BEAVERTON, Ore. — The Opening finals for 2017 are now closed.
The curtain fell Monday evening on the elite high school prospect showcase from Nike’s world headquarters.
What did I learn about UGA’s recruiting efforts on the last day of The Opening? I have five things to share.
Justin Fields was the best QB at The Opening finals
This was not close. Fields won the Elite 11 MVP award and led his team to The Opening 2017 7-on-7 championship. He was brilliant. The Harrison High star ranks as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback and the No. 3 overall prospect.
I would not be surprised if he moves up to No. 2 overall soon. Clemson 5-star DE commit Xavier Thomas is the nation’s best defensive player this year. He sits at No. 2 on that 247Sports composite.
The rush to rank Justin Fields the nation’s No. 1 player is tougher than that
I don’t do any rankings. Don’t sit on any panel. There are very credible people on all those sites who collaborate for that. That process is never easy. Especially at the very top.
But here’s the hard part. Trevor Lawrence sits at No. 1 and has been since the 2018 rankings came out. He has handled the hype for years the way few 5-stars ever could.
The talk of every player at The Opening on Monday night was Fields needs to overtake Lawrence. This was 7-on-7 football, and Fields played brilliantly this week.
Yet re-ranking things also means you don’t take into account what Lawrence has done. These guys do play football. Lawrence is set to rewrite every career passing record in Georgia football history. He’s won back-to-back state titles and only lost one game in high school.
That stuff all goes into the equation, too.
I’m not saying it won’t happen or it doesn’t deserve to happen. I’m just saying it is a very hard thing to do given what Lawrence has done and what he projects to be in college football. It wasn’t that long ago that folks were calling Lawrence the easiest No. 1 prospect call in years.
Fields raised his stock like few could ever imagine over the last year. This call just got a lot tougher.
There’s a true debate going on here now. There deserves to be. That’s something no one ever saw coming about six months ago.
DE Nolan Smith won’t flip to Clemson just like that
Georgia fans have been worried about 5-star 2019 defensive end commit Nolan Smith for awhile now. They see the connection he has to 5-star Clemson commit Xavier Thomas. Those two are IMG teammates.
Five-star UGA commit Nolan Smith II rocked Georgia gear as he left The Opening on Monday night. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
They worry about a flip. But Smith left The Opening on Monday night in Georgia gear. He still says the word “we” a lot when talking about Georgia. I don’t think Clemson is going to get him without a long, drawn-out fight.
Smith told me he is not planning to visit Clemson anytime soon. He continues to say that Georgia needs to stack up a lot of big wins. If the Bulldogs win and the staff still sees him as a priority, then it would take something “tragic” for him to not wind up playing in Athens.
Justin Fields earned the respect of the nation’s elite
The case of 4-star tight end Luke Ford is a great example. We’ve written about Luke a lot this week. Ford told me in no uncertain terms that he’s going where Fields goes. That’s how he feels after playing with him all week.
“If he ends up going to Georgia or Alabama then I am going to go to Georgia or Alabama,” Ford said. “I am going to follow that guy because I want to play with him in college. I want him to be my quarterback in college.”
Ford wasn’t the only guy saying that after The Opening.
Fields could bring a ton of guys with him to the school he chooses in the next few months. If he goes to Georgia, then I think the program will again have a top 3 class in 2018. At least.
That’s how many guys want to play with Fields after that virtuoso performance on this stage.
Jamaree Salyer is the top guard prospect I’ve ever seen
Salyer won The Opening offensive line MVP award on Monday night. He’s the best interior offensive line prospect I’ve ever seen.
Pace Academy 5-star Jamaree Salyer was the best offensive lineman at The Opening this year, and it wasn’t even close. (Jeff Sentell/DawgNation)
The 5-star from Pace Academy already ranks as the nation’s No. 1 guard for 2018. He’s the highest-rated offensive lineman period for this cycle.
Salyer broke down his recruitment with DawgNation earlier Monday. He’ll be taking quite some time before committing.
He was good enough to make the top 5 here in Oregon as a junior. Salyer took home the MVP award this year.
That Justin Fields/Trevor Lawrence stuff is very hard. The call right here with Salyer was the complete opposite. He made the choice very easy.