Top SEC Recruits to Watch at Nike's The Opening 2014
The annual recruiting extravaganza known as "The Opening" will hit Beaverton, Oregon this week, as the top prospects in the class of 2015 will show off their skills to coaches and television viewers on Nike's campus.
You'll see several of the nation's top football players considering SEC schools.
Which SEC recruits will steal the show at The Opening? Here are our top 10.
DT: Daylon Mack
Daylon Mack is already committed to Texas A&M, which will allow Aggie fans to get a small glimpse of the future this week when the 6'2", 310-pound defensive tackle from Gladewater (Texas) High School makes the trip out west.
A 5-star prospect, Mack is the kind of space-eater in the middle of the defensive line that Texas A&M absolutely needs to shore up its wildly inconsistent defense. His size makes him an important piece of the 2015 class for head coach Kevin Sumlin, but his athleticism will be what makes him a superstar. He will be a monster inside and demand attention but could shift outside in certain situations to stop the run.
Now if only he could play for the 2014 Aggies.
Why You Should Watch: He's the future at Texas A&M if his commitment sticks. If the Aggies finally get a competent defense to complement that offense, look out.
DE: Byron Cowart
At 6'4", 250 pounds, Byron Cowart from Seffner, Florida has established himself as one of the top strong-side defensive ends in the country.
The 5-star prospect from Armwood High School is a beast against the run, has a solid repertoire of moves and is quick off the edge, which makes him a very important piece of the recruiting puzzle for whichever team he commits to.
A heavy Florida lean according to 247Sports' Crystal Ball, Cowart is also considering Oregon, LSU and others.
Why You Should Watch: Big men shouldn't run as fast as Cowart. Watch the big man set the recruiting world on fire with his athleticism.
QB: Blake Barnett
Blake Barnett's commitment to Alabama came out of left field, as it seemed like the 6'4", 200-pound dual-threat signal-caller was leaning toward Oregon. But Crimson Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin's sales pitch was too much for the Corona, California native to turn down.
Just what kind of quarterback will the Crimson Tide be getting?
Barnett is a dual-threat quarterback who has pinpoint accuracy downfield, a strong arm and extends plays behind the line of scrimmage. He can run that traditional pro-style offense that Alabama typically employs but gives Kiffin the ability to get creative with him in the running game.
B/R's Tyler Donohue captured a shot of Barnett showing off his arm strength on Sunday:
Alabama commit Blake Barnett and Michigan commit Alex Malzone showing off their arm strength. https://t.co/HdlUzb2NMG— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 6, 2014
Why You Should Watch: Barnett will compete in the Elite 11 competition at The Opening and give Tide fans a glimpse of all that he will bring to T-Town.
DL: Malik Jefferson
Malik Jefferson has "superstar" written all over him.
The 6'2", 225-pound outside linebacker from Poteet High School in Mesquite, Texas is an athletic freak who will show off his speed, quickness and strength as prospects contend for the SPARQ National Championship.
A 5-star prospect, Jefferson is considering several SEC teams including Texas A&M and Alabama, as well as Texas, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Stanford and UCLA.
Why You Should Watch: Jefferson is the kind of player who can absolutely change the fortunes of a program. He has the athleticism that is required for outside linebackers in this day and age of exotic offenses, but also the strength to play right away.
CB: Kevin Toliver II
Kevin Toliver has been committed to LSU since 2012, but that doesn't make his appearance at The Opening any less intriguing.
The No. 3 overall prospect in the class of 2015 is tough at the line of scrimmage, can close with the best of them and can be put on an island from the moment he steps foot in Baton Rouge.
At 6'2", 185 pounds, some of the matchup problems bigger receivers in the SEC present won't exist when Toliver is lined up on the other side, which should play well at LSU—a program that routinely churns out top-tier cornerback talent.
Why You Should Watch: He's the No. 3 overall prospect for a reason—several of them, actually. He'll show you why.
CB: Kendall Sheffield
At 5'11" and 180 pounds with speed to burn, Kendall Sheffield has established himself as one of the top cornerback prospects in the class of 2015.
The 5-star prospect from Missouri City, Texas is considering offers from Texas A&M, Alabama, LSU, Baylor and Texas, among others. He will suit up for team Fly Rush in the seven-on-seven tournament in Beaverton and test his abilities against the best wide receivers in the nation.
He is a prototypical lockdown corner who will be a superstar wherever he goes.
Why You Should Watch: He could play at Texas A&M right away if he signs with the Aggies and be a contributor early on elsewhere.
CB: Iman Marshall
Iman Marshall may be a long shot to land in the SEC, but you never say never—as Lloyd Christmas found out in Dumb & Dumber.
Marshall, a 6'1", 190-pound lockdown corner from Long Beach Poly in California, has offers from all over the country including USC, Oregon, Notre Dame, LSU and Stanford.
He has tremendous instincts and recovery speed, which he'll show off during the seven-on-seven tournament for team Vapor Carbon.
Why You Should Watch: This guy has all the makings of a superstar, and even if he commits elsewhere, SEC schools will stay on him until national signing day.
QB: Deondre Francois
If you're looking for a quarterback who's going to fly up the recruiting rankings as the cycle comes to a close, look no further than IMG Academy's (Bradenton, Florida) Deondre Francois.
The 4-star prospect and No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the class of of 2015 impressed the masses in the first day in Beaverton, Oregon and could be in contention for the Elite 11 title if he keeps it up.
At 6'1", 195 pounds, he has a strong arm and is elusive on the ground, which will play well in offenses that can take advantage of his dual-threat capabilities.
Florida State, Ohio State and Notre Dame are in the mix, but keep an eye on Auburn becoming more of a player in this—especially if Torrance Gibson keeps leaning toward Tennessee.
Why You Should Watch: The one missing piece of his game was the touch on shorter passes, but if he proves he has fixed that he could be a star early in college football.
OL: Martez Ivey
One of the biggest uncommitted recruits in the country is Martez Ivey—quite literally.
The 6'6", 270-pound offensive lineman from Apopka (Florida) High School has all the makings of a superstar offensive lineman in the SEC.
The 5-star prospect has the quick first step to be an effective offensive tackle in passing situations and the strength in the running game to get downfield and drive-block in that multidimensional Auburn rushing attack.
Florida, Auburn and Alabama are all in the mix to secure his services, and he'll show off his repertoire for team Vapor Carbon in seven-on-seven.
Why You Should Watch: Ivey has the athleticism to grow into a force in the SEC. If he can get better in pass protection, he will be an All-American.
QB/ATH: Torrance Gibson
Torrance Gibson's recruitment has been a roller coaster—that won't change this week in Beaverton.
The No. 1 athlete in the country wasn't slated to compete in the Elite 11 finals as a quarterback, but according to B/R's Tyler Donohue he was a late addition to the field.
The 6'4", 200-pounder will show off his all-around athleticism, but keep an eye on him at quarterback. He's raw, but good enough to be recruited as a signal-caller by several SEC schools including Auburn, Tennessee and LSU. Wherever he goes, he will likely be given a shot at quarterback first before considering other options like wide receiver.
Why You Should Watch: If he shows that he's progressed as a passer and polished up his mechanics, it could further solidify him as a quarterback prospect rather than an athlete.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.com and all seven-on-seven team information is courtesy of StudentSports.com.