CLIFTON, Va. — An impressive collection of high school football standouts gathered near the nation's capital Sunday, April 17, to participate in The Opening's Washington, D.C. regional showcase.
Prospects from Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia naturally played a paramount role throughout a competitive day at Centreville High School. Located at the intersection of ACC and Big Ten territory, there was no shortage of collegiate recruits in attendance.
From trench showdowns between lauded linemen to one-on-one matchups in passing drills, reps proved to separate elite talent from a crowded pack of players. Though only three athletes from an action-packed regional were selected to attend The Opening's national final, held this summer at Nike's world headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, others may ultimately be added to the roster as coaches continue to survey playmakers from a country-wide regional series.
"It means a lot because it proves all the hard work is worth it," Paschal told Bleacher Report afterward.
However, this group was hardly alone in providing noteworthy developments during the course of a busy event. Bleacher Report covered ground on two football fields Sunday, providing a glimpse of multiple compelling storylines.
Potential Package Deal for DeMatha Catholic Duo?
McFarland and Young followed in the footsteps of former DeMatha Catholic (Hyattsville, Maryland) teammate Shane Simmons, who secured a spot in The Opening's national final last year. The defensive end signed with Penn State this past winter, setting the stage for these juniors to emerge as top recruiting targets at the powerhouse program.
McFarland is rated No. 3 nationally among all-purpose backs in 247Sports' composite rankings, while Young lands at No. 4 on the list of weak-side defensive ends. Both players are considered top-tier 4-star talents and could certainly enter the 5-star echelon by the end of this cycle.
Neither is lacking for collegiate options, as they hold approximately 70 combined scholarship offers. Naturally, several schools have extended offers to both McFarland and Young, presenting opportunities for a continued relationship beyond DeMatha Catholic.
"I think it's a very realistic possibility", said Young, who tallied 27 tackles for loss and 19 sacks last season, according to Brandon Parker of the Washington Post. "That's my close friend; that's my brother. If we go to the same college, we'll turn up together."
New Maryland Terrapins head coach D.J. Durkin would undoubtedly love to make this pair a central piece of his first full recruiting cycle in College Park. They spent time on campus earlier this spring, but options beyond state borders loom large.
Ohio State and Alabama are among key contenders for Young, while McFarland has the Crimson Tide, Georgia and Miami on a lengthy list of favorites that still features more than 15 universities. If they decide to team up in college, we likely won't find out for a while, as each expect to take their respective decision-making process deep into next winter and perhaps all the way to national signing day.
ACC Battle Brewing for Dynamic D.C. Receiver
Local playmaker Sean Savoy turned plenty of heads throughout Sunday's passing drills, posing a substantial challenge for opposing defensive backs with above-average speed and route-running technique. The Wilson High School (Washington, D.C.) junior, who measured in at 5'10", 175 pounds, punctuated several efforts surging into the end zone with defenders a stride behind.
Savoy saw his recruitment rapidly expand earlier this year when three ACC squads extended offers in a 10-day span that culminated with a March 7 offer from Syracuse. That opportunity was preceded shortly beforehand by scholarships from Miami and Virginia Tech, bringing his total to eight universities.
"It was big," he said. "It's been a dream to have my choice of where I want to play college football and these schools showing interest actually makes that possible."
Miami and Temple both identify him as a potential defensive back, but the consensus among schools is that Savoy's future lies at receiver. Virginia Tech and Miami appear primed to remain contenders as things progress.
The Hurricanes, who also eye him on offense, will receive a visit from Savoy in June.
His explosiveness (a 4.45 40-yard dash, per 247Sports) and route precision present matchup issues inside.
"I can tear it up in the slot," Savoy said.
He caught 55 passes for 1,188 yards and 16 touchdowns last season, averaging more than 20 yards per reception.
Southern California QB Makes Cross-Country Impression
Quarterback Tyler Lytle (shown targeting Savoy in the video above) created his reputation as a coveted recruit with Anaheim's acclaimed Servite High School squad, but he stated a case for Elite 11 finals inclusion on the East Coast. The 6'5", 205-pound passer is enjoying a whirlwind stretch to begin spring, and it hasn't allowed for much rest.
Lytle visited Vanderbilt on Saturday, six weeks after receiving an offer from the Commodores. It was his first journey to Nashville, and he came away with a positive impression.
"It was a great experience, and I got to meet with [head coach Derek] Mason and [quarterbacks coach Gerry] Gdowski," he said. "They introduced me to a business professor there and showed me how much a Vanderbilt degree really means. The campus had a great family feel to it."
