The receiver roster Saturday at The Opening Chicago regional included preps with NFL pedigrees and four-star ratings.
However, the receiver MVP award landed in the hands of an Iowa City West junior still in search of his first Power 5 conference scholarship offer.
Oliver Martin turned in an award-winning performance, generating high marks for his route-running and pass-catching abilities at the skills competition for top high school prospects around the Midwest.
“First of all, for him to have won the MVP — there were several guys who were four-star-type guys, kids who have big-time offers and are committed to big-time schools,” Scout.com analyst Allen Trieu said, “for him to beat out those guys — he really had to earn it, because he wasn’t a guy coming in that, I think, was necessarily on the radar for that award. He ran really good routes, he caught everything that was thrown at him — whether he was open or if there was a defender draped on his back.
“I think what really impressed the coaches was how technical he was. They really talked about how good his route running was, how well he caught the ball away from his body. I think it was a really strong group of wide receivers, and he stood out — even from that group.”
Martin caught 73 passes for 1,187 yards and 14 touchdowns last fall for Iowa City West. In recent months, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound junior collected scholarship offers from Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan and Northern Iowa.
“He’s a guy we always thought would have a really good chance of getting (Power 5 offers) in the summer,” Trieu said. “He told me he’s going to be at several Power 5 camps. If he does what he did (Saturday) at those camps, I would be surprised if he didn’t get one, if not a couple.”
What does Martin still need to prove?
“I think he needs to show he can separate from elite DBs,” Trieu said. “I think there’s some question about the competition he plays against. He never really sees Division 1 DBs. He did it (Saturday). He went up against Richard Bowens, a kid from Michigan who’s committed to Iowa State, and they had some good battles.
“And there were some other guys there who are legitimate Division 1 corners. If he does the same thing this summer and create the same type of separation that’s on his highlight tape against top-level, Division 1-type prospects, I think that’s the last piece of the puzzle.”
Iowa prep QBs shine
Rivals.com ranks Hunter Johnson the No. 1 pro-style quarterback in the country, and other services have the Brownsburg, Ind., product near the top on their list of prep passers. But 24/7 Sports director of scouting Barton Simmons wrote that Valley’s Rocky Lombardi “may have actually been the most consistent quarterback” Saturday.
Simmons ranked Lombardi one notch below Johnson on the list of offensive players who impressed scouts at The Opening.
Trieu said the Michigan State recruit and Waterloo West’s Devon Moore, an Iowa State commit, were both among the top quarterbacks at The Opening.
“I think — as prospects — they’re fairly close,” he said. “They’re both big guys, both have strong arms. I would say Rocky is ahead right now; he’s played more football. Devon has had some injuries. Rocky has gone deep into the playoffs, so he’s played in some pressure situations.
“I think Rocky has a little bit more polish to him right now. As to where they might end up in a couple years, I think the upside and potential of both of them is pretty similar because they’re both big kids who can make every throw on the field. It would not be a stretch to say those two had the two strongest arms at the camp (Saturday).”
One to watch
A few of recruiting’s top scouting services still don’t have a full profile for Muscatine running back Alphonso Soko. That could change in the coming weeks.
The 5-9, 180-pound junior ran for 1,161 yards and 18 touchdowns last fall. He turned heads Saturday.
“I had a chance to see him at the end of the drills and he looked the part,” Trieu said. “I watched his film (Sunday) because we hadn’t seen much of him, and he looked the part there, too. He’s not a big, big guy, but he’s definitely a kid I think should be on the college radar.”