Midlands Recruiting Analyst, ETx/DFW
The state of Texas will send 21 players to Nike's The Opening. That's a lot of top-end talent from the Lone Star State. But one of the most interesting things about that Texas contingent is how the players break down by geographic region. The mostly-rural region of East Texas has as many The Opening participants (6) as the state's two major metro areas: the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex (6) and Greater Houston and Southeast Texas (6). East Texas sent only two players to last year's event: Mount Pleasant receiver K.D. Cannon and Nacogdoches center Jacob Bragg, who signed with Baylor and Kansas, respectively. The half dozen East Texans attending this year's The Opening have Texas A&M fans fired up. Three of them are committed to the Aggies -- Gladewater five-star defensive tackle Daylon Mack, Whitehouse four-star safety Justin Dunning, and Sulphur Springs four-star safety Larry Pryor. Gilmer four-star cornerback Kris Boyd is also very much in play for the Aggies. The other two East Texans are Longview four-star running back JaMycal Hasty, a Baylor pledge, and Nacogdoches four-star cornerback Jaylon Lane, an Oklahoma State commit. The 2015 class is star-studded for East Texas, which produces a very high per capita number of FBS recruits considering its relatively small population base. To have as many The Opening invitees as DFW and Houston further proves the football prowess of the Piney Woods.
Midlands Recruiting Analyst, Houston
At first glance the thought could be, much like last season in that there are a ton of great, not just good, defensive backs coming out of the Midlands region. And what it interesting there is that, last recruiting class was just as equally loaded, based on the star power and depth as well. But for this exercise, I thought to focus on the storyline surrounding the Midlands youngster in Manvel's Deontay Anderson. Like the others, he too is a defensive back, playing the safety spot. Anderson has been a force since he was a freshman and goes into his junior season with plenty of hardware. After solid performance at the Houston NFTC, Anderson started pulling offers in at an insane rate. Programs were coming through the Southeast Texas area program and dropping off offers to Anderson, and many times leaving some for his teammates as well. When it is all said and done, it is my belief that Anderson will hold his own amongst the nation's best despite his age. He is one of the best and at The Opening he will continue to show that.
Midlands Recruiting Analyst, Upper Midlands
One of the storylines is obviously the lack of lineman headed to The Opening from the Midlands, but I'm taking a different angle. The individuals involved in selecting the participants certainly thought a lot of the secondary prospects in the region. Of the 23 participants at The Opening from the Midlands region, 10 make their mark at cornerback or safety. Almost a third of all the secondary prospects invited to The Opening come from the Midlands region. One of the Midlands defensive backs invited to the top event is even an underclassman, in 2016 safety Deontay Anderson. It'll be interesting who emerges as the cream of the crop, but I'm intrigued to see the performances from P.J. Mbanasor and Jaylon Lane as they are not as widely known or have the national acclaim as the others in the group.
Midlands Recruiting Reporter, Midlands
I'm actually most intrigued by Waco (Texas) Midway quarterback Ben Hicks. The Houston commit didn't start gaining much buzz until a stellar showing at the Elite 11 regional qualifier in Dallas in early May, and it will be interesting to see how he fares alongside bigger names like Allen (Texas) quarterback Kyler Murray and Stephenville (Texas) quarterback Jarrett Stidham. Hicks was one of the the final signal-callers to receive the invite, but now that the Elite 11 is merged with the talent from The Opening, he'll have the opportunity to make a name for himself on a national level. If you look at the history of this event, many times it's the under the radar prospects that flourish the most under these coaches, and this July, Hicks could shine.
National Recruiting Analyst, Midlands
I think the top storyline is easily the battle between Jarrett Stidham and Kyler Murray for the top-rated spot at the quarterback position. The two are rated so closely regionally that any movement from Murray up the list will see him jump over Stidham. Coming in to the event and based off of what we have seen in the spring I would actually hedge my bet to Murray finishing on top of that list, but a strong showing by Stidham at the Elite 11 in Dallas fended him off. Both are also in the discussion for the top spot overall at the position. I do think Murray will shine in 7v7 competition as he has a quick release and throws an amazingly accurate ball.