BEAVERTON, Ore. — This has already been quite the week at The Opening. So many prospects. So many interviews. So many games to watch.
What really matters? Here’s a roll call of the hottest stories around Nike’s all-star recruiting showcase that features 166 of the nation’s top prospects competing against one another in drills and a seriously talented 7-on-7 format.
What is important now? We will start with what could be the two biggest potential stories for Georgia football on Sunday.
The top offensive lineman in Georgia decides Sunday
Andrew Thomas, the nation’s No. 10 offensive tackle for 2017, will announce his decision at some point during the ESPNU broadcast Sunday evening. He will choose between Georgia, Clemson and Notre Dame. He won’t ride in on a Lamborghini or anything stunning like that.
“I just think it is going to be a part of the live broadcast on ESPN,” Thomas said.
His decision has not changed from when he made up his mind and informed the lucky coaching staff a month ago. Georgia is seen as the team to beat for his services.
“I have told those schools that are recruiting me where I am going,” Thomas said. “They have told me to let them know if anything changes with me to call them. But I don’t see anything changing.”
A commitment from Thomas would click off a major need for the Class of 2017 at UGA. Georgia did not sign the tackles it needed for the Class of 2016. Adding Thomas would mean that the Bulldogs have two of the nation’s best that are at The Opening this week. Four-star offensive tackle D’Antne Demery committed to Georgia back in June.
Thomas came into the week hoping to test out his shoulder. He sprained his AC shoulder joint back in April and had rehabbed it leading up to this week in Oregon. He had great reps at left and right tackle on Saturday.
UGA poised to add nation’s No. 5 RB
Four-star recruit Toniel Carter is rated as the nation’s No. 5 RB for the Class of 2017. He made it very clear which way he was leaning this week when discussing his recruiting with DawgNation. The only thing that has been a tad fuzzy was when he will make that decision known.
Carter was initially supposed to share his commitment Friday when he arrived in Oregon, but then told reporters on Friday night that his decision would come out Saturday. It wasn’t even two hours later when he said he was not committing on Saturday and called that a “false alarm.”
The 5-foot-11, 200-pound prospect is a fast back that can do it all. Sony Michel’s game is a good player parallel. Carter has been clocked in the 100 meters between 10.5 and 10.71 seconds. Look for him to commit to Georgia sometime Sunday and add to the momentum for the Class of 2017.
How big of a reach is that? A tweet from UGA receiver commitment Trey Blount on Saturday night definitely supports that line of thinking.
A big day tomorrow for Georgia ?………
— treymendous® (@trey_blount) July 10, 2016
Like that tweet? Here are two better than that
UGA quarterback commit Jake Fromm shared this one on Saturday morning. The first reaction is that’s simply a collection of prospects from Georgia who are excelling at The Opening. But Carter is in there. He’s from Texas. Alabama linebacker Kenney Britt is also in there.
— JakefromStateFromm (@FrommJake) July 9, 2016
That’s some interesting potential foreshadowing right there. Especially since Holloman has a lot of options to sort out. He told DawgNation he was just in Oregon to have fun and had not really discussed his decision with his family yet. Britt told DawgNation this week that he has yet to make up his mind and that he should decide in early August. Georgia and Auburn are contenders, but he also talked up his interest in Cal, Florida, LSU and Stanford.
The other tweet is just the sort of stuff we’ve all come to expect from 4-star safety Richard LeCounte by now. He had four interceptions for Team Alpha Pro in three games Saturday.
— Josh Newberg (@joshnewberg247) July 9, 2016
Jamyest Williams will announce his Top 5 on Sunday
Grayson senior cornerback Jamyest Williams is rated the nation’s No. 7 cornerback for 2017. He’s rated the No. 52 overall prospect. Look for the 5-foot-9, 170-pound prospect to share his Top 5 on Sunday. The Bulldogs will be in there.
“I am just trying to shut down and focus my recruiting,” Williams said. “It has been a blessing to be recruited by all of these schools and it is coming to an end. My senior year is coming up soon and I just need to focus on the schools that I am considering the strongest.”
Williams said Saturday another list of official visits will follow at a later date. There will be schools that won’t make both lists. Some teams will. It is all choreographed.
“My Dad and I have a plan,” Williams said. “I don’t want anything to stop that plan that my father and I have.”
Look for Williams to make a silent commitment at the end of the summer. He will then announce that choice sometime during his senior season. He has accepted an invitation to participate in the Under Armour All-America game.
Williams hopes to visit Georgia, South Carolina and Ohio State this month before he focuses on his senior season. Grayson is a legit national title contender this fall. He said that trio of schools is recruiting him the hardest. Tennessee has also shown up of late with a much bigger push for him.
The Georgia commits — especially the ones in town this week — continue to make a big push as well.
“We do talk about it,” Williams said. “They try not to talk about it all the time. They know I get tired of it all the time, but they know how I feel about Georgia. Every time we do bring it up in a conversation we talk about changing the identity of Georgia football and bringing that national championship home.”
South Carolina is very much a factor. He speaks to coach Will Muschamp and defensive coordinator Travaris Robinson all the time.
“I just think I can go in there and change the game at South Carolina and be a difference maker,” Williams said. “If I end up going there, I just know that a lot of other people are going to go to South Carolina, too.”
Remember that “an offer you can’t refuse” line in the classic “The Godfather” trilogy? Well, that’s beginning to apply to the 2017 class at Georgia.
The Bulldogs should finish at least third in the nation in the final team recruiting rankings this year. The eventual classes at Ohio State and Alabama will be tough to overtake, but Georgia should have eight commitments by Sunday evening. This isn’t the forum to divulge specific names, but it is within reason for the program to add up to another eight more prospects who are at The Opening this week without any huge stretch of the imagination.
When all the letters-of-intent have been signed, that would mean Georgia had 14 recruits at The Opening this week. If that happens, this year’s class should go down as the highest-rated recruiting class of all-time at Georgia. At least in the era where star rankings are the common denominator to evaluate players and recruiting classes.
That would be quite a feat for the first full recruiting year of the Kirby Smart era at Georgia. How does that translate to an event like this week? Consider this quote from four-star linebacker Will Ignont. The Alabama linebacker is part of a very big picture at linebacker for this year’s class.
Stacking up commitments from the nation’s top players attracts attention.
“I really think Kirby Smart is going to do something special at Georgia,” Ignont said. “A lot of my homeboys like Breon (Dixon) and those guys are already committed. Jaden Hunter as well. I’d love to play with all of them. That sticks in the back of my mind. Savages want to play with savages.”
If Carter and Thomas both commit to Georgia on Sunday, that would add up to a quartet of four-star commitments in one week for Georgia. That’s by far the best recruiting week of the Smart era.
Fromm has himself a day
Will Georgia quarterback commitment Jake Fromm start the first game of the dual-elimination 7-on-7 tournament on Sunday at the Opening? It is a matter of Fromm or Ohio State commitment Tate Martell for the Alpha Pro team that is stacked primarily with Georgia and Ohio State commitments and also players who are very likely to choose each school in the long run.
Martell is rated as the nation’s No. 1 dual-threat quarterback this year and the nations’ No. 33 overall prospect. He has won 30 straight games and the last two mythical national championships. Add in at least another 40 consecutive wins in the 7-on-7 format for his Bishop Gorman (Las Vegas, Nev.) team. That’s a pretty strong resume.
But the nation’s No. 3 pro-style passer and No. 41 overall prospect earned the right to start for Alpha Pro on Sunday.
Fromm out-played Martell on Saturday by throwing seven touchdowns in three games in which he played the first half of each contest. He did not throw an interception.
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.