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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

6 Thoughts After The Opening

July 5, 2018

Kyle Hamilton‍ is a not a 3-star prospect. I don’t have him rated as one. We’ve talked about it frequently on Power Hour how he is extremely underrated nationally. His film shows nothing to indicate he should have been one either. But for the sake of clarity, he went and proved he should be ranked higher while competing against the best prospects in the nation at The Opening Finals in Dallas.

He also proved that he shouldn’t be labeled a future linebacker just because he is taller and has longer arms than most other defensive backs. Hamilton is fast, fluid, and has big time ball skills. He likely would have had two picks in the 7 on 7 championship game if not for playing with finger he dislocated the previous day.

He was able to get his hands on the football a lot and showed he can cover the deep half at a very high level. Georgia and Ohio State wanted him in their class for a reason. He is a unicorn with his combination of size and speed in a free safety. There is no doubt in my mind he was one of the top safeties competing at the camp and seeing him in person made me realize that I am too low with my ranking of a 91 for him too.

Mike has said it for awhile that he thinks Hamilton is the best player in the class for the Irish. He just might be and his ranking should reflect that. Having him on the same defense as Houston Griffith, Derrik Allen, and the others they have brought in recently is going to be a different experience for Notre Dame fans.

There has been some good individual talent on recent editions of the Irish defense, but the collection of athletes they are compiling is going to be very fun to watch develop over the next few years.

2. Notre Dame’s other commitment competing at the camp didn’t make the same kind of splash as Hamilton. NaNa Osafo-Mensah‍ was very impressive in limited reps on his first day in pads against the top tackle in the nation, Kenyon Green‍. Against another top tackle on the final day, Darnell Wright‍, he did not do as well.

I would have loved to see him take more reps, but he showed more than enough to be excited about his pass rush potential going forward. The biggest thing he doesn’t have in his tool kit right now is counters if his initial move is stopped and he has an overreliance on his athleticism to win.

He’s talented enough that he can still make some impact doing that, but it won’t be consistent if he doesn’t use his hands more. I’m excited to see how he improves this fall. I’m always of the opinion that competing at this type of event is going to make a play better whether they do well or not. It’s a chance to measure yourself against the best of the best. Osafo-Mensah proved he could win against them, but he was also humbled on a few reps that showed he needs to put in the work to be dominant against a higher level of offensive tackle.

3. Notre Dame defensive end target Joshua Pakola‍ is more raw as a pass rusher and not as explosive laterally as Osafo-Mensah, but he was much better on the final day than he was earlier in the camp. He had great use of a long arm technique to drive Ohio State commit Doug Nester‍ back into the quarterback. I think that can develop into a devastating go-to move for him as a pass rusher if he hones it properly.

It’s something Khalil Mack uses and it’s virtually unstoppable when he does it.

On other side of the ball, Notre Dame offensive tackle target Enokk Vimahi‍ wasn’t an offensive tackle that had folks buzzing heading before or after the camp, but he was so much better on the final day compared to the previous one. That tends to happen when you go against the best pass rusher in the nation on the first day in pads when you've been waiting your turn to take reps for twenty minutes. ( Kayvon Thibodeaux‍ was jumping the snap too and the coaches had to change up the counts more. It led to him jumping offsides several times)

Vimahi went up against Kevin Harris‍, who was blowing by people earlier, and shut him down two reps in a row. Vimahi’s feet are very good and he has great knee bend. With his frame, he’s going to put on a lot of weight and grow into a monster. The top tier group of tackles were more advanced than him, but he has the kind of upside where he could be competing for that number one spot with the top group three or four years from now.

I wanted to mention both of these prospects because Pakola (Mountain View, California) and Vimahi (Kahuku, Hawaii) have both never visited Notre Dame before. Right now the Irish are working to land them, but will need to wow them on an official visit in order to take their attention away from other schools they are more familiar with.

Vimahi is visiting for the Michigan game and Pakola’s official visit date is yet to be determined. Based on them not being to campus yet, if Notre Dame was to land one of them, it would be a surprise. If they were to land both, shocking would be an appropriate word for it.

But you just never know what one visit can do and these are two very good prospects that have the potential to be great players at the next level.

4. Maybe I’m being too optimistic about it, but I talked to Tristan Sinclair‍ twice at The Opening and I think the Irish are neck and neck with Stanford for him. We’ll see what happens, but Notre Dame definitely made a lasting impression on him when he took his official. Not just the place, but the people.

I don’t know how much it will factor into it, but I do think he is a far better scheme fit at Notre Dame than Stanford. He is the ideal athlete to play Rover and at a camp filled with twitchy linebackers, he was as quick as any I watched during 7 on 7. He can run with most receivers as well.

I plan on giving him a bump with his ranking after seeing him in person and I was especially impressed with how much more comfortable he looked in coverage as the camp wore on. Clark Lea has landed some athletes at linebacker in the last two classes, but if Sinclair were to choose Notre Dame, he would probably be the best fastest of the bunch.

5. After a down year on the offensive line and defensive lines at The Opening in 2017, this year was much different. It’ didn’t come close to matching the defensive line group in 2015 (Rashan Gary, Dexter Lawrence, Ed Oliver, etc), but the quality of both groups as a whole.

Jason Howell of TexAgs mentioned to me that there wasn’t anyone you could point out and say “That guy doesn’t belong here” and the other four years I have been there has always been a handful of those guys. Out of the four offensive tackles in the ISD Fab 50 that were there (Wright, Green, Jonah Tauanu'u‍, and Pierce Quick‍), none of them disappointed and a couple of them exceeded expectations.

There are two other tackles that I am going to bump up my ranking for that will likely end up in the updated Fab 50 and at least one interior lineman will definitely make it on the list as well. There’s also couple of defensive linemen that could also rise up into the the 50 from outside of it too.

As a whole, the defensive backs and wide receivers weren’t as good as they typically tend to be. The big boys up front more than made up for it.

6. I know Notre Dame just picked up 2019 quarterback Brendon Clark‍ and I like him as a prospect. However, there was one quarterback prospect I watched at The Opening that had me thinking “what if” for the Irish. And it wasn’t Cade McNamara‍. Washington commit Dylan Morris‍ was very close to committing to Notre Dame before McNamara took his spot. Right after he committed to Chris Petersen and the Huskies. At the time, there wasn’t much to think about, but McNamara changed that.

I liked Morris as a prospect on film. However, I was never blown away by him in any area even though I thought he took a nice step in the right direction as a junior.

He seems to be continuing on the way up based on what I saw when watching him at The Opening.

He made some big time throws through tight windows and had terrific anticipation. I know he was picked off a few times early in the camp, but I think that was partly because he was one of the only quarterbacks who took chances over the middle instead of playing safe.

I can’t speak for every game he played, but Morris was very good in the games I watched him. Enough to make me wonder what he would like in blue and gold if things had gone differently back in the summer of 2017. I know it’s pointless to think about it now, especially with Clark just committing. Still, I’m going to be very interested to see how things go for him entering a loaded quarterback room in Seattle. I used to think he was a good prospect. Now after seeing more of him I’m starting to think he can be much better than I originally projected him to be.

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