Nike’s upcoming “The Opening” event will give many of the top prospects in the 2015 recruiting class the opportunity to prove themselves in position-specific drills, 7-on-7 competition and workouts.
The much-anticipated SPARQ Combine phase of the event will give players the chance to show off their speed, strength, agility and overall explosiveness in drills such as the 40-yard dash, 20-yard shuttle, power ball toss and vertical leap.
With so many elite athletes competing, it will be exciting to see who follows in the footsteps of Speedy Noil and becomes this year’s SPARQ National Champion.
Plenty of players should put up eye-popping scores, but here’s a look at the freak athletes who will really shine in workouts.
RB Taj Griffin, McEachern (Powder Springs, Georgia)
At 5’10’’, 175-pounds, Griffin certainly isn’t the biggest back in the 2015 class. But few other high school football players in the country possess the type of game-breaking speed and explosiveness that the Oregon commit does.
The 4-star RB, who rushed for over 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns as a junior, showed off his super fast wheels back in March at the Atlanta SPARQ Combine. He ran a blazing 4.41 40-yard dash and 4.35 shuttle, recorded an incredible 46-inch vertical leap and totaled a 124.29 SPARQ rating, which was the best score at the Atlanta event and the 13th best score in the entire nation.
Griffin should put up some of the fastest times of any player in the 40-yard dash and shuttle.
DE Josh Sweat, Oscar Smith (Chesapeake, Virginia)
The 2015 class of defensive ends is loaded with plenty of outstanding blue-chip prospects. However, Josh Sweat is the player that stands out from the crowd as this year’s premier edge-rushing prospect.
Though Sweat hasn’t received the same level of hype and publicity as Jadeveon Clowney did during his recruitment, the 6’5’’, 230-pound All-American is capable of putting up awe-inspiring Clowney-esque workout numbers. He proved that when he put together an exceptional performance at the Charlotte SPARQ Combine back in February. Sweat was the standout star of the event, clocking a sub 4.6 time in the 40-yard dash, a sub 4.1 time in the shuttle and totaling a 128.31 score, which was the best of any player in attendance.
The Virginia native, who is deciding between offers from schools such as Florida State, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee and Virginia Tech, is already considered by many to be the No. 1 defensive end in the 2015 class. If he puts together the type of sensational showing in Beaverton that he’s capable of, Sweat could solidify his status as the No. 1 overall recruit in the country.
WR George Campbell, East Lake (Tarpon Springs, Florida)
It’s rare for a junior to be invited to an exclusive event like “The Opening” but George Campbell just so happens to be a rare caliber of athlete. At last year’s event, Campbell definitely proved that he belonged there. He outperformed and outshined many of the seniors in attendance, blazing a 4.36 40-yard dash and totaling 115.56 combined SPARQ rating.
Since that performance a year ago, Campbell’s recruitment has hit overdrive. Schools such as Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Michigan and USC have all been chasing the 6’3’’, 185-pound speedster.
Campbell possesses unbelievable speed and athleticism for an athlete his size, which makes him one of the most coveted receiver recruits in the 2015 class.
RB Bryce Love, Wake Forest-Rolesville (Wake Forest, North Carolina)
Up to this point in the process, Bryce Love has seemed to be a bit overshadowed by some of the top RB recruits in the 2015 class. However, Love will finally have the chance to make some serious noise and garner the type of recognition his skills warrant at the The Opening.
The 5’9’’, 180-pound 4-star prospect has built up some serious momentum this offseason, following a tremendous showing at the Washington D.C. Nike Training Camp. Love earned RB MVP honors at the event after blazing a sub 4.4. 40-yard dash and totaling a 122.43 SPARQ rating, which was the best score of the event.
At The Opening, Love will have the opportunity to prove that he definitely belongs in the conversation with the other top-tier rushing recruits in the 2015 class.
WR Kirk Merritt, Destrehan (Destrehan, Louisiana)
Merritt was the absolute star of the New Orleans SPARQ Combine. He ranked first in the vertical jump test (45.8 inches), first in the power ball throw (43’) and fourth in the shuttle (4.10 seconds). The Louisiana native’s combined 138.84 total SPARQ rating wasn’t just the best score at the event, it was the second best score in the entire nation.
