Top performers, LSU recruiting notes from The Opening regional camp Houston

KATY, Texas — The Opening made its way through the Houston metro area this weekend, luring top talent from Texas as well as a handful from neighboring Louisiana.

The deep group of talent battled inclimate weather with four advancing to The Finals in June. That included 5-star wide receiver Arjei Henderson, 4-star tight end Austin Stogner and 4-star cornerbacks Bobby Wolfe and Marcus Banks. All hail from the Houston area.

Here were some of the  other top performers, as well as some critical recruiting updates on where they stand with LSU.

Grant Gunnell, 4-star QB

Gunnell was far and away the most polished passer at the regional camp on Sunday. Despite rainy, windy conditions, the 4-star pocket passer threw accurate and completed difficult throws — even on the move. He continues to impress with his ability to make all the throws. He measured in at 6-foot-5 and 213 pounds and thrived in multiple quarterback drills.

Gunnell says LSU is pushing him the hardest. The Tigers are also standing out because coach Ed Orgeron isn’t talking solely about football with him. He understands the offense is undergoing another transformation, so a break from talking Xs and Os is a relief. His next visit it to Ohio State on March 8.

Erick Young, 4-star CB

Young visited Texas and Oklahoma most recently and both are currently ahead of LSU in the pecking order. However, that may not be the case for much longer. The elite cornerback nearly committed to LSU when secondary coach Corey Raymond was pushing harder a few weeks ago. There was a break in communication, but recently, it picked back up. Orgeron, too, has gotten involved, which should result in a visit to Baton Rouge as early as March 3 for junior day.

LSU was out in the front and now trails, but that could change in the next few weeks. He plans on committing before his senior season at Fort Bend Bush. He could not participate in Sunday’s workouts due to a hand injury, but should be back for the Dallas regional camp in April.

Kenyon Green, 5-star OL

The one-time LSU verbal has shed weight and looks to have grown a few inches. More importantly, Green played with a nasty streak at right tackle and was the top-performing offensive lineman up until an injury early on in the afternoon.

Green indicated that Alabama, Texas A&M and Oklahoma are courting him the hardest for now, but LSU and Texas remain squarely in the picture. Both programs have new offensive line coaches, and James Cregg for LSU, is making a serious impression on the 5-star lineman. He is in line to make a return to Baton Rouge at some point this spring.

Javonne Shepherd, 4-star OL

Shepherd, a top-300 offensive tackle, boasts an impressive frame and some brute strength. He put that on display battling 4-star edge-rusher Nelson Ceaser, one of the most effective defensive end/outside linebackers on hand in the camp.

Shepherd gave an early top group of Alabama, Texas, Texas A&M and Oklahoma, among others, but suggested that LSU is not that far off. In fact, his early relationship with Cregg is having a profound impact on the 6-foot-7, 300-pounder and a visit is a realistic possibility later this spring. LSU’s new offensive line coach and his NFL pedigree is definitely working in the team’s favor with the 2019 linemen.

Jamal Morris, 4-star S

Like the aforementioned Young, Morris and LSU had a three-week break in communication. Prior to that, he was leaning toward the Tigers, which makes sense because he is originally from New Orleans. After Orgeron tabbed Bill Busch to be the new safeties coach under Raymond and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda, the communication with Morris picked up. He is expected on campus for junior day on March 3.

Oklahoma and Texas are currently sitting atop of Morris’ group, but LSU is not far behind. In fact, he admitted that a good visit and continued communication with the LSU coaches could vault the hometown team back on team. The 4-star safety is planning a late spring or summer commitment.

Marcus Stripling, 4-star DE

Stripling was a domineering defensive end during the battles in the trenches, lining up outside as an end and also taking reps inside at tackle. He blew away the competition at both positions. He could certainly do either at the next level, but Stripling has the frame and elite power and hands to be a great 5-technique in a 3-4 defense.

The 4-star lineman visited Texas A&M this past Saturday for junior day and has visits to Georgia and Oklahoma in the works. He has been to LSU quite a bit since the fall, but has no visit scheduled for the moment. Orgeron and Dennis Johnson remain in daily touch with Stripling, but I just entered a Crystal Ball pick favoring the Aggies based on today’s action.

Marcus Banks, 4-star CB

One of the four invitees to The Finals, Banks was strong in coverage and stood out as one of — if not — the best defensive backs in the camp on Sunday. He is long and rangy with impressive speed at corner.

