Preview: The Opening 2017

June 27, 2017
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The biggest showcase of the recruiting calendar is upon us this week as more than 160 of the best high school football players in the country travel to Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., to participate in The Opening.

The event begins for quarterbacks and receivers on Wednesday afternoon, but the media portion of the camp doesn’t start until Thursday and runs through next Monday.

As always, Irish Sports Daily will be at the event for all of your coverage and as always, this year’s event is stacked with several Notre Dame targets and multiple Irish commitments.

Notre Dame’s 2018 recruiting class will be represented with five verbal pledges participating. The Irish’s most recent commit, tight end George Takacs, will be the only current Notre Dame commit on offense while the Irish’s defensive class will be represented on all three levels. Defensive linemen Jayson Ademilola and Ja’mion Franklin will be on hand as will linebacker Ovie Oghoufo and defensive back Derrik Allen.

All five Irish commits will undoubtedly be searching for opportunities to get in the ears of several of the uncommitted prospects who are high on Notre Dame’s radar and there will be plenty of them.

Irish Sports Daily Jamaree Salyer

Despite a relatively small recruiting board at offensive line, Harry Hiestand’s preference of focusing on chasing the nation’s best is clear as five of his targets will be in Oregon, led by Georgia five-star Jamaree Salyer, who is fresh off a visit to South Bend. Will Craig, of California, just landed his Notre Dame scholarship a couple weeks ago and will be at the event along with Maryland’s Rasheed Walker and Penei Sewell and Sam Vakalahi, both from Utah. Michigan offensive lineman Devontae Dobbs is one of a handful of 2019 prospects who will be participating and is one target to watch.

On the defensive line, PJ Mustipher, younger brother of Irish center Sam Mustipher, headlines a group that also includes Ademilola, Georgia’s Azeez Ojulari and Ohio’s Tyreke Smith. Notre Dame has seemed to be fading with both Mustipher and Smith in recent weeks, but have had the attention of both and while Ojulari will be tough to pull out of SEC country, he’s talked about trying to get to South Bend for a visit last month. In the Class of 2019, Zach Harrison and Jowon Briggs, both from Ohio, are guys to watch, especially Harrison, a five-star who was just at Notre Dame this past weekend.

In addition to Oghoufo, the Irish stand in strong positions with a couple of linebacker targets who will be at the event as well in California’s Jack Lamb and Indiana’s Cameron McGrone. Lamb has a top five of Notre Dame, Penn State, Oregon, Washington and UCLA. He just made his first visit to Notre Dame this past weekend and was extremely impressed. McGrone, meanwhile, was in South Bend a couple weeks ago before a trip to Michigan this past weekend. This could turn into a Michigan-Notre Dame battle. The Irish are also in the mix for a couple other linebackers who will be at Nike in South Carolina’s Channing Tindall, who visited earlier this month, and BYU commit Brandon Kaho, who is still listening to other programs, including Notre Dame. In the Class of 2019, Georgia’s Owen Pappoe is sure to put on a show, just like he did at the event last year, when he was the youngest player ever invited to The Opening.

Irish Sports Daily Shayne Simon

The most crowded spot at this year’s event, at least for Notre Dame targets, figures to be defensive back. Not only will Allen be working out, but several of prospects high on the Irish’s recruiting board will be too, including New Jersey’s Shayne Simon, Anthony Cook and Christian Morgan both of Texas, Oregon’s Talanoa Hufanga and Illinois’ Houston Griffith.

Simon is one of the most important recruits for Notre Dame this cycle and would be an ideal candidate to play Mike Elko’s Rover position. Simon was in South Bend earlier this month and appears to be inching toward a decision with the Irish having the momentum of late. Cook seems to be a longshot, but both he;s talented enough to put in the effort and has recently talked about wanting to visit South Bend. Morgan is currently committed to Baylor, but has told ISD an offer from Notre Dame would certainly get his attention. At the beginning of the month, Hufanga announced a Top 10 that included Notre Dame and there’s been rumblings the Irish could end up being a true player for a safety prospect they seriously value. Griffith has been on Notre Dame’s recruiting radar since he was a freshman at Chicago’s Mount Carmel High School. Now at IMG Academy in Florida, it seems other schools like Florida State and Ohio State have the momentum, but he’s been interested in Notre Dame for long enough that the Irish should be a factor in the end.

Flipping back to the offensive side of the ball, the Irish don’t seem to be against bringing in a pair of tight ends again in 2018 and, in addition to Takacs’, New York’s Jeremy Ruckert is another top target who will be in Oregon. Ruckert is also strongly considering Ohio State, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Irish Sports Daily Kevin Austin

While Notre Dame has no current wide receiver commits in this year’s event, there’s hope that at least a couple participants will be added to the group before by Signing Day. If that ends up happening, it would most likely start with Kevin Austin. The Florida wide receiver has narrowed his list to the Irish, Miami, Tennessee and Duke with a decision coming “soon” and many perceiving Notre Dame as the favorite. Amon-ra St. Brown, younger brother of Equanimeous St. Brown, is a prospect who has been on the Irish’s radar for years. Notre Dame has always been firmly in the mix and still is today, but the competition will be stiff with Stanford, Alabama, USC and others in the running. Other Irish targets at wide receiver who will be at the event include Texas’ Tommy Bush, Oregon’s Chase Cota, Isaah Crocker of California, Missouri’s Kamryn Babb and Florida’s Anthony Schwartz.

As tends to always be the case, there’s a good chance a few new prospects will be added to our Target List once we get to the West Coast.

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