The first night of television coverage of Nike's The Opening turned into the Kirk Merritt Show, as the 5'11", 206-pound running back/wide receiver/athlete won the SPARQ National Championship.
B/R's Tyler Donohue published a feature on Merritt shortly after Merritt won the event Tuesday night.
But another finalist turned heads in Beaverton, Oregon, and it's one who will be playing his college football in that state.
Oregon running back commit Taj Griffin.
The 5'10", 175-pound, Powder Springs, Georgia, native jumped 45.8 inches Tuesday morning in the SPARQ preliminaries and 43.4 inches in the final. He also posted a 4.31 40-yard dash in the preliminaries, according to 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong, and a 4.34 in the final.
That sound you hear is Oregon coaches cheering and SEC coaches cringing.
Taj Griffin raises the bar with a VJ of 43.4" pic.twitter.com/SJRD34UhAi— The Opening (@TheOpening2014) July 9, 2014
Taj Griffin and Jordan Scarlett ran faster 40 times today at The Opening than all but 1 RB from 2014 #NFL Combine— Michael Carvell (@Carvell_AJC) July 9, 2014
Yeah, he's a freak.
Griffin committed to the Ducks in April over several schools, including the in-state Georgia Bulldogs, USC and Clemson. After his performance at The Opening, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Auburn and the rest of the nine SEC schools that offered Griffin will regret letting him head west.
He isn't just a speedster or a system back who will thrive in Oregon; he's the top all-purpose back in the country for a reason. He's not the biggest player in the world, but he packs a mean punch and hits the hole hard, and when he gets out in space, he's capable of hitting the home run.
B/R's Tyler Donohue got video of Griffin's kneeling power ball toss, which shows off his strength.
Oregon RB commit Taj Griffin flashed his speed this morning with 4.31 40, now testing strength with toss. https://t.co/alrzsmBY0h— Tyler Donohue (@TDsTake) July 9, 2014
Instead of staying home and in the region, he's committed to playing for a team that the SEC blue bloods might face in the College Football Playoff semifinals or title game.
No defense wants to see that kind of home run hitter lining up at running back with college football's biggest prize on the line.
Of course, Griffin's recruitment is far from over.
"Any time there's a talented player like Griffin committed to a school that far from home, the programs in closer proximity likely aren't going to give up and go away," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting analyst for 247Sports. "As the time to put pen to paper draws near, I've seen distance become more of an issue. So I suspect other suitors, in the southeast particularly, will continue to recruit him."
He didn't win the SPARQ national title on Tuesday, but by making the finals with a 136.56 score, Griffin proved that he's not a system back; he's a future superstar.
One that SEC schools will regret letting get away.
Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats are courtesy of CFBStats.com, and all recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports.
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