CIS Staff Roundtable: The Opening Finals Preview

Stefan Adams
10 min read
As one of the largest and most prominent camp events every year, The Opening Finals will take place in Frisco, Texas at the Ford Center at the Star, otherwise known as the Dallas Cowboys’ state-of-the-art practice facility. From Saturday June 30th to Tuesday July 3rd, the nation’s best prospects at every position will go head-to-head in 1-on-1 matchups and be on display in a variety of workouts and drills, which will all culminate in a massive, two-day 7-on-7 tournament.

The stakes aren’t quite as high for the Hurricanes this year after bringing 10 commits to last year’s version of The Opening Finals, but Jeremiah Payton and Keontra Smith will hope to rep the U well and show out at the event. Both have a spot on the same 7-on-7 team and will be joined by major Miami targets Evan Neal, Mark-Antony Richards, Jordan Battle, and Noah Cain on Team Impact. (Entire roster here).

While I’ll be representing CIS and providing coverage at the event, I thought I’d cobble together the rest of our recruiting staff in a roundtable format to help preview what to watch for at The Opening Finals.

Q: Which Miami commit are you most excited to see compete at the Opening?

Stefan Adams: For me, it’s Keontra Smith. His testing numbers have been off the charts this off-season and I’m a huge fan of the way he plays the game. As his strength at safety is playing the run and causing havoc around the line of scrimmage, I’m very interested to see how well he holds up in coverage against the elite of the elite WR’s in America. Smith certainly has the athleticism to get the job done.

Erick Marrero: I’m excited to see Jeremiah Payton go up against some of the nation’s top cornerbacks in the country. While Payton’s ranking is finally up to par with his play, I feel that he is going to have one of the biggest Opening performances in a long time. The 6’3” 180 pound receiver is a very smooth route runner and he’s not adverse to going up for the ball and making a big-time catch.

Matthew Suero: I really want to see Jeremiah Payton go against the top DB’s in the country. Payton could very well end up being our only receiver taken in this class. He played quarterback last season, so I am really looking forward to see his route running and pass catching ability. I want to see if he is crisp with his cuts, if he is decisive when he makes his break, and I want to see him catch with his hands rather than his body. The ability to use your hands to catch and not rely on your body is something I look for whenever I watch film on a receiver.

Geo: Jeremiah Payton. I had pegged Payton as the alpha dog among WR’s in the state of Florida before the cycle began. He’s a physical wide receiver with solid hands and good speed. He possesses the ability to high point the ball exceptionally well and is a combination of slippery and tough in the open field. His versatility has always caught my eye from running as a wildcat QB to playing WR and showcasing his athletic ability as a safety during his spring game. He’s a gamer: when the lights come on, he shines and takes over the game as he showed countless times during the 7-on-7 circuit. I expect him to shine again in Texas during the 7-on-7 portion of the event. I don’t throw out comparisons often, but he reminds me of Dez Bryant during his time with Oklahoma State.

Q: Which Miami target or commit will most raise their stock at the event?

Stefan: While he already has a respectable ranking, I believe STA S Jordan Battle is still being undervalued a bit with a 247Composite ranking of #171 overall. A personal favorite of mine for a while now, Battle has next-level instincts at DB and displays great hip-flip when running with receivers. He was consistently impressive throughout every camp this off-season and I expect that trend to continue on the biggest stage of the camp season. Battle will make an outstanding safety at the next level and will prove why he’s deserving of more praise in Frisco.

Erick: I want to put Payton here, but I feel like one player is going to really show their national worth after their week in Texas, and that’s Southridge DB Tyrique Stevenson. The South Florida DB is going to seriously blowout in the rankings after his performance at the Opening. Stevenson has blown up nationally after his game-changing play against Columbus in the state playoffs. He has gotten his respect in the rankings by 247, which has him ranked 11th overall nationally, but sites like Rivals and ESPN will be forced to change his ranking after he completely dominates WR’s and TEs at the Opening.

Matthew: The fact that Evan Neal is still not a 5-star is a perfect example of why the recruiting websites are bad at their job. Neal is a brick wall: you are not going to go through him, you are not going to go around him, you are just not beating him. Neal is able to overpower anyone who bull rushes him due to his pure strength. By some reports, he has dropped nearly 30 pounds off his weight. This will allow Neal to counter the speed rush of the quicker defensive ends at the camp. Once Neal gets his hand on you, it’s over. If his weight drop allows Neal to get off the ball faster, watch out.

Geo: Evan Neal. He was the best prospect overall, that I saw with my eyes at The Miami Opening Regional. I deemed him a 5 star after that event and I expect him to snag that coveted 5th star many prospects seek at this event. I expect him to be one of the top performers again with the stakes and competition higher. He could start for Miami today on the offensive line; yes, he’s that good. He is the epitome of a bookend tackle and a mammoth in size. While some might be under the impression that his body may be sloppy under his listed measurables, that is not the case from the eye test. IMG has done a very good job getting him in shape and ready for college, and he has transformed compared to when he was a freshman at Okeechobee in that regard. A high school senior that moves and bends at his size is rather rare.

While quiet off the field, he is nasty on it and displays that confidence as a literal wall as he contains great core strength and a strong lower base. The word "huge" may be an understatement as numerous top flight defensive linemen struggled mightily to even get around the edge on Neal at The Miami Opening Regional. In my eyes, he’s about a sure thing as it gets to the vital core of a team’s future offensive success. He can change games. Mark-Antony Richards is a close second here as well.

