Grading Top Big Ten Recruits' Performances at The Opening 2014

David Luther@@davidrlutherFeatured ColumnistJuly 14, 2014

Grading Top Big Ten Recruits' Performances at The Opening 2014

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    Last week, we identified the top high school prospects at Nike's "The Opening" on whom the Big Ten had set its collective sights.  Now that the emerging premiere summer football camp for the nation's elite recruits is behind us, it's time to take a look back and see just how these recruits performed.

    We'll be grading these Big Ten prospects on an A-F grading scale.  No, we won't be grading on a curve, so there are no guarantees here.  Each player will be graded on the merits of his performance at "The Opening," and we're pretty tough in our grading.

    Although these members of the Class of 2015 are among the best players in the nation, suffice it to say that earning an "A" from us this early in the process means that the recruit is indeed living up to the hype and should perform—at a bare minimum—at or above his expected level come his collegiate years.

    Note: All recruit rankings and star levels are from, unless otherwise noted.


Brian Lewerke, QB

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    Michigan State commit Brian Lewerke competed in The Opening and Elite 11 this past week, and it probably helped his maturation process to have current MSU quarterback Connor Cook as a counselor at the camp.

    Lewerke's performances this past week were solid at worst.  He showed some signs of brilliance on short and mid-range passes, and if he can develop his arm strength and long-distance accuracy during his senior season, he could become the perfect replacement for Cook.

    Grade: B

Matthew Burrell, OT

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    There's little we can say about this impressive 4-star prospect that hasn't already been said.  Matthew Burrell confirmed for everyone that he is deserving of the accolades he's received thus far.  Top programs like Ohio State are clearly chasing him for a reason.

    Burrell would make an excellent addition to any offensive line, and although the soon-to-be high school senior showed that there are still some areas in which he can improve, he also showed early signs of being one of the most college-ready linemen in the nation. 

    Grade: B+

George Campbell, WR

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    Prior to The Opening, George Campbell had several Big Ten schools salivating over his receiving abilities. With an outstanding performance at The Opening, the excitement is growing.  Unfortunately, it now appears that Campbell is beginning to gravitate towards his homestate Florida Gators.

    Michigan might still have an outside shot at Campbell, but both Florida and Michigan are having some issues with success on the field.  While Campbell might help solve those problems, it's more likely Campbell will want to work hardest to repair the reputation of the Gators rather than travel to sometimes frigid Ann Arbor—1,200 miles from his friends and family.

    A lot can happen in the recruiting game between now and February, especially with Florida recruiter-in-chief Will Muschamp sitting on the hot seat this season.  Brady Hoke would be smart to keep the lines of communication open.

    Grade: B

Damien Harris, RB

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    If you were looking for a true running back standout at The Opening, look no further than Damien Harris,'s No. 1 running back prospect nationally. 

    Harris fell into the age-old trap of a young kid getting a little too excited with the recruiting process.  In the summer after his sophomore year in high school, Harris announced he would be attending the University of Michigan.  By the end of his junior season, Harris decommitted.

    Michigan is now locked in mortal combat over Harris with who else but Ohio State.  The Kentucky native has several SEC schools on his list for good measure, but we'll most likely see this this impressive rusher in the Big Ten.

    The most impressive part of Harris' performance this past week was him showcasing his catching abilities. He also didn't do a single thing to hurt his super-high stock when it comes to fulfilling his traditional running back role.  There wasn't anything overly spectacular, but...

    He was No. 1 going in, and he's No. 1 coming out.  What more do you want?

    Grade: A-

Justin Hilliard, LB

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    If you're an Ohio State fan, this should please you:

    Justin Hilliard going first in his LB drills at the NFTC - earns a "perfect" from coach Willie McGinest

    — Jeremy Birmingham (@Birm) July 8, 2014

    Hilliard, an Ohio State commit, did nothing short of wow the assembled coaches and media types at The Opening last week.

    The most exciting part about this 5-star top outside linebacker?  He has prototypical size and strength for a linebacker and looks college-ready—but he also possesses safety, speed and agility.  When he steps foot on the field in Columbus, he'll instantly become one of the Big Ten's best linebackers.

    Whether he's stuffing the run up the middle, rushing the quarterback around the edge or dropping back in pass coverage, Justin Hilliard will be an impressive force for the Buckeyes.

    Grade: A


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