What I'll be Watching at The Opening: O-line and D-line

June 27, 2017
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No other event gets as many of the top recruits in the nation as The Opening Finals held annually every summer at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. It's best versus best for five days where prospects from all over the country come to compete. If you love football and love recruiting, there really isn't a better event to be at.

ISD's Christian McCollum already put together a preview for everyone that gives the details of which Notre Dame recruits that will be there
that him and I will be watching and speaking with. I personally love watching the competition more than anything.
I like watching the line in particular because it is one of the few camps where the linemen get to wear pads.

In terms of on the field competition, this is what I'm going to be watching on both sides of the line.

Battles on the line


The big boys are typically the forgotten stars of a camp that mostly revolves around a big 7 on 7 tournament. There are three 2018 defensive tackles of interest that I will be paying close attention to. The first two are committed to the Irish.

Maryland's Ja'mion Franklin shows an explosive first step on film that helps him dominate the competition at his high school, but now he'll be going up against players just as big and strong as he is. This is a big opportunity for him to show out and prove he deserves a 4th star.

The other Irish commit, Jayson Ademilola (New Jersey), already has that 4th star, but he might be on the verge of showing he is a top 50 prospect overall after this camp. He was so dominant at the New Jersey regional and if he continues that dominance, then he might just be putting himself on a track to play a significant role early in his career at Notre Dame. I'm excited to see if anyone other defensive linemen at the camp can match how good his hands are as a pass rusher.

PJ Mustipher (Maryland) might be the only defensive tackle left on the board that the Irish are pursuing after adding Franklin and Ademilola to the class. He's got more physical tools in terms of natural athleticism and size (6'5" 285) than those two, but they are the ones who are more impressive in terms of making plays on film. I'm very interested to see how good Mustipher's snap anticipation is after seeing him be late off the ball too often on film. He's a high-level prospect that in my opinion is a top 100 player, but could move up or down depending on how he looks in pads this week.

I'm looking forward to them going head to head with three Notre Dame offers on the offensive line: 5 star Jamaree Salyer (Georgia), 4 star Penei Sewell (Utah), and 4 Sam Vakalahi (Utah). If any of the defensive tackles win reps against Salyer it will be a big deal. He might have been the best guard at last year's camp going against 2017 recruits. Anything less than him being the best guard in attendance would be a surprise.

I'm a lot more intrigued to watch Sewell and Vakalahi. With Sewell, my big question is whether he is better suited to play guard or right tackle. We'll have a better idea after he competes here and with Vakalahi it is going to very interesting to watch what he can do as a pass blocker. His high school offense is a run-heavy one and I think he has the feet to be outstanding in protection, but I want to see how much better he gets over the few days working with the coaches because I think he has a ridiculously high upside. I know some schools are recruiting him at defensive tackle so he should be one of the top athletes working on the offensive line as well.

On the outside, defensive end Tyreke Smith (Ohio) might seem like a long shot given his repeated cancellations of visits to Notre Dame, but the Irish are still trying so I'm still going to be keeping an eye on him. He improved so much from his junior year when I saw him compete at the Cleveland regional. If he makes more of a jump at this camp then I think he could be on his way to finishing the cycle as a top 30 prospect.

Azeez Ojulari (Georgia) is one of those undersized ends that will have to deal with bigger players and not have as much of an advantage as he would have now that everyone will be wearing pads. How's he going to do when locked up with guys that Notre Dame has offered like Rasheed Walker (Maryland) or Will Craig (California)? I'm a big fan of Walker and think he is one of the top offensive tackles in the class. I have him ranked ahead of some other big time guys like Cade Mays and Brey Walker, who will both be in attendance. I want to see how he compares to those two. They look a lot more heavy-footed than Walker on film.

With Craig it's more about frame and how big he looks. I like the way he moves, but want to see how much progress he needs to make with his strength and how big he looks (listed at 265) in person.

Overall with all of the linemen in attendance, I don't feel it's a group that it is on the same level on offense like it has been in recent years or at defensive tackle either. I'm looking forward to see who is going to emerge as the top dogs in the class on the line and where players like Ademilola and Franklin fit in terms of the best of the best in 2018.
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