The Biggest Takeaways from Tennessee's Recruits' Performance at The Opening

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The Biggest Takeaways from Tennessee's Recruits' Performance at The Opening
Credit: 247Sports
Fresh, new Tennessee commitment Kahlil McKenzie stole the show at The Opening.

It would be difficult to script a much better result from The Opening for the Tennessee Volunteers, who went into the event with two commitments and had three by the time everybody left Beaverton, Oregon.

That third—5-star defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie, who won the event's Defensive Lineman MVP award—is the crown jewel of Butch Jones' second recruiting class after committing to the Vols on ESPNU.

All three of the future Vols acquitted themselves admirably in the camp setting laid out to separate the best from a group of the top players across the country.

McKenzie's performance was one of The Opening's most buzz-worthy stories, and he cemented his status as one of the top overall players.

Fellow 5-star and UT commit Preston Williams was one of the best receivers at the event, and inside linebacker Cecil Cherry also had a surprising showing, drawing some rave reviews.

UT had many more targets participating who showed up—guys like Van Jefferson, Josh Sweat and Bryce Love. But their recruitment status is up in the air, so let's stick with the players who've vowed to be Vols.

Here are some of the biggest takeaways from The Opening for UT.

 

Kahlil McKenzie is a Destroyer of Worlds (Or, At Least, Offensive Linemen)

Credit: 247Sports

If you followed coverage of The Opening, chances are you heard McKenzie's name…a couple dozen times.

The Vols were the recipient of one of the biggest prizes—if not THE biggest—in this year's recruiting cycle Thursday night when the 6'4", 341-pound stopgap chose UT over Arizona, along with pretty much every major college football team in the nation.

McKenzie has grown up around the NFL (his dad, Reggie, is the Oakland Raiders general manager, and both he and Kahlil's uncle, Raleigh, played in the league), and he already looks like an NFL rookie.

He treated high school linemen like ragdolls the past few days as well, tossing them aside and surging into the backfield. While camps like The Opening are set up for more athletic players like defensive ends to excel, McKenzie's name was called as much as anybody's.

Barton Simmons, 247Sports director of scouting, noted after Wednesday's drills (subscription required):

No prospect brings the kind of punch at the point of attack that Kahlil McKenzie brings. Predictably, the offensive linemen dread going up against him. The massive wide-bodied tackle is a threat to put an offensive lineman on his back on every rep because of his power and initial punch.

Here are a couple of examples of his dominance, against Alabama commitment Richie Petitbon and one of the nation's top tackle prospects, Matthew Burrell.

Words like "freak" and "beast" were thrown around by B/R's Michael Felder describing McKenzie, and those were backed up by his SPARQ score.

Basically, everybody who watched him was wowed by his size, surge and freakish athleticism. He will be a force at UT for years to come and will play right away.

 

Preston Williams Has His Work Cut Out To Remain Nation's Top Wide Receiver

Credit: 247Sports
UT wide receiver commit Preston Williams was excellent at The Opening, but was it enough to keep his hold on the No. 1 receiver spot in the rankings?

There is elite talent across the nation at wide receiver, and UT has a commitment from the nation's top-ranked target in Lovejoy, Georgia 5-star Preston Williams.

Well, he's the nation's top target for now, at least.

Williams did nothing to disappoint this week, measuring in at 6'4", 191 pounds and turning in some impressive plays. According to 247Sports' Jamie Oakes (subscription required), Williams was singled out as one of the top performers:

Hampton (Ga.) Lovejoy wide receiver Preston Williams faced constant double teams today and some times tripled. And he still produced. The five-star Tennessee commitment has more than impressed.

But others, such as Alabama commit Calvin Ridley and his one-handed catch in-stride and UT target Christian Kirk, also garnered high praise.

Barton Simmons of 247Sports (subscription required) said Ridley was the "best receiver on the field Tuesday." B/R's Felder said he believed Kirk was the best on the field on Wednesday.

Considering Williams set out to prove he's "the best," according to 247Sports' Luke Stampini, he has a difficult task.

Williams was excellent at The Opening, but others were, too.

With his combination of size, route-running and strong speed for his size, Williams may be the most complete receiver in the class.

Is he the best? He's considered that for now, but while he didn't do anything to harm that status at the event, a couple of others may have done enough to jump him in the rankings.

 

Cecil Cherry Packs an Impressive Punch

Credit: 247Sports

It's extremely difficult to cause a fumble in two-hand touch football, but that's exactly what 3-star inside linebacker and UT commit Cherry did this week to running back Mike Weber.

Here's the video:

Cherry measured at 6', 230 pounds and is an ideal candidate to battle Gavin Bryant and Kenny Bynum to replace A.J. Johnson in the middle of the Vols' defense next year.

The Lakeland, Florida product doesn't have the best lateral speed, but he can punish runners when he gets there.

Even though Cherry is one of the lowest-rated players invited to The Opening as a 247Sports Composite 3-star, he had a nice showing.

After the first day of action, Simmons (subscription required) named Cherry among the "best of the best" at his position. Said Simmons:

Tennessee commit Cecil Cherry is going to bring Volunteer fans plenty of highlight reel hits. Even in this camp setting, you can tell that the stocky linebacker is itching to stick his forehead on somebody’s chest.

There wasn't much chatter from Cherry afterward, but he did show some flashes. Cherry's hit on Weber also was noted as the "signature play" of the day from the group by Simmons.

 

All recruiting rankings and statistics courtesy of 247Sports Composite

Brad Shepard covers SEC football and is the Tennessee Lead Writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Brad on Twitter here:

@Brad_Shepard

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