Top Performers: Day One

BEAVERTON, Ore. – These Notre Dame targets and commits stood out during opening day at Nike.

Oluwole Betiku

To put Betiku in Notre Dame context, the defensive end has a similar build to Jaylon Smith and Greg Bryant. That might not make sense on the surface, but the defensive end is put together like Smith and Bryant with muscles on top of muscles. Betiku was eager for coaching, listening when Ndamukong Suh offered advice on hand placement. And despite being a defensive end at the next level, he willingly lined up at defensive tackle when asked. Betiku is so physically mature that one of his high school teammates joked that when they first met he thought Betiku was a donor returning to Serra High School.

Tyler Vaughns

The SoCal receiver was the best at his position on Wednesday, maybe by a wide margin. The five-star had all the looks of a No. 1 wide out on the college level and beat nearly every defensive back he went against. Athletically, Vaughns showed off against Demetris Robertson when he made a circus catch after the ball was tipped. Notre Dame is barely hanging on here. Vaughns might be worth watching only because USC could land him. Look for a decision just before the start of the season.

Daelin Hayes

Notre Dame is probably hanging around with Hayes in name only, but based on the USC commitment’s performance Wednesday it’s a lottery worth entering. The linebacker has put on ample strength since he starred at the Irish Invasion last year, yet he still moves like an outside linebacker in space. However, he got the No. 55 jersey here in part because it’s a traditional linebacker number at USC. Just getting Hayes back to campus for another look would be a victory for Notre Dame.

Jeff McCulloch

The Houston, Texas linebacker ranked among the best of the best athletically during the testing portion on Wednesday and advanced to the Nike Football Testing Championship. McCulloch also played well during the actual competition. He’s clearly a fast-rising prospect, even at No. 60 overall entering The Opening. He said he’ll visit Notre Dame twice, both later this month and on an official later. McCulloch said communication with the Irish staff, including Brian Kelly, has been strong in the past month.

Tommy Kraemer

Notre Dame has its next Steve Elmer in Kraemer, whose game and personality mirror the junior guard. While Kraemer projects at tackle for now, his foot speed at 6-foot-5, 300 pounds is strikingly similar to Elmer. His personality isn’t that far off either. On Wednesday, Kraemer was the best of Notre Dame’s commitments. He split reps with Penn State commitment Shane Simmons, a fair matchup of two jumbo athletes. LSU commit Erick Fowler got Kraemer twice with speed moves, but Fowler (6-1, 235) is more an outside linebacker than a defensive end. Overall, solid opening day for Notre Dame’s top-rated commit.