Five Notes and Observations From Day Two at The Opening Finals

By Taylor Lehman on July 2, 2019 at 11:40 pm
Mookie Cooper
Mookie Cooper

Day Two at The Opening Finals was 7-on-7 heavy, but the Buckeye stars were bright.

Mookie Cooper Could Commit Next Week

Four-star Missouri wide receiver Mookie Cooper had quite a day at The Opening Finals on Day Two. On a day when 7-on-7 was so stressed, Cooper was able showcase his skillset in one of the best ways possible.

He’s a shifty, agile wideout at 5-foot-8 and nobody could really handle him. That’s why Gee Scott Jr., Jack Miller and Julian Fleming have been pushing for Cooper to give Ohio State a strong look.

“Mookie,” Fleming told Eleven Warriors about who he was recruiting. “I'm getting Mookie (Cooper). Watch. I want him.”

Cooper caught multiple touchdowns during his day, but the competition officially started at the end when the teams played the first round of their tournament. Cooper had a long touchdown grab for Team Drip, as his team went on to win.

Earlier in the day, after the 7-on-7 Jamboree in the morning, Cooper was by himself on the Ford Center’s field, when he said on his Instagram Live that he would be committing next week. Many believe his commitment could be to the Buckeyes, but it’s tough to nail down where he’s leaning at this point.

EJ Smith Hopes to Visit OSU in The Fall

Dallas all-purpose back EJ Smith released his top-five schools list June 23, and it included Ohio State. Shortly after that announcement, The Opening Finals 7-on-7 rosters were released as well, and Smith happened to be on Team Savage, the same team as four Ohio State commits.

While his four teammates ended their recruitments fairly shortly, Smith’s will last longer, since he said, he hasn’t secured dates for officials to those schools yet.

Smith, the son of NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, has been to Ohio State two or three times already, though, including his attendance of Ohio State’s win against Michigan Nov. 24.

“I talk a lot to Coach (Tony) Alford, Coach (Ryan) Day and Coach (Mike) Yurcich,” Smith told Eleven Warriors on Tuesday. “Our relationship there is great.”

Smith can carry the ball well. He exercises great vision to find the seams in the defense. But what separates him form a lot of other running backs, and even all-purpose backs, is his ability in the passing game. For a back that weighs in at about 200 pounds, he has soft hands and is a really threat in a 7-on-7 environment.

There was one pass Tuesday that floated over his shoulder from about 40 yards out and into the corner of the endzone, but Smith caught it for a score.

Smith said he and the Ohio State commits haven’t discussed much about Ohio State, and he has has teammates committed to Texas A&M too, such as wideout Demond Demas. But Smith said he was focused on winning the 7-on-7 tournament.

He called his 7-on-7 teammates “family,” and it appears that he enjoys playing with them. After every score, he is one of the first to celebrate. Like when Gee Scott Jr. caught a touchdown pass while tiptoeing the back line, Smith was the first one there to jump on his back.

While Ohio State has been in talks with Smith, the Buckeyes still have several running backs they’re recruiting for the 2020 class, including five-star running backs Kendall Milton and Bijan Robinson. But they’re also gunning for Sam Adams, Jaylan Knighton, Jalen Berger and others. While it seems like Knighton is the most likely candidate to fill the role sMith would in the Buckeye class, it’s not out of the question for an official visit to wow the legacy tailback. He already has a good relationship with Tony Alford.

“They help the players get to the next level,” Smith said. “The education there is also great, and I’m really close to Coach Alford. He has expectations for me if I go there, and I’m ready to reach those expectations.”

Paris Johnson Jr. Suffers Mild Injury, Discusses Commitment

Ohio State commit Paris Johnson Jr. did not participate in the lineman workout that took place between 7-on-7 sessions After his 40-yard dash Monday, he said he felt something pop and squeeze in his leg, and it turned out to be a hamstring strain.

The injury isn’t expected to affect Johnson for more than a week or two and certainly won’t affect his training as he gets into his senior season with his new teammates at Princeton High School.

While Johnson couldn’t participate in the drills, that didn’t stop him from helping some of the prospects that were competing. He was regularly with the offensive linemen, showing them how to work from a tackle’s stance, how to back pedal out of position and other technical measures.

During the offensive line workout, Johnson spoke with the media for a short time and hinted at the idea that he is locked in with his commitment to Ohio State.

7-on-7 Takes Over The Opening Finals

Day Two was very heavy for 7-on-7. It was split into thirds, starting with a 7-on-7 Jamboree serving as short practice rounds for all of the teams to get to know each other on either side of the ball. Then the offensive and defensive lines worked out together, and then the first round of the double-elimination 7-on-7 tournament occurred.

There are four teams: Savage, Pressure, Guap and Drip. Savage features the most Ohio State commits, as Gee Scott Jr., Julian Fleming, Lejond Cavazos and Jack Miller (who is not playing because of his lat injury) are all on the same team. Jaylan Knighton and EJ Smith are also on the team, though Knighton sat out Tuesday with a mild injury.

Pressure features Lathan Ransom and Elias Ricks on the defensive side and Ohio State commit Jaxon Smith-Njigba and 2021 standout Dekel Crowdus on the offensive side. Smith-Njigba is the playmaker for that team on offense, and Ricks was all over the field on the defensive end, including an interception in the tournament game.

Ohio State commits Clark Phillips and Cody Simon are on Team Drip’s defense. Phillips commands an entire side of the field for his team. The ball is rarely thrown toward him. He only gave up one deep ball all day, which was converted on a circus catch. On offense, Kendall Milton and Mookie Cooper are the team’s best playmakers.

Team Guap has the fewest Ohio State targets. DeaMonte Trayanum, who recently committed to Arizona State, is featured on that team, and California linebacker Kourt Williams is on the team, though he is sitting out because of a mild injury.

Tomorrow's Plans

Wednesday is set up to have two overlapping workouts for the first time all weekend. The second of two lineman workouts will take place just before 10 a.m. CT, and the 7-on-7 tournament will continue around the same time and is expected to end in the afternoon.

Teams Guap and Pressure have already suffered losses, so they only have one loss to give. Teams Drip and Savage will play each other in the winner’s bracket, which features the match with the most Ohio State commits (six) and an intriguing matchup between Phillips and his new teammates.

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