USC Trojans: Virginia Tech Hokies


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:

College coaches and recruits are always quick to proclaim their school as the best at developing certain positions. Whether it’s DBU or Linebacker U, recruits have a definite perception of which school stands out at their position.

Prospects from across the country were polled on which school has been the best at developing each position over the past 10 years. Did your school make the list?


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Position U: Running backs

June, 17, 2014
Jun 17
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Who really deserves to claim the title of "Running Back U" for the 2000s?

1. Arkansas (104 points)
In perhaps the biggest upset at any position, Arkansas can call itself “Running Back U” for the 2000s. Certainly Darren McFadden played the biggest role in the Razorbacks’ claim, but he got an assist from Felix Jones and Peyton Hillis. Those former backfield mates are among six Arkansas running backs who have been drafted since 2001, helping the Hogs barely edge Oklahoma for the top spot.

Award winners: McFadden, Walker (2006, 2007), Camp (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: McFadden (2006, 2007).
First-team all-conference: Fred Talley (2002), Cedric Cobbs (2003), Darren McFadden (2005, 2006, 2007).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jones (2008), McFadden (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cobbs (Round 4, 2004), Knile Davis (Round 3, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Hillis (Round 7, 2008), Kiero Small (Round 7, 2014).

2. Oklahoma (102 points)
When someone like Adrian Peterson has been on your campus, you have to start there when discussing Oklahoma running backs. But one of the main reasons the Sooners racked up such a considerable point total is the Big 12’s unusual practice of honoring fullbacks on its all-conference team. In addition to the Petersons and DeMarco Murrays, there are also several blocking backs included in the Sooners’ 12 all-conference running backs who made our list.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Peterson (2004).
First-team all-conference: Quentin Griffin (2002), Peterson (2004, 2005, 2006), J.D. Runnels (2005), Brody Eldridge (2007), DeMarco Murray (2008, 2010), Matt Clapp (2008), Trey Millard (2011, 2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Peterson (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Griffin (Round 4, 2003), Murray (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Runnels (Round 6, 2006), Patrick (Round 7, 2008), Trey Millard (Round 7, 2014).

3. Alabama (100 points)
Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams had better pick it up this season, or the Alabama train is going to roll to the top spot. The Crimson Tide once again has one of the nation’s most talented backfields with T.J. Yeldon and Derrick Henry set to join the likes of Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy as top point producers from Alabama.

Award winners: Ingram, Heisman (2009); Richardson, Walker (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Ingram (2009), Richardson (2011).
First-team all-conference: Kenneth Darby (2005), Ingram (2009), Richardson (2011), Lacy (2012), Yeldon (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Ingram (2011), Richardson (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Le’Ron McClain (Round 4, 2007), Glen Coffee (Round 3, 2009), Lacy (Round 2, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Ahmaad Galloway (Round 7, 2003), Darby (Round 7, 2007), Brad Smelley (Round 7, 2012).

4. Auburn (86 points)
Auburn hasn’t been as flashy as its in-state rival -- the Tigers don’t have a single award winner or consensus All-American in the 2000s -- but few schools have been as consistent at developing solid tailbacks. Perhaps the most memorable names are the stars from the undefeated 2004 team -- Ronnie Brown and Carnell “Cadillac” Williams -- but Rudi Johnson, Kenny Irons, Ben Tate and Tre Mason all made big impacts at Auburn, as well.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: None.
First-team all-conference: Johnson (2000), Williams (2003, 2004), Brown (2004), Irons (2005, 2006), Michael Dyer (2011), Mason (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Brown (2005), Williams (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Heath Evans (Round 3, 2001), Johnson (Round 4, 2001), Irons (Round 2, 2007), Tate (Round 2, 2010), Mason (Round 3, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jay Prosch (Round 6, 2014).

4. Wisconsin (86 points)
Montee Ball is Wisconsin’s only major award winner and consensus All-America tailback from the 2000s, but the Badgers have an impressive tradition of turning out 1,000-yard rushers. Among the program’s top producers from this era are 2001 first-round pick Michael Bennett, Brian Calhoun and Anthony Davis, among others. Ball posted huge yardage and touchdown totals in 2011 and 2012 -- which explains why he was a two-time All-American and won the 2012 Doak Walker Award -- but it’s the run of consistency at running back that makes Wisconsin a producer of top rushers.

Award winners: Ball, Walker (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Ball (2011, 2012).
First-team all-conference: Davis (2001), Calhoun (2005), P.J. Hill (2006), John Clay (2009), Ball (2011, 2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bennett (2001).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Calhoun (Round 3, 2006), Ball (Round 2, 2013), James White (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Davis (Round 7, 2005), Bradie Ewing (Round 5, 2012).

