged by four-star Alabama linebacker Will Ignont. He’s another potential option among UGA’s log-jam on the board at linebacker for 2017. Ignont said that UGA has led for him at times this year. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 6 prospect at ILB and at No. 197 overall.
J stands for Jacoby Stevens: The five-star athlete from Tennessee also will not be at the Opening. He’s so high on the UGA board for 2017 that it bears bringing his name up here because he won’t be a part the star-studded crowd at Nike this week. Stevens, like four-star ILB prospect Nate McBride, won’t be a part of the show. The speedy McBride is the nation’s No. 2 prospect at inside linebacker this year.
K is for Kenney “KJ” Britt: The big-time UGA target at linebacker hails from Oxford High School in Alabama. It looks to be a race with Auburn for his services and he has planned to make his commitment in August. That may or may not be subject to change. We’ll find out this week. The 6-foot-1, 217-pounder is rated as the nation’s No. 15 ILB for 2017.
L is for Lockdown cornerbacks: UGA commitment William Poole III qualifies as one of those. Yet there are three more of those with heavy UGA interest at The Opening this week in DeAngelo Gibbs, A.J. Terrell and Jamyest Williams. The Bulldogs should add at least one of those three names to the Class of 2017 and quite possibly two. Those that think the Bulldogs could land all three probably also think that a lot of families can afford multiple pairs of those $200 Air Jordan sneakers.
M is for MVPs: Who will be the best of the best? Look for the event to name their overall MVPs from the week on Sunday night during an awards presentation.
N is for Nico Collins: Is four-star receiver Nico Collins still looking hard at Georgia? He likely is, but is it as strong as his recent interest in Michigan or Alabama from his home state? Collins has made several trips to UGA over the last year and has noted how stacked UGA will be at quarterback during his career with Jacob Eason in Athens and Fromm on his way. Georgia’s cup has almost runneth over at receiver and Collins might no longer be the priority he once was with top targets like Tray Bishop, Jeremiah Holloman and Mark Webb looming as potential commitments at that spot.
O is for Owen Pappoe: The Grayson linebacker made history by becoming the first sophomore to be invited to The Opening. He did so based on his crazy good showing at the Buford Nike regional in April. The 6-foot-1, 207-pounder ran a 4.58 in the cold at that venue and collected more than 50 tackles in the state playoffs last November. Can Georgia keep him in-state? Alabama and Tennessee look to be coming in strong for a prospect who might be the nation’s No. 1 player for 2019.
P is for Pace Academy: The defending state champion Knights have sent three of their top players to Oregon this week. That’s four-star offensive tackle Andrew Thomas, five-star offensive guard Jamaree Salyer and four-star receiver Trey Blount. Blount is committed to Georgia. Thomas and Salyer might not be too far behind. Salyer even said there was a slight chance he might commit with Thomas in Oregon this week.
Q is for Quarterback play: Which quarterbacks get most of the reps in crunch time at the 7-on-7 event? UGA freshman Jacob Eason didn’t get a lot of those on his team last summer. Will Fromm overtake Ohio State commit Tate Martell on Team Alpha and be slinging around the passes that count on Sunday in the 7-on-7 tournament bracket? It will be interesting to see what unfolds and who becomes the “Alpha’ quarterback for Team Alpha.
R is for UGA commit Richard LeCounte III: The second-highest recruit currently on the board for UGA was Kirby Smart’s first commitment. He’s a master recruiter and will look to spread the word about “SICEM17” this week with his charisma and electric play.
S is for Swag otherwise known as gear: Why are these events so popular? Well, it has to be the shoes and the gear that these top recruits come back with from Nike. Take a look at what these kids got from Nike and The Opening as a welcome package to bring to Oregon.
— Xavier Mckinney (@mckinney_xavier) June 27, 2016
T has to stand for Toneil Carter: Will the nation’s No. 5 RB commit this week at The Opening? Is UGA still his clear leader? Those will be the hot topics everyone will want to ask the speedy Texan this week. Pay close attention to the fact he’s on Team Alpha this week with several good salesmen for the Class of 2017 at UGA.
U is for underclassmen: This is mostly a seniors-only event, but a few names like Gibbs and Williams shined last year in Oregon and made their names known. We’ve already brought up Pappoe, but Salyer from Pace Academy is another name to keep on your mind for the next cycle.
V is for Voodoo Doughnuts: Nothing says college football recruiting and Georgia like a world famous doughnut shop in Oregon, right? We had to make sure we had an item that all the offensive and defensive linemen and their families were sure to appreciate.
W stands for who could commit: Major UGA target Andrew Thomas will make his commitment at The Opening. That’s between UGA, Clemson and Notre Dame. The previously-mentioned 6-foot-5, 320-pounder from Pace Academy will test out his healed AC shoulder joint this week in Oregon, too. He’s rated as the nation’s No. 49 overall prospect and is considered a heavy lean to Georgia. Toneil Carter, a 4-star running back out of Texas, might also commit in Oregon this week.
X: That’s for X-factors. Georgia has two of them this week in the form of potential package deals. The aforementioned Swift is expected to be a package deal with his four-star cousin Mark Webb, Jr. at receiver. Both hail from Pennsylvania and have Georgia high up on their list. Thomas will commit this week and it is all but certain that his teammate Jamaree Salyer will eventually follow him when he signs in the Class of 2018.
Y is for Chase Young: UGA did not make the Top 10 for this five-star defensive end out of Maryland’s DeMatha Catholic, but he’s an interesting storyline nonetheless. Both Young and his talented teammate Anthony McFarland, Jr. were high on UGA under the previous staff. But that’s not the case under Kirby Smart. Is it a simple matter of prospect evaluation and a different taste? Or does that mean this year’s staff already had its sights set on a different body type at running back than the shifty McFarland? Does that mean that UGA already had its key defensive ends sighted with recruits like Markaviest “Big Cat” Bryant, Malik Herring or Walter Grant?
Z stands for Zzzzs: That’s what all the competitors and this intrepid reporter will catch on that long red-eye flight back from Oregon either on Sunday night or early Monday morning.
This week’s schedule for The Opening
Wednesday, July 6: Elite 11
- 10 AM-12 PM: Elite 11 morning practice
- 4 PM-6PM: Elite 11 afternoon practice
Thursday, July 7: Elite 11
- 10 AM-12:15 PM: Elite 11 practice
Friday, July 8: The Opening
- 9 AM-10:45 AM: Nike football testing
- 1:30 PM-3:30 PM: Nike football training camp
- 5:30 PM-6:30 PM: Nike football ratings championship is awarded (Sparq rating)
Saturday, July 9: The Opening
- 9:30 AM-11 AM: Nike 7-on-7 jog-thru
- 10:00 AM-12:30 PM: Nike Lineman Challenge workout
- 11:00 AM-5:30 PM: Nike 7-on-7 pool play
- 7:00 PM-8:10 PM: The first round of the Nike 7-on-7 championship tournament
Sunday, July 10: The Opening
- 9:30 AM-5 PM: Nike 7-on-7 championship tournament
- 9:30 AM-12:30 PM: Linemen drills
- 12:35 PM-1:00 PM: Lineman 1-on-1 finals
- 4:00 PM-5:00 PM: Nike 7-on-7 championship game
- 5:30 PM: The Opening awards ceremony
Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges. Unless otherwise indicated, player rankings and ratings are from the 247Sports Composite.