NCF Nation: Football Recruiting

NEW ORLEANS -- At 6-foot-7 and 314 pounds, Alabama defensive tackle commitment Raekwon Davis towered over the competition at Saturday's Opening Regional at Joe Brown Park in New Orleans. He also loomed large over his peers with his play. Davis, who is from Meridian (Mississippi) High School and ranks as the nation's No. 243 player, earned an invitation to The Opening finals, which will be held from July 5-10 at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. Davis took a little while to get going during drills, but by the time the one-on-ones arrived, he performed admirably, winning repetitions at defensive tackle, defensive end and even offensive tackle.
IMG Academy will play host to the loaded Southeast Regional 7-on-7 this weekend. Top 7-on-7 teams such as the South Florida Express, Florida Fire and Pro Impact will field teams that feature some of the top prospects in the region, including more than two dozen ESPN Junior 300 prospects. Here are five things to watch headed into the weekend.

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NEW ORLEANS -- Many said the absolutely loaded 2014 recruiting class in Louisiana would never be matched. Somebody forgot to tell that to the players in 2016 class. The Bayou State is again stacked, and many of those national recruits will be on display at Saturday’s Nike Opening regional at Joe Brown Park. More than 20 players ranked in the ESPN Junior 300 will be in attendance, including nine of the top 20 players in Louisiana.

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CommitCast: No. 54 Rahshaun Smith replay

March, 26, 2015
Mar 26
8:30
AM ET

OLB Rahshaun Smith, No. 54 in the ESPN Junior 300, announced his commitment to Clemson. Watch the replay and hear why he chose the Tigers.

Dominating Florida is always critical for Florida State, but another secret to the Seminoles' success is doing well in Virginia, and highly-coveted corner Levonta Taylor could be the Noles' next big get from the state.

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BUFORD, Ga. -- There is an ongoing argument among fans from the states of California, Florida and Texas about which state produces the best football talent. For years it was a two-state race between California and Texas due to shear numbers of prospects that signed with Division I universities on an annual basis. In recent years, Florida has been much more in the conversation and is now arguably the most talented state when factoring in FBS signees, Power 5 signees and NFL draft choices vs. California and Texas who have a much higher population.
[+] EnlargeTrenton Thompson
Radi Nabulsi/ESPNGeorgia signee Trenton Thompson was the Peach State's top prospect in the 2015 class.
The state of Georgia will never ink the most FBS players in a singular year. That much is known. It's simply a numbers game in that regard and the Peach State's population in 2014 was 10 million compared to nearly 39 million in California, 27 milllion in Texas and closing in on 20 million in Florida. But an argument can be made that the Peach State is actually the top talent producer in terms of top tier or elite talent. Let's take a peek at some numbers that illustrate why the Peach State can make an argument as the top talent producer.

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Two things have become clear in recruiting: If you want a top quarterback you had better move quickly; each prospect’s decision affects others. That’s why the upcoming decision of Jarrett Guarantano looms large over the 2016 class.

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BUFORD, Ga. -- Temperatures in the 50’s on a rainy day didn’t keep more than 400 prospects from coming out to the Nike The Opening Atlanta Regional Camp on Sunday with hopes of receiving an invite to The Opening in Beaverton, Oregon. Though the performances of the prospects were at the forefront, there were plenty of recruiting notes and some subtle messages delivered by prospects before the event began.

One of the best pictures of the day was ESPN Junior 300 wide receivers Tavares Chase and Kyle Davis. They could become rivals at the next level with Chase being committed to Clemson and Davis to South Carolina. The kink in the chain is the 6-foot-3, 215-pound Davis being a very "soft" verbal to the Gamecocks with Georgia, Auburn, and Tennessee all being in the mix. Though Chase was decked out in Clemson gear, Davis was very neutral. In this case, a picture is definitely worth a thousand words considering Davis sounded like anything but a solid pledge Sunday.


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BUFORD, Ga. - Despite the cold and rainy weather conditions, more than 400 prospects from all over the Southeast made the trip to Buford High School for the Nike The Opening Regional Camp on Sunday.
[+] EnlargeMalik Henry
Miller Safrit/ESPNFlorida State quarterback pledge Malik Henry was among the prospects earning invitations to The Opening.
With less than ideal conditions for throwing the ball, several quarterbacks and wide receivers -- including Malik Henry, David Moore, Josh Imatorbhebehe, Freddie Swain, Tre Nixon and several other players -- had standout performances at the camp. Swain, the No. 214 prospect in the ESPN Junior 300, was one of the most impressive receivers and took home the wide receiver MVP as well as an invitation to The Opening. The 6-foot, 170-pound athlete from Citra (Florida) North Marion High School took advantage of his trip to Atlanta by visiting the University of Georgia on Saturday before attending the Nike camp. The visit turned out to be a success for the talented receiver. “I just got offered by Georgia yesterday on my visit,” Swain said. "It was a lot of fun and I got to meet with coach Richt. He just said to keep working hard and he’ll see me in the spring.”

