A fan's guide to The Opening
July, 1, 2014
By Tom VanHaaren | ESPN.com
Starting Saturday, elite high school football prospects from all over the country will go head-to-head in Oregon at Nike's The Opening. The event, which will be broadcast on ESPN's family of networks, runs through July 10 and showcases the best of the best in high school football.
To properly understand the magnitude of this event, here is your guide to what The Opening is, who will be there, and why it matters.
What is it?
Tom Hauck for Student SportsProspects will be put through a series of drills, including SPARQ testing, at The Opening.
Heading into its fourth year, The Opening is a weeklong football event held at Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, that pits the top prospects from all over the country head-to-head in various events.
High school football players attend regional camps throughout the year, and eventually 162 invitations to attend The Opening are sent out after evaluating film, on-field performance during the season and the best performers from those camps.
“Our football staff that travels the nation for our 36 regional events meets weekly to crunch film and compare with evaluations from our staff onsite at events to determine our most talented and driven prospects to invite out to compete at The Opening,” said Brian Stumpf, a director for Student Sports, the company that runs the event. “Looking for players that have dominated on the high school level and have shown the ability, potential and work ethic to potentially dominate on the next level, as well.”
Each position group is well-represented at the event and all players have the opportunity to stand out.
What do the athletes do?
The quarterbacks are narrowed down through the Elite 11 regional camps and are set at 18 for the 2014 Elite 11 finals. The finalists work with former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer and a few other coaches and are tested via on-field workouts and mental challenges in the classroom through playbooks handed out prior to the event.
The Elite 11 has produced some big-time quarterbacks, including Matthew Stafford, Andrew Luck, AJ McCarron, Tim Tebow, Jameis Winston and plenty of others.
The rest of the competitors will go through SPARQ testing, which includes the 40-yard dash, vertical jump, power-ball toss and shuttle. The athletes are then given a total score based on their results, and the top scorers compete in the SPARQ Rating National Championship later in the week to crown who is the best overall athlete in the country.
The players are also separated into six teams and compete in a 7-on-7 tournament throughout the week, culminating in the championship game on the final day of The Opening.
Since linemen aren’t used in 7-on-7 play, the big men compete in two linemen challenges leading to a championship of their own, pitting the best offensive and defensive linemen against each other.
Who coaches the athletes?
There are 24 current or former NFL players on staff who annually coach the prospects. The list includes Dilfer, Jordan Palmer, Natrone Means, LeCharles Bentley, Willie McGinest, Keith Bullock and Aeneas Williams. The event is an outstanding opportunity for high school players to learn from guys who made it to the highest level.
Anyone notable attending this year?
Yes, the field will be littered with 133 ESPN 300 prospects. Eighteen of the top 20 prospects will be in attendance, along with 144 other talented recruits.
Will there be any news to watch for?
There always is. This year at least five players are slated to make their commitments during the week: Kahlil McKenzie, Stephen Johnson, Isaiah Langley, Xavier Lewis and Josh Smith.
At this type of event there is always unexpected news that pops up, as well. Whether it’s a commitment or decommitment, you can expect to hear about something happening during the week.