- Tom VanHaaren, ESPN Staff Writer
It's no surprise that tight end O.J. Howard (Prattville, Ala./Autauga Academy) performed well at The Opening. The No. 46 overall player in the country has the size and athleticism at 6-foot-6, 225 pounds to blow people away in that type of setting.
While he wasn't a finalist for the SPARQ National Championship, Howard instantly became a an integral part of his 7-on-7 team, the Land Sharks. He became a main target of Michigan quarterback commit Shane Morris (Warren, Mich./De La Salle) right from the get-go.
"Right away he made a great catch in the first game," Morris said. "From then on I knew he was the real deal, so I involved him a lot."
He and Morris seemed to build a connection early on, which can be difficult since the two had never played together. Morris has been around the block at quite a few camps and combines with some of the top prospects in the country and still believes that Howard is among the elite.
"He has great, soft hands, and he's great at high-pointing the ball," he said. "He's a great tight end and an even better kid."
Morris and Howard's team was a little up and down throughout the weekend, but had the No. 1 seed going into the final day of competition. The Land Sharks were eventually eliminated from the tournament, but he had already shown enough to impress everyone on hand, including the ESPN scouts.
Howard made The Opening 7-on-7 all-tournament team, as did Michigan TE commit Jake Butt. Another Alabama commit, Cooper Bateman, was the all-tourney QB. Wolverines CB commit Jourdan Lewis also earned all-tourney honors.