The Opening 2017: Each Top 25 Team's Most Important Target at Beaverton

David KenyonFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2017

The Opening 2017: Each Top 25 Team's Most Important Target at Beaverton

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    Micah Parsons
    Micah ParsonsCredit: Scout

    The annual gathering of top recruits at The Opening draws attention from all over the country, but every college football team will be closely watching a select group of players.

    And for a majority of the Top 25 teams in the nation, a key prospect will be participating in the showcase at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.

    Nothing is official until recruits sign a letter of intent, so it wouldn't be unfair to include committed players. However, we focused on prospects who currently aren't pledged to a school. Additionally, a recruit might be the No. 1 target for multiple teams.

    Bleacher Report's post-spring practice rankings served as the guide for the Top 25.

25. Kansas State

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    Kansas State typically leans on junior college prospects and 3-star recruits to fill a recruiting class. In fact, the program hasn't signed a Scout Top 300 recruit since 2013.

    That's the long way of saying to temper any excitement.

    Unlikely though a commitment may be, Bill Snyder and Co. have offers out to several players attending the showcase. Jalen Green, a 4-star cornerback from Texas, is the ultimate prize.

    The Wildcats must secure a visit from Greenor other 4-stars like defensive tackle Michael Thompson or wide receiver Josh Vannto have a chance at pulling off a surprise.

24. Boise State

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    Similar to K-State, Boise State has a couple offers extended to prospects who earned a spot at The Opening but aren't expected to pass up a power-conference opportunity.

    Aashari Crosswell, the No. 116 player in the country, would be the Broncos' highest-ranked commit since Dylan Sumner-Gardner (No. 96) in 2014. But they'd need to get Crosswell on campus to have a shot, and that doesn't appear likely.

    According to Greg Biggins of Scout, Crosswell said he will visit Nebraska, Oregon and Washington. That only leaves two official visits for someone with offers from Auburn, Georgia, Michigan, UCLA and USC, among many others. Boise State is facing an upward battle.

23. Texas

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    In-state 5-star cornerback Anthony Cook is high on Texas' board, but the surging program wants to land Brennan Eagles as a cornerstone of Tom Herman's offense in the future.

    A 6'3 ½", 214-pound target, Eagles should be one of the toughest covers at The Opening. He reeled in 55 passes for 1,069 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior in high school.

    Eagles is expected to announce his decision on July 17. It's safe to assume the three Longhorns pledges also attending the event will be talking to the 5-star wideout.

22. Florida

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    For the better part of a decade, Florida fans have endured consistent problems at quarterback. Although the impending competition between Malik Zaire and Feleipe Franks has eased the concern, the long-term outlook is still shaky.

    Justin Fields could change that.

    Considered the second-best quarterback and No. 5 overall player in the 2018 cycle, Fields recently backed off a pledge to Penn State. Soon after, he took an unofficial visit to Gainesville.

    The Gators will battle many top-tier programs for Fields' signature, but they're in a solid position early on.

21. TCU

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    As if D'Shawn Jamison wasn't worthy of the attention anyway, he's a teammate of 5-star corner Anthony Cook at Lamar High School in Houston. Neither player will be able to escape the spotlight.

    But TCU would like to steal most of their attentionparticularly because Tom Herman and Texas are targeting both talents. The Longhorns will likely "win the state," but Gary Patterson will attempt to stop them from dominating it.

    Jamison recently unveiled his top five schools, which included Texas, TCU, Oregon, Michigan and USC.

20. Oregon

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    For three straight years, Oregon's pass defense has finished the season ranked no higher than 111th in the country.

    Yikes.

    While new defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt works on changing that trend in 2017, the Ducks will be trying to add the country's No. 1 athlete in Talanoa Hufanga. He'll play defensive back at The Opening.

    Hufanga unofficially visited Eugene during the spring and listed Oregon in his top 10 at the beginning of June.

19. West Virginia

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    After striking out with Top 300 players in the 2017 cycle, West Virginia has a chance to keep a legacy player at home.

    Gary Stills notched 26 sacks for the Mountaineers from 1996-98 before hearing his name called in the 1999 NFL draft and spending 10 years in the pros. His son Dante is a 4-star defensive tackle.

    Ranked 17th at his position and 191st overall, the 6'4", 263-pound talent has trimmed his list to three schools. Florida and Oklahoma are also competing for Stills' signature.