6. Oregon (82 points)
Although the Ducks have ranked among the nation’s top programs over the past half-decade, LaMichael James’ 2010 Doak Walker Award is the only major award that an Oregon player has won at any position in the 2000s. James is the Ducks’ top point producer out of the backfield in recent years, but they also won points with backs like Maurice Morris and Onterrio Smith before Chip Kelly’s rushing attack turned Oregon into the offensive juggernaut that we see today.

Award winners: James, Walker (2010).
Consensus All-Americans: James (2010), Kenjon Barner (2012).
First-team all-conference: Smith (2002), Jonathan Stewart (2007), James (2010, 2011), Barner (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: Stewart (2008).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Morris (Round 2, 2002), Smith (Round 4, 2003), LaMichael James (Round 2, 2012), De’Anthony Thomas (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Barner (Round 6, 2013).

7. USC (78 points)
Reggie Bush was actually a two-time All-American, but we aren’t factoring the 2004 nod he received because that was as an all-purpose player, not a running back. Nonetheless, Bush’s standout 2005 season was the main points driver as the Trojans cracked the top 10 largely because of the former No. 2 overall NFL pick’s accomplishments. It bears mentioning, however, that USC has already had eight running backs drafted in the 2000s.

Award winners: Bush, Heisman (2005), Camp (2005), Walker (2005).
Consensus All-Americans: Bush (2005).
First-team all-conference: Bush (2004, 2005).
NFL first-round draft picks: Bush (2006).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Justin Fargas (Round 3, 2003), LenDale White (Round 2, 2006), Joe McKnight (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Malaefou Mackenzie (Round 7, 2003), David Kirtman (Round 5, 2006), Allen Bradford (Round 6, 2011), Stanley Havili (Round 7, 2011).

8. Penn State (72 points)
Larry Johnson’s huge 2002 season accounts for much of Penn State’s point production -- he generated 52 points between winning three national awards, becoming a consensus All-American, winning first-team all-conference honors and getting drafted in the 2003 first round -- but the Nittany Lions have had five running backs drafted and Evan Royster also won all-conference honors in 2009.

Award winners: Johnson, Camp (2002), Maxwell (2002), Walker (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: Johnson (2002).
First-team all-conference: Johnson (2002), Royster (2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: Johnson (2003).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Omar Easy (Round 4, 2002), Michael Robinson (Round 4, 2006), Tony Hunt (Round 3, 2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Royster (Round 6, 2011).

9. Oklahoma State (70 points)
There’s nothing flashy about Oklahoma State’s point production here. No national awards, and just Kendall Hunter among its All-Americans. But the Cowboys have been outstanding at producing all-conference running backs, with Hunter (twice) and Tatum Bell ranking among their eight backs who made the coaches’ first team.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Hunter (2010.
First-team all-conference: Bell (2003), Dantrell Savage (2007), Hunter (2008, 2010), Keith Toston (2009), Bryant Ward (2009, 2010), Joseph Randle (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Bell (Round 2, 2004), Vernand Morency (Round 3, 2005), Hunter (Round 4, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Randle (Round 5, 2013).

10. California (66 points)
Considering how Cal shares a conference with splashy programs like Oregon and USC, perhaps it’s understandable that its success developing tailbacks might fly a bit under the radar. But just look at the Bears’ résumé, starting with Marshawn Lynch, Jahvid Best and J.J. Arrington. There have been some enormously productive tailbacks who got their start in Berkeley.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Arrington (2004).
First-team all-conference: Adimchinobe Echemandu (2003), Arrington (2004), Lynch (2006), Justin Forsett (2007), Best (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Lynch (2007), Best (2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Arrington (Round 2, 2005), Shane Vereen (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Echemandu (Round 7, 2004), Forsett (Round 7, 2008).

10. Virginia Tech (66 points)
Frank Beamer’s Hokies are another bunch who trotted out productive tailback after productive tailback. Virginia Tech hasn’t won a national award and has only Kevin Jones among its All-America backs, but its list of all-conference backs -- including first-round picks Jones and David Wilson, along with Lee Suggs, Brandon Orr and Ryan Williams -- features some players whose running abilities fit perfectly with Beamer’s winning formula in Blacksburg.

Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jones (2003).
First-team all-conference: Suggs (2000), Jones (2003), Orr (2006), Williams (2009), Wilson (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jones (2004), Wilson (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Suggs (Round 4, 2003), Williams (Round 2, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Jarrett Ferguson (Round 7, 2002), Cedric Humes (Round 7, 2006).

