This week’s version of Hey Judes analyzes recruits who stood out at Nike’s The Opening Regional camp in Chicago, the Florida Gators’ most important spring game visitor, and USC’s in-state recruiting.
First of all, I would like to send my condolences to my co-worker and roommate, Sam Falcone, who was forced to watch his alma mater fall to North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament championship game on Monday. For his sake, I hope Gonzaga gets back soon because that was a rough loss.
Aside from that, it is baseball season — finally — and I can’t help but get excited over the sport I spent 12 years playing.
And if you’re sitting there wondering why you’re reading about baseball in a college football recruiting column, I’ll have you know that many college coaches prefer their players to be multi-sport athletes.
It was just last June that I sat and listened to Jim Harbaugh explain how Bill Walsh taught him to look for the multi-sport athletes because of their versatility, athleticism and ability to mesh with their teammates. And I completely agree with that. It’s something I’ve looked for when scouting recruits, and it was certainly something I scanned for while at Nike’s The Opening Regional in Chicago this past weekend.
First of all, this camp was really cool because it took place at Halas Hall, which is where the Chicago Bears hold their training camp.
It was a rough start to the day because I had to take an hour-long train ride to get to the facility, and I literally made it onto my train with 10 seconds to spare. One big problem, though, was the fact I pulled something in my back while sprinting for the damn thing. That’s the reality of turning 25 (birthday was March 27). I’m now an old man, but I’m not too old to tell you who impressed me on the football field. So, let’s get into it.
The Opening Regional – Chicago
There wasn’t a single player who impressed me more than Luke Ford. The Arkansas commit earned his fourth star with the performance he put up. He was quick, agile, showed great concentration and hands on his routes. He just looked like he’s physically ready to be thrown into the fire with the Razorbacks and catch touchdowns in Fayetteville. He told me the coaches believe he can contribute right away, and I believe it after seeing him catch passes. Let’s just hope his dorm room doesn’t have bed bugs like the hotel room he stayed in when visiting Arkansas.
Ovie Oghoufo was another player who really showed out. The 4-star outside linebacker isn’t just committed to Notre Dame. He’s fully embraced the idea of joining Fighting Irish and has become an ambassador of the program based on the 5,000 pieces of Notre Dame gear he sported at The Opening. But, seriously, he won the award as the camp’s best linebacker and looked extremely fluid in pass coverage drills.
Four-star offensive guard Emil Ekiyor and 4-star defensive end Aidan Hutchinson looked solid, too. The Michigan commits had a few nice reps throughout the day. Hutchinson showed quick hands and feet while Ekiyor showed an ability to anchor down and use his strength. If Hutchinson can start to combine pass rush moves, he could really evolve into a nightmare for offensive tackles. And if Ekiyor improves his footwork, he’ll be a solid presence on the interior for the Wolverines.
Florida Gators’ Spring Game
On Friday night, Jim McElwain’s staff will let us take in yet another Orange and Blue Debut, but it’s about more than just getting an early look at the Gators and how they’re performing on the field. It’s a chance for Florida so show out for the many recruits visiting for the spring game.
In my opinion, the most important recruit making the trip to Gainesville is Marietta, Georgia native Harrison Bailey. He’s in the 2020 recruiting class, but Bailey has quickly become one of the next quarterback prodigies en route to stardom. He grew up cheering for the Gators and loved Tim Tebow as a kid, so it’s up to Florida to capitalize on that.
We all know the troubles the Gators have had with the quarterback position. And I have no idea if Feleipe Franks, Kyle Trask or Jake Allen can extinguish what has become known as the “Tebow Curse,” but I do know that securing a commitment from Bailey would be a huge, momentum-shifting move for the program.
“I Love L.A.”
You’ve all sifted through the many kind words I’ve written about USC and the job Clay Helton
has done is doing in Los Angeles.
The Trojans closed the 2017 recruiting cycle on an extremely high note, and part of that was keeping the local kids close to home. Augustus Hawkins High School stars Joseph Lewis and Greg Johnson both signed with USC on National Signing Day, and the Trojans are looking toward Augustus Hawkins for the future, too.
Earlier this week, USC landed a commitment from 4-star athlete De’Gabriel Floyd for its 2019 recruiting class. And Floyd is already looking to recruit some more blue-chip prospects in the cycle. One of them is fellow L.A. native Kayvon Thibodeaux, who is considering LSU and UCLA as well. Ed Orgeron certainly made a huge impression on Thibodeaux last weekend, but don’t put it past Helton and Tee Martin, who are Thibodeaux’s main recruiters, to convince him that home is where the heart is.