18. Miami

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    Though the coaching staff is still pursuing 5-star defensive end Micah Parsons and 5-star corner Patrick Surtain Jr., Miami is really more of an afterthought in those recruitments.

    But if the 'Canes aren't leading the chase for cornerback Tyson Campbell, they're certainly near the front.

    According to Andrew Ivins of 247Sports, the 4-star said he plans to visit Clemson and Ohio State and may travel to Florida and Florida State. Miami has plenty of competition for the local product, but he'd solidify what is already a terrific haul of defensive backs.

17. Stanford

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    Amon-Ra St. Brown is the last of three heralded receivers in an excellent football family. Equanimeous St. Brown chose Notre Dame in 2015, and Osiris St. Brown picked Stanford in 2017.

    The Cardinal are hoping the Amon-Ra follows in Osiris' footsteps, though the youngest brother could just about go anywhere. He's received offers from Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC, among many others.

    Stanford is known for its run-heavy offense, but the receiving corps has typically lacked an elite weapon. The 5-star wideout could quickly become the unit's featured target.

16. South Florida

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    South Florida doesn't have many opportunities to snatch a Top 300 prospect, but 3-star defensive end Dennis Briggs Jr. is giving the program a hard look.

    Per Jacquie Franciulli of Scout, Briggs recently took an unofficial visit to Tampa and said USF coach Charlie Strong left a good impression.

    Would a breakout campaign with an American Athletic Conference title be enough to persuade Briggs to pick the Group of Five school?

15. Wisconsin

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    Since tight ends occupy key roles in Wisconsin's offense, it's no surprise its coaching staff is chasing 2018's premier recruit.

    Jeremy Ruckert, who is the No. 1 player at his position, has Ohio State, Michigan, Notre Dame and the Badgers atop the list, according to Brian Dohn of Scout. Ruckert also said he's tentatively planning to commit in July.

    Wisconsin is probably chasing Ohio State, but getting Ruckert on campus in March was an important step for the Badgers.

14. Louisville

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    Louisville isn't involved in many top-tier recruitments, so we're making an exception for Bobby Petrino's squad.

    Alontae Taylor, although he's committed to Tennessee, was a high-priority target for the Cardinals before giving the pledge. He visited Louisville last November and called the trip "absolutely amazing," per Jody Demling of Scout.

    Stealing the 4-star athlete from his in-state school will be a challenge, but Louisville will likely keep pressing for Taylor.

13. Georgia

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    Georgia has typically enjoyed success in the state, but the 2018 cycle is off to a disheartening start. Of the 14 committed Top 300 prospects, none are pledged to Georgia.

    Not only is Jamaree Salyer valued because he's a 5-star and the No. 1 guard prospect, he's one of the final available targets for the Bulldogs anyway. Kirby Smart and Co. certainly don't want to be shut out inside their own territory.

    Salyer, who has a couple of teammates in Athens, made an unofficial visit to campus for the spring game.

12. Penn State

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    Like Georgia, Penn State is trying to keep an elite prospect at home. The school even held a commitment from Micah Parsons, the No. 2 overall prospect in the class.

    But the 5-star has opened his recruitment, and the contenders appear to be Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Georgia, Miami, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State at this point.

    While he's been a regular unofficial visitor to University Park, Parsons' five official trips during the fall will likely shape his decision.

11. Auburn

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    Auburn could have anywhere from one to three years of Jarrett Stidham. Unless Sean White takes a redshirt, the incumbent starter only has two more seasons on the Plains.

    Consequent to Woody Barrett's transfer, Gus Malzahn now has a potential quarterback problem in the future. Fields would eliminate that issue in a hurry.

    Since backing off a pledge to Penn State, Fields has unofficially visited Georgia, Auburn, Florida State and Florida.

10. Michigan

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    Tyler Friday
    Tyler FridayCredit: Scout

    Michigan has established a pipeline in New Jersey, signing the No. 1 player in 2014, the state's two best prospects in 2016 and the No. 2 recruit in 2017.

    Jim Harbaugh wants to continue that success with Tyler Friday.

    A 6'3", 263-pound defensive end, the 4-star talent is a hot commodity for schools in the Midwest. Nebraska, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers are all squarely in the mix, so Michigan could bolster its roster while deterring Big Ten rivals from padding theirs.

9. Washington

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    Jack Lamb
    Jack LambCredit: Scout

    In just three years, Chris Petersen elevated Washington from a solid Pac-12 team to a championship contender. Now, the challenge is keeping the Huskies at that level.

