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Three elite college football prospects raise state's profile

9:30 AM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
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By Chip Cirillo | The Tennessean

Station Camp's Josh Malone, Beech's Jalen Hurd and Brentwood Academy's Derek Barnett have something to prove at a Nike football camp for elite prospects in Beaverton, Ore.

They will be among the 161 invitees at The Opening today through Wednesday.

For Malone and Barnett, it's state pride. For Hurd, it's individual pride.

"(Tennessee) is not as highly recruited as states like Georgia, Texas, Florida and California because we don't have as many players who come out, but we have good talent so we like to prove ourselves again," Malone said. "We like to prove that we're one of the best states out there, too."

Rivals.com ranks Malone, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound wide receiver, as Tennessee's No. 2 prospect and 38th nationally. He has more than 33 offers.

Hurd, a 6-3, 230-pound tailback who has committed to Tennessee, is ranked first in the state and 12th nationally by 247sports.com and 19th nationally by Rivals.

"It's just a way to see myself against the nation's best," Hurd said. "Many times, people have doubted my talent. I want to try to prove myself as an athlete. It's my inner ego. I want to show people what I can do and prove that I'm one of the best."

Barnett, a 6-4, 267-pound defensive end/tight end, has 17 offers, including eight Southeastern Conference schools and Ohio State.

"Everybody thinks of Georgia as being the hotbed for recruits, but we feel like Tennessee has a bunch of great guys who can play football," Barnett said. "I think we'll all just go out there and compete hard and show everybody that Tennessee is a real good state for football. It's a big pride thing for me, at least."

Four players from Tennessee, the same number as last year, were invited. White Station linebacker Petera Wilson, who has 10 major-college offers, also earned a spot.

The Opening, a third-year event, will be televised by ESPNU.

"(The Opening) is an elite national event, so it's invite-only," said Barton Simmons, a national recruiting analyst for 247sports.com. "Not only do you have to have a high profile nationally, you also have to earn it in some ways because you have to have stood out at a Nike event. So it's definitely the best of the best nationwide and probably the No. 1 offseason event that there is from a talent perspective in high school football."

Malone and Barnett haven't narrowed their choices. Simmons believes Georgia has the upper hand with Malone. He said Tennessee might land Barnett, whose grandfather, Gerald Kasunic, played for Woody Hayes at Ohio State and lettered from 1963-64.

Brentwood Academy defensive back Jalen Ramsey, a Florida State signee, elevated his status with a strong showing at last year's Opening.

The players work out in combine drills such as the 40-yard dash and vertical leaps. Skill players compete in seven-on-seven games, and linemen go one-on-one in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets.

"It's really three days of dynamic competition and exposure in terms of working with great coaches and great NFL athletes," said Brian Stumpf, vice president football events at Student Sports, which puts on The Opening. "So there's one day that's kind of a training day where they'll go through the (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing and have a modified version of the Nike football camp. Then the final two days are seven-on-seven pool play and championship bracket for the skill guys. And then an elite linemen challenge."

THE OPENING

* When: 6 p.m. today (no TV), 8 p.m. Tuesday, 8 p.m. Wednesday

TV: ESPNU

Reach Chip Cirillo at 615-664-2194 or ccirillo@tennessean.com. Contributing: Maurice Patton.

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