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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

Final Scouting Notebook from The Opening

July 4, 2017

There is no other camp or all-star game that is like The Opening. Not every top high school prospect in the nation is there, but there are more there than at any other event. That makes it a unique opportunity to evaluate recruits against most of the best players in the nation.

This isn't a gigantic defensive tackle dominating smaller, weaker players. This is big versus big. Fast versus fast. Best versus best.

Now that the camp is over, I've got plenty of notes to share on the five Notre Dame commits and several other Irish targets that competed. You can find my scouting notebooks from Saturday and Sunday here and here, but here's an overview from the entire camp.

A lot of promise shown by ND commits

I know Notre Dame fans don't want to hear about the five commits just fitting in. They want to hear that they are standing out. The two defensive tackle commits stood out in my opinion. Jayson Ademilola was not great on the first day, but got better as the camp progressed with his last day his best. He was explosive off the ball and laterally. No one but him gave 5 star guard Jamaree Salyer any trouble.

Ademilola was the only one who won any reps against Salyer on the final day with two convincing wins in one on ones. The second win was a great hump move that put Salyer on the ground. It could be argued that he won one more, but regardless, he showed the twitch, hands, and advanced counters that put him in an elite class as an interior pass rusher. He will again get a bump in ISD's rankings when they are updated this week.

Ja'mion Franklin is not on the same level as Ademilola as a pass rusher and must bring quicker hands consistently, but his first step and compete level are both top notch. I loved his ability to bounce back after losing two reps to guard Curtis Dunlap early on the final day and then beating him for two reps later. He can be more than just a guy who can bull rush the pocket and had a great push-pull and worked and edge with a wrist grab to win his last rep.

He was not just content to stay blocked like some others. He was countering his counter if it didn't work. That kind of thing may go unnoticed by some, but that definitely had me excited as someone who appreciates not just a high-motor, but an ability to continue to work to win. It weighs down offensive lineman who don't sustain in pass protection and it will eventually produce pressures and sacks.

I liked how Franklin held up at the point of attack in run drills too. He came in as someone with a chip on his shoulder and in my opinion more than proved he belonged. He will get bumped up to a 4 star.

Safety Derrik Allen came in highly ranked and will remain highly ranked. He has the ball skills to play receiver on offense and was the only player I watched lock up tight end Jeremy Ruckert one on one. I can't say that his best position at the next level will be free safety. It's not just his size that makes me think he is better suited to play strong safety. He isn't as fluid as I would like for a guy playing deep the majority of the time either.

The best way I can say it is that I think he can be a solid player at free, but he has All-American potential at strong safety. This camp backed that up for me.

It's tough for linebackers to really shine at a camp like this. I didn't expect Ovie Oghoufo to be great because most linebackers aren't at The Opening. I just wanted to see if he showed a physical edge (check), if he had developed physically (check), and if he was comparable athletically to the top linebackers in the nation (check).

My biggest question was his frame and I remember how skinny he was a year ago. The kind of skinny where I wondered if he could ever project to someone that could be big enough to play Will (now Buck in Mike Elko's defense). Now I think it's definitely a more realistic option even if he may end up at Rover. That may make for a crowded depth chart there depending on if they can land one or two more players in this class that could also project there, but it will be a good problem to have.

Tight end George Takacs had the misfortune of playing on a team with 5 star wide receiver Terrace Marshall, a dynamic slot/running back in Jaelan Gill, and some other big time targets. His quarterbacks didn't look his way often enough even though he was open a decent amount. I did see him look really good running some crossing routes and show potential to do damage after the catch.

He has natural hands and, in addition to having the frame to be a monstrous target at the next level, he was one of the best athletes at the position. I think he is just scratching the surface and am looking forward to see his senior film.

Top guys lived up to the hype

Amon-Ra St. Brown missed the last day with an injury, but his work was done as far as proving how special he is. He should be a top 10 player in the class in my opinion and the ISD Fab 50 will soon reflect that.

No one competes for the ball like him. He is the Honey Badger on offense and is going to step into a college program and make an immediate impact. I don't know if the Irish will have a legit chance unless a bunch of things go right, but if he does choose Notre Dame, I think he will play from day one out of the slot and could star on the outside as well.

Jeremy Ruckert came in as my top tight end in the nation and will still be the top tight end after this camp. No one was more athletic at his position, no one fought through man coverage better, and his ball skills were at another level. There is more separation between him and the rest of the tight ends than I originally thought.

It is a weak year for offensive linemen. Yup, saying it again as a reminder. The only recruit that I felt was 5 star caliber prior to The Opening was Jamaree Salyer. He was dominant at this camp and only challenged a few times. I think he's the best guard that I have seen there in the last four years.

His punch is nasty, he uses his length exceptionally well, and his feet are good enough that he could play tackle in a pinch.

I'm going to include cornerback Houston Griffith in this group too even though some others didn't have him on the same level that I did before the camp. He can play corner at a top level. His instincts and ability to mirror were as good as any. He wastes little movement in and out of his pedal and I saw a number of best receivers fail to gain separation against him.

I know at least one site has him ranked as a safety. To me, he definitively stated he can play corner and play it well at the next level with the way he showed out.

These are the types of players that Notre Dame needs to land in order to win a National Championship.

Austin makes a leap

I was a fan of wide receiver Kevin Austin before this camp, but I am even higher on him as a prospect after seeing him in person. He's not a true burner. That is evident. That doesn't mean he doesn't have the kind of short area speed to separate or that he doesn't understand how to set up defensive backs to beat them deep.

Against a Vapor Speed team that had big time cornerbacks Anthony Cook, Jalen Green, and Sevyn Banks, he was beating them routinely. His team kept going back to him and he won on slants, on a double move for a great over the shoulder catch, and on a post where he took it to another gear for a touchdown.

