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July 11, 2012

Roundtable: Smith, Howard ready for next level

MORE: Full coverage of The Opening

The Rivals.com network had a team of its own in Oregon last weekend covering The Opening. Mike Farrell, Chris Nee, Adam Gorney and Jake Brown weigh in on topics in a roundtable format.

If you could name one guy you saw this weekend who you think could start for a BCS team right now, who would it be?

Jake Brown: Five-star outside linebacker Jaylon Smith was one of the most consistent performers all weekend and would start at a lot of places right now. Notre Dame has been seeking that kind of athleticism at its 'Dog' outside linebacker spot for a couple of years. If Smith could enroll now he would immediately be in the two-deep.

Mike Farrell: There are so many choices here, but I'll go with the obvious - tight end O.J. Howard. He is the rarest prospect at his position this year and will be a weapon right away in college. I think Jaylon Smith could also start right away and cornerbacks Kendall Fuller and Jalen Ramsey will push to start immediately as well.

Adam Gorney: My pick would be O.J. Howard. The 6-foot-6 tight end is a special player that hardly ever comes along and is almost certainly moving to five-star status in the next round of rankings. Howard is an incredible physical specimen who is difficult to not watch when he's on the field not only because he looks so incredible -- much more advanced than the typical high school tight end -- but because he makes so many plays.

Chris Nee: O.J. Howard is college-ready. He is a freak athlete with great height and size who is a threat at every level in the passing game. While he is considered a tight end, he can be flexed out as a big wide receiver at this stage and be a threat in the passing game in a variety of ways. He has the build to be an adequate blocker at the next level.

Who has the most upside of anyone you saw this weekend?

Jake Brown: This has to be Alabama tight end commit O.J. Howard. We're talking about a big, physical prospect that runs like a wide receiver. Watching Howard make a catch then run away from a defensive back for a touchdown was something to behold.

Mike Farrell: It could be linebacker Mike Mitchell. He reminds me of a smaller Brian Cushing coming out of high school. For a 6-4, 216-pound kid to run a sub 4.4 40, post a 4.25 shuttle and jump over 40 inches and seeing how quick twitch he is on the field, his upside is amazing. He is really raw and needs to learn a lot of the nuances of the linebacker position, but when he does he could be a star.

Adam Gorney: Holland Fisher already has all the physical tools to be a special player in college. He's big, strong, fast and has chiseled muscles all over his body. I say he has the biggest upside because he's still raw on the field and a little all over the place, but once he controls himself a little more and masters his position, he has everything else to make himself a special prospect.

Chris Nee: Defensive lineman Darius Latham could excel on either side of the ball. He has the size and length that makes him appealing as an offensive tackle. On defense, he is athletic enough to play defensive end but has the size and build to handle interior duties as well. When he reaches the college level and is physically developed further, it will be interesting to see what position he settles in at and just how good he can ultimately be.

Who was the biggest surprise in a good way?

Jake Brown: Torii Hunter Jr. walking away with MVP honors turned out to be a surprise. The three-star prospect has some nice offers but has been off the radar while focusing on baseball all spring. Now it seems his recruitment will pick up even more after his performance.

Mike Farrell: Memphis offensive tackle Christian Morris really surprised and impressed me quite a bit. He's big, long and moves his feet very well. He will likely commit to UCLA this week and he will be a steal for them.

Adam Gorney: The running backs as a group were very impressive, especially Ryan Green, Alvin Kamara and Taquan Mizzell. Usually in these settings, running backs are a little overlooked because 7-on-7 is not their strong suit, but all three made significant contributions to their team. They were all impressive during one-on-one drills and then what was most significant was that they all did a solid job in the pass game during 7-on-7. Rarely do running backs perform so well in 7-on-7 settings, but this was a sign that this group could be something special.

Chris Nee: Keanu Neal had a great showing at the event. He is a very physical safety who is essentially used as a linebacker by his high school squad. At The Opening, he was used as a traditional safety and showed great range making plays in space. He also did a great job of breaking on the ball and making a play on it. He showed that he has the ball skills and athleticism necessary to play the pass.

Who was the biggest surprise in a bad way?

Jake Brown: Probably just the quarterbacks in general. Shane Morris, Christian Hackenberg and Max Browne all had solid performances even with setbacks along the way. Brice Ramsey, Cooper Bateman and Tyrone Swoopes all really struggled at times. None of them lit it up consistently.

Mike Farrell: A couple of wide receivers disappointed me in a couple of different ways. After seeing Eldridge Massington on Friday, I finally thought his Atlanta performance at the Rivals100 Five Star Challenge was simply a fluke because he was outstanding. But when it came to 7-on-7 play, he had a couple of huge drops that cost his team and he wasn't able to get open consistently once again. California wide receiver Darrell Daniels looks like a million bucks, but he dropped a ton of passes as well. And of course I was surprised that Georgia defensive end Carl Lawson was sent home for bad behavior because he's always been such a nice kid to deal with and I still think he is. I think he just made a mistake.

Adam Gorney: Really, Carl Lawson and Reuben Foster were huge disappointments. Lawson was sent home for behavioral issues after the first day and Foster injured his hamstring during the 40-yard dash and decided to take an unofficial visit to Washington during the event. Both are five-star prospects and something more was expected from both during The Opening. Unfortunately it didn't happen and it was an issue over the weekend.

Chris Nee: Tyrone Swoopes' performance was pretty poor. He struggled a great deal at the event with regards to making reads down the field and making quick, smart decisions. He was regularly intercepted due to locking in on receivers and tipping off the defense. He is a great athlete, but the question of just how good of a quarterback he really is exists after his performance in Oregon.

What was the most memorable head-to-head matchup you saw?

Jake Brown: Anybody against A'Shawn Robinson. The Texas defensive tackle commit was a beast all weekend. At times it was easy to feel bad for the offensive lineman that drew the assignment of trying to check him. Robinson couldn't be stopped.

Mike Farrell: For me it was Laquon Treadwell making a great catch over Jourdan Lewis after Lewis was talking trash. Treadwell made a great grab right along the sidelines and lunged into the end zone and had some words for Lewis afterwards. It's interesting because they are good friends and both could end up at Michigan together and continue this rivalry in practice. Lewis is committed to Michigan already and Treadwell appears to be a Michigan lean.

Adam Gorney: Ira Denson vs. A'Shawn Robinson was a matchup maybe overlooked, but definitely was interesting to see. Denson, a four-star Florida State commit, had an outstanding weekend against pretty much every defensive lineman. He dominated Robinson, a Texas pledge, during the first rep but then Robinson came back and won the second rep. After, Robinson screamed and shouted far too much for winning just one rep, but it was definitely one of the more intriguing battles among the linemen.

Chris Nee: The battles between offensive guard Ira Denson and A'Shawn Robinson. On Sunday, Denson got the better of Robinson on their initial confrontation when the Texas commitment got to high off the snap and allowed Denson to get in on his body using his strength and leg drive to toss him. Robinson came right back and went after Denson, getting the upper-hand and the victory over the Florida State commitment on their second rep. Two competitive, fiery big men went after one another in a pair of heated battles.



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