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Names to Watch for the Vols at Nike’s The Opening

(Photo via Natalie Pierce)

Every year, Nike holds its annual event that gathers elite prospects from around the country to perform in various drills and competitions. That annual event is called The Opening. This year, The Opening won’t take place at Nike’s headquarters in Oregon like is usually does. This time it will be held in Frisco, Texas at the Dallas Cowboys’ state-of-the-art facility, The Star.

The event is invite only, and only the players who perform the best at the regional Opening events are invited to the Finals in Frisco. And this year, several Tennessee commits and top Vol targets are participating in the Finals.

Here’s a list along with a brief breakdown of all the current Vol commits and top targets who will be participating at The Opening, which will run from June 30th through July 3rd.

All rankings are via the 247Sports Composite ratings

Vol Commits

Ramel Keyton, WR
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 163
Position rating: 28

Breakdown: Keyton committed to the Vols back in mid-May, and his stock has steadily risen since then. He’s proven to be a solid play-maker at receiver, and he’s impressed in some early drills and competitions this summer. Expect him to climb the rankings even more if he continues to show out this weekend.

Brian Maurer, QB
Star rating: 3-star
Overall rating: 492
Position rating: 18

Breakdown: The Vols’ most recent commitment, Maurer has a chance to really make a name for himself at The Opening. He was one of only 12 quarterbacks to be invited, and with a somewhat mediocre overall QB pool in the 2019 class, Maurer could cement himself as a name to watch heading into the fall. His recruitment has really taken off this summer, and a solid performance at The Opening could be his breakout performance.

Wanya Morris, OT
Star rating: 5-star
Overall rating: 24
Position rating: 4

Breakdown: Tennessee’s highest-rated commit in the 2019 class has a chance to stand out among a group of talented offensive linemen at the event. He’ll be around several other five-star linemen, and Morris has looked elite at other camps this summer. Expect to see him flex his muscles at The Opening too.

Vol Targets

Diwun Black, ILB/ATH
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 61
Position rating: 3

Breakdown: The Vols aren’t huge players for Black, but he has recently showed more interest in Tennessee this summer. He committed to Ole Miss back in April, but that commitment is anything but firm. The athletic linebacker will be tested this weekend.

Jalen Curry, WR
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 119
Position rating: 23

Breakdown: Curry is arguably the Vols’ top target at wide receiver right now, and he’ll be showing off his explosive skill set against some of the top corners in the country. Auburn is Tennessee’s biggest competition for Curry right now. He officially visited the Vols for the Orange & White Game, and he officially visited Auburn on June 15th.

Kalen DeLoach, OLB
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 308
Position rating: 22

Breakdown: Tennessee’s recruitment of DeLoach has cooled as the summer has gone on, but there’s still some interest here. He unofficially visited the Vols in March but has been showing interest elsewhere over the last few months.

Jaylen Ellis, WR
Star rating: 3-star
Overall rating: 535
Position rating: 70

Breakdown: The Vols offered Ellis in late May, and they’ve shown some interest in him over the last month. He committed to Baylor back in June of 2017, but his recruitment is anything but over. He’s received offers from Oregon, Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Ohio State, and Ole Miss among others over the last two-plus months. Expect him to rise in the rankings after The Opening.

Jaydon Hill, CB
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 280
Position rating: 27

Breakdown: Tennessee is targeting a large handful of cornerbacks in the 2019 class, and one of their top priorities at the position is Hill. The Vols have been major players in Hill’s recruitment since Jeremy Pruitt took over, and he’s visited UT three times since April. He’s slowly risen in recruiting rankings over the last half year, and he has a chance to separate himself from other talented cornerbacks at The Opening.

Warren McClendon, OT
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 260
Position rating: 28

Breakdown: McClendon recently released a top 5 list of schools, and the Vols made the cut. He’s a big offensive tackle from Georgia, and the Vols are looking to add as many offensive linemen as possible. McClendon hasn’t visited UT any this year, so it’s unclear just how much interest he truly has in Tennessee. But he included them in his top 5, so he’s at least still thinking about them.

Owen Pappoe, OLB
Star rating: 5-star
Overall rating: 9
Position rating: 1

Breakdown: Pappoe is teammates with Vol commit Wanya Morris, and they’re both part of an extremely talented Grayson squad down in Loganville, Georgia. Just because Pappoe committed to Auburn back on May 1st doesn’t mean the Vols have lost interest and have stopped pursuing him. He’ll get to show off his considerable talents quite a bit in drills this weekend.

Cameron Smith, CB
Star rating: 3-star
Overall rating: 372
Position rating: 34

Breakdown: Another fast-riser among the cornerbacks in the 2019 class, Smith has shown interest in the Vols this summer. He unofficially visited in early June after Tennessee offered him in mid-May. South Carolina is the team to beat for him, however, and North Carolina is also making progress on him.

Taulia Tagovailoa, QB
Star rating: 4-star
Overall rating: 149
Position rating: 7

Breakdown: Tennessee’s white whale in the 2019 cycle, Tagovailoa will be one of the more interesting players to watch during The Opening. The Vols had him on a visit a couple weeks ago, and the Alabama commit’s visit stirred the waters among Vol fans and Bama fans alike. UT’s coaches would love nothing more than to flip the younger Tagovailoa brother and add him as their second quarterback in this class.

Darnell Wright, OT
Star rating: 5-star
Overall rating: 5
Position rating: 1

Breakdown: Arguably the Vols’ No. 1 target in the 2019 cycle, Wright is a mammoth offensive tackle who looks like he could fit the same mold that Trey Smith did a year ago. He appears ready to come in and start Day 1 no matter where he goes. Tennessee is in a great spot with Wright, and he’ll be working alongside Vol commit Wanya Morris at The Opening. Expect Morris to do a lot of peer recruiting this weekend.

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