College Football

The Opening 2014: Grading the Performance of the Top 10 Recruits

Tyler DonohueNational Recruiting AnalystJuly 11, 2014

The Opening 2014: Grading the Performance of the Top 10 Recruits

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    5-star DE Josh Sweat
    5-star DE Josh SweatCredit: 247Sports

    The Opening ended Thursday after three days of incredible action in Beaverton, Oregon. Top college football prospects from across the country flocked to the Nike World Headquarters for an event that annually features the finest athletes in America.

    SPARQ testing, one-on-one linemen showdowns and seven-on-seven matchups highlighted an action-packed week. Bleacher Report was live for all the action and dissected the efforts of The Opening's top 10 recruits, as rated by 247Sports' composite rankings.

    We handed out grades to each of the coveted playmakers based on how they performed against the very best of their peers.

10. DT Daylon Mack (Gladewater, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    Texas A&M commit Daylon Mack made All-State offensive linemen look like rag dolls on a routine basis in Beaverton. The 6'2", 310-pound prospect punished opponents with sheer strength off the snap, gaining the leverage to drive foes wherever he wanted.

    Mack, who tallied 97 tackles and six sacks last season, was particularly impressive when utilizing a bull-rush technique. He is extremely quick for his stature, flashing the fleet feet that make him an effective running back in high school.

    "I could see myself with the ball in my hands at Texas A&M," he said.

    Those are lofty ambitions, but Mack is athletic enough to make his dream a reality at the next level.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    Pad level is an area of improvement Mack should be able to address moving forward. He occasionally comes in too high, presenting a large target for offensive linemen.

    Enhancement here would enable him to split double-team blocking efforts in a more timely fashion and enhance his pass-rushing prowess.

     

    Grade: A-

9. LB Malik Jefferson (Mesquite, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    Malik Jefferson didn't wait long to verify the tremendous speed he exhibited on game tape throughout junior season, finished the 40-yard dash in 4.39 seconds. That performance was a sign of things to come for the 6'2", 225-pound linebacker.

    The Poteet High School star displayed elite closing speed in seven-on-seven action and covered the intermediate passing game quite well. We weren't able to see Jefferson take down any quarterbacks, but 19 sacks during the past two seasons provide an indication that his quickness also aids in the pursuit of passers.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    Jefferson, who remains uncommitted with Texas A&M, Texas and Alabama in the mix, must continue to develop his lateral footwork. There were times when his positioning against running backs wasn't ideal and he relied too much on speed instead of spacing.

    Advancement in this facet of the game will ensure Jefferson emerges as an every-down superstar linebacker at the next level.

     

    Grade: A

8. CB Kendall Sheffield (Missouri City, Texas)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    Kendall Sheffield, another uncommitted defender from the Lone Star State, held his own against several of the top receivers in America. He worked in and out of breaks with smooth hips and blanketed receivers with stride-for-stride coverage that few in this class can match.

    The 5'11", 180-pound cornerback broke up pass attempts with slippery technique that often seemed to take receivers by surprise. If Sheffield is in position to disrupt a downfield attempt, he closes space in a hurry to eliminate opponent chances.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    Sheffield, who attends Fort Ben Marshall High School, is a bit of a gambler at times and risks being burnt downfield with an aggressive pump-fake. Though he displays superior extension and range, his penchant for chasing plays could become a double-edged sword against taller receivers who can shrug off opponents who lack balance.

    It would be great to see Sheffield mix things up from a physical standpoint more often in order to keep receivers out of their comfort zone.

     

    Grade B-

7. S Derwin James (Auburndale, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    Longtime Florida State pledge Derwin James was rarely challenged during seven-on-seven action, but he consistently made his presence known whenever quarterbacks targeted him. The 6'2", 201-pound safety snatched multiple interceptions and returned a couple of them for touchdowns and got in the way of several other attempts.

    James looked very comfortable while covering the flat and seems to carry himself with the mentality of a linebacker. He featured a balanced skill set and the confidence to make an impact early at Florida State.

    "I like covering receivers downfield and getting interceptions, but I really like hitting too," James said.

    Though he couldn't lay the lumber at The Opening, he'll get a chance to do plenty of intimidating as a tackler in Tallahassee.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    James, a two-time visitor to Beaverton, looked better as the week progressed. There were times early during competition when receivers seemed to outwork him a bit before he locked things down Thursday.

    His awareness and anticipation on deep pass attempts could be better at times, so he isn't forced to make up ground in a hurry to halt downfield attempts. There aren't many concerns about his game, but improved back-end coverage would only make him a more complete prospect.

