After collecting opinions as well as observations during Sunday’s Nike Football The Opening NorCal regional, it’s a great group of tight ends for the upcoming California season. It was a defensive back, however, who may have stole the show.
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Jaylon Johnson from Central High of Fresno not only won the race between the five fastest players at the NorCal Nike Football event on Sunday, but the nationally known defensive back recruit had even more accolades that he earned later in the day.
Johnson, a 6-foot, 180-pounder who is the latest in a long line of super-quick defensive backs (mostly corners) from the Fresno area, also picked up three awards when the camp that was held at De Anza High in El Sobrante concluded.
Most of those who came to the event – many were from out-of-state and there was at least one player from every CIF section in the state (even San Francisco) – began the day by getting a SPARQ Rating (a score based on tests in the 40-yard dash, power ball throw, 20-yard shuttle and vertical leap).
Johnson, who also had a 39-inch vertical, had the best SPARQ Rating of 132.42. That not only was No. 1 on the day, but beat the score of 131.14 that running back Morgan Ellison had when the Pickerington Central (Ohio) athlete tested recently in Columbus, Ohio.
The Grizzlies’ senior-to-be also was named the MVP of the defensive backs to go with the SPARQ Rating and capped off his day by landing a golden ticket invite to Nike’s The Opening, a national event that will be held in July at the company’s Beaverton, Ore., world headquarters.
“I definitely wanted to prove myself out here today,” Johnson said. “To see the talents of all these guys and then have this type of day is special. My feet and hips felt really good. Most guys with longer hips like me have difficulties, but I wanted to show I don’t have that and I think I did.”
The West Coast flavor of the NorCal Nike event – known for many years as simply the Nike camp – was displayed when the full roster of MVPs and invites to The Opening plus the Elite 11 Finals for quarterbacks were announced.
Other than Johnson, the other MVPs from California were Jack Sears of San Clemente (QBs), Ronnie Rivers from Freedom of Brentwood (RBs), Chris Brooks of Newbury Park (WRs, TEs) and Lamin Touray from Alemany of Mission Hills (LBs). The MVPs for offensive linemen and defensive linemen were from Arizona and Oregon.
Other than Johnson, the other invites to The Opening from California were handed out to DE Hunter Echols of L.A. Cathedral, TE Colby Parkinson of Oaks Christian (Westlake Village) and RB Najee Harris, our 2015 Mr. Football State Player of the Year from Antioch. Players from Oregon, Nevada, Utah and Washington also got invites.
Among the quarterbacks, one of those from California getting a ticket to the Elite 11 finals was Sears, the MVP of the QBs and the latest big-time recruit from San Clemente. He’s following Travis Wilson (the recent standout from Utah now getting ready for the NFL) and Sam Darnold (currently battling for the No. 1 quarterback at USC).
“For me, I was behind Sam and learned a lot from him and he learned a lot from Travis,” Sears said. “You just try to have the same success. Sam and I did go back and forth with texts this week. He just said, ‘Do what you do and you’ll be fine.'”
The other California QB going to the Elite 11 finals was more of a surprise since the invite went to the undersized but strong-armed Jake Haener from Monte Vista of Danville.
“I’ve had a chip on my shoulder since my freshman year, but thanks to my parents and my coaches at Monte Vista and my quarterback coach Will Hewlett all my hard work to get to this point has paid off,” Haener said. “It’s pretty sweet to get that invite.”
The other QBs who earned Elite 11 finals invites were from Colorado and Hawaii. The Colorado QB, Dylan McCaffrey from Valor Christian (Highlands Ranch), is the younger brother of Stanford Heisman Trophy favorite Christian McCaffrey.
Another California QB who earlier had been given an invite to the Elite 11 finals is Corona del Mar’s Chase Garbers.
Although Parkinson was the only tight end from California to get a ticket to Beaverton, it was a strong showing by others, some of which could still be in the running for an invite. That list includes Jimmy Jaggers of Roseville, Erik Krommenhoek of Danville Monte Vista and Tucker Fisk of Davis. Parkinson is committed to Stanford while the others all have multiple offers.
Asked if having so many top tight end prospects in the state at the same time made each of them better, Fisk said, “You have to get better. You don’t have a choice.”
One difference between this year and last year is the legion of media members from the recruiting services who followed around Antioch’s Harris. Many already know what he can do as one of the top-ranked players in the nation, but Harris got the word out that he wasn’t going to do any interviews during the day.
“This is great,” he mentioned while getting a sip of Gatorade. “They’re all over there and I’m over here.”
Despite his national status, Harris didn’t shy away from anything and competed as hard as he does every time anybody has ever seen him.