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What happened at the Atlanta regional when 5-star Jamaree Salyer went against elite pass rusher Brenton Cox? It was a must-see for sure.

Rewinding the Brenton Cox vs. Jamaree Salyer bout from the Atlanta Opening regional

Want a daily lap through Georgia football recruiting? That’s what the Intel will bring at least five days a week. We’ll cover the news and which way elite prospects like Brenton Cox and Jamaree Salyer might lean plus add some perspective to help fans figure out what it all means.

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Competition.

That’s what all of this is about. Every recruiting story ever published should have that as its beating heart.

Competing players and offers. Competing pitches and schools. Competition. It should be everywhere.

The charge for this blog is to write about the elite. Where are they going? What makes them do what they do in an ultra-competitive and violent game? Is there a chance that highly-rated guy might be hot garbage?

My favorite ones: Do some players worry about protecting their rankings at camps? Do they work with a fear of getting exposed?

Competition is the best filter for that, too. That’s why the signature moment of the Nike “The Opening” Atlanta regional for me was Stockbridge’s Brenton Cox vs. Pace Academy’s Jamaree Salyer.

I whirl around to see the linebackers, the quarterbacks, those receivers and the running backs. I have to check out those guys. But my attention span always leads me back to the trenches.

Brenton Cox
4-star DE Brenton Cox currently rates as the nation’s No. 4 DE and the No. 54 player overall. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

The 5-star Salyer was in one corner. Cox, a 4-star pass rush ninja, somehow wound up across from him.

Made it just in time to see that.

Salyer rates as the nation’s No. 1 guard per the 247Sports composite.

Cox rates as the No. 4 DE by that same metric.

Georgia wants both. Badly. So does every other program which puts on big-boy britches.

The Salyer tea leaves trend toward Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Stanford. Cox appears to have chopped his decision into a Georgia vs. Ohio State battle. At least for now.

The Bulldogs have a strong shot at both. But we’ll sideline the recruiting chatter to chronicle a great competition.

What happened when Cox went mano-a-mano with Salyer for three reps? Great work. That’s what.

Jamaree Salyer
Jamaree Salyer, the nation’s top guard for 2018, earned his second straight invitation to the Nike Opening this summer. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)

Those two were the first Atlanta campers selected from the trenches for Nike’s national showcase in Oregon.

They were the right two.

Cox vs. Salyer wasn’t even expected to take place. Guards and defensive ends don’t usually pair up at prospect showcases.

These two did.

That’s how we always figure out the best of the best at everything in football. We line up the really good ones and then figure it out.

How did that happen? 

When it came down to the final 5 at the Atlanta Opening, there was a problem.

The elite group went way heavy at guard. It left a natural question: Who was going to stand in front of Cox when there wasn’t a worthy tackle in the finals?

Todd Huber, who I’ve watched work with linemen all over the country at these events, had an idea. Huber is a quality coach. He understands these players having been there himself. Huber played at Cal from 2007-2011.

He’s now the Director of Football for Student Sports. That’s the group which manages and organizes The Opening regionals across the country every spring.

“The reason I had to play tackle was that we had four guards in the final,” Salyer said. “Todd (Huber) came to me and said ‘You are one of the best guys. I think you have the best feet. Can you handle tackle?’ and I told him I’d try it.”

The nation’s No. 1 guard wound up winning two of three reps. Cox, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound prospect from Stockbridge, continues to see his stock rise, and it should.

It was fascinating learning how Salyer planned to play matador with that assignment. Salyer usually plays the roles of the force field and the brick wall on the inside with aplomb. He made the final 5 at the national Opening event last year doing that.

Salyer had to think differently to deal with Cox. But he still kept it simple, relying on his natural instincts and previous coaching.

“He has that little move that he kind of sets you up,” Salyer said. “He kind of goes inside to set you up outside. I just tried to be patient with him and not just give him something so he can just take it.”

That’s easier said than done. Especially against an elite pass rusher like Cox.

“It was a great matchup,” Salyer said. “With me not having a lot of experience at tackle but just relying on my football and technique that coach Kev (Pace Academy offensive line coach Kevin Johnson) teaches me. I’m just glad I did well.”

Going inside the Brenton Cox corner

Salyer held his block on an inside move on the first rep. Cox went around him on the second.

The third decided the match. Salyer caught him with a big punch.

“That last one I fell off-balance,” Cox said. “I tried to do too many moves at once. He punched me. That’s what happened.”

Cox already respected Salyer coming into the tilt. Clearly.

“He can really move his feet,” Cox said. “We worked out against one another previously. I really knew that was going to be a tough fight for me. Even when he came over from guard to play tackle. He’s not an offensive tackle, but he can really move his feet well.”

The nation’s No. 54 overall prospect came up just a few inches shy of the 6-foot-5 mark when he was measured last Sunday.

Bottom line between the lines

Salyer said he felt that maybe Huber didn’t expect him to do as well as he did.

“But he has a lot of faith in me,” Salyer said. “I respect him a lot. That he had the faith in me that I could find a way to get the job done at all costs.”

Cox shredded Salyer on the second rep. He showed why he would later an invite to the national showcase.

“I got pretty upset when I lost the second rep,” Salyer said of only the second rep he lost all day. “I don’t like losing period.”

Georgia wants both guys. Desperately. Salyer already knows it would be an asset to play on Saturdays with Cox.

“It would be cool to have that assurance with him on defense,” Salyer said. “It is an offensive lineman’s dream to have those guys on the other side that will keep that other offense off the field.”

Competition should bring out the best in everyone. Especially the best of the best. That’s what we saw from Cox and Salyer at the Atlanta regional.