Many of the nation’s best high school senior football players were showcased last week at the Opening,a five-day summer showcase on the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore.
The 166 players chosen to perform earned invitations based on their performances at regional camps during the spring. There was a quarterback competition, a skills combine and a seven-on-seven passing tournament.
Among the participants were several players who are being recruited by UCLA, USC or both.
USC signed a highly regarded class this year and appears on its way to securing another for 2016. The Trojans have received nonbinding agreements from five players who competed at the Opening: receivers Josh Imatorbhebhe from North Gwinnett High in Suwanee, Ga., and Trevon Sidney from La Puente Bishop Amat; running back Melquise Stovall from Lancaster Paraclete; offensive lineman Frank Martin from Santa Ana Mater Dei; defensive back C.J. Pollard from Gardena Serra; and linebackers Daelin Hayes from Skyline High in Ann Arbor, Mich., and Mique Juarez from North Torrance.
Sidney and Pollard made their choice known while attending the event.
UCLA has received commitments from two players who took part in the Opening: linebacker Krys Barnes from Bakersfield Liberty and defensive back Jordan Parker from Pittsburg High in Northern California. Several other top prospects, including Concord De La Salle products Boss Tagaloa, a defensive lineman, and Devin Asiasi, a tight end, are thought to be favoring the Bruins.
Here’s a look at some of the other players UCLA and USC continue to pursue:
Oluwole Betiku, defensive lineman
Gardena Serra, 6-4, 239
Betiku moved to the United States from Nigeria in 2013 and began playing football in 2014. He said he was introduced to the game after a coach saw him playing basketball and thought his athleticism could transfer to the football field.
Betiku is thought to be favoring UCLA because of the way the Bruins’ defensive scheme fits his skill set — and because of his friendship with UCLA offensive lineman Caleb Benenoch, whose parents are from Nigeria.
Mique Juarez, linebacker
North Torrance, 6-1 1/2, 226
Juarez made a commitment to USC last January, before he became one of the nation’s most sought-after linebackers. He participated at UCLA’s Elite Camp last month and said at the Opening that he liked both UCLA and USC.
Asiasi said Juarez was the toughest linebacker he faced at the Opening. “I never got jammed before like that in my life,” Asiasi said.
Jack Jones, defensive back/receiver
Long Beach Poly, 5-10, 157
Jones is a two-way player but said that, given a choice, he would rather play defensive back. He challenged tight end Isaac Nauta, who is committed to Florida State, during one-on-one drills at the Opening.
Asked which schools he might be favoring, Jones said that information was “classified.” He said he would announce his choice on the national signing period’s first day, which is Feb. 3.
Greg Biggins, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com, said Jones was “one of the better” two-way players at the Opening. “He is one of those guys who always competes at a high level all the time,” Biggins said.
David Long Jr., defensive back
Los Angeles Loyola, 5-10, 176
Long acknowledged UCLA had been “doing great” the last few seasons, but he talked a lot about the tradition at USC. “I grew up watching the Trojans and Reggie Bush,” he said.
Bishop Amat receiver Sidney was impressed by Long at the Opening. “He’s a great cover corner and has good instincts,” Sidney said.
Tyler Vaughns, receiver
Bishop Amat, 6-3, 180
Vaughns has leaned toward USC since he burst onto the recruiting scene in 2014. He made several outstanding catches at the Opening and was one of the most talked-about receivers among players and coaches.
“He is so smooth, has great hands and great body control,” Biggins said. “He knows how to get open and catches everything.”
UCLA and USC aren’t the only programs expected to make a haul in local talent.
Here’s a look at a couple of top recruits who might get away:
Brandon Burton, defensive back
Gardena Serra, 6-1 1/2 , 187
Burton has offers from USC and UCLA, but is seriously considering Oklahoma, Ohio State, Alabama, Florida State and Notre Dame. “I am not afraid to leave the nest,” he said.
Burton is also a receiver, but he played only at safety at the Opening. “He has a high football IQ, was always on the ball and could see things before other players saw them,” Biggins said.
Several former Serra teammates of Burton — John Houston, Rasheem Green, Deontay Burnett and Caleb Wilson — will be freshmen at USC in the fall.
Javon McKinley, receiver
Corona Centennial, 6-1, 204
McKinley included USC — but not UCLA — when he released a list of favorite schools this spring. However, the Bruins are now in the mix.
McKinley is also considering Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oregon and Tennessee. He said he would make official visits to each school during the fall.
Biggins said McKinley was more impressive during the high school season than he was during the seven-on-seven event at the Opening. “Javon got open a lot but didn’t get the ball thrown to him that much,” Biggins said. “When he did have it, he was good.”