For most television shows, even the great ones, the pilot is rarely something to look back on fondly. It's more of a jumping off point and they don't often find their footing until much later and even some take until the second season to really hit their stride.
This brings me to the 2014 Irish Invasion football camp. The first of its kind at Notre Dame, it was an event that seemed to be put together a bit late in the process. I wouldn't say it was a failure in terms of the prospects that they brought in, but I wouldn't say it was the rousing success that some thought it could be either.
With today being the big day for the second annual Irish Invasion football camp, it sure seems like Notre Dame has done a much better job in year two of making it bigger and better than the original.
Last year there were no elite receivers who made it out. This year has Donnie Corley, Javon McKinley, Marquez Callaway, Chase Claypool, and Kevin Stepherson. That doesn't include Ahmir Mitchell, who will be visiting shortly after the camp, or talented 2017 kids like Joshua Palmer and Jaevon McQuitty, who could be in line for offers after this camp.
Last year had commitments Shaun Crawford and Nicco Fertitta, and some quality 2016 defensive backs. This year has five safeties with offers (JoeJuan Williams, Chacho Ulloa, Devin Studstill, Jalen Elliott and Ikenna Okeke) and two talented corners with offers (Eric Cuffee and Carlos Becker). That doesn't even include players like cornerback Rontavious Groves and safety Spencer Perry, who are both candidates to walk away with offers after tomorrow. Notre Dame has a serious need at defensive back in this class and are bringing in several players who could be on campus as members of the Fighting Irish football team by the time the next year's Invasion rolls around.
I could keep going on by position, but it's obvious even with just those two positions that the Notre Dame coaching staff has officially made this camp a big deal for recruits during a time where important camps seem to take place every weekend. It's been really impressive.
Even with the inevitable cancellations that always happen (it would have been nice to have 5 star linebacker Caleb Kelly and 4 star defensive end Antonneous Clayton make it), this camp is still loaded with talent for both the 2016 and 2017 classes.
I know I wrote a couple of weeks ago that recruiting has been slow this year, but the coaching staff is doing their best to catch up in a hurry. If this weekend produces a few big commitments, then all of a sudden the concern about this recruiting class will start to fade away like a bad memory.
The original version of the Irish Invasion was fine, but they have turned the second instalment into a much bigger production this year. The bigger it gets, the bigger the deal it will be for top recruits to attend. And that would be a very good thing to attract players to campus every summer.
Other recruiting observations:
- If you followed recruiting at all in the last six months, you'd know that safety is the biggest position of need in this class. If the Irish could walk away with two commitments from the safety group, that would ease a lot of worry going into the rest of the 2016 recruiting.
I really like JoeJuan Williams and his ability to play man coverage, but I would love to see Ulloa and/or Devin Studstill added to this class. Both are strong tacklers and very instinctive players. Studstill is a former high school teammate of Te'Von Coney and got better as the season progressed as a junior. I think he could see a bump in his ranking if he continues the trend I saw at the end of last season.
- The defensive back I'm most curious to hear about that will be there is Jalen Elliott. He plays quarterback at his high school and there isn't a ton of film of him playing defensive back. It's going to be interesting to hear what kind of camp he has because I have heard some good things about his skills on defense.
- I got to see athlete Chase Claypool in person at the Sound Mind Sound Body camp last week and he stood out right away because of how physically impressive he looked. He is a big time athlete as well and could end up anywhere from receiver to possibly outside linebacker. He actually looks a little bit like Alize Jones in terms of his overall body type, only taller.
There is a lot of talent that is emerging out of Canada and it seems to be trending up similar to how it's been with basketball. Neville Gallimore was the biggest recruit from their last year and Claypool is that guy for 2016. Receiver Joshua Palmer, who is from Canada but transferred to St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida, is supposed to be the next guy for 2017. I don't know if any of these guys are the next Andrew Wiggins, but Claypool is going to the Opening next month and will get a chance to see where he stands next to the rest of the nation's best players.
- Notre Dame has landed thirteen composite 5 star players in the last fifteen years, but Jaylon Smith might end up being the best of the bunch. Yes, even better than Manti Te'o or Michael Floyd. Those have been the two best in my opinion and Irish fans were lucky enough to get to see them play for four years each. I don't think they are going to be lucky enough to watch Smith for four because he is probably just too good to stick around after this season.
I was listening to former NFL scout Daniel Jeremiah's "Move the Sticks" podcast this week and he mentioned that Smith's sophomore tape is the best inside linebacker tape he is seen from a college football player since Patrick Willis. Sit back and watch these two clips Jeremiah shared of Smith on Twitter last week. Then make sure to enjoy every minute of seeing him play this season because unless something unexpected happens, he gone.