10 College Football Recruits to Watch at 2013 Nike Event 'The Opening

Brian LeighFeatured ColumnistJune 21, 2013

10 College Football Recruits to Watch at 2013 Nike Event 'The Opening

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    Once every year, the nation's top high school football players—many of whom live in the Southeast, on the opposite corner of the country—make the trek to Oregon for Nike's showcase "The Opening."

    In total, 162 players have been invited, where they will be split into six teams. From there, they will participate in lineman drills, seven-on-seven games and SPARQ physical testing.

    It takes a lot to jump out at scouts in such a large event, but year after year, a couple of players put their skills on display in an unforgettable way.

    Here are the top 10 players to watch at 2013's version of The Opening.

QB David Cornwell, Alabama

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    More physically gifted than Greg McIlroy and A.J. McCarron before him, David Cornwell has the chance to be Alabama's best modern quarterback. And that's really saying something.

    Standing 6'5'' and weighing in at 230 pounds, Cornwell has an effortless throwing motion, launching the ball downfield—deep downfield—with a simple flick of the wrist. As you can see from the video above, he's also pretty mobile for a man of his size, more Ben Roethlisberger than Nick Foles.

    He might need to tune his repetitive accuracy under Nick Saban at Alabama, but the potential is there for Cornwell to become a legend in Tuscaloosa.

QB Keller Chryst, Undecided

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    Cornwell's competition atop the Class of 2014 quarterback rankings, Keller Chryst, will also be making the trek to Portland this July.

    Not fleet of foot like Cornwell, Chryst probably has the more advanced arm, getting velocity on the ball that's unrivaled in the rest of this class. He was considering Alabama, and still technically is, but its signing of Cornwell probably should take them out of the mix.

    The same might be said for USC, presumably Chryst's No. 2 school right now, who signed last year's top pro-style quarterback, Max Browne. All of this leaves Stanford—his hometown school—as the favorite to land Chryst, though Pittsburgh is an interesting dark horse.

RB Jalen Hurd, Tennessee

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    Jalen Hurd committed to Tennessee last March, choosing the Vols over, basically, his pick of the SEC litter.

    Hurd is a tall, stand-up-straight runner with long, bounding strides. Because of that length, his speed is almost deceptive on film, but don't let that fool you. He's more than fast enough to get by in the SEC.

    According to studentsports.com, Hurd ran for an average of 10.59 yards per carry as a junior, earning Class 5A All-State honors in Tennessee. At 6'3'', it's hard not to compare him to another former SEC great, Arkansas' Darren McFadden.

RB Dalvin Cook, Florida

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    Hurd won't be the only 5-star, SEC-bound running back at The Opening. Dalvin Cook, the future Florida Gator from Miami, will be joining him there.

    With a more traditional, low-to-the-ground running style than Hurd, Cook is able to use his strong legs and break a lot of tackles. He's quick in and out of cuts and has a second gear that makes him dangerous on the third level.

    Will Muschamp and Florida are in desperate need of playmakers after a dreadful offensive season in 2012. He'll have to wait a year before Cook is in Gainesville, but if his skills translate as they're projected to, this young running back will be well worth the wait.

WR Davonte 'Speedy' Noil, Undecided

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    It's easy to see why Noil is pegged "Tavon Auston 2.0," and even easier to see why he earned the moniker "Speedy." Check out the video above—specifically the play where he celebrates a touchdown on his own 33—and you'll understand all the hoopla.

    Capable of playing right away, for pretty much any program, the battle for Speedy looks like it's coming down to just LSU and Texas A&M. LSU has the obvious geographic advantage, its campus located just 30 minutes from Noil's high school, but Texas A&M has the sexy benefit of a high-powered offense.

    LSU has employed uber-fast players before, but offensive ineptness has kept them from realizing their full potential. So don't be surprised if Speedy pulls a "fast" one and heads to College Station.

SDE Da'Shawn Hand, Undecided

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    247 Sports' top-ranked recruit, Da'Shawn Hand is a rare blend of physical tools and polish. He understands speed and leverage a little too well for a man with his size-age combination, which will make him a terror to block, even as a freshman, when he heads to the next level.

    Capable of playing inside or kicking out to end, Hand will be a versatile pass-rushing weapon for whoever is lucky enough to land him. Think Fletcher Cox of the Philadelphia Eagles, but only 17 years old.

    He's got an eclectic group of favorites right now, ranging from his home state of Virginia (Virginia Tech) to SEC territory (Alabama and Florida) and the Big Ten (Michigan). Hand is a smart, funny kid, though (seriously, watch the video above), so he won't be tipping his hand until he right well feels like it.

DT Andrew Brown, Undecided

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    Unlike Hand, Andrew Brown's collegiate position is not up for debate; he's a defensive tackle through and through.

    Brown will be interesting to watch at The Opening, going up against some of the top offensive line prospects in the nation. He has dwarfed most of his competition in high school, so The Opening will be a good barometer of just how advanced he is at shedding blocks.

    In-state favorite Virginia has already landed one major defensive recruit in this class (more on that to come) and is exhausting heavy resources in its pursuit of Brown. If they land him, the Cavaliers will have a surprisingly good foundation to build around.

ILB Raekwon McMillan, Undecided

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    The nation's top linebacker prospect, per 247 Sports, Raekwon McMillan is advanced beyond his years in terms of instincts and football IQ. There's a part of his game that just feels innate, like he was born with the ability to burst into backfields, even if he doesn't necessarily possess a full repertoire of block-shedding moves.

    At least not yet.

    The sky is the limit for McMillan, whom B/R's Full Ride compares to Brandon Spikes of the New England Patriots (via Florida). Though he's favored to follow Spikes' footsteps and play for Urban Meyer—albeit at a different school—McMillan is still undeclared, also considering Alabama and Clemson, among other schools.

CB Tony Brown, Undecided

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    A tall, rangy, athletic cornerback prospect, Tony Brown will be the shutdown guy to watch at The Opening in Portland.

    Height is the attribute du jour for incoming cornerbacks, and Brown, at six feet even, has it aplenty. But he's also quick and nimble enough to match up against burners on the outside. That kind of balance gives him the makeup of a true No. 1 corner at the next level.

    LSU is the heavy favorite to land his services, which makes a lot of sense. He's built a lot like former Tiger and recent first-round pick Morris Claiborne. 

S Quin Blanding, Virginia

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    Already committed to play at Virginia, Quin Blanding is 247 Sports' top safety in 2014 and a highly advanced high school prospect.

    Renowned for his big-time ability to hit, Blanding's game actually extends much further than that. He is a student of the game who has picked up the nuances of his position, which should allow him much more versatility than his most frequent comparison, former USC safety Taylor Mays.

    Speaking with B/R's Andrew Kulha, Blanding compared himself to Ed Reed and Brian Dawkins, two of the most complete safeties in the history of professional football. It will take a lot of hard work to get there, but if Blanding is willing to put it in, that's exactly where his ceiling lies.