Wednesday marked the first day of the lineman challenge for the big guys who have flown all the way to Oregon for NIKE’s The Opening–clearly the nation’s top camp of the year.
The offensive and defensive linemen were put through one-on-one drills with helmets and pads. Of course there are state associations all over the nation that prohibit high school players from donning pads at most summer camps, but this was an exception and the players enjoyed it.
The name that continues to pop up at The Opening is uncommitted defensive end Josh Sweat’s. Sweat was a top finisher in Tuesday’s SPARQ combine competition, even though he’s a lineman. You can already book this–the recruiting services will very likely slide him ahead of big-time Georgia target Trent Thompson into the nation’s No. 1 overall ranking after this camp concludes. He has looked very good in drills and super effective even in the combine, despite dealing with some nagging minor injuries. Sweat is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds but moves like an athlete much, much smaller. He’s a Virginia native, so he could very well end up being in the ACC with the Hokies, Cavaliers or maybe the Seminoles, and Ohio State loves him too. But Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia and Alabama and several other SEC schools are certainly in the mix.
Oh, and get ready for the Clowney comparisons with Sweat … it’s already happening.
Alabama four-star OL commitment Richie Petitbon was also incredibly effective during the lineman challenge. The grandson of the NFL coach by the same name, Petitbon impressed during the lineman challenge. He and fellow Alabama O-line commits Lester Cotton and Dallas Warmack have definitely bonded, and they performed well at camp.
“There is great competition out there but I’m not blown away by the D-lineman,” Petitbon told Saturday Down South after the day’s competition. “It’s just a great opportunity to compete against the best, there’s a lot of great athletes out here.”
- THE CATCH: We know, we know … lots of receptions down through the ages have been labeled “the catch”. And yes, this was just 7-on-7 warmups. But if Calvin Ridley’s catch was any indication of things to come for Alabama, Crimson Tide fans are going to be happy. On Tuesday during drills, the south Florida native pulled down a one-handed catch that would make an NFL receiver blush. He never even used his left hand to steady it, just caught it over his shoulder, cradled it in full stride and sprinted untouched to the endzone. He’s one of nine Alabama commitments at The Opening.
- QUARTERBACKS, QUARTERBACKS, QUARTERBACKS: Four SEC QB commitments are at the camp–Texas A&M’s Kyler Murray, Florida’s Sheriron Jones, Mizzou’s Drew Lock and Alabama’s Blake Barnett. Murray and Jones weren’t in the Top 11 rankings after the first two days of QB-only training in the Elite 11 section of the camp. But both had flashes of brilliance Wednesday during the 7-on-7 competition. Murray’s learning curve is certainly there, and Jones also played well at times. Lock, a Mizzou legacy, continues to impress the staff at The Opening, and he made some good plays on Wednesday during the preliminary games. Barnett has been solid also.
- ATHLETE OR QB?: One interesting note is with five-star QB/ATH prospect Torrance Gibson, who almost certainly will go to the SEC (Tennessee or Auburn?) before the end of this year. Gibson has been labeled an “athlete” more and more as the year has worn on, and he’s not that fired up about it. Last week, when Saturday Down South asked him why he wasn’t even listed as a QB for the camp on the initial rosters, he wasn’t exactly happy about it. But he did show up to be in the Elite 11 this weekend and his progression has been there. But still, as head camp QB coach Trent Dilfer--yes, the Super Bowl winning QB–says, there’s a long way for Gibson to go. “Torrance didn’t deserve a spot in the Elite 11, initially, but he’s worked very hard and he’s improved here. He can play quarterback in college but he needs to go somewhere where he fits. He has a quick mind and he’s a great athlete and he’s dying to play quarterback.” Gibson has the kind of ability and physical stature to play wide receiver, but he wants to play quarterback in college. His mechanics need a lot of work, camp counselors have said repeatedly.
- THURSDAY COMMITMENTS: The big announcement comes Thursday during the 8 p.m. (Eastern Time) televised 7-on-7 tournament. Five-star defensive lineman Khalil McKenzie is going to go official with his decision, and that could be very good news for Tennessee. McKenzie says it comes down to the Vols and Arizona–but Tennessee fans may be really happy after Thursday’s announcement.