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July 14, 2012
The Opening: Top overall performers
The Opening by NIKE was a three-day event that combined SPARQ testing, a mini-NIKE camp without pads, a Big Man Challenge in pads and a 7-on-7 tournament. Over the three days, there were players that were up and down and others that were very consistent. Rivals.com National Analyst Mike Farrell bravely puts his top 10 most impressive players from the event in order led by tight end O.J. Howard from Alabama.
Note: This is a combination of testing, drills and actual live competition and is for this camp setting only, this is just one of many factors used for when we re-do our rankings in August.
1. TE O.J. Howard, Autauga (Ala.) Academy: Howard measured in at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds and ran a 4.49-second 40-yard dash and backed that impressive size/speed combination on the field as well. He was a dominate force in 7-on-7 play and during the one-on-ones he threw around a few safeties with ease.
2. LB Jaylon Smith, Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers: Smith checked in at 6-foot-3 and 212 pounds and ran a respectable 4.59-second 40-yard dash and put up a solid 4.41-second shuttle. Combine those numbers with his amazing ability to cover running backs, tight ends and even wide receivers in one-on-ones and 7-on play as well as his constant energy and he certainly lived up to his lofty ranking heading into the event.
3. RB Ryan Green, St. Petersburg (Fla.) Catholic: Green checked in at a sturdy 5-foot-10 and 187 pounds and ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash with a 3.91-second shuttle. He was also impossible to check in one-on-ones and he was a key target for his team in the flat and downfield in 7-on play. He was the most dangerous running back at the event.
4. LB Matthew Thomas, Miami (Fla.) Booker T Washington: Thomas is a bit light at 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds but he posted a solid 4.59-second 40-yard dash, a 4.27-second shuttle and he was all over the field in 7-on play making multiple interceptions. He, like Smith, is so long and angular that it's hard to get the ball over him and he's very good at closing down passing lanes with good depth in his drops.
5. CB Kendall Fuller, Olney (Md.) Good Counsel: Fuller's testing numbers aren't online but it was reported he ran a 4.59-second 40-yard dash, a little slower than he'd like. However, that's still faster than many of the other cornerbacks at the event and he was his usual self in drills and one-on-ones. In 7-on play he essentially shut down half the field as teams went the opposite way until Max Browne made the mistake of testing him and got picked in the title game. He's not the biggest or fastest cornerback, but he's the most instinctual and smoothest.
6. DT A'Shawn Robinson, Fort Worth (Texas) Arlington Heights: Robinson is the only defensive lineman to make this list because he was consistently physical, went hard all three days and he took on the best interior linemen over and over again. When he is on and keeps his pad level low and uses his hands, he can look incredible. His ceiling is sky high and he's a solid effort guy. At 6-foot-5 and a solid 304 pounds, he posted a solid 28.4-inch vertical which showed some of his exposition and his 4.62-second shuttle was also impressive for a big man.
7. CB Jalen Ramsey, Nashville (Tenn.) Brentwood Academy: Ramsey checked in at 6-foot and 190 pounds and ran a solid 4.54-second 40-yard dash with a good 4.22-second shuttle time. He also had the third best vertical of all the competitors with a 39.8. In drills and one-on-ones he was excellent as expected and he made some big plays in 7-on as well. Foolishly, some quarterbacks kept going his way and learned the hard way.
8. OL Ira Denson, Madison (Fla.): Denson is a load at 6-foot-4 and 317 pounds and while his testing wasn't great, his on field demeanor was awesome. He's an angry, nasty offensive guard who manhandled everyone he faced at least once including Robinson who got him back later. The battle between Robinson and Denson, the only offensive lineman to make this list, was a memorable one and Denson showed he belongs in the conversation with some others as a top 5 offensive guard in the country.
9. WR Laquon Treadwell, Crete (Ill.) Crete Monee: Like Fuller, finding Treadwell's testing numbers is hard to do but it wasn't hard to find him on the field when he was targeted. He made some of the best circus catches you'll see and showed amazing balance and body control along the sideline. He has big hands and can come down with the football in traffic and it was a shame his team got eliminated early and we didn't get to see more of him.
10. LB Mike Mitchell, Plano (Texas) Prestonwood Christian Academy: Mitchell didn't make our list of the top three linebackers when it came to on field play, but you can't ignore his testing numbers and he wasn't far off the others when it came to covering the field. He ran a 4.45-second 40-yard dash, had a 40-inch vertical and showed quick twitch ability in one-on-ones, drills and in 7-on play.