Q: Which UM target are you most interested in hearing from in an interview?

Stefan: Evan Neal is famously difficult to get in touch with for interviews and if you don’t get him in person at an event, forget about talking with him. I’ve said it many times before, but I consider Neal UM’s most important recruit this cycle for various reasons. He also just went on an extremely pivotal unofficial visit to Coral Gables with his immediate family members, but nobody’s gotten the first-hand story of how that visit went from Neal himself. Getting to pick the brain of Miami’s top target for once will be a golden opportunity.

Erick: I really want to hear where Miami stands with four targets: DT Jaquaze Sorrells, TE Keon Zipperer, OT Stacey Wilkins, and WR Jermaine Burton. I listed all of these players here because guys like Sorrells and Zipperer do not do many interviews. DT is a big priority for Miami this cycle and I would really like to see where Miami stands with a guy like Sorrells, who I saw dominate an all-star game back in February. Miami is the “favorite” for Zipperer, but how interested is he really in the Canes? For someone like Wilkins, Miami just dished out an offer to him last week and it looks like Miami is quickly gaining traction on his recruitment. Will he take an official visit to Miami or go to Paradise camp? All these questions need to be answered. Finally, Burton is my favorite WR in the class of 2020. I want to know if he is still interested in Miami after decommitting from UM last month.

Matthew: Just like the rest of you, I am dying to hear from Jordan Battle. The 4-star safety is coming off of an official visit to his two top schools in Miami and Ohio State. While Aquinas was at Miami for a 7-on-7 camp, Miami rolled out the red carpet for Battle. He ate lunch with his parents and Mark Richt in Richt’s office and he had a coach attached to him the entire day. He returned the following weekend for his official visit. This past weekend, he made his way up to Columbus for an Ohio State official visit. I have not heard anything about that visit, but the good news is he left Columbus uncommitted. At least publicly uncommitted.

Geo: Mark-Antony Richards. He has always been a great interview. He’s a legacy and a humble, respectful, and bright young man that comes from a great family. I’m curious as to where he lines up during this event as he lined up as a RB at the Rivals camp and won MVP for his position and then playing WR for the Miami Opening Regional. I personally saw him line up as a WR at last year’s Paradise Camp and came away impressed with him for a rising junior. I still feel that his most upside is on defense and he possesses the caliber of talent as a defensive back that is equivalent to his older brother as a wide receiver in my eyes; just an elite athlete. The more film I have seen of Mark and the more I have seen him play in person, the more I realize he is a legitimate Swiss Army Knife that can play multiple positions at a high level on both sides of the ball.

Comments (21)

Good write up. Ready to see these boys compete!

Surprised nobody mentioned Darnell Wright. Hopefully you can get a good interview with him @Stefan Adams
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So we have a good chance to sign everyone on Team Impact except for Cain?
This was a great idea! Solid. An even better idea would be to podcast or facebook live a similar round table discussion, moderated by DMoney. He throws out the questions, we get to hear the answers as y'all shoot the s and give us your differing opinions, if anyone gets too mouthy or starts repeating, DMoney would be there to keep things on track.
Just me. Note, I'll only be there Sunday-Tuesday

I live in Dallas and plan to take 1 or both of my sons to this event. Is the only portion of this event that is open to the public still Sunday night from 7:00 to 9:30? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide. The Opening website is not very helpful.
Solid work. Hope to see one of these for Paradise
Good write up @Stefan Adams. I hope you get creative in interview sessions. So many other guys ask the same 5 questions which gives the readers the same politically correct, pre-determined answers. It's a great chance to show you are better than the UF FSU message board clowns. Thanks.
Looks like jordan battle done committed to ohigho fake!

I live in Dallas and plan to take 1 or both of my sons to this event. Is the only portion of this event that is open to the public still Sunday night from 7:00 to 9:30? Thanks in advance for any information you can provide. The Opening website is not very helpful.

No, there are two portions of the event that are open to the public. Unfortunately, the second one is on Tuesday during the day so it’s not the most convenient.

July 1st Showcase: 7pm - 9:30pm
July 3rd 7on7 and Linemen Workout: 8am - 2:30pm
Thanks Stefan! I'd like to throw out another "ask" for all of you:

it was mentioned in another thread but I bring it up here - when you guys interview our top recruits, would you ask them a little more about how they perceive UM? Not to say you don't ask good questions, etc. And I know these guys don't always want to give you alot of time.

Using Stevenson as an example, I have seen at least 3 different interviews with him from the Rivals event yesterday. (Georgia, Alabama and a UM reporter). Many similarities but the one thing that always hits me is his detailed comments about the coaches and what he likes about the other schools. They are way more detailed and specific than anything we ever read about UM. That stock answer seems to be "because it's home". And these interviews from yesterday aren't the only ones.

Can you see if you can get him ( and any of the other top guys) to be more specific about what they LIKE about UM when you interview them? How do they feel about the staff and their ability to get them to the next level? What do they have in the PLUS column for UM besides proximity to home? There must be some factors they use to compare and decide. I think we would all like to hear what TS, Evan Neal, MAR and others have to say.

Thank you for all your work! I hope you enjoy the event!
will the 40 times they are running today be released?