Nike’s “The Opening” is the most anticipated offseason event on the college football recruiting calendar. Next week’s event will give many of the top blue-chip prospects from the 2015 class the chance to show off their skills against some of the best competition in the country.
“The Opening” is sure to produce plenty of headlines, whether it’s players dominating in workouts, wowing in 7-on-7 competition, or announcing their collegiate commitments.
Six players have said that they will announce their commitments at this year’s event.
Here are the predictions for which school each player will choose.
DT Kahlil McKenzie, Clayton Valley (Concord, California)
Prediction: Tennessee Volunteers
Back on June 3, McKenzie tweeted “Commitment date set July 10th!! #VolNation #BearDown” indicating that his final decision will come down to just two schools: Tennessee and Arizona. Though the Wildcats may still technically be in play, the Volunteers have to be considered the overwhelming favorite to land the massive 6’4’’, 330-pound 5-star recruit.
McKenzie’s father: Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie, is a former standout linebacker for the Vols. However, family ties isn’t the only factor that will likely lead to Kahlil choosing his dad’s alma mater.
Butch Jones has proven himself to be one of the hottest up-and-coming recruiters in college football. Jones has been busy assembling an extremely impressive 2015 class, which already includes commitments from 5-star WR Preston Williams, 4-star RB Alvin Kamara and 4-star OT Jack Jones.
McKenzie is surely impressed by the type of foundation for the future that Jones is setting up in Knoxville. He would likely love to be apart of helping to build the Volunteers back into SEC contenders.
ATH Stephen Johnson, San Leandro (San Leandro, California)
Prediction: Oregon Ducks
Though Johnson has been a star quarterback throughout his football career, it appears that many of the his suitors think his future at the collegiate level will be on the defensive side of the ball at cornerback. Johnson has said that “most of his offers have been to play defensive back.”
Oregon is one school that could utilize Johnson’s explosive speed and playmaking ability on the offensive side of the ball, though. The speedy 5’11’’, 180-pound 3-star prospect possesses the skill-set to develop into an outstanding slot receiver in Oregon’s spread offensive system.
Though he has offers from plenty of Pac-12 schools such as Arizona State, Cal, Oregon State, UCLA, Washington and Washington, the Ducks seem to be the best fit for Johnson.
The chance to show off his skills in a high-powered offense, coupled with the opportunity to play for a team that has won 12 games in each of the past three seasons will likely be too enticing for the California native to pass up.
CB Isaiah Langley, Foothill (Pleasanton, California)
Prediction: USC Trojans
Though Langley lives just 30 minutes from the Cal campus, Langley could decide to leave the Bay Area and play for a more proven Pac-12 contender. If he does decide to venture outside of the area, the only question is: which school would be the best fit for him: Arizona State, Oregon, UCLA or USC?
The 4-star CB hasn’t yet given any true indication as to where he’s leaning, but the Trojans appear to be a top contender.
With senior CB Josh Shaw set to move on to the NFL following this season, Langley knows that there will be the chance to compete for serious playing time early in his collegiate career if he chooses USC.
Steve Sarkisian has already picked up commitments from two heralded defenders from California: DT Jacob Daniel (Clovis North HS) and LB Cameron Smith (Granite Bay HS). Picking up a commitment from Langley would be another huge addition to the Trojans’ 2015 class.
CB Xavier Lewis, East Saint John (Laplace, Louisiana)
Prediction: LSU Tigers
LSU has already sewed up a commitment from the top DB prospect in the 2015 class: Trinity Christian CB Kevin Toliver II. The Tigers could soon be about to add another highly touted DB to the fold if Louisiana native Xavier Lewis chooses the Tigers.
Lewis, who decommitted from LSU back in February, has had the chance to explore his options and mull over offers from the likes of Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA. Ultimately, though, the Louisiana native will most likely make the decision to stay close to home and honor his original commitment.
If the 4-star cornerback’s goal is to one day make it to the NFL, LSU is the type of program that can certainly help prepare him for the pros. In recent years, the Tigers have produced plenty of outstanding defensive backs such as Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Eric Reid and Tyrann Mathieu.
LB Josh Smith, Oakland (Murfreesboro, Tennessee)
Prediction: Vanderbilt Commodores
Smith has narrowed his choices down to five schools: Kentucky, Ole Miss, Penn State, Purdue, Vanderbilt.
It would seem that Vanderbilt holds a distinct edge based on the fact that it’s a home-state school, and since Smith’s brother, Emmanuel, is an incoming freshman for the Commodores. However, the 4-star LB told the Shreveport Times that he won’t necessarily let his brother’s choice influence his own decision.
“I know my brother is there. He made his decision based on how he liked Vanderbilt. But I’m going to make my own decision. They don’t have a leg up because he is there. I’m going to make my own decision based on if its the right place for me”
The Tennessee native, who plans to major in biomechanical engineering, has stressed that getting a great education is important. Vanderbilt is the most esteemed academic institution on his list.
When you combine family ties, location, academics and the excitement that new head coach Derek Mason brings to the program, it’s easy to see that the Commodores are the right choice for Smith.
QB Ross Bowers, Bothell (Bothell, Washington)
Prediction: Cal Golden Bears
Though he may not be the most highly ranked quarterback in attendance at this year’s event, Ross Bowers will have the chance to cause a buzz at “The Opening” when he announces his college commitment.
Cal and Colorado State are the two finalists. Still, it looks like the Golden Bears—who recently offered the 3-star QB a scholarship this past weekend when he took an unofficial visit to the Berkeley campus—are the team to beat.
The 6’2’’, 195-pound pro-style passer may not possess the type of elite tools that some of the other highly touted quarterback prospects in the 2015 class. But Bowers is one of the most underrated passers in this year’s class.
He would be a solid fit for Sonny Dykes’ spread passing attack.
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