The premier football camp of the summer is finally here. 166 of the best high school prospects in the country have gathered at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon to compete against one another in The Elite 11 and Opening Finals.
While there aren't any USC QB prospects competing in the Elite 11 portion of the camp, The Opening will feature 5 USC commits including LB Daelin Hayes, LB Mique Juarez, WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, OL Frank Martin, and ATH Melquise Stoval.
But they won't be the only potential Trojans on the field this week. The camp is full of USC targets who will hopefully fill out the rest of the 2016 class. With over 30 potential USC prospects participating in The Opening, keeping track of all of them can be overwhelming, so here are 10 to keep an eye on during the week.
(Info on TV schedule and the camp in general can be found here)
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The four-star athlete made headlines back in March when he excluded USC from his top 5, but he has since said he's keeping his options open and will wait until signing day to officially commit anywhere. As one of the top prospects in CA, Jones pulled down 64 receptions for 719 yards and 5 TDS while also totaling 40 total tackles, 1 INT and 1 PD during his junior year. Look for his elite athleticism to be on display on both sides of the ball this week for Alpha Pro, but especially at corner where many assume he will spend most of his time at the college level. While USC has had recent success hauling in top-notch Poly products in consecutive years, they have some major work to do to make it 3 in a row.
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Will the Serra-pipeline continue to be the gift that keeps on giving for the Trojans? The no. 16 safety in the country and four-star recruit had 58 total tackles, 2 TFL, and 3 PD as a junior in 2014. Pollard will most likely play safety for Alpha Pro's exceptional secondary, which is thought to be the best at the tournament, but he can also play corner as well. The hard-hitting safety is slated to announce his commitment during the week and it would be quite an upset if he doesn't choose the Trojans (his Dad played DB at USC and his Mom is also an alum). Pollard's ability to play multiple positions in the secondary would be a huge asset for the Trojans, especially at safety where they lack depth.
McKinley was the best player on one of the best teams in southern California last season. The four-star receiver racked up 91 receptions for 1,906 yards and 20 TDs last season while leading Corona Centennial to a state championship bowl game appearance. McKinley will line up this week next to fellow USC WR targets Tyler Vaughns and Tyjon Lindsey (class of '17) for a Hypercool team that is stacked with offensive talent. McKinley has said he won't take an official visit to USC this fall, but not due to lack of interest. He wants to use his five visits to see schools he isn't already familiar with such as Notre Dame, Oregon, and Ohio State. USC is expected to bring in at least 4 or 5 receivers this recruiting cycle, and adding an elite playmaker like McKinley on signing day 2016 would be a huge addition for a receiving corps that will likely have to reload in two years.
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While he doesn't always create the headlines of some of his counterparts, Byron Murphy is one of the best cover corners in America. He owns 23 offers from major college programs like USC, Ohio State, Michigan State, and both Arizona schools. The four-star do-it-all recruit led his team to a perfect 14-0 record and a state championship last year, racking up 53 total tackles, 6 INT, and 10 PD on defense to go along with his 65 receptions for 1,348 yards and 13 TDs on offense. While Murphy made the AZ all-state team as a WR, he has expressed a desire to play corner at the next level, a huge plus for the Trojans. He'll exclusively play corner this week for Fly Rush while matching up with the best receivers in the country. He has garnered comparisons to ASU's DJ Foster, another great two-way player out of Saguaro. USC missed out on Foster on signing day 2012, but hopefully their heavy recruitment of Murphy yields a different result this time around. Murphy was not in attendance for USC's Rising Stars Camp, but he's expressed interest in the Trojans and wants to visit this summer.
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Thanks to a mix of elite size (6'5", 270) and speed, Asiasi can line up all over the football field. This has led schools like USC, Alabama, Oregon, and Auburn to vie for his commitment. The four-star from NorCal powerhouse De La Salle had 16 catches for 264 yards and 2 TDs as a tight end, averaged 7 yards a carry as a running back out of the wildcat, and put up 33 total tackles, 6 TFL, and 5 sacks as a defensive end last season. This week he'll be lining up exclusively as a tight end for Fly Rush and wants to show scouts he can play the position at the highest level. USC recently made the cut for Devin's top 10 schools and he has said Cary Angeline's commitment won't affect his decision. If USC can land both Angeline and Asiasi in 2016, the Trojans would immediately have one of the best (and biggest) units in the country.
Tyler Vaughs is one of the top WR recruits in the country and has offers from USC, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Oklahoma among many others. As a junior he totaled 83 receptions for 1,183 yards and 12 TDs. Vaughns will line up with Hypercool's loaded offense, which should provide some post-4th fireworks and will be a load of fun to watch. Vaughns recently spent plenty of time getting to know the USC coaching staff at the Rising Stars Camp a few weeks ago and looks solid for the Trojans. He has been a heavy USC lean throughout his recruitment process and is expected to announce his decision sometime in August. If USC can get the four-star receiver to join Velus Jones, Josh Imatorbhebhe and 1 or 2 of the four-star WRs currently on their radar, they will be set at the position for years to come.
The four-star defensive tackle is one of the most highly sought after linemen in the nation. He's ranked as one of the top 10 players at his position and as a junior he put up 41 total tackles, 15 TFL, and 5 sacks. Look for him to match up 1 on 1 with some of the best offensive linemen in the country during the DL vs OL portion of the event if he makes it to the final 5. USC DL coach Chris Wilson has developed a solid relationship with Jackson during his recruitment and was able to get him to camp at Rising Stars a few weeks ago. The Trojans are high on Jackson's top 10 list right now, but they'll have to compete with Ohio State and just about every school in the SEC if they want to land him. Pairing him with recent commit Keyshon Camp would give the Trojans some serious depth along the defensive line.
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Like most of the players at The Opening, Knott has offers from everywhere. The four-star corner put up eye-popping stats in 2014 including 112 total tackles, 4 INT, and 16 PD in just 12 games. Those numbers made him one of the most productive high school corners in the country last year. Knott will play alongside Jack Jones and CJ Pollard in the ridiculously talented secondary for Alpha Pro. He recently listed USC as one of his top 10 schools and made multiple standout plays during his time at the Rising Stars Camp. Nigel will make official visits this fall before making his decision, but right now USC has work to do to gain ground on Oregon and Florida State.
The Trojans were able to lure two highly touted running backs from the state of Texas last year, but outside of the two backs and S John Plattenburg, they haven't found much success recruiting the Lone Star State. They're hoping that will change with five-star safety Brandon Jones. The Nacogdoches product missed most of the 2014 season due to a knee injury, but that hasn't slowed down his hype. He's listed as the top safety in country and has 37 offers to back up his well-deserved rating. He's known for mostly being a hard-hitter, so it will be interesting to see him in coverage against some of the best WR talent in America. Jones has USC listed in his top 5 going into the 2015 season, but they're still behind in-state school like Texas, A&M, and Baylor.
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USC has a great track record of pulling elite WR recruits from the Tampa area thanks to Mike Williams and Nelson Agholor. Will Nate Craig-Myers be next? Despite missing almost all of 2014 due to a leg injury, he's ranked as the no. 1 receiver in all the land and is one of the most sought after recruits at The Opening. Nate headlines an Alpha Pro offense that will also feature five-star RB Najee Harris. The five-star receiver had pledged his services to Auburn before decommitting in May. It's most likely that Myers stays home and joins Florida State come signing day, but he's also said that visiting USC is a priority in the near future. However, he's also said the recruitment of his brother, a three-star corner, could play a role in his decision process and the Trojans are not likely to offer him. Landing Craig-Myers would be Tee Martin and Sark's finest work to date.