There wasn't much for Notre Dame fans to care about during the Elite 11 other than Malik Zaire slinging the ball around the yard like he was still competing to win the competition. But finally, the fun actually started yesterday with day one of The Opening.
I'm in Beaverton at the event and I'm watching Tommy Kraemer, Parker Boudreaux, and Tony Jones Jr. very closely along with several other recruiting targets. (You can find a list of all the Notre Dame commits and targets of note that are taking part here.) Here's some observations from day one of The Opening.
- Tommy Kraemer may end up being the top offensive tackle here by the end of this camp, but he was not dominant yesterday. He wasn't bad by any stretch. Just not outstanding. And with Kraemer I kind of expected outstanding. I don't think he anchored strong enough and gave up some ground when he probably could have prevented it. It may just be him getting used to the speed of the edge rushers he has to face because there are some very good ones at this camp. Today the pads go on so I think he'll be a lot better with everything today.
- I was pleasantly surprised from what I saw from Parker Boudreaux. It's not just the SPARQ score, which was the highest out of an offensive lineman in attendance. I care way more about how competed on the field and he did a nice job against some stud defensive tackles. He won some and lost some, but always responded well. After losing badly on one rep, his next was against 5 star defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence. Boudreaux put him on the ground and Lawrence was not very happy about it.
Last year I saw Tristen Hoge lose some reps on day one of The Opening and it looked like he had lost his confidence a bit. I didn't see that with Boudreaux. Hoge got a lot better as the camp progressed and I think Boudreaux will do the same. I liked the commitment from him before (and not just because he pulled a bus in his commitment video) and I like it even more now with how he performed yesterday.
- Jones Jr. weighed in at 210 pounds, but it was a different 210 then some other kids. You can tell he still has quite a bit of physical development to do and yes, I do see him getting to the 225-230 range eventually. That's fine with me. He has a power game and yesterday he flashed great footwork that should compliment his power nicely. WIth no pads, it wasn't Jones Jr.'s day to shine. Hopefully I get to see him catch some passes in the 7 on 7 portion of the event today and showcase his skills in that area.
- All the talk about Chase Claypool as a player has been about him possibly getting too big to stick at receiver. Yesterday he showed me he can hang with the elite at the position and him being a jumbo receiver might actually be the best fit for him. He showed strong hands and was a much better route runner than I expected. He frequently created separation from himself and the defensive backs covering him.
Notre Dame should hopefully be getting some good news when he announces later this week and as of right now I'd probably take the athlete label away for him and slot him at wide receiver if he joins the 2016 recruiting class.
- With my first look at him in person yesterday, I'm pretty sure I can say with certainty that linebacker Caleb Kelly is not quite Jaylon Smith. That's no knock on Kelly. More of a nod to what an exceptional athlete Smith is.
Kelly is an extremely fluid athlete, though, and looks downright slim at 219 pounds. He is bigger and more physical player than Smith was at this age in my opinion. I'm excited to see what kind of things he can do in coverage today and tomorrow.
- I didn't get to see wide receiver Javon McKinley much today. He's at the top of my list to focus on tomorrow.
- I know it's a long shot, but defensive end Oluwole Betiku is the kind of talent that Notre Dame is missing on the defensive line. He is put together physically and seems to get better with every rep he takes. I think he is going to be a special football player and he looked very good going against Kraemer and Boudreaux in one on ones yesterday.
- The other player who from California that is likely a long shot is Brandon Burton. I think he can be an impact player at free safety and he showed great ball skills yesterday and also looked great playing man coverage. He's not even going to get to do what he does best because there is not hitting in this camp for defensive backs. Yesterday was just more confirmation for me that I would have him at the top of my list at the free safety position in this class.