Lytle followed the Vanderbilt visit with a trip to The Opening regional, where he qualified for the final round of Elite 11 competition alongside five other D.C. competitors. No quarterbacks earned a invitation to national semifinals, set for the first weekend of June, but he could eventually earn a spot.
"The ball comes off his hand great, and he's a big kid, so that projects well at the next level," Elite 11 instructor Paul Troth said.
Lytle returned home to California late Sunday evening and has another crucial day scheduled to start his school week. He will throw in front of coaches from Indiana, Purdue and San Diego State on Monday.
His offer sheet now features 18 schools, including Arizona State, Illinois and Oregon State. Colorado is set to host him on campus April 30.
Canadian DB Continues to Cement Spot Among Elites
Ontario native Jonathan Sutherland is the latest prospect from Canada who has made a name for himself at an American school. He attends Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, and arrived at The Opening regional with a well-established reputation.
Rated No. 21 among safeties in 2017 composite rankings, Sutherland carries 20-plus scholarship offers. He didn't disappoint while working against and alongside many of the Mid-Atlantic's most impressive talents.
News of his success Sunday drew rave reviews from former No. 1 overall Canadian Football League draft pick Shomari Williams, who played at the University of Houston and now runs Top Prospects Canada camps. He's tracked Sutherland's football career for years and drew comparisons to a former Indianapolis Colts Pro Bowl performer at the position:
Since jumping into United States competition, Sutherland has seen college coaching staffs clamor for his commitment. An expansive list of offers now includes Michigan, Syracuse, North Carolina, Louisville and Wisconsin.
Prized Offensive Lineman Assessing New Staffs at Nearby Universities
Considered one of the East Coast's premier interior offensive linemen recruits, Johnny Jordan is now into double-digit totals when it comes to scholarship offers. The Gonzaga College High School (Washington, D.C.) junior added offers from new coaching staffs at Virginia and Maryland.
He sees promise in both situations and anticipates increased dialogues with those programs as things progress.
"Maryland is trying to totally lock down the 'DMV' (D.C., Maryland, Virginia) and establish their position in the area," Jordan said. "UVA brought in a brand-new staff from a different side of the country (head coach Bronco Mendenhall previously led BYU), so I'm interested to see what they do. They're really stressing that their methods are tried and true and will work in the ACC. I'm really interested to see what happens there."
Jordan, who also claims offers from Kentucky, Syracuse and North Carolina, primarily plays tackle in high school but anticipates a likely switch to center in college. His goal is to commit before or after his senior season, as he would prefer not to announce a choice during the fall while Gonzaga's games are of utmost importance.
Jordan's father attended Penn State, so a Nittany Lions offer would be highly appreciated in the household. He mentioned Boston College, Iowa and Wake Forest as other universities that pique his interest but haven't yet extended an offer at this stage.
'The Mailman' Delivers...Again
Stetson Bennett IV has become a familiar face for Elite 11 coaches during the 2016 camp series. The Pierce County High School (Georgia) junior competed with quarterbacks for a fourth time this year, following past appearances at regional events in Orlando, Miami and Atlanta.
"He has good demeanor, good velocity, good mechanics," Troth said. "Somebody has to take a shot on the kid because he can spin it."
Beyond his passing skills, Bennett's attire has drawn attention. He's worn a United States Postal Service hat to each event, earning a fitting nickname among peers.
"They call me 'The Mailman'," Bennett said. "It's kind of a trademark."
He admits his 6'0", 175-pound stature doesn't do much to attract immediate attention, but the cap has caught some eyeballs during Elite 11 action. Bennett actually allowed Florida Gators commit Jake Allen to briefly borrow the hat in March, as our Sanjay Kirpalani documented:
The hat, acquired from a hometown friend, doesn't have much sentimental value on its own. However, Bennett believes it's become a trend that will stick for the duration of his Elite 11 experience, and it's easy to imagine he'll hold onto it long after this upcoming football season ends.
The hat's spot in Elite 11 lore could still have room to grow.
He'll head to the Charlotte regional in North Carolina next weekend and wouldn't rule out the possibility of traveling to other events later this spring. Bennett, a two-year high school starter behind center, reports offers from Columbia, an Ivy League program, and Mercer, an in-state FCS squad.
His 2015 season featured 2,924 passing yards and 23 touchdown tosses, per MaxPreps.
After earning a spot in final Elite 11 drills for the second time in four attempts, Bennett hopes continued exposure will increase collegiate interest. In the meantime, he's become a steady competitor coaches continue to appreciate.
"It's always fun to see Mr. Postman out here competing," Troth said.