Five Notes and Observations from Day One at The Opening Finals

By Taylor Lehman on July 1, 2019 at 10:47 pm
Gee Scott Jr.
Gee Scott Jr.

The Opening Finals began in Frisco, Texas, on Monday, and Ohio State was well-represented.

The Opening Finals began at The Star in Frisco, Texas, on Monday, where Ohio State had the second-most commitments with seven. While the Buckeyes were well-represented, those commits also performed well.

Eleven Warriors was able to catch up with several of them, and a majority of those discussions will be posted in the coming Hurry Ups.

But this is what happened today that stood out on Day One.

Ohio State Wide Receivers Show Out

Going into The Opening Finals, Ohio State’s wide receiver corps was going to be the one that impressed the most. And that’s what the trio of Julian Fleming, Gee Scott Jr. and Jaxon Smith-Njigba did on Day One on Monday.

The participants were first put into individual drills, where the receivers specifically worked on footwork with ladders. Then former NFL receiver Curtis Conwy ran them through various route trees without defensive back across from them. Gee Scott Jr. led the way through those route trees, and he and Julian Fleming really wowed spectators with their athletic plays on passes and matured body control.

But once the one-on-one portion began, when defensive backs began to line up in front of the wideouts, all of the receivers showed off.

Scott Jr. excelled at passes thrown over his back shoulder along the sideline and making the difficult catches in the corner of the endzone or along the sideline. His hand size stood out with the way he was able to catch the ball away from his body and maintain control.

Fleming showed off his speed and preciseness in his route-running to force separation. He won every go route he ran.

Even Mookie Cooper, who Ohio State is pushing hard to round out its 2020 receiving corps, showed a lot of flash. At 5-foot-8, he ran most of his routes out of the slot position, but his agility and speed out of his breaks was clearly an advantage against some of the best defensive backs in the country. No one could cover him.

Smith-Njigba, who was a late addition to the roster out of Rockwall, Texas, showed his ability to find space and create opportunities for the quarterback to get him the ball. He made a one-handed catch near the sideline too.

“I was late, so I was coming out here just to eat,” Smith-Njigba told Eleven Warriors. “I feel like I’ve got to prove something with me being late because I feel like I’m one of the best receivers here, so I’m just here to show that.

“It’s a marathon, and I get that, so I’m just out here controlling what I can control. I don’t get much respect, but I’m out here earning people’s respect right now.”

Kendall Milton Has Made His Decision

Five-star running back Kendall Milton was approached by several commits while at The Opening Finals already, as they make the last pushes to get the 6-foot-2, 220-pound running back to their school. There was Lejond Cavazos from Ohio State and Elias Ricks from LSU.

But Milton has already made his decision, he said Monday, though “you never know what could change.”

“Everybody is putting in their little two cents on where I should go, but at the end of the day, it’s my decision,” Milton said.

Milton was last at Ohio State during the weekend of May 31-June 2 before making his official visits to LSU, Georgia and Alabama. He talked about how his unofficial visits were strictly for informational purposes, while his officials were to get the best feel of each program.

But the top thing he was searching for was a top program that could offer early playing time and a path to the NFL.

“The one thing that I noticed from all the schools on my list is that they have a great depth chart, so I have the opportunity to come in and be a great player,” Milton said. “That was the biggest thing for me when it came to choosing schools was getting in early and getting playing time.”

In Ohio State’s case, Milton has already had those conversations with running backs coach Tony Alford.

“Coach Alford let me know that J.K. (Dobbins) is in a position to go to the NFL and that running back spot’s wide open,” Milton said. “He let me know that I could go there, get early playing time and grow my marketing skills and pursue life after football.”

But Milton isn’t the only five-star running back Ohio State is in the mix with. Arizona running back Bijan Robinson, a high school teammate of safety and fellow Ohio State target Lathan Ransom, is interested in the Buckeyes and took his official visit June 21.

Though Milton said he would play with another five-star running back, there is next to zero chance both running backs end up in the same program, so commits like Gee Scott Jr. are stressing that if Milton wants to be part of the program, he’s got to make the call soon, or else the spots will be filled soon.

Milton has known Cavazos since he was in eighth grade, and they communicate a lot, but the talk has put Milton leaning toward Georgia. He isn’t giving any hints toward where he might go though, and in fact, called the Georgia rumors “outside talk.”

“There’s the inside talk and there’s the outside talk, and I’d say that’s in the outside talk,” Milton said.

Ohio State Commits Putting In Work On Recruiting

It is clear what most of Ohio State’s commits are planning to do at The Opening Finals this week – close out some of the prospects that are rumored to be leaning toward the Buckeyes.

When the participants entered the facility to warm up Monday, they had all split up. Lejond Cavazos was warming up with LSU commit Elias Ricks, Clark Phillips was chatting with four-star safety Lathan Ransom and Jack Miller made his way over to No. 11 wide receiver Mookie Cooper.

There are several top 2020 targets for Ohio State at Frisco this week, including Kourt Williams, Jacolbe Cowan, Jaylan Knighton and more. Ohio State’s commits, such as Cavazos, Scott and quarterback Jack Miller, have been on social media increasing the hype surrounding the 2020 class and that it will add surprise commitments and that more of those commitments are coming.

The rest of the class can feel that too.

“It’s Ohio State really,” Ricks told Eleven Warriors about other schools’ commits approaching him. “That’s it. I would say USC, but they don’t really have many commits like that.”

Cody Simon Is Very, Very Athletic

Just two days after he decided to commit to Ohio State, New Jersey linebacker Cody Simon was at The Opening Finals competing with the linebackers.

Ohio State will start him at Mike or Will linebacker, but the point is that he will be playing a pure linebacker role. Yet, he was covering wide receivers in one-on-ones and eating up running backs in individual drills.

He didn’t know he would be put through the ratings tests before he showed up at the facility and still tested better than at least 98 percent of the other linebackers at the event. He ran his 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds and his shuttle in 4.18 seconds and he jumped 38.2 inches in the vertical jump.

Julian Fleming Takes on the Fastest Man Challenge

Ohio State wide receiver commit Julian Fleming showed why he was rated as the best receiver in the class during individual and one-on-one drills. He could easily get behind cornerbacks, he ran crisp routes with fast breaks and high-pointed the ball in all areas of the field. His speed was clearly shown in those drills, but it wasn’t a lot of straight-line speed, which is a common knock against the 40-yard dash as a test in general.

Then Fleming showed that he could do the test too.

He was pitted against three other prospects in the Fastest Man Challenge, which featured eight runners in two prelim heats. Fleming won his heat for the right to race against Notre Dame commit Chris Tyree in the final – Lejond Cavazos lost to Tyree in the second prelim.

Fleming lost, but Ohio State was the only school to have two commits in the race at all.

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