The Opening 2014: Predicting Landing Spots for the Top 10 Uncommitted Recruits
A staggeringly star-studded collection of college recruits will swarm to Beaverton, Oregon, this July for The Opening, Nike's annual showcase of elite competitors. The group features future foes and eventual teammates, though the collegiate statuses of several remain uncertain.
Many players will keep their options open as national signing day approaches, using official visit experiences and the 2014 season to determine decisions. We highlight 10 premier uncommitted prospects who are invited to The Opening, peeking ahead to predict where they'll wind up in 2015.
LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)
School: Poteet High School
Size: 6'2", 225 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 outside linebacker
Malik Jefferson, who tallied 188 tackles and 19 sacks during the past two seasons, is understandably a top target among Lone Star State contenders. Baylor, Texas and Texas A&M aim to keep him on his home turf at the next level.
Oklahoma is attempting to lure him north, while UCLA and Stanford present West Coast options. Ohio State and Alabama could add him to talent-laden linebacker groups, but earlier opportunities for playing time may be found elsewhere.
Predicted Destination: Texas A&M
Jefferson will follow fellow Texas 5-stars Daylon Mack (defensive tackle), Kyler Murray (quarterback) and DaMarkus Lodge (wide receiver) to College Station. He's taken notice of a class that commands national attention.
"It would be great to be a part of it," Jefferson told Taylor Hamm of 247Sports on June 19. "I'm happy for these guys but I'm not ready to make my decision yet. I hope everybody respects that."
When his assessment of nationwide options concludes, expect the Aggies to stand above the rest.
QB Deondre Francois (Orlando, Florida)
School: IMG Academy
Size: 6'1", 195 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 6 dual-threat quarterback
Few quarterbacks in the 2015 class can rival Deondre Francois' arm strength. He remains a work in progress, particularly in terms of accuracy, but he flashes incredible upside. The former Olympia High School standout recently trimmed his list of college options from six to three teams.
After eliminating Ohio State, Notre Dame and Tennessee, his finalists are Auburn, Oregon and Florida State. He spent two days at Auburn in mid-June, while upcoming visits to Oregon and Florida State loom large.
He is expected to announce a decision in late July.
Predicted Destination: Florida State
Six months after battling for a national title, the Seminoles will top Auburn again at the finish line of this frenzied recruitment. Florida State can offer an opportunity to compete for early playing time in an offense that currently features college football's premier star, while the Tigers already hold a stockpile of young passers.
"Auburn and Florida State—they're obviously two national teams," Francois told Keith Niebuhr of 247Sports (subscription required) on June 17. They played in the BCS National Championship. I can't go wrong with either one. Hopefully, I make the right decision."
WR Tyron Johnson (New Orleans, Louisiana)
School: Warren Easton High School
Size: 6'1", 191 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 3 wide receiver
LSU would love to land the latest dominant pass-catcher from New Orleans. Les Miles was able to secure 5-star receiver Malachi Dupre from the city on national signing day 2014 after fighting Florida State down to the wire.
Tyron Johnson, who racked up 1,300 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns as a junior, is also eyeing Florida and Texas A&M as SEC suitors. Texas Tech, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are strong Big 12 contenders, while Notre Dame extended an offer in May.
Predicted Destination: Texas Tech
Johnson confirmed that LSU, Texas A&M and Texas Tech would be listed on his upcoming top-five list during a recent conversation with Bud Elliott of SBNation.com. Among those three, Texas Tech gives him the best chance to shine early and often.
The Red Raiders offensive attack continues to generate excitement under the direction of head coach Kliff Kingsbury, and unlike LSU and Texas A&M, the team has a legitimate need for a pass target with No. 1 potential.
DT Trent Thompson (Albany, Georgia)
School: Westover High School
Size: 6'4", 292 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 defensive tackle
Trent Thompson has developed into one of the most dominant high school defensive linemen of this decade, securing 148 tackles and 17 sacks since 2012. Georgia has pushed hard for a commitment since his days as an underclassman but hasn't managed to seal the deal yet.
The Bulldogs hope to avoid viewing him as an opponent for years to come, especially given Thompson's visits to Auburn and Alabama. Clemson has claimed its share of Peach State prospects under head coach Dabo Swinney and now looks to swipe away the crown jewel of this Georgia class.
Thompson also took a trip to USC in late June, where former Bulldogs defensive line coach Chris Wilson now works in the same position.
Predicted Destination: Georgia
Thompson has spent substantial time surveying his options beyond state borders, but he'll end up in Athens after all. This recruitment has the potential to last all the way through signing day, so don't expect the Bulldogs to bag him soon.
His rapport with the Georgia coaching staff could make the difference, particularly the way head coach Mark Richt has relentlessly pursued Thompson since the early stages of the process.
RB Jacques Patrick (Orlando, Florida)
School: Timber Creek High School
Size: 6'1.5", 220 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 2 running back
Premier Florida programs are flocking to Jacques Patrick, who has 5,385 yards and 67 scores on the ground during his high school career. Florida, Florida State and Miami are in the hunt.
Notre Dame, Michigan and Oregon are options elsewhere. Alabama will also be in the mix for an official visit.