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If the weatherman is correct, The Opening Nike Football Atlanta Regional is going to be cold and wet on Sunday. That will not keep the best players out of Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina from attending, however. After the Dallas Regional ended a week ago with a record 13 invites to The Opening, the Atlanta Regional is set to challenge that record . Here are five things to watch headed into Sunday.

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Despite being only a sophomore in high school, Jack Anderson has already developed into one of the top offensive linemen in Texas and could easily become the top line target in the nation for the 2017 class.

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Chris Borland's decision to retire from football after his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers has sparked a lot of debate about the future of the game. With such a young player deciding to hang up his cleats over the potential impacts of head trauma, it's only natural for players of all levels to think twice about his decision.

Since high school football recruits are on the brink of joining the next level and playing in a faster, harder hitting league, we decided to poll the prospects on their thoughts about concussions and whether they were concerned about the potential impact of head trauma.

When 50 ESPN 300 prospects were polled anonymously, 27 said they were not concerned, but 23 said they did have some concerns.

[+] EnlargeIsaac Nauta
Miller Safrit/ESPNIsaac Nauta, an ESPN 300 recruit in the class of 2016, says you can't play scared if you get a concussion as a player.

The recruits, who most chose to stay anonymous, but a few were comfortable attaching their name to their quote and opinion, had some interesting takes on head injuries in the game. Here are a few of their quotes:

NOT CONCERNED:

"I mean, great for him that he can be man enough to make that decision. I hate to see such a young guy finally make the league and then have to quit like that, but that's one of the risks of the game. You have to know your body and make decisions to best benefit you. You have to be aware, but you can't play scared if you get one you get one, and if you get too many then you have to shut it down." -- ESPN 300 tight end Isaac Nauta

"Honestly, I think every player has had a concussion. I've never been diagnosed and I still think it's dangerous, but I think it comes with the game. I'm not afraid of concussions. It's a touchy subject, but people will continue to work to fix the problem and God willing, I won't have to make that decision to stop early. Nobody wants to quit playing football so I have the utmost respect to the men who have made that choice, but it won't stop me from playing the game I love." -- ESPN 300 linebacker Caleb Kelly

"No, not at all. It's the risk you commit to when you're a kid to be great and end up one day taking care of your own family while in the league." -- Anonymous ESPN 300 prospect

"[Borland's retirement] got my attention. I wouldn't think of retiring if I were him and this might be a rather bad view point from myself, but concussions are part of the game. You know the risk of them, but all you can do is try to get a strong neck and hope not to get hit in a weird way. Also, with the new rules and the advanced helmets and pads, I feel the risk is going down. So I feel like it may have been a step too much by Borland." -- Anonymous ESPN 300 prospect

CONCERNED:

"As a football player I try to always be aware of my surroundings on the field. I also try to make the smart play, instead of taking on a 250-pound linebacker, I will slide to get out of bounds to avoid the unnecessary contact that could lead to a serious head injury. Take care of your body first and don't try to impress anybody." -- Anonymous ESPN 300 prospect

"Yes, this stuff is dangerous. If you don't take a different approach to the game of football when it comes to hitting and being hit, then a concussion can be life-threatening." -- Anonymous ESPN 300 prospect

"Yeah, I am concerned. Players give their hearts and soul out there, often times not knowing the lasting effects until after their career is over." -- Anonymous ESPN 300 prospect

"It's always a concerning issue. Concussions are scary, no doubt. It doesn't concern me about Chris Borland's retirement because I understand his decision. It is scary knowing the risks of playing this sport, and I'm pretty sure it's concerning for most players. It's always a scary subject because no one wants an injury." -- Anonymous ESPN 300 prospect

While it might not be as deep as other cities in the Midlands, Wichita has a great reputation with recruiters, producing top prospects such as Kamerion Wimbley, Arthur Brown and Bryce Brown since 2000. Next on the list is likely to be defensive end Xavier Kelly.

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ARLINGTON, Texas – The Nike Opening Dallas Regional produced more invites to The Opening in one stop, 13, than any ever. When taking a look at the uber-talented roster in the days leading up to Sunday’s marquee event, that came without surprise when 40 members of the ESPN Junior 300 come together to compete on the same field. Here is a look at some of the sights and sounds from the regional that brought out the best from Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Minnesota in addition to the Lone Star State.

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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Everything is bigger in Texas, especially high school football. That lesson was taught to us once again at Sunday's The Opening regional at Lamar High School.


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