Top Big Ten Recruits to Watch at 2014 Nike 'The Opening'
Nike's "The Opening" brings together the nation's top prep stars as they prepare for their senior high school season. Over 160 players from across the country will gather this summer for workouts and games, and you can rest assured that every coach in the Big Ten will be keeping a keen eye on the performances this summer.
In the "good old days," the potential of college football prospects was known only to a select few. With reliance on game tapes, visits by scouts and word-of-mouth spread by high school coaches, recruiting was a closed system. Things have certainly changed.
The incessant need of today's college football fanbase to be informed about every detail is being filled by the media, and in turn, the media's job is made much easier with modern, glitzy prep camps like Nike's "The Opening."
While there are several great prospects with Big Ten schools on their list, we've chosen the top-five prospects you should be watching at "The Opening" right now at Nike's World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
Brian Lewerke, QB
We'll get underway with the No. 16 pro-style quarterback in the Class of 2015, according to 247Sports.com, 3-star Brian Lewerke.
In what might be a sign of Michigan State's increasing presence on the national radar, Mark Dantonio and his staff went all the way to Phoenix, Arizona to land Lewerke, who verbally committed to MSU back in April.
During his junior prep season in 2013, Lewerke threw for 33 touchdowns with just nine interceptions while amassing nearly 2,800 yards. His stock may continue to improve throughout 2014, and the Spartans may have found an early gem.
Matthew Burrell, OT
At 6'5" and 290 pounds, it's hard to imagine that this kid just finished his junior year in high school, but 4-star offensive tackle Matthew Burrell is just getting started when it comes to getting into college game shape.
This Woodbridge, Virginia native is 247Sports.com's No. 5 offensive tackle prospect in the nation, and there are a whole host of teams—both in the Big Ten and elsewhere—salivating over his potential. He has expressed interest in, and received offers from Ohio State and Penn State, as well as Alabama, Florida and Notre Dame. Michigan and Michigan State are also on the radar screen, although Columbus or State College are the most likely Big Ten destinations.
He's been dominating the opposing D-linemen in camps this summer, and it's becoming easy to see why he's receiving offers from pretty much everywhere. Although he'll have his choice of destination, don't be surprised if it comes down to Ohio State and Alabama when all is said and done.
George Campbell, WR
George Campbell is easily one of the best wide receivers in the Class of 2015. In fact, 247Sports.com has Campbell listed as the No. 2 wide receiver and No. 25 overall recruit among next season's prep seniors.
Hailing from Tarpon Springs, Florida, Campbell isn't all about speed. Don't get us wrong: This kid can fly with 4.36 times in the 40. But what makes this 5-star a real special prospect is his 6'3" frame with impressive wing-span that seems to snag everything out of the air.
Just how special is Campbell? He's now making his second appearance at The Opening—an incredibly rare feat for any player.
And just for good measure, Campbell contributed 29 tackles and eight sacks as a DB in his junior season for East Lake High School in 2013.
Both Michigan and Nebraska are in the running for Campbell, provided they can steal him away from his home state Gators, who are also battling several other SEC and ACC schools for this could-be superstar.
Damien Harris, RB
The nation's top running back prospect, according to 247Sports.com, is Damien Harris from Berea, Kentucky. With the run game playing a starring role in the Big Ten, perhaps more so than any other conference these days, it's not surprising that several Big Ten programs are fighting for the affections of young Mr. Harris.
Being from "SEC Country," landing Harris would be a major "get" for the Big Ten—and it looks as if it's getting more and more likely Harris will select a Big Ten program. Among 247Sports.com's "recruiting insiders," Ohio State is the clear favorite, but Michigan is still making an effort to land the 5-star—supplanting SEC powers like Alabama and Auburn.
Either Ohio State or Michigan would tout the signing of a 5-star SEC-footprint recruit, especially if it's the top running back prospect with 4.40 speed. With 2,621 rushing yards and an eye-popping 45 touchdowns in 2013, who wouldn't?
Justin Hilliard, LB
Last, but not least, we come to Justin Hilliard. A 5-star recruit from Cincinnati, Hilliard is the No. 2 outside linebacker prospect and top Ohio prospect in the Class of 2015, according to 247Sports.com. He's also the No. 21 overall prospect.
Oh year, he's also already verbally committed to Ohio State.
Hilliard will fight through the whistle on every single play, impress coaches with his tenacity and work ethic. He tackles any ball-carrier as if they had insulted his mother and sister in the same breath, and has some of the best anticipating abilities you'll find this year.
In seven games in 2013, Hilliard had five sacks and 80 tackles. He seems intent on making some sort of impact on every play, even if his pass-rushing skills might need a little spit and polish before he suits up for the Buckeyes.
Every Ohio State fan should be an instant fan of this kid. Let's just hope he fully understands the meaning of the word "commitment." Don't be shocked if other programs previously in the running for Hilliard's services—particularly Alabama and Arkansas—keep a back door open, just in case.
Still, it would take something extraordinary to pry Hilliard away from his home state Buckeyes. If and when he does set foot on campus as a student in 2015, you can expect him to be searching for that instant-impact status he's embraced throughout his high school career.
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