Having that kind of performance against what I felt were the best set of cornerbacks at the camp cemented how good he is in my eyes. He needs to be ranked higher than he is and has number one receiver potential at the next level.

Quick hitters

- Cook is going to be an incredibly tough pull from Texas, but I was happy to hear the Irish are still trying to stay involved. I have him just outside of a 5 star ranking and think he'll stay that way after seeing him. His traits are special and he can become a great player, but he got beat a little too often when I watched for me to give him a bump.

- On the other hand, his 7 on 7 teammates D'Shawn Jamison is going to rise up a bit. He already was one of my favorite defensive backs in the class and he was constantly breaking up passes in the final two days. His closing speed is special and in my opinion he is one of three big time slot corners in this class. He may prove to be the best of the bunch by the end of it.

He has a very similar skill set to current Notre Dame corner Shaun Crawford.

- Shayne Simon was playing deep all week and he won't be doing that if he is a Rover at Notre Dame. I do think that is where he fits best after watching this week and am going to officially move his position to linebacker on ISD.

One constant for him that I loved seeing, or rather hearing, was him communicating on the back end. He was in control out there on every play echoing calls and checks. He just has the feel of a future leader and a program can never have enough of those. And he's a pretty darn good prospect to boot.

- Channing Tindall is a big time athlete and I loved seeing how long he is, but he looked very raw in coverage. That wasn't unexpected after seeing how he is utilized at high school where he can be lined up on the line a decent amount of the time.

He was close to making plays on the ball a lot in the games I watched his team, but ended up being a half a second too late when he could have opportunities for some interceptions. Still really like him as a prospect, but I don't think he is a top 100 player yet.

- Cameron McGrone's best attributes on the field have to do with the violence he delivers as a hitter and his explosion as a blitzer. That doesn't translate in this kind of setting and he looked like a guy who blitzes more than he has dropped into coverage.

He has the athleticism to run with backs and even slot receivers running crossers, but he was undisciplined in sticking with routes and also needs more experience recognizing what is coming his way. He's better in pads, which is not a bad thing to be.

- Texas wide receiver Tommy Bush did not have a good quarterback situation on his team and that probably hurt him some. In saying that, I thought he failed to gain separation most of the time I watched him. He's got nice hands and made a couple of difficult catches where he snatched the ball low and high and away from his body, but he definitely looks more like a high-end possession option at the next level rather than a guy who can dominate.

- Bush does not have the speed of Anthony Scwhartz. Neither does any of other receiver in this class, to be honest. This dude can flat out fly.

He can get deep on anyone and his team should have ran more go routes with him. Unfortunately, that is by far the best route he runs right now. He has quite a bit of work to do as a route runner and needs to do a better job of coming back to the football. But for that speed alone, he is tantalizing prospect.

- I wouldn't think it would be wise for anyone to get their hopes up with Kamryn Babb, but he looked really good. He had the benefit of having Justin Fields throwing the ball to him, so that didn't hurt. With or without Fields, Babb is one of the top receivers in the class that flashed the ability to attack the football with strength in tight coverage.

He is coming out with that ball most of the time. He is going to rise up a bit in ISD's rankings.

- Three guys I wished I got to watch more were linebacker Jack Lamb, wide receiver Chase Cota, and safety Talanoa Hufanga.

Lamb had a nice breakup in the championship 7on game where he was physical at the end of the play, but I just didn't have enough chance to watch his team enough to say anything more than I was impressed with his frame and can see why the ND staff likes him as a future Mike.

Hufanga looks like he is going to have the range to cover a ton of ground, but it would be false to say I saw enough to get a better impression of him.

Cota was on the same team as Hufanga and while I did see some really great burst from him after the catch, those were just quick snap shots and I didn't get to see much else.

- I'd have to think Notre Dame is in the long shot category for edge rusher Azeez Ojulari currently, but maybe that changes after a visit this month.

He is undersized, but showed a great first step and was surprised by how long he looked. It was tough to gauge how good he was because the tackles were so average compared to what we've seen before at a camp like this, but traits are traits. Ojulari has some great ones like the ability to flip his hips and turn the corner. He's got some exciting pass rush potential.

- No one can dispute that defensive tackle PJ Mustipher struggled. I thought he bounced back a bit on the final day from a rough previous day where he lost all of his reps, but he looks like he has a long way to go with his development.

He couldn't overpower any of the guards and lacked the finish with his hands to win in pass rush. In a run drill the day before his reaction was really late, which is a bit concerning because it happens too much on his film as well.

He has tools to be a really good one tech/nose in my opinion, but I think he looks like more a low 4 star prospect than someone who was on the verge of being a top 50 prospect before. There is plenty of material to work with and I would definitely take him if I was Notre Dame, but the urgency is a lot less knowing they have two other defensive tackles in the class that they can feel good about.

- Sam Taimani played guard at this camp and I think his best position may end up being center at the next level, but the Irish are recruiting him at defensive tackle. He is athletic enough to play there based on how he moves.

He was up and down in pass protection and think that was primarily because he comes from a run-heavy offense in high school. I liked his compete level, though, and think he has a chance to be a stud down the road.

- Tackle Will Craig was one of the last lineman invited to the camp and he ended up in the Final 5. That says a little about how weak the offensive tackle class is that he was able to rise up and make it, but says a lot more about how much he improved over the camp.

His feet always looked good, but his hand placement needed work. It got much better and he held his own against 4 star defensive end Brenton Cox on more than a few occasions. Craig has got some physical development to do that will take some time, but I think he is going to be a better player four years from now than several higher rated offensive tackles in this class.
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