Nike’s “The Opening” competition has become an annual summer tradition where the nation’s elite high school prospects gather in Beaverton, Ore., to compete for the top honors at their respective trades.
LSU will be well-represented at the 2016 edition with six commits, but even more Tigers targets will be in attendance. Some of those top recruits will announce their decision, which means LSU could add even more star-studded pledges to an already-renowned 2017 class.
Here’s a closer look at the eight LSU targets that will compete in Oregon this week:
Marvin Wilson, 5-star DT (Bellaire, Texas)
High School: Episcopal High School
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 329 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 1 defensive tackle
Skinny: Not only is Wilson among the most dominant prospects in the 2017 recruiting class, but he’s one of the most calculated and diligent as well. The top defensive lineman is strongly considering LSU in addition to Alabama, Florida State, Ole Miss and Texas, among others. However, sources close to the situation believe any one of those teams could land Wilson.
He maintains a strong relationship with defensive line coach Ed Orgeron, and he will have a chance to speak with a volume of Houston-area products and LSU commit Tyler Shelvin at The Opening. Shelvin is the nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle, and together with Wilson, could represent the potential for the most dominant defensive line in the country. A source close to Wilson believes this race is the Tigers to lose, but there’s plenty of competition for the elite talent.
Dylan Moses, 5-star LB (Bradenton, Fla.)
High School: IMG Academy
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 225 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 1 linebacker
Skinny: Moses represents one of LSU’s top targets in the defense that first-year defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is constructing. The 5-star talent is a Baton Rouge, La., native coming off a spontaneous visit to the campus in late June, where he delivered the tweet heard ’round the world indicating he hopes to see his hometown team capture a national championship.
Moses then dispelled all the attention by excluding LSU from his official visitors list. Alabama, Ohio State and Texas were among the teams to make the cut, but that doesn’t mean the nation’s No. 2 overall recruit won’t find his way to Death Valley this fall. Moses is teammates with a host of LSU commitments and targets, and quietly, the hometown Tigers have made major strides with Moses leading up to his December announcement.
Cam Akers, 5-star RB (Clinton, Miss.)
High School: Clinton High School
Measurables: 5-foot-11, 212 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 2 running back
Skinny: LSU recently surfaced as a legitimate contender to land the nation’s No. 15 overall prospect. The 5-star back has developed a strong bond with LSU running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, who immediately looked to make amends with the prospect when he took over for Frank Wilson. Akers included LSU in his top 10 after making two visits to Baton Rouge, La., for the spring game and then the Bayou Picnic.
Akers plans on narrowing his list to four at the end of the summer, and the Tigers have a great chance of securing a spot. Tennessee, Ole Miss, Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State are also vying for a spot, though it’s unclear how those schools’ chances will be affected after the Vols landed a Louisiana 4-star back in Trey Coleman and Georgia could do the same with the nation’s No. 6 back Toneil Carter.
LSU is selling Akers on the chance to succeed Leonard Fournette and split time in the backfield as a true freshman along with Derrius Guice, which should ultimately give the Tigers a strong shot to add the No. 2 running back.
Devonta Smith, 5-star WR (Amite, La.)
High School: Amite High School
Measurables: 6-foot-1, 157 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 9 wide receiver
Skinny: Smith recently told SEC Country that he has trimmed his list of top schools and plans to announce his decision on Aug. 15. For now, that unofficial list is comprised of LSU, Alabama, Miami and Florida State.
The 5-star wide receiver has made several visits to both Baton Rouge, La., and Tuscaloosa, Ala., this spring and summer, and has trips to both Miami and Florida State planned in the next month.
The one-time Georgia commit is enticed about the opportunity of re-uniting with former Bulldogs coach Mark Richt at The U. He’s also entertained the in-state Tigers thanks to the work of first-year receivers coach Dameyune Craig. Ultimately, Smith will have to weigh those four options and decide where he can fit in best. That should come down to offensive style, which puts LSU in a tough position.
Grant Delpit, 4-star S (Bradenton, Fla.)
High School: IMG Academy
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 181 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 9 safety
Skinny: Not only is Delpit going to get courted by a number of high school teammates and LSU commits at The Opening, the elite safety is also planning to announce his decision July 10.
The 4-star prospect attended LSU’s satellite camp at Episcopal High School (Bellaire, Texas) last month, where he had an opportunity to speak with defensive backs coach Corey Raymond, area recruiter Bradley Dale Peveto and coach Les Miles. Delpit maintains regular communication with the LSU staff, who envisions him as Jamal Adams’ successor.
LSU enters The Opening with 14 commitments in 2017, and very likely will end the weekend with another in the form of Delpit, a Louisiana native.
Todd Harris, 4-star S (Plaquemine, La.)
High School: Plaquemine High School
Measurables: 6-foot, 177 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 7 safety
Skinny: The elite Louisiana safety was one of the glaring standouts during Nike’s regional camp in New Orleans in April. The funny thing is that Harris stood out with his speed and agility, as well as his coverage skills during 7-on-7 drills, but the 4-star prospect is rated so highly because there may not be a harder hitter in the country.
Harris already revealed to SEC Country that he’s torn between LSU and Ole Miss, but that could quickly transform into LSU vs. Alabama once he procures an offer from the Tide later this month at their prospect camp. Harris may wind up sharing a secondary with Delpit to give LSU as dynamic a one-two punch in their defensive backfield for many years to come.
K’Lavon Chaisson, 4-star DE (Houston)
High School: North Shore
Measurables: 6-foot-4, 211 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 5 weak-side defensive end
Skinny: One of LSU’s premier outside linebacker targets in the Class of 2017, Chaisson recently included the Tigers as one of his top-three teams. That came as a bit of a surprise after the 4-star prospect made another trip to Baton Rouge, La., for the team’s prospect camp in June, marking one year since he procured an offer from LSU.
Chaisson is entering his second season playing varsity football, which demonstrates just how high of a ceiling the edge-rusher has. He’ll be surrounded by a high number of Houston-area products such as Ausbon, Delpit and Wilson, all of whom are must-gets for LSU this recruiting cycle.
Patrick Surtain Jr., 4-star CB (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
High School: American Heritage
Measurables: 6-foot-2, 181 pounds
National rank: Nation’s No. 1 cornerback (2018)
Skinny: The top cornerback prospect in next year’s class, Surtain is the son of former Miami Dolphins and Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Patrick Surtain. The Miami-area product has been high on LSU due to a longstanding bond with Raymond, who has been a longtime friend of his father.
Surtain, a New Orleans native, has held plans to visit LSU this summer for the team’s prospect camp later this month, where the staff will have a chance to make a pitch to the elite rising junior. The Tigers’ 2018 class also features three defensive back pledges in Kelvin Joseph, Corione Harris and fellow Miami product Nadab Joseph, but there a spot secured for Surtain.
Sam Spiegelman covers LSU football recruiting for SECCountry.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play in Tigers Stadium.