There aren't many more places I have been to that are as impressive as the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. The campus is beautiful, massive and the perfect setting to hold a football camp featuring the top recruits in the nation.
There is no other camp where the media gets to watch as many future college football stars as The Opening either. 166 of the nation's best. So many of them are going to make a significant impact on the football field the next few years of their lives and I don't think there is another school that is recruiting as many of them as Notre Dame.
The whole camp is a constant reminder of the breadth of Notre Dame's recruiting and I got a firsthand look at several Irish commits and targets while in Beaverton. You can find my observations from day one and day two here and here, but here are my final thoughts on many of the Notre Dame commits and targets now that the camp is over.
- Chase Claypool does not play against the best competition in high school. He plays in AA in British Columbia, the lowest of the two divisions in the province. That's certainly not the same leval as the defensive backs he had to face at The Opening.
This was a week where the newest Notre Dame commitment could have proven to be not ready for the step up in competition and it would have been understandable if that had been the case. It also could have been a week where the questions about him moving to another position could have persisted. He proved that he not only projects to be a wide receiver after his performance this week, but that he has the chance to be a very good one. His ability to go up and high point the football is outstanding and his size is going to be tough for any defensive back to handle.
Even if he gets up to the 230-240 range, and he very well could based on his frame, his ball skills suggest he could be a jumbo receiver or move tight end. Imagine a player like that being thrown jump balls in the red zone? It's an exciting thing to think of for Notre Dame fans.
- The Irish still in the mix for a visit from Rashan Gary? Break out the red carpet because Gary would need to be blown away with Notre Dame well behind other schools he has visited multiple times. Even without a big need at defensive tackle from a numbers perspective, Gary is the kind of prospect that exceptions are made for and if the Irish have even a sliver of a chance, then the Notre Dame coaching staff needs to do all they can to sign him because he is a generational talent.
There was not a better player at the entire camp and he surpassed the expectations I had for him, which were already incredibly lofty. From the reps I saw, I think he may have lost only three or four reps the entire camp. And when he won, he didn't just win. He destroyed the players going against him in a variety of ways. Speed, power, technique. you name it.
Byron Cowart put on a show last year at this camp, but Gary was even better and it was actually not that close. He used a variety of pass rush moves that were extremely advanced for a lot of college defensive tackles and when you combine how physically dominant he is, it's ridiculous that any high school kid is going to be asked to attempt to block him. He should be getting ready to play on Saturdays this fall at big time school, not Friday nights.
- Very few offensive linemen had good weeks going up against this crop of ridiculous defensive line talent. Gary might have been the best of the bunch, but so many others were outstanding as well. Defensive end Oluwole Betiku was another freakish athlete and his potential rivals Gary's. That's how good I think he can be after seeing him this week. He's just not as advanced because he is so much newer to the game.
He has the speed to be the big time edge rusher that Notre Dame has lacked for a long time and he converted speed to power on the edge better than any other defensive end in attendance with a devastating bull rush. By the time Betiku faces some of these players again at a post season all-star game, he is going to be even better and likely a 5 star prospect at that time.
- I mentioned that Gary lost maybe only a few reps the entire camp and a couple of those reps were against Irish commit Parker Boudreaux. Even though Boudreaux was one of the offensive linemen that had some struggles against all of the top defensive tackles on hand, him stoning Gary after Gary had got underneath his pads and drove him on the previous play says a lot about Boudreaux and his compete level. He did not have a great day the day before, but was not afraid to go against the best. After getting bull rushed back into the quarterback on one on one pass rush later on in the same practice, he responded again by winning the next rep.
That's two wins versus Gary. There was no bigger accomplishment from any offensive lineman the entire camp. Those two plays don't take away the other struggles he had at times. They just highlight what kind of player he can develop into when he plays with great pad level and fits his hands well.
- Tommy Kraemer had to practice without pads, yet was still able to get in a decent amount of work in one on ones. Him and Jonathon Cooper must have faced each other a dozen or so times and Kraemer performed well versus the top edge rusher at the camp. If Kraemer establishes a more violent punch, then he is going to end up being an outstanding pass blocker. His feet and athleticism were better than I assumed they would be. If he was wearing pads, I think he would have had a great shot at getting selected into the Final 5 offensive line group and probably still should have over Clemson commit Sean Pollard based on what I saw.
- Wide receiver Javon McKinley did not have the camp that I expected from him. Part of that was because he was not 100% and the other part is that there is only one football to go around and his 7 on 7 team was loaded with talent to spread the ball around too. When the lights were on in the state playoffs last season, there was no receiver better. Ultimately that's what matters most and he still showed some nice things, including a great catch in triple coverage, that still has me really excited about his future at the next level. With so many great receivers in attendance, he just didn't have his named called enough over the course of the camp.
- The wheels in my head have been spinning since the end of the camp thinking about how Tony Jones Jr. can be utilized in Notre Dame's offense out of the backfield. He proved to me he is much more than the power back most have labeled him as and was one of the best running backs at the entire camp in terms of his receiving ability. Consistently great hands and an ability to separate in coverage versus linebackers and safeties had him eventually taking reps at slot as well as out of the backfield.
- This camp isn't a great showcase for linebackers. It's a quarterback/receiver/defensive back showcase like every other 7 on 7 tournament. With that being the case, it would have been easy for Caleb Kelly to blend in. He stood out to me because of how physical he was with his jam and the fact that he was one of the only players I saw do a great job covering the top tight end in the nation, Florida State commit Isaac Nauta.
- Notre Dame is not done at safety in this class and two prospects I'd love to see end up playing free safety for the Irish are Brandon Burton and Joejuan Williams. Williams was much more fluid than I expected and showed great range while playing deep for his team. Range was also something that Burton showcased in every game I watched him and his ability to track the football in the air caused him to break up several passes.