USCFootball.com | @TheOpening_2013
In 2012 eight players committed to play for USC attended The Opening training camp at NIKE World Headquarters. This year only La Harbra (Calif.) offensive lineman Toa Lobendahn will be heading to Beaverton (Ore.) as a Trojan verbal commit. In total, 162 athletes will compete in SPARQ testing, a seven-on-seven tournament and position drills Monday through Wednesday. Linemen will also go head-to-head in helmets and shoulder pads, which is a unique drill to The Opening.
All players are divided up into six teams, Alpha Pro, Apocalypse, Field Generals, Land Sharks, Super Bad and Vapor Carbon. The event begins with SPARQ testing, where Trojans running back target Royce Freeman will be featured after accumulating a 110.48 SPARQ Rating in February.
Speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness define Oakley (Calif.) five-star Joe Mixon. While Mixon is fading a Trojan Target in recent months, it will be interesting to see how he stacks up with Freeman. Players like Mixon and Gardena (Calif.) five-star cornerback Adoree' Jackson have not SPARQ tested this year, but have the potential to break records. Jackson is coming off of running a 4.4 timed 40-yard dash at the USC Rising Stars Camp.
On paper, the No. 1 contender for the SPARQ Championship with interest in USC is Speedy Noil. The New Orleans wide out ran a 4.45 40-yard dash and had a 41-inch vertical leap. USC remains in Noil's top two choices with Texas A&M.
SKILL PLAYERS TO WATCH
The 2013 season was a debacle for USC, but Trojan fans may want to keep an eye on team Apocalypse. Imperial (Calif.) running back Royce Freeman will be featured in the passing game in 7On play, although he will have to split time with Joe Mixon. Joining him on offense - we think - will be Fresno (Calif.) two-way star Michiah Quick. While Quick could play on either side of the football, he prefers wide out.
On defense, Apocalypse has El Cerrito (Calif.) linebacker Derik Calhoun commanding the middle of the defense. Although Calhoun is better built for attacking the line of scrimmage and making big hits, he has more than held his own in coverage this summer.
Calhoun will announce a commitment Tuesday, with USC, UCLA and Cal being his final choices. Many believe this will be a UCLA over USC, with his decision not yet finalized. Still, the scuttlebutt has Calhoun choosing UCLA over USC with official visits in the works after his senior season.
Ft. Lauderdale (Fla.) four-star cornerback Quincy Wilson will also play for team Apocalypse. Wilson attended the USC Rising Stars Camp last week and is one of the nation's more intriguing corner prospects at 6-foot-2. Wilson attended Rising Stars with his teammate Richard Yeargin III.
Yeargin is a part of team Alpha Pro, which also feature Long Beach Poly defensive back duo John Smith and Iman Marshall. Smith has been especially impressive this summer playing safety. While he would like to play receiving in college, he admits safety may be his best position. That's likely where he lines up this week.
Miami (Fla.) four-star running back Dalvin Cook may be the most intriguing prospect currently on USC's recruiting board. The Florida commit made it to last week's Rising Stars Camp and appears to be a player USC will be involved with throughout the year. Cook is angle breaking fast in the open field, and that will come into play for team Land Shark. Cook could be underrated as the nation's No. 6 rated running back by Rivals.com.
Cornerback is clearly the position for USC fans to watch at The Opening this week. While the Trojans appear to be developing depth on their recruiting board with local talent, Adoree' Jackson and El Cerrito (Calf.) four-star Adarius Pickett are two cornerbacks to focus on. However, Jackson has been playing a lot of receiver this summer, so it's likely that he starts out in defensive back drills only to meander over to wide out in 7On play.
LINEMEN TO WATCH
As with last year's event, the offensive line targets at The Opening will be few and far between for USC. In a average year for talent at the position on the West Coast, the main attraction for USC fans will be Toa Lobendahn and Bellflower (Calif.) four-star offensive lineman Damien Mama. Mama is coming off an MVP performance at the Rivals Five Star Challenge, so it will be interesting to see if he can turn in another camp setting performance this week. USC is also still looking at Corona (Calif.) offensive guard Viane Talamaivao, who is committed to Alabama.
Mama and Talamaivao will be challenged by several good defensive linemen at The Opening, including Springdale (Ark.) four-star defensive tackle Josh Frazier. Last year, several top defensive line prospects were signing USC's praises, but this year Frazier is one of the few defensive linemen with USC among his top list of college choices.
Louisiana defensive linemen Gerald Willis III and Garrald McDowell are also looking at USC for official visits sometime this year. Lompoc (Calif.) four-star defensive tackle Ainuu Taua is also a prospect on the Trojans radar, but he has yet to receive a scholarship offer from USC.
Stay tuned to USCFootball.com for coverage of The Opening including photos and analysis on all of the Trojans' top targets in Beaverton.