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Sunday, March 9, 2014
Four earn Opening invites at L.A. NFTC

By Erik McKinney

REDONDO BEACH, Calif. -- Thirty athletes from the West region in the ESPN Junior 300 met at Redondo Union (Calif.) High School on Sunday morning for the first Nike Football Training Camp of the spring. With hundreds of recruits in attendance, it wasn't surprising that many of the top prospects coming into the event stood out.

Four ESPN 300 prospects eventually walked away with invitations to Nike's The Opening, an elite camp and 7-on-7 tournament held in early July at the Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. Notre Dame quarterback commit Blake Barnett (Corona, Calif./Santiago) already held an invite due to his performance at the Los Angeles Elite 11 event in early January. On Sunday, it was announced that Barnett will be joined at The Opening by fellow quarterback Josh Rosen (Bellflower, Calif./St. John Bosco), linebacker John Houston Jr. (Gardena, Calif./Serra), defensive end Keisean Lucier-South (Orange, Calif./Lutheran) and wide receiver Christian Kirk (Scottsdale, Ariz./Saguaro), who will be a two-time participant at the event.

Rosen steps up

Rosen, the No. 1 quarterback in the 2015 class, didn't work out at the Los Angeles Elite 11 event, and it was obvious that he wanted to showcase himself at the NFTC. He walked away from the event with an Opening invitation as well as the quarterback MVP award.

All eyes will continue to focus on Rosen over the next couple of weeks, as the 6-foot-4, 200-pound quarterback closes in on his announcement date, scheduled for March 20.

"That's the day that worked out with my parents," Rosen said. "It's the most convenient day."

The No. 16 overall recruit said he's known for a while now which school he'll commit to on that date, so there shouldn't be any stress or confusion heading into the decision.

While Rosen had Stanford in front by a wide margin at the beginning of the process, the Cardinal have yet to offer him. Meantime, Rosen gravitated toward Cal and then the two local schools -- UCLA and USC. But fellow ESPN 300 quarterback Ricky Town (Ventura, Calif./St. Bonaventure) committing to USC erased the Trojans as a potential landing spot for Rosen and he now appears destined for UCLA, which would continue a spirited rivalry between he and Town, as the two will also battle for a state title as seniors and the No. 1 quarterback spot in the ESPN 300.

Kirk stays open

Top-five lists attributed to No. 3 wide receiver Kirk have been making rounds on the Internet in recent days, but the dynamic playmaker said he hasn't narrowed down his recruitment yet.

"It's really been crazy and kind of tiring," Kirk said of the recruiting process recently. "The past four weeks, I've been out of town going to see some schools."

Kirk visited Ohio State, UCLA and USC recently and took an unofficial visit to Texas A&M last year.

"I was going to narrow down my list before spring ball, just so maybe some of the schools wouldn't come out to see my spring ball," he said. "But I think no matter what, they'll come out and make their push, so I think I'll do it before summer. That's when I'll tell some schools that I'm not as interested."

Kirk said he'd like to have a top five heading into his senior season and then take those five visits in the fall. As an early enrollee, the 5-10, 190-pound receiver won't have the luxury of taking his decision all the way to signing day. His status also means he'll likely need to trim potential summer visit plans as he focuses on the classes he needs to finish up this summer to maintain his standing as an early graduate.

While he still isn't sure what schools will comprise his final group, he has an idea of a few that will be in the running for it.

"Texas A&M will probably make it," he said. "UCLA and USC will probably make it. The schools I've visited will probably make it. But I wouldn't call that a top list. It's just probably some schools that could come down to the wire. It's still a fluid list."

Lucier-South eyeing trips

Defensive end Lucier-South had one of the best days of anybody at the camp on Sunday, as the No. 65 overall player walked away with an Opening invite and defensive line MVP honors. The 6-4, 200-pound end holds two dozen offers at this point and is in no hurry to limit his options.

"Right now I have no favorites or anything," Lucier-South said. "I'm talking to all the schools right now."

California's No. 9 overall prospect said he'd like to trim his list down to a more manageable 15 or so during the spring, then to five official visits during the season, and then announce his decision on signing day. This summer could be a busy one as well, as he has a long list of schools he'd like to visit.

"I'm probably going to USC in three weeks to talk to them," Lucier-South said. "And the schools I really want to look at are Michigan, LSU, Alabama, Tennessee, Notre Dame and those schools.

"Texas is in there, too. I want to go see the new coaching staff, like at USC. I want to get a good feel with them, because [former Texas coach] Mack Brown offered me and the new staff re-offered, but I want to start a new relationship with the new staff."

While Lucier-South is capable of playing tight end as well, he said all coaches have him pegged for the defensive side of the ball, either at defensive end or as an outside pass-rushing linebacker.