Scouting Tennessee Targets in Trench Warfare at the Opening Finals

Photo by Danny Parker

Don’t pay attention to rumors. Read InsideTennessee’s scouting reports from observing top recruiting targets first-hand at the premier event of the season.

BEAVERTON, Ore. — The best of the best are in tight competition at The Opening Finals.

The remainder of the field of roughly 170 top prospects from across the nation took to Bo Jackson Field at NIKE Headquarters late Saturday afternoon.

Without full pads being involved, it’s the premier event and week on the calendar to gauge skill level and competitive drive. Not every high-school football player that attends The Opening is ready for the pressures of the showcase.

A number of linemen that have targets on their back placed by the Tennessee coaching staff made the trip to Beaverton after getting invited following at least one regional event in cities such as Atlanta, Charlotte or Orlando. Future Tennessee offensive lineman and Knoxville native Cade Mays got an invite but is not in attendance this week.

Here are some observations from the first day of defensive and offensive linemen competing in cleats, helmets, shirts and shorts:

Greg Emerson

With his parents encouraging him on from the sideline, the Jackson native looked even better Saturday than at The Opening Atlanta back on March 26. Plenty of one-on-one opportunities remain for all of the linemen, and it will be interesting to see if Emerson can keep it up. The North Side (Tenn.) High School defensive end has mostly competed against offensive guards. What we want to see in the next 72 hours is Emerson take ownership of the five-technique, matchup with premium offensive tackles such as Williams Barnes of Apopka, Florida, and Jack Carman of Fairfield, Ohio.

Daniel Faalele

Not certain if there is a prospect in the Pacific Northwest in early July with more intrigue surrounding him than the Australian transplant, who sizes up at 6 feet 8, 400 pounds. Unfortunately for Faalele, he is in a position to fail. The OL/DL one-on-ones are clearly geared toward the defensive side, especially against offensive tackles who must kick and slide several times off the snap in order to reach some edge rushers lined up wide-nine. Faalele has never played a snap in a varsity football game and has a mountain of knowledge left to gain, however, the IMG Academy talent is going up against the best of the best. If he can handle the losses like he was saddled with Saturday in stride and stay mentally strong, eager to learn, he could still reach his massive potential.

P.J. Mustipher

It sounds strange given his massive size at 6 feet 4½, 290 pounds, but it’s worth wondering what position will Mustipher play on the next level. Given his physique (not much goo) and apparent strength levels, the Maryland native could work his way into a two-deep at many college programs at end right now. However, given that he is likely to only get larger and stronger, Mustipher’s positional home needs to be at tackle. That versatility is downright sexy for college coaches like Brady Hoke that are salivating at the thought of signing Mustipher. On Saturday, he was too quick for many of the guards matched up over him. Jamaree Salyer of Atlanta rarely loses a rep and is one of the most skilled interior offensive linemen to come around in years. The handkerchief or sleeve will need to be handy for the jaw-dropping intrigue if/when Mustipher and Salyer go head-to-head. If Mustipher can show the ability to get around Salyer in tight quarters, his stock is only going to climb higher.

Azeez Ojulari

As a junior in Marietta, Georgia, Ojulari totaled 103 tackles and seven sacks. After seeing the speed rusher leave at least one highly touted offensive tackle grasping for air with an underneath move Saturday, it’s easy to see why Ojulari has been so productive. As we said, these drills are catered to players like him, and we don’t get to see if he can get off blocks to aid in run support, but the ability the nation’s No. 31 defensive end puts on display makes it simple to see why he’s so coveted by Tennessee. Somebody is going to have to go put a shoulder into the back of quarterbacks on third-and-long or in two-minute drills in the years ahead. If Butch Jones can point at No. 8 and tell him to “go sick ‘em,” that could be a game-changer for the Vols.

Keep it locked to InsideTennessee for more regarding the future of Big Orange football.

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