     

    Grade: A-

6. CB Iman Marshall (Long Beach, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    Long Beach Poly High School defensive back Iman Marshall lived up to the hype in Beaverton, giving receivers plenty to talk about throughout.

    "He's a special cornerback and really challenges you to play your best," 4-star pass-catcher Christian Kirk said.

    Marshall, who is uncommitted, has off-the-charts instincts in coverage and seems to see passing plays develop quicker than anyone else on defense. Few quarterbacks dared challenge him downfield, even with premier playmakers at their disposal.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    He drew a few pass interference penalties because his hands were all over guys at times. Marshall, who didn't allow a pass completion in league play last season, should now have an even better understanding of how to cover the country's best receivers.

    It's important for him to maintain that glue-like coverage without repeatedly crossing the line and drawing costly flags.

     

    Grade: B

5. OT Mitch Hyatt (Suwanee, Georgia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    There's so much to like about Mitch Hyatt's future at left tackle. The Clemson commit anchors himself with a strong lower-body base and uses his hands like a technician to keep defenders off balance.

    He shined in pass-blocking drills, displaying footwork far beyond his years. Few players at any position measured up to Hyatt's fundamentals.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    If Hyatt develops more of a mean streak in the trenches, look out. The 6'5.5", 271-pound prospect picks apart defensive linemen with precise hand placement and pad level, but more aggression and power in the run-blocking department would elevate his game to another level.

    Expect him to develop increased physicality as he continues to mature.

     

    Grade: B+

4. OT Martez Ivey (Apopka, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    The pieces are really coming together for offensive tackle Martez Ivey, who stated that Florida and Auburn are the two teams standing out right now. The 6'6", 270-pound standout has always been a physical freak, but now he's really starting to match superior athleticism with evolving fundamentals.

    Ivey held his own against the best pass-rushers in the country—a dynamic many were curious to see considering he plays in a run-heavy offensive scheme in high school. He repeatedly answered the bell and looked stout.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    With his upper-body mechanics looking vastly advanced since last season, footwork will be the detail for Ivey to iron out. He can improve on his slide step and become less reliant on an elite reach to cut off the edge.

    There is so much raw talent yet to be developed here, which should be a scary thought for future college foes.

     

    Grade: A+

3. QB Josh Rosen (Bellflower, California)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    From the start of Elite 11 action to the end of The Opening, you could probably count the number of wobbly passes Josh Rosen threw on just two hands. He tosses a special ball, zipping tight spirals of varying distances with consistency.

    His attentiveness to footwork is outstanding, and the mechanics are in place for him to contribute immediately in college. He committed to UCLA over Michigan this spring.

    "I want to be the guy getting snaps behind center with the Bruins on opening day next fall," Rosen said.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    The 6'4", 205-pound passer didn't light it up in seven-on-seven action as much as many anticipated. Part of the issue was getting on the same page as his targets, but there's room for Rosen to grow as he goes through his progressions.

    With an arm like his, there's no need to settle for anything but the best option downfield. He just needs to make sure he identifies it each and every time.

     

    Grade: A-

2. CB Kevin Toliver (Jacksonville, Florida)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    It's a pleasure to watch Kevin Toliver play cornerback. He is every bit of 6'2", 185 pounds and gives receivers fits off the snap. 

    Toliver is a physical specimen who simply outclassed several of the country's most coveted receiver prospects. He made several acrobatic plays, including a key interception Thursday late in seven-on-seven tournament play.

     

    Where He Can Improve

    The LSU pledge is already rather progressed in his development, but nobody is a polished product at this stage of their career. Toliver is able to lean on elite athleticism to make up for any mistakes at this level, but that won't always be the case in college.

    His pre-snap reads could improve, setting the stage for him to anticipate where the play is headed with more consistency. It would put him in position to pull down more picks.

     

    Grade: A

1. DE Josh Sweat (Chesapeake, Virginia)

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    Credit: 247Sports

    Highlights

    We're running out of superlatives to say about defensive end Josh Sweat, who drew plenty of comparisons to No. 1 NFL draft pick Jadeveon Clowney during the week. Despite dealing with a slight hip issue, he managed to run a 4.46 in the 40-yard dash and nearly won the SPARQ national championship.

    Did we mention he's 6'5", 240 pounds?

    Sweat overpowered and outmaneuvered offensive tackles throughout one-on-one work even though he wasn't fully healthy.

    "You have to be perfect against Sweat," 5-star offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt said. "Otherwise you're done."

     

    Where He Can Improve

    The thought of Sweat making major strides is hard to comprehend, but he will. The main focus for him will be to continue building muscle and adding solid weight as he prepares for the college game.

    Additional power will serve him well in run coverage.

     

    Grade: A+

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