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Monday, June 30, 2014
The Opening: Five with the most to gain

By Gerry Hamilton


The Opening presented by Nike Football will take place July 7-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Oregon, with 162 of the nation's top high school football prospects set to compete. With four days of dynamic training, coaching and competition among the best of the best, The Opening is the perfect chance for recruits in the Class of 2015 to make big jumps and shine on the national stage.

Here are five prospects with the most to gain at the prestigious event:

Josh Sweat
Already the nation's No. 1 DE and No. 4 overall prospect, Josh Sweat could rise even higher with a strong showing at The Opening.
DE Josh Sweat
ESPN 300: No. 4
Schools considering: Virginia Tech, Florida State, Georgia, Tennessee and others

So how does the No. 4-ranked prospect in the country make the list of the most to gain? Simple: The top spot in the class remains in play, with defensive tackle Trenton Thompson currently holding down No. 1. Sweat hasn’t been seen on the camp circuit and nationally as much as many other prospects in the class, which means the special athlete with 4.59 speed in the 40 and a 4.09 shuttle -- at 6-foot-5 and 229 pounds -- has the chance to shine in an event with shoulder pads and helmet, going against some of the top offensive line prospects in the country. With an impressive showing, the Under Armour All-America Game selection could make his case for the top spot.

DE Terry Beckner Jr.
ESPN 300: No. 6
Schools considering: Missouri, USC, LSU, Ohio State and others

Like Sweat, Beckner hasn't been seen competing as much against other prospects in the class. This will be the first big stage nationally for the five-star defensive lineman. At 6-4 and 290 pounds, with elite athleticism for his size, Beckner has long been considered one of the top prospects nationally in the 2015 class. With the chance to go one-on-one with many of the nation’s top offensive line prospects, the East Saint Louis (Ill.) star has the chance to chase down Thompson and others and make a claim for the No. 1 spot in the class.

QB Sam Darnold
ESPN 300: No. 89
Schools considering: Northwestern, Oregon, Duke, Utah, Wake Forest and USC

In June, Darnold made a huge jump from outside the ESPN 300 to No. 89. The reason for his meteoric rise was an impressive spring following a junior season that was mostly lost to a fractured foot suffered in the third game of the season. Now healthy, the 6-4, 210-pound Darnold heads to Portland with the chance to continue his rise at the Elite 11 and The Opening. If he has a strong week against the best of the best, the pocket passer with functional athleticism and quick feet could position himself to again rise in the rankings. An impressive week would also leave little doubt that he is the top uncommitted signal-caller in the country.

CB Donte Jackson
ESPN 300: No. 283
Schools considering: LSU, Georgia, Oregon, Texas A&M and others

On autumn Friday nights for Riverdale High in Louisiana, Jackson is a jack of all trades, lining up all over the field. The playmaker with 10.42 100-meter speed will work at cornerback at The Opening, and this is the perfect setting for a prospect to make big gains by showing off a skill set at a projected position that won’t show up during the high school season. If Jackson flashes corner skills and stands toe-to-toe with many of the best receivers in the class, the Bayou State prospect would stand to make another jump in the ESPN 300. Jackson is also one to watch in the testing portion of The Opening to see if he backs up his sensational times on the track in the spring.

OT Matt Burrell Jr.
ESPN 300: No. 43
Schools considering: Ohio State, Penn State, Alabama, Clemson and others

Burrell was a big mover in the June ESPN 300 update, jumping from No. 67 to 43. After an impressive showing at the Nike NFTC in Washington, D.C., working at left guard, the No. 4-ranked offensive tackle in the class heads to Oregon with the chance to continue his climb. If Burrell works at guard again with the same results in a shoulder pad event, the 6-4, 305-pound versatile prospect could challenge for the No. 1 guard spot overall, which is currently held by Jalin Barnett. If Burrell works at tackle and puts together a strong performance, No. 3 tackle Chuma Edoga is within sight -- and will also be at The Opening.