    Jack Lamb could be an integral piece of that future, though Petersen and Co. must outlast four other power-conference programs. The outside linebacker's final five includes Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State and UCLA in addition to Washington.

    According to Greg Biggins of Scout, Lamb said he hopes to make a commitment during the summer.

8. Oklahoma

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    The Lincoln Riley era should annually feature high-powered offenses, but defense is what separates good from great in the Big 12.

    Oklahoma is working on bringing in Ronnie Perkins to bolster the unit, and so far, so good. The defensive end trimmed an extensive offer list to 12 schools, and the Sooners made the cut at No. 2.

    Carl Reed, Perkins' high school coach, told Sam Webb of Scout that distance won't be a factor in the 4-star's decision. Oklahoma must fend off schools like Michigan, Georgia, USC and Texasas well as Missouri and its in-state drawto land Perkins.

7. Oklahoma State

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    Oklahoma State has been a November contender a few times under Mike Gundy. The program might make the final leap into national prominence this season, but the primary challenge then becomes sustaining that success.

    Prospects like Jalen Green could play a significant role in the Cowboys being a 10-win team every year. Will the cornerback specifically be that player? Maybe not, but he's the caliber of recruit OSUwhich hasn't added a Top 100 talent since 2011needs to sign more often.

    The Pokes are among the final 13 schools Green is considering.

6. LSU

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    When a player of Patrick Surtain Jr.'s ability considers a school a leader at any time, it's a huge disappointment to miss on him.

    Such would be the case for LSU, which received that nod from the 5-star cornerback in late May, per Billy Embody of Scout. The country's No. 3 overall player said the Tigers held an advantage over Ohio State, Florida, Florida State and Clemson.

    A decision might not be in the immediate future, but Embody notes Surtain said he's thinking about committing during the season.

5. Clemson

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    Clemson already plucked quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the cycle's No. 1 prospect, from Georgia. Leaving the Peach State with Salyer on board would push the Tigers closer to a historic haul.

    But there's plenty of top-tier competition for him.

    The 5-star lineman has taken unofficial trips to Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and Stanford, and Salyer also said he'd like to visit Michigan, according to Josh Newkirk of Scout.

    Salyer's recruitment doesn't have an end in sight. And given his impressive offer list, there's little reason to rush a decision.

4. USC

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    After a relatively slow start to the 2018 cycle, a flurry of commitments rocketed USC from outside of the Top 25 to No. 6 nationally in just one week. That wasn't a surprise, since it was simply a matter of whennot ifmajor commitments would be finalized.

    Jalen Hall would definitely fit that description, too.

    A local 5-star wideout, Hall is considered the No. 2 player at his position and the No. 17 prospect overall. The Trojans will battle Pac-12 foes Stanford and UCLA for Hall's signature.

3. Ohio State

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    Only 95,000 more retweets until Jack Carman commits to Ohio State.

    In all seriousness, the offensive tackle is one of the highest-rated 4-stars in the country. And since he's listed as a 5-star by 247Sports, ESPN and Rivals, that coveted fifth star might be headed Carman's way during the fall.

    The Buckeyes added a pair of top-tier guards in the 2017 cycle, so flanking them with Carmanthe No. 4 tackle—and Max Wray (No. 7) only makes sense.

    According to Bill Greene of Scout, Carman said Clemson and Ohio State are in front and he plans to commit in December.

2. Florida State

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    Beyond "he's really good," there's a trend of why Fields is a high-value target for three Top 25 programs.

    Just like Florida and Auburn, Florida State has a potential depth issue looming at quarterback. Deondre Francois is the clear-cut starter as long as he's in Tallahassee, but the redshirt sophomore will be draft-eligible following the 2017 campaign.

    Then, who's up next?

    Now that Malik Henry has transferred, the 'Noles will be handing the reins to either J.J. Cosentino, Bailey Hockman or a 2018 signee. The favorable path to playing time might draw Fields to FSU.

1. Alabama

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    Sound the alarms! It's already late June and Alabama's recruiting class isn't ranked in the Top 25! Or 35! Or even 45!

    The molasses-like start probably means a string of commitments is coming soon for Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide. And while that potential whirlwind might not begin with Justyn Ross, Alabama would love to add the 5-star receiver during the stretch.

    Rated No. 15 nationally, the in-state product also has Auburn, Clemson, Florida and Florida State in his final five.


    All recruiting information via Scout. Stats from cfbstats.com or B/R research. Quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow Bleacher Report CFB Writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.