Each year, many of the top recruits in the nation attend Nike’s The Opening Finals in Oregon. They spend 3 days doing athletic testing drills and practices with notable football stars and coaches from both pros and college ranks before finishing with a 7-on-7 tournament at the end.
In the 2018 version, Alabama had 6 current commits participating in the camp: jack linebacker Kevin Harris, defensive back DeMarco Hellams, linebacker Shane Lee, offensive tackle Pierce Quick, quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, and defensive back Christian Williams.
Quick was unable to participate in most of the event due to Alabama high school football regulations about pads and practice time during the offseason. However, he spent his time wisely by doing a lot of recruiting for Alabama. In an interview with our own SBNation folks, he even mentioned that he talked to Coach Saban beforehand about who he should and shouldn’t recruit while he was there. That’s dedication to a cause.
And New Jersey defensive lineman Antonio Alfano was invited, but was unable to attend due to a scheduling conflict (which was a shame, as he would have been in the mix to win the SPARQ rating championship).
As with any football event, particularly a 7-on-7 based one, the quarterbacks get the most scrutiny. On the first day, Taulia Tagovailoa launched a ball 66 yards through the air and proving he had the strongest arm in the camp (and also beating his older brother’s throw from last year). After that, however, there has been much wringing of hands and nashing of teeth over his lackluster performance in the 7-on-7. Some quotes from 247Sports:
While the Alabama commit has one of the strongest arms in the camp, it did not translate to much production on the field. The Alabaster (Ala.) Thompson standout completed 71 of 109 passes for six touchdowns and six interceptions. Ultimately it was the lack of quick decisions that hurt Tagovailoa the most over the weekend.
-Speaking of Tagovailoa, the four-star Alabama commitment drew plenty of surprise with his lack of production. Failing to convert more than otherwise, he looked off all week long against the talented defenses this setting produces. But in typical Tagovailoa fashion, he was still trying to lead and be the life of the sideline when his team did not advance. Can’t hurt on the Recruiting trail, right?
I wouldn’t read too much into it. Blake Barnett was an MVP for this same tournament a few years ago, and we all saw how he’s done since. At the same time, it is a little disconcerting to hear that Tagovailoa was slow on his decision-making, even in a setting with no pass rushers coming at him.
Christian Williams, the defensive back from Daphne, AL, made a splash on the final day with a pick-6 and another impressive pass breakup.
Inside linebacker Shane Lee really excelled in pass coverage all weekend long and wound up making the “All-tourney” team:
Lee was named to the all tournament team and really grew in zone coverage at the event. The No. 4 inside linebacker in the 247Sports Composite and Alabama commit was consistent with his drop back depth and he reacted well on plays in front of him. He also did a decent job of covering in the flat when asked to.
As for some of the Tide’s top targets, five star linebacker Nakobe Dean and the nation’s top overall player, Kayvon Thibodeaux, both made an impact in drills and were top performers in the the SPARQ ratings. Dean in particular came in 4th in the entire nation in sheer athleticism. Can you imagine pairing him and Dylan Moses at inside linebacker in a couple of years?
All in all, it wasn’t the most eventful event for Alabama fans, with Tagovailoa taking up most of the headlines coming from camp. In the next few weeks, we’ll probably see the recruiting services make some big changes in their rankings, and may see some new five-stars. In some way or another, I’m sure Alabama will benefit and the rest of the internet will be #madonline about it.