The July 4th weekend, combined with a two-week dead period running through this Sunday, brought a rare bit of calmness to the football recruiting world last week. Most recruiters, and many prospects, are on vacation and for a brief period have put recruiting on the backburner.
That will change some this week with year No. 4 of The Opening being held at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore. This made-by-ESPN event brings together 162 of the most highly rated prospects across the country for a variety of competitions. But most importantly for the network, several of these prospects could announce their commitments, and that, of course, is the major hook from a viewership standpoint.
Four 2015 Clemson commitments were invited this year: WR Deon Cain, OL Noah Green, OL Mitch Hyatt and LB Chad Smith. USC's 2015 commitment class will be represented by LB Sherrod Pittman. Also in the group of 162 is LB Michael Barnett of Woodland, who is a Florida State commitment. Notre Dame has the most commitments in the event with 10.
Eight of the uncommitted prospects have indicated they may announce a decision during The Opening, which runs Monday through Thursday, and the one for USC and Clemson fans to watch is RB AJ Turner of Centreville, Va. He has had the Gamecocks and Tigers in his top group along with Ohio State, Michigan State and Virginia. He visited USC in April. Turner has not named a favorite, though some recruiting observers are predicting him for the Gamecocks.
DE Austin Bryant of Thomasville, Ga., who is also at The Opening, plans to have a decision in a few weeks and has Clemson and Notre Dame in his lead group. He will visit Clemson again later this month for the "All-In Cookout" before announcing is decision.
In other recruiting news:
Highly touted OL Zack Bailey of Summerville is getting ready to take some visits out of state and plans to see Georgia, North Carolina and Florida this summer. Bailey has been to USC and Clemson, along with Florida State, and would like to take a look at some other schools. "Before I have any favorites, I wanted to visit some other schools outside of South Carolina," Bailey said. "I think I should see some more schools before I start narrowing my list." The Gamecocks and Tigers remain strong with Bailey. "I hear a lot from Clemson, obviously, and I'm hearing from Carolina a lot too," he said. "Georgia and North Carolina are showing a lot of interest, too. I had heard some from Southern Cal, but not so much lately." Bailey is in no hurry to begin narrowing his list and said it is important to take the process slowly. As for his official visits, Bailey has not finalized his plans. "It's possible that I'll take all five, but I'm not making any promises," he said. "Anything could happen." His offers include Clemson, USC, North Carolina, Georgia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Florida, Syracuse and Southern Cal.
Though still committed to Florida, ATH Jalen Julius of West Orange, Fla., is planning an official visit to USC. Julius committed to the Gators in early May and visited USC shortly after his announcement. "It went really well," Julius said. "I spent some time with coach (Everett) Sands and coach (Steve) Spurrier. I like both of them a lot. I've always liked South Carolina and I still like them after the visit." Julius said that he remains committed to Florida but will take future visits, including USC. "I talked to coach Sands and he told me he wants to get me back up there," he said. "I'm definitely going to take an official (visit) there." As for his commitment, Julius said, "I'm still committed (to Florida), but I'm more open now." Other schools he would like to visit are Oregon State, Mississippi and Louisville. Florida remains his favorite.
LSU is the latest to receive a visit from WR Darius Slayton of Norcross, Ga. Slayton visited USC last month. The Tigers have offered Slayton as a defensive back, but that has not affected his opinion of the program. "I kind of grew up an LSU fan, so it was nice to get on campus and see it up close," Slayton said. Clemson and Tennessee are two he will likely visit, though neither trip has been scheduled. The Gamecocks and Tigers are both schools in which Slayton has an interest. He added that it is in his plans to take all five official visits.
DB Micah Abernathy of Norcross, Ga., has not narrowed his list but remains interested in USC and has been in touch with recruiter GA Mangus. Abernathy has plans to attend a game at Williams-Brice this season. He is also planning trips to Ohio State, Tennessee and Georgia this summer and would like to attend games at Oregon and Ohio State this fall.
LB Jahvoni Simmons of Virginia Beach, Va., has a top 10 of Clemson, Alabama, Georgia Tech, Miami, N.C. State, Ohio State, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. He trimmed his list from 21 offers. Last season, Simmons had 127 tackles with 17 tackles for loss, 4 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles and 2 sacks. Simmons' only recent visit was to Virginia in March for a junior day.
DB Carlton Davis of Miami plans to visit USC near the end of the end of the month. He's had a top five of USC, Florida, Miami, Ohio State and Georgia.
DL DJ Jones of East Mississippi JC will announce his college decision Dec. 13. He's down to Clemson, USC, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, Southern Cal, Florida State, Mississippi, Florida and Georgia. He also plans to visit Ohio State.
Late last month, WR Juval Mollette of Randleman, N.C., chose North Carolina over Clemson, committing at Larry Fedora's Freak Show in Chapel Hill. Mollette had been flip-flopping between the Tigers and Tar Heels but said the lack of contact from Clemson, in part, helped to make his decision. "The only Clemson coach that I've really heard from since the spring was coach (Robbie) Caldwell, who still sends me letters," Mollette said. "Coach (Jeff) Scott just sort of disappeared. I haven't heard from him at all. (North) Carolina has stayed on me hard, so I decided to commit." Mollette said his commitment is strong and he has no intentions of taking other visits.
USC was one of the first to offer DB Desmond Cain of Delray Beach, Fla., and that put the Gamecocks out front for his services for some time. But a lack of contact from USC may have changed that. "I haven't heard from coach Grady (Brown) in a while, to be honest," Cain said. "I tried calling him a couple of times but he didn't answer." Cain remains hopeful that he can take an official visit to USC this fall but plans to take a wait-and-see approach. "Once the dead period ends, I'll see if they contact me," he said. He has scheduled an official visit to Illinois during following a bye week and said that the Illini have shown the most interest of late. He named USC, Illinois, Penn State, Virginia and Rutgers as the five schools he would like to travel to for an official visit.
DE Trevon Hill of Virginia Beach, Va., a one-time Clemson target, committed to Virginia Tech over the weekend.
DB Antonio Parks of Reserve, La., who at one time talked opening about committing to Clemson, committed to Arizona on Friday.