Banks visited LSU in the fall and could return at some point in the spring or summer. He recently made a stop at Texas and is deemed a lean for the Longhorns. In fact, he was planning a commitment for next Saturday but pushed back those plans. The longer he keeps the process open, the better chance a school like LSU has to make an impression.

Austin Stogner, 4-star TE

Stogner was one of the best overall pass-catchers in the camp on Sunday and drew a ton of attention for his strong hands and crisp route-running. He is a huge physical presence that doesn’t necessarily blow past defenders, but makes eye-popping grabs, which means he’s always open.

The Oklahoma verbal is solid to that pact, but LSU is working hard to get him to consider elsewhere. Orgeron and offensive coordinator Steve Ensminger are working that line, which has his attention. While Stogner isn’t cutting off any schools, he remains loyal to his commitment to the Sooners.

Thomas Gordon, 3-star TE

Gordon was the  other impressive tight end. At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, the Houston product was a physical mismatch for the safeties attempting to blanket him, not to mention the strong display of mitts he showed time and time again throughout the afternoon.

A Northwestern verbal, Gordon picked up an offer from LSU soon after his outing at the Nike regional camp. Gordon is an LSU legacy, and while he remains committed to the Wildcats, the Tigers are certainly a team to watch. Their priority target is 4-star Ray Parker, who could eventually grow into an offensive tackle. Ensminger scouted Gordon before taking the offensive coordinator position and has been in touch with the 3-star prospect a lot as of late.

Arjei Henderson, 5-star WR

Henderson was arguably the top-performing prospect in Houston on Sunday, grabbing the attention of all in attendance every rep he took. A top-50 prospect nationally, the 5-star wide receiver showed that he could make plays from multiple positions. He is a crisp, fluid route-runner with outstanding hands and is smooth throughout his routes. He made athletic plays for the football and made it look easy. It’s no wonder he punched his ticket to The Finals.

Brandon Legendre, 3-star ATH

The relative unknown athlete out of Thibodaux, La., was one of a handful of Louisiana prospects to make the trip to East Texas. Legendre proved to be one of the best slot receivers in the camp.

Coaches raved about Legendre’s speed — which measured out to about a 4.5 — but what was equally as impressive was his fluidity. He is a natural route-runner with good hands and is a dangerous possession receiver out of the slot. He provides a security blanket for quarterbacks and has underrated playmaking ability after the catch.

Jacobi Bellazin, 4-star WR

Bellazin is already a household name, but the 2020 slot receiver put forth a top-notch effort in 1-on-1s throughout the afternoon on Sunday. He has devoted time in the weight room and on his route-runners. That makes him a pesky mismatch for bigger defensive backs. He also has the ability to kick his speed into a new gear, as well as make dangerous cuts on his route to create separation.

Orgeron made a phone call to the 4-star receiver this week and should have him on campus for junior day on March 3. It would be surprising not to see Bellazin pick up his LSU offer as early as Saturday. If he does in fact add the offer, a commitment could follow shortly after.

Dwight McGlothern, 4-star CB

One of the top cornerbacks nationally in the Class of 2020, McGlothern impressed with his frame alone. As a rising junior, McGlothern is 6-foot-1 and about 180 pounds, is physical with elite speed.

Every Thursday, McGlothern has a phone conversation with Johnson, his area recruiter. Raymond is also lending a hand with the 4-star cornerback as LSU looks to restock in the secondary beginning with the 2019 haul. For now, McGlothern is leaning toward Texas A&M. He’s originally from The Boot, though, and who the Aggies pull in for 2019 and who the Tigers pull in for 2019 will play a big role in his decision next year.

Zachary Evans, 4-star RB

Evans is arguably the No. 1 running back in the nation for 2020 and certainly looks the part. At 6-foot-1 and almost 210 pounds, he runs a 4.51 40 and has an impressive build. By this time next year, he’ll certainly be in the 5-star discussion.

His first offer came from LSU around this time last year. That was right after LSU signed his former teammate K’Lavon Chaisson and two years after the team inked another North Shore High School product, Eric Monroe, in the 2016 cycle. LSU remains in a strong position, with Tommie Robinson leading the charge. He has visited Texas A&M and Texas with trips to Michigan and Georgia on deck. He plans to camp in Baton Rouge this summer and reconnect with Chaisson and Monroe. Given LSU’s track record with this high school, it’s hard to discount the Tigers at this point.

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