REST OF “RUNNING BACK U” RANKINGS
62 -- Boston College; 60 -- Michigan, Ohio State; 58 -- Stanford; 56 -- LSU, Miami; 52 -- Georgia Tech, Oregon State; 50 -- West Virginia; 48 -- BYU; 44 -- Arizona, Michigan State, Pittsburgh, TCU; 42 -- Texas; 40 -- Clemson, Iowa, Nebraska; 36 -- Kansas State, Rutgers; 32 -- Georgia, Minnesota; 28 -- Florida State, Louisville, Tennessee, UCLA; 26 -- Illinois, Maryland, Syracuse; 24 -- Virginia; 20 -- Colorado, North Carolina; 18 -- Baylor, Mississippi State, Wake Forest; 16 -- Florida, Northwestern, Washington, Washington State; 14 -- Ole Miss, South Carolina, Texas Tech; 12 -- Iowa State, Kentucky; 10 -- Kansas, N.C. State, Texas A&M; 8 -- Missouri, Utah; 6 -- Arizona State, Duke, Indiana, Notre Dame; 2 -- Vanderbilt

TE Izzo has three finalists already 

June, 27, 2013
6/27/13
1:15
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At least three teams are safe to make it through final cuts for tight end Ryan Izzo (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII).


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Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) came to Columbus, Ohio, over the weekend full of optimism and left with even more promise.

The fourth-ranked player in the nation and top-ranked defensive end, Hand was in town as part of the Columbus Nike Football Training Camp.

He left with an invitation to The Opening -- his second in as many years -- and even snuck in an unofficial visit to Ohio State the day before.


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Just as Ryan Izzo (Sparta, N.J./Pope John XXIII) was ready to trim his list to just a handful of schools, his world was turned upside down Wednesday -- twice.


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#BlueChipBattles: ESPN 150 release edition

April, 19, 2013
4/19/13
9:49
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Speedy Noil, Adoree Jackson, Da'Shawn HandStudent Sports, ESPN, ESPNSpeedy Noil, Adoree Jackson and Da'Shawn Hand are three of the most coveted recruits in the Class of 2014.
#BlueChipBattles Insider: RecruitingNation summoned its writers from around the country to outline the recruiting battles for the ESPN 150's top 10 prospects.

Plus, rank the battles in SportsNation.

#TopFBMixtapes: Athlete mixtapes are all the rage in this highlight-crazed era of sports. We reached out to our Twitter followers to find out which 2014 football stars had the best highlight reels on YouTube, then had our staff rank and comment on the top submissions.

Tom Luginbill writes Insider: After talking to many coaches across the country and hearing their frustrations, here are their five biggest complaints about homemade highlight videos.

Video: Teams that missed Too-Early Top 25

February, 11, 2013
2/11/13
11:24
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USC was ranked No. 25 in Mark Schlabach's initial Too-Early Top 25 preseason rankings but have been bumped out in the latest edition. Schlabach discusses the Trojans, Baylor Bears and Virginia Tech Hokies in this look at three teams who just missed the cut.

Wilton Speight impresses in workout 

February, 3, 2013
2/03/13
10:41
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After a personal workout, Wilton Speight could be days away from his first scholarship offer.


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videoSAN ANTONIO – ESPN 150 wide receiver James Quick (Louisville, Ky./Trinity) has drawn plenty of attention for his play through two practices for the East team in preparation for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

He’ll garner even more eyes his way on Saturday when he announces his commitment during the game.

[+] EnlargeJames Quick
Damon Sayles/ESPN.comESPN 150 WR James Quick is set to decide between Ohio State, Louisville and Oregon on Saturday.
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder said he is down to Louisville, Ohio State and Oregon. Though his decision will come Saturday, it could be finalized by Wednesday morning, as he sits down to discuss his options with his parents, who are in town for the event.

“I am basically going to ask them which coach they have the best relationship with,” Quick said. “There has to be a relationship with the head coach and family as well.”

When asked if there was a head coach among his finalists that was stood out to him the most, he said no. But Louisville coach Charlie Strong and his tendency of playing freshmen is intriguing to him and is one of the main reasons that Louisville is in the mix.

The sales pitch for all of them is pretty much the same: Join our program, and early playing time will likely be there.

“They are all basically saying that I am going to get early playing time. Some are saying that I am going to get the ball more than others,” he said. “It’s all about early playing time, really.”

Quick has taken official visits to Louisville and Ohio State. He wasn’t able to make it to Oregon for an unofficial visit but has the Ducks squarely in the mix because of his relationship with the coaching staff.

“I have built a good relationship with their coaches and the offense that they run. It’s up-tempo, which really excites a player of my caliber,” he said.

Newsmaker: Last week, offensive tackle Jake Campos (West Des Moines, Iowa/Valley) wasn’t expecting to play football over his break. On Tuesday, he was preparing for a nationally televised appearance in a U.S. Army All-American Bowl uniform.