Following that fantastic performance, the 4-star receiver has begun to see his recruiting stock soar. Over the last few months, powerhouse programs such as Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, LSU and Oregon have all come calling with scholarship offers.
Merritt has established himself as a must-watch player at The Opening. If he can replicate the performance he had down in New Orleans, he has a chance to be one of the main stories of this year’s event.
DL Neville Gallimore, Canada Prep (St. Catharines, Ontario)
Since he hails from outside US borders, Canadian native Neville Gallimore hasn’t yet received the same level of attention as some of the other top defensive linemen in the 2015 class. However, that could soon be about to change if Gallimore puts on a show in Beaverton.
The 6’2’’, 310-pound DT, who is the first Canadian player to ever be invited to the The Opening, possesses a rare combination of size, power, agility and quick-twitch athleticism. He recently showed off his remarkable physical skills at the Columbus Nike Training Camp, where he earned rave reviews for his dominant performance.
According to Rivals, the 4-star DT reportedly runs a 4.72 40-yard dash, has a bench max of 365-pounds, a squat max of 505-pounds and has a vertical leap of 30 inches. If those numbers are accurate, Gallimore has a chance to be one of the true workout warriors at this year’s event.
CB Kendall Sheffield, Fort Bend Marshall (Missouri City, Texas)
Besides being considered one of the best overall prospects in the 2015 recruiting class, Kendall Sheffield has also gained a reputation as one of the top track stars in the state of Texas. Sheffield is a state champion in both the 110-meter hurdles (13.63 seconds) and the 300-meter hurdles (36.34 seconds).
He used that speed to wow onlookers at the Houston SPARQ Combine, where he clocked a 4.48 40-yard dash, a 4.09 shuttle time and totaled a 119.58 SPARQ rating, which was the second highest total at the event.
The 5-star CB should use his track speed to blow by the competition at The Opening.
CB Stephen Johnson, San Leandro (San Leandro, California)
Stephen Johnson isn’t just one of the most gifted natural athletes in the 2015 class, he’s also one of the most versatile players as well. Though Johnson has been a star quarterback throughout his football career, this summer, during his performances on the camp circuit, he’s proven to be a more than capable defensive back as well. That versatility has caught the attention of plenty of Pac-12 schools such as Arizona State, Cal, Oregon, Oregon State, Washington and UCLA.
Johnson is guaranteed to make headlines at The Opening, since he’s one of the players who has said that he will announce his collegiate commitment at the event. However, his performance in workouts is bound to cause quite a buzz as well.
The California native possess legitimate 4.4 speed. He also proved at the Oakland Nike Training Camp that he has the physical tools to excel in every test he competes in.
S Derwin James, Haines City (Haines City, Florida)
George Campbell isn’t the only two-time invitee who will be returning to the The Opening this year. Derwin James is another repeat visitor who will be back for another go-round as well.
At last year’s event, James proved that his invitation was warranted. He clocked a 4.52 40-yard dash, a 4.32 shuttle, a 38’ power ball throw and totaled a 108.57 combined SPARQ rating, which was one of the best totals of any DB in attendance.
The 6’2’’, 201-pound Florida State commit is already widely considered to be a 5-star recruit as well as the top safety prospect in the 2015 class, so it’s not as if James has much left to prove. Still, that shouldn’t stop him from cementing his blue-chip status with another fantastic performance in Beaverton.
ATH Tyler Phillips, North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Arkansas)
Though he’s certainly not the most renowned player that will be at this year’s event, Tyler Phillips is definitely one of the more intriguing prospects. A relative unknown and overlooked prospect coming into the offseason, Phillips opened eyes with his breakout performance at the Dallas SPARQ Combine.
The 6’1’’, 206-pound Arkansas native posted some truly extraordinary scores, including a 4-second flat shuttle run, a 42’ power ball throw and a 40.7’’ vertical jump. The result was a 141.36 total SPARQ rating, which was the best overall score in the country.
After earning an invitation to The Opening with his spectacular and surprising showing in Dallas, the lightly recruited 3-star prospect will now have a terrific opportunity to steal the spotlight from his more highly touted peers and make a name for himself at the marquee event.