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The Opening: Best of Day 2, defense

BEAVERTON, Ore.- Saturday’s action at The Opening on the Nike Campus featured opening round play of the Nike 7on. Here’s a look at the top skill position performers on the defensive side of the ball.

Five-star Jaylon Smith was one of the top overall peformers at The Opening on Saturday.

Linebackers

1-Jaylon Smith- Smith, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect, was considered by some to be the top overall performer at the event on Saturday. The 6-foot-3, 218-pounder is one of the best linebackers in pass coverage that we’ve seen. He’s elite laterally and has excellent ball skills. Smith is so fast laterally that it was tough for any receiver or back that caught the ball in front of where Smith was on the field to get much yardage at all.

2- Matthew Thomas- Thomas, a five-star prospect, has excellent length and was active in pass coverage throughout the day. He reacts well to the ball in the air and had one play where he was three feet off the ground to break up to pass. Thomas can get to balls in the intermediate passing game that a quarterback would not expect him to get to. Miami (Fla.), Florida State, Alabama and others are in the mix, but the Hurricanes are the heavy favorites.

3- Alex Anzalone- It’s decision day for Anzalone and most likely either Notre Dame or Penn State will get a big, fast linebacker that rarely gets out of position. This allowed him to have a pick-6 and make other big plays throughout the day Saturday.

Notes

-South Carolina linebacker commit Larenz Bryant was outstanding in pass coverage and had a pick-6 on a 2-point conversion. Bryant also displayed good leadership ability, encouraging his teammates.

-Florida commit Quinton Powell thrives in this setting and is outstanding in pass coverage at times.

-Though he may project best as a defensive end, Kendall Beckwith had his moments in space at linebacker on Saturday.

Cornerbacks

1- Jalen Ramsey- Ramsey has been as impressive as any prospect during the first two days of this event. He had a pick-6 against Alabama quarterback commit Cooper Bateman in the first game of the day. Ramsey should be a big mover in our next rankings update.

2- Artie Burns- Burns continued to impress on Saturday. He has excellent recovery speed (he ran in the 4.5-second range on Friday) and he used it to break up numerous passes. Miami (Fla.), LSU, Florida State, Louisville and others are in the mix for the former Alabama commit and Top247 prospect.

3- Eli Woodard- The Ohio State commit has excellent size, but also showed elite coverage ability making multiple big plays, including a clutch interception late in one of the games.

Notes

-Another future Buckeyes cornerback, Cameron Burrows made one of the plays of the day with an acrobatic interception during one of the contests.

-You have to like the game of three-star cornerback Will Likely. He makes plays despite being 5-foot-7. Wake Forest and a number of other programs are in the mix to land Likely.

-Cornerback Noel Ellis took tipped pass from Smith and turned it into a pick-6. The Texas A&M commit, like Likely, plays bigger than his size.

Safeties

1- Holland Fisher- Fisher, a Virginia Tech commit, had four interceptions during 7on7 play and showed outstanding explosiveness and ball skills throughout the event. Fisher may have had the single-best performance of any one prospect at The Opening on Saturday and has a chance to move up even more in the 247Sports rankings. It’s no surprise that Alabama, which recently offered, sees him as a Mark Barron type because he certainly showed enough in pass coverage Saturday to back that up.

2- Marcell Harris- Harris had two interceptions in three possessions against Texas-bound Tyrone Swoopes during one of the games. Harris continues to show that despite being bigger than most at his position, he still has the ability to play there. His performance Saturday backed that up. Expect Harris to end up at Florida, Florida State or Texas.

3- Keanu Neal- Heading into The Opening, we felt the Florida commit may be one of the more underrated players in the entire field and he has showed that through the first two days. Neal is rangy, moves well laterally and broke up multiple passes.

Notes

-Four-star California safety Tyler Foreman had several nice pass break-ups and moves well for his size. Leon McQuay III and Hatari Byrd also had nice moments.

-Overall, the safety position is deep and talented at this event.

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