Campos, a three-star Iowa State commit, was called Sunday afternoon as a replacement for injured lineman Chris Fox (Parker, Colo./Ponderosa). By 6 a.m. Monday, he was on a flight to San Antonio. At the end of Tuesday, he was fully taking on the responsibility of fending off stud defensive linemen such as Eddie Vanderdoes (Auburn, Calif./Placer), Justin Manning (Dallas/Kimball) and A’Shawn Robinson (Fort Worth, Texas/Arlington Heights).

“I was shocked at first, but then, I got really excited,” said Campos, a 6-7, 250-pound tackle who said he’s “110-percent committed” to Iowa State.

“It was so out of the blue, but it’s great to be here. At first, learning the plays was tough, but I got those down now. I’m just adjusting to right tackle. I was still working the kinks out, that’s all.”

Superlatives: The East defensive line really stepped up in afternoon practice during 11-on-11 action. Alabama defensive end commit Jonathan Allen (Ashburn, Va./Stone Bridge) was unstoppable. Virginia Tech defensive end commit Wyatt Teller (Bealeton, Va./Liberty) also stepped up his game from Monday, intercepting a pass in the morning session from Auburn-bound quarterback Jeremy Johnson (Montgomery, Ala./Carver) and playing even better in the afternoon. … The best hands on the West team may not be on a wide receiver. ESPN 150 tight end DeSean Smith (Lake Charles, La./Barbe) made some great catches on Monday, and he continued to shine on Tuesday. Smith an LSU commitment, is the No. 5 tight end in the country. … The catch of the day from the East goes to ESPN 300 athlete Tyler Boyd (Clairton, Pa./Clairton), who ripped a ball away from Florida defensive back commitment Nick Washington (Jacksonville, Fla./Trinity Christian). An uncommitted, four-star athlete, Boyd is expected to announce his college future on Saturday. … ESPN 150 running back Derrick Green (Richmond, Va./Hermitage) continued to be the best running back for the East. He shined in the early morning practice, with help from a very good offensive line.


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Class of 2014 ESPN Watch List defensive end Andrew Williams (McDonough, Ga./Eagles Landing Christian Academy) received a phone call from his high school coach Monday and immediately did a double-take.

Williams was offered by USC, and it was nothing short of surprising.

"It means a lot, it really does," the 6-foot-4, 231-pound Williams said. "I was really surprised. I didn't think USC recruited guys down here. I've been watching them a lot this year and I've been impressed. The tradition and the way they run their defense, I'm really interested."

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DE Greg Gilmore rates Florida visit an 11 

September, 24, 2012
9/24/12
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- ESPN 150 defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (Home Mills, N.C./South View) took an official visit to Florida this past weekend. The 6-foot-4, 285-pound four-star tackle said he enjoyed his trip to Gainesville.

"It was great man," Gilmore said. "I had a great time. It was a good game. The defensive front played well and that's really what I'm looking for is the defensive front. The whole defense, the whole offense, everybody played well.

"I talked to the coaches all the time I was there pretty much. They told me I would be a key essential to putting their defense together. They were saying they need more guys -- more guys that are good coming out of high school and more guys that need less development. I mean everyone needs development, but they are looking for guys that can play early."

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High-profile visitors head to Knoxville 

September, 12, 2012
9/12/12
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Tennessee will host several visitors for Saturday's game against Florida. Most will be unofficial visits. One of the headliners is clearly Derrick Green, the four-star tailback from Richmond (Va.) Hermitage High School, who'll be taking his first official visit.

Green is scheduled to visit Michigan in October. He has also said he'll visit Auburn and is considering Oregon, Ole Miss and Virginia Tech.

Here are some other prospects scheduled to be in Knoxville this weekend:

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It seems that every summer one under-the-radar prospect emerges and grabs the attention of college coaches and basketball analysts alike. This year it appears to be Kentan Facey.

The native of Jamaica, who came to the United States a couple of years ago, is 6-foot-8, 190 pounds and has a 7-1 wingspan. In 2011, he enrolled with Upper Room Christian in Long Island before transferring after the season to his new school, Long Island Lutheran. This time one year ago he was playing AAU basketball for the New Heights Program, but wasn't really a factor. He was trying acclimate to the culture. To say he was raw would be an understatement

Facey
Courtesy of Long Island Lutheran.Kentan Facey has seen his stock soar in the span of a year.
"When I came to the States I had no idea what to expect," Facey said. "The speed of the game was at another level. It was a huge adjustment. I had a hard time just catching the ball."

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High four-star athlete Stefon Diggs (Olney, Md./Good Counsel), ranked No. 13 in the ESPNU 150, stuck to his plan and did not sign Wednesday.

Diggs took official visits to California (Dec. 2), Auburn (Jan. 13), Florida (Jan. 20) and Ohio State (Jan. 27). Other programs including USC, Maryland, Virginia and Virginia Tech could still be in the mix.

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