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Ole Miss football recruiting: Diwun Black and top targets shine at Nike’s The Opening Finals

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Matt Luke and Co. have two of the nation’s best in their backyard. Can they seal the deal?

The Opening-Twitter

The nation’s best gathered in Frisco, Tex. for the prospect showcase to try and out-do the other in combine drills, 7-on-7, and one-on-one scenarios in order to see who could go viral the most at Nike’s The Opening Finals. To say that the event was star-studded is an understatement. Out of the 163 prospects that were in the Lone Star State competing, 25 five-stars and 107 four-stars showed up(!).

The main prospects that were in attendance that should be on Ole Miss fans’ radars are five-star Horn Lake, Miss. inside linebacker Nakobe Dean, four-star Forest, Miss. inside linebacker and commit Diwun Black, and four-star Memphis, Tenn. all-purpose back and Michigan commit Eric Gray.

The event concluded two weeks ago and the three were able to showcase their talents in a number of settings. Let’s see how each did in front of the nation’s best.

5-star ILB Nakobe Dean

The 6’0, 220-pounder is arguably the top target for Luke and his staff in 2019, that’s no secret. And it appears that this has become a two-team race, judging by his 247Sports Crystal Ball with Georgia out in front of Ole Miss by a few percentage points. But, it remains to be seen if Dean will leave the Magnolia State and I believe that if the Rebels show they are capable on the field in 2018 that Nakobe is theirs to lose. And now you add in that his brother has walked on to the football team, there is a family connection there for him to consider.

In drills, Nakobe showed he was more than capable of making plays in the open field, whether it was 7-on-7 or in the Cat and Mouse drill, earning him All-Tournament Team honors.

His frame is built to stop the run on the interior, but he can get out in the flats and defend the pass as well. But, we all know that he can make the plays and can fill the need at linebacker, the thing we all want to know is if he signs with the Rebels in the 2019 class. Like I stated above, I think if Ole Miss can win games (7-5 or 8-4 finish) then Nakobe will be in the middle of the Landshark defense in the 2019 season.

The No. 1 player in the state of Mississippi will travel to Orlando, Fla. to take part in the 2019 Under Armour All-America Game.

4-star ILB Diwun Black (Ole Miss commit)

And speaking of All-Tournament Team, it was a downright crime that the Ole Miss commit didn’t make the cut. Nakobe might be rated higher but the Forest, Miss. native stole the show in Texas. The versatile 6’4, 219-pounder was all over the place in every single drill, flashing his off-the-charts athleticism and elite length. In the Cat and Mouse drill, he was the overwhelming favorite as the top standout (see video below) and he was able to do it against not only the best of the best, but against both traditional under center backs and smaller, quicker scat backs.

As a former safety, Diwun isn’t uncomfortable in the slightest when it comes to getting out in space and defending the pass and it showed at The Opening. He’s also someone who is just naturally aggressive and extremely confident and that shows in the 1v1 drills when it comes to coming downhill and stopping the run.

Luke and new linebackers coach Jon Sumrall have got to love what they saw from the nation’s No. 3 inside linebacker in the country while competing, but they have got to hold off others like Florida and Mississippi State and get him to campus to continue to rebuild the Landshark defense brand.

Black has declared that he will no longer play in the Under Armour All-America Game and will now be playing in the All-American Bowl in San Antonio.

4-star APB Eric Gray (Michigan commit)

Despite declaring for the Wolverines while at the event, the Rebels will almost certainly continue to recruit the Lausanne Collegiate School prospect. Most of you know by now that the Rebels have one running back commit in Jerrion Ealy, but he will more than likely not be making it to campus being a top 10 baseball prospect according to just about everyone.

One has to think that running backs coach Derrick Nix and area recruiter Maurice Harris will be driving that point home as they continue to go after Eric and let him know that he could be the No. 1 guy with Ealy most likely getting drafted and getting a seven-figure payday.

In Texas, Eric shined and was able to showcase his skill set. The 5’10, 191-pounder was exceptional out of the backfield in 7-on-7 and was quite slippery in the open field when dodging linebackers and safeties. In the Cat and Mouse drill he was able to show that he can slip and slide with the best of them and get small in tight quarters when avoiding would-be tacklers.

The nation’s No. 3-ranked all-purpose back will be on the radar for the remainder of the recruiting calendar and I think that Jim Harbaugh and his staff in Ann Arbor know that. This is certainly one to watch. He will join Black in San Antonio for the All-American Bowl.