Predicted Destination: Florida
After losing 5-star running back Dalvin Cook to Florida State during late stages of the 2014 recruiting cycle, the Gators will claim a key commitment. First-year offensive coordinator Kurt Roper has already assured Patrick that he'll play a pivotal role in the team's offensive scheme.
“I talked to Coach Roper a few times now,” Patrick told Andrew Spivey of GatorCountry.com. “He showed me some things that they are going to run and he showed me how I could fit into his offense. He broke it down to show me how there was a need for me at Florida.”
DT Kahlil McKenzie (Concord, California)
School: Clayton Valley Charter High School
Size: 6'4", 330 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 7 defensive tackle
Kahlil McKenzie simplified his recruitment in June by eliminating all options aside from Arizona and Tennessee. He drastically trimmed down a top 12 that featured USC, UCLA, Alabama, Oregon and Miami.
McKenzie, who secured 74 tackles and 12 sacks as a junior, is set to announce his decision on July 10 at The Opening.
Predicted Destination: Tennessee
It's tough to walk away from a legacy, which is what McKenzie would do if he commits to Arizona. His father, Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, and uncle both played for the Volunteers.
He admits his dad's past has played a role during the process.
"Of course Tennessee is his school, but he hasn’t been talking bad about the other schools or anything," McKenzie told Daniel Berk of the Arizona Daily Star. "He’ll just drop little hints like ‘orange is a nice color’ or something like that.”
It's a shade of orange he'll spend plenty of time wearing in the future.
OL Martez Ivey (Apopka, Florida)
School: Apopka High School
Size: 6'6", 270 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 offensive tackle
Martez Ivey is likely to compete in the SEC, but there's still plenty to sort out until the destination is determined. A manageable drive to Gainesville has given the Gators plenty of opportunities to spend time with the dominant lineman, though Florida State won't give up without making a push.
He visited Alabama and Auburn earlier this year, while South Carolina also remains a contender. Notre Dame issued an offer in January, but it's hard to imagine Ivey leaving the Southeast.
Predicted Destination: Florida
Alabama will get a long look, but Nick Saban has stockpiled an abundance of elite talent along the offensive line in recent years, so early playing time will be tough for Ivey to find in Tuscaloosa. Auburn already holds four commits along the line in this class.
Barring a coaching change, it will be difficult for any team to top the relationship Ivey has built with the Gators.
"I'm very open but I talk to Florida on a weekly basis," he told Chris Hays of the Orlando Sentinel this spring.
DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)
School: Oscar Smith High School
Size: 6'5", 237 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 weak-side defensive end
Josh Sweat is enjoying a busy June on the recruiting trail, with visits to Tennessee, Georgia and Ohio State. Meanwhile, Virginia Tech and Virginia are jockeying for position in the pursuit of the in-state star.
Florida State is also viewed as a strong ACC contender. Sweat, who tallied 94 tackles and 22 sacks last fall, holds more than 60 offers.
Predicted Destination: Georgia
Former Florida State defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has prospects fired up about possibilities on that side of the ball in Athens. He likely revealed a detailed vision of Sweat's role in the Bulldogs defense during a recent campus visit.
This projects as a lengthy recruiting race, but Georgia's talented defensive front will get a boost from Sweat. The option will look even more enticing if Trent Thompson commits beforehand.
CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, California)
School: Long Beach Poly High School
Size: 6'1", 190 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 2 cornerback
Iman Marshall is caught in the middle of another recruiting battle between USC and UCLA. However, opportunities are available far beyond Hollywood.
He picked up offers from Oklahoma and Texas in May. Michigan, Stanford and LSU are among other programs to watch with Marshall, who didn't surrender a single reception in league play last year.
Predicted Destination: USC
Marshall will join former high school teammate John "JuJu" Smith, a 5-star 2014 USC signee, and becomes the latest Southern California star to buy what Steve Sarkisian is selling.
He would create one of the most formidable young cornerback duos in the country with Adoree' Jackson. Marshall also expressed excitement about the university's new scholarship standard for revenue sports:
USC is now offering four year scholarships to all student athletes in lieu of one year renewable scholarships, #GAMECHANGER!— Biggie (@iman_marshall8) June 23, 2014
QB Torrance Gibson (Fort Lauderdale, Florida)
School: American Heritage High School
Size: 6'4", 200 pounds
247Sports Composite Ranking: No. 1 athlete
Torrance Gibson may be classified as an "athlete," but he'll enter college with a chance to prove he's a quarterback before any positional switch occurs. He trimmed his choices to seven teams this spring, with Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Oklahoma, Central Florida, Miami and Ohio State listed in order.
He made the most of spring break, visiting Oklahoma, LSU, Clemson, Auburn, Tennessee and Florida before narrowing things down. Gibson, who accounted for 29 touchdowns during a 2013 state title run, has returned to Auburn and Tennessee since then.
Predicted Destination: Tennessee
The Volunteers didn't take a quarterback during the 2014 cycle, and 2013 signee Riley Ferguson is leaving the program. Given the talent that head coach Butch Jones has assembled during his short tenure in Knoxville, the team may be a star quarterback away from competing for SEC titles in the near future.
Gibson will seize the challenge and join 3-star Texas quarterback Quinten Dormady in a class that needs two passers. If he proves himself as a quarterback at the next level, Gibson could end up orchestrating a dynamic offensive attack as an underclassman.