Here are the top ten prospects from the Sunshine State that participated at The Opening last week in Oregon.The Opening - Florida Top 10, 6-10
1.) Calvin Ridley (Coconut Creek, Fla./Monarch)
I wasn’t the least bit surprised by the play of this super wide receiver, as this is what Ridley has been doing on the 7v7 circuit all spring and summer. Simply, he has been unstoppable. So I was elated to see him absolutely tear it up on the biggest stage of the off-season at The Opening. Here, he won the MVP.
This kid is Amari Cooper good and like Cooper, he’s headed to play his college football for the Crimson Tide. It’s funny because Ridley only ran a 4.5 [forty] on Tuesday yet there isn’t a defensive back in attendance that could hang with him. None. Ridley can beat you deep or make you look silly in space on the shorter routes. He has fantastic hands and even better ball skills. If he had Preston Williams (Lovejoy, Ga.) size (6-4/200) he would be the nation’s top recruit. Ridley is now a five-star and the nation’s No. 2 ranked wide receiver.
2.) Derwin James (Haines City, Fla.)
In a way I almost feel bad for Mr. James. He’s like the forgotten five-star because it seems as though he has been committed to Florida State for an eternity. James was sensational in Oregon at The Opening when they challenged him. Typically the opponent lost. I can’t tell you how many times I heard Brian Stumpf [from Student Sports] over the PA say ‘Derwin James with the pick six.’
You hear of cornerbacks that take away half the field. That’s what James does from the safety spot. You simply don’t find many quite like him. This is a safety that is built like a linebacker and who runs like a cornerback. He’s the top rated recruit as his position for his a reason and this past week was further evidence of just that. The kid is a plug and play guy from day one in Tallahassee. And just think, the good folks in attendance didn’t get to see him in the run support game. Now that’s a shame.
3.) Byron Cowart (Seffner, Fla./Armwood)
Just how good and how dominant was defensive end Byron Cowart at The Opening? I asked one of the Nike Camp coaches who got the best of Cowart during the three days of competition between the offensive and defensive linemen. His response was the final series of reps on day three between best on best – Cowart versus offensive tackle Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla). On this three play sequence Ivey would be given the victory 2-1.
But it was Cowart that won the war. He was virtually unblockable from the start of this event last Tuesday. He has very good size (6-3.5/258) and gets off the ball so quickly. He has speed to be a serious edge threat but also has incredible power and strength. Cowart is beginning to learn and understand how to use his hands. Then, if that’s not enough, he has a two counter inside moves to go with this speed rush.
His high school coach, Sean Callahan, recently said to me that Byron “is starting to figure things out”. It’s been fun watching Cowart grow up, as I have been watching him since his freshman season. His progression has been amazing. What I love most about this kid is his ‘want to get better’. Cowart is a serious film junkie and he’s constantly in his coaches ears to ask for tips, critiques and comments on his play.
4.) Tarvarus McFadden (Plantation, Fla./American Heritage)
I absolutely love big, physical cornerbacks. That’s precisely what McFadden is. Seriously, he’s built like a big safety but he can flat-out play on the island at cornerback. McFadden, 6-foot-2, 198-pounds, ran 4.6 [forty] on Tuesday. That time is going to bother a lot of people. Then you watch him play the position and he’s outstanding. Sure he got beat, all cornerbacks do. But for the most part he was dominant. McFadden just knows how to use his size, length and physicality to his advantage. And lets face it, there are not too many wide receivers out there that have ever played against guys of his stature.
5.) Martez Ivey (Apopka, Fla.)
I went on record shortly after the Florida state championship games last December that offensive tackle Martez Ivey was the top prospect in Florida for the 2015 class. Here we are seven months later and I still hold the same conviction.
Is Ivey the best player in Florida right now? No. There are likely a few players that are further along (names mentioned above) right now. But I still don’t believe there is a player in this current class with as much upside as this 6-foot-6, 271-pound left tackle.
At The Opening Ivey had his moments, in particular the best on best final against Byron Cowart (video below). He won two of the three reps against the one guy that dominated everyone prior to that for three days. Up until that moment, Ivey was up and down. He was devastating in run blocking one on ones. By his admission he will tell you that this part of his game is much further along than pass pro. There were times when Ivey just exploded off the ball. For such a tall player, he plays low. Ivey shows he can bend and he plays with that flat-back. At times he’s overpowering, especially when he gets a good punch on the defender.
He was certainly less dominating in pass pro. He’s long and has great feet but he needs to play with more technique and better balance. At times he reaches with those long arms of his. Ivey may get away with that at home but not at The Opening. Cowart and Josh Sweat (Virginia Beach, Va./Oscar Smith) gave him trouble on the edge. But when it counted the most in Oregon, he buried Cowart on one pass pro rep and steered him around the dummy on the first. (On the third Cowart torched him with an inside spin move).
Ivey has a ways to go and he knows it. This is a kid much like Cowart off the field. He wants to put in the work to get better. One thing is certain for Ivey, his upside is through the roof, especially once he fills out his frame and bulks up. This is a long, lean and very athletic tackle who can be as good as he wants to be. Ivey has no physical limitations.The Opening - Florida Top 10, 6-10