A trio of Notre Dame commitments will arrive Beaverton, Ore., this week for The Opening Finals, a four-day event that draws 150-plus of the nation’s top high school prospects to Nike headquarters outside Portland.
Notre Dame’s newest commitment will be there in offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux. So will the first commitment in this Irish class in offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer, along with running back Tony Jones Jr.
Not only do Kraemer and Jones want to test themselves against the nation’s best, they also want to recruit for the Irish.
Irish Illustrated’s preview of The Opening gets started with those two commitments. On Monday we’ll preview the biggest names to know from The Opening. On Tuesday we’ll hit the storylines we’ll be tracking most from Nike.
The Irish Illustrated staff will be four strong at The Opening and Elite 11 Finals. The nation’s premier quarterback competition starts Monday, where starting quarterback Malik Zaire will serve as a counselor. The Opening kicks into gear on Wednesday.
Kraemer wants a rematch
Kraemer punched his ticket to The Opening Finals with a strong showing at the Columbus Regional.
The 6-foot-5, 306-pounder from Elder High School in Cincinnati dominated nearly every defensive lineman he faced. The exception was Jonathon Cooper, a four-star defensive end who committed to Ohio State in November.
Cooper edged Kraemer 2-to-1 in one-on-one repetitions. Kraemer wants a rematch in Beaverton.
“Me and Jonathon Cooper might be (talking) when we get out there,” Kraemer said. “I know there was a little smack talk going on (in Columbus) so I’m sure it will continue this week. It will be a good one.”
Kraemer has spent the past month refining his pass protection and run blocking skills and he’s eager to find out just how much he has improved since his last outing.
“I feel great,” he said. “I’ve been working pretty hard the last couple weeks on some stuff, my pass pro and run blocking. I feel pretty confident in my skill right now. I’m excited to go out there and compete. I just want to do my best and compete with some of the best in the country. That’s really what I’m looking forward to this week.”
A rematch with Cooper might be the highlight of the week but Kraemer isn’t focused only on avenging his setback to the fifth best defensive end in the nation. He’s also looking forward to the outside evaluation of his technique.
“Obviously, I’m looking forward to learning from the coaches out there but looking at the schedule I think there’s a film breakdown every day where we watch ourselves,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to that and watching myself on the camera with the coaches and them being able to critique me and see it for myself. That’s what I’m really looking forward to.”
Kraemer also plans to use his time at the camp pitching Notre Dame to several other top recruits.
“I’m going to text the coaches from Notre Dame and see if there are certain guys they want me to talk to,” he said. “I think it will be a fun week talking to all the different guys about recruiting and stuff like that. I’m really looking forward to it.”
Jones Jr. anticipates stiff competition
Jones Jr. earned his invite to The Opening Finals after a strong performance at the Orlando Regional, and he’s anxiously awaiting his opportunity to compete against many of the nation’s best defensive linemen and linebackers in Oregon.
“I see this as my first time representing Notre Dame on the big stage, and I have to prove to others that I can hang with the best athletes in the country,” Jones Jr. said. “I don’t have any enemies, but whoever is on the other side of the ball will get my 100 percent.”
For Jones, there are a few aspects in particular he’s looking forward to most about the week ahead.
“Going to the west coast for the first time, getting over there to compete with the best athletes in the country, and getting to sport off Nike gear,” Jones Jr. said.
Jones Jr. will be part of a premier crop of running backs in attendance, and he hopes to showcase specific strengths of his game.
“My burst, hands and route-running,” Jones Jr. said.
By the end of next week, and certainly come February, Notre Dame hopes Boudreaux, Jones Jr. and Kraemer are not the only members of Notre Dame’s class that double as The Opening alumni.
The 6-foot-1, 2-15-pound all-purpose back plans to sell his future program to Notre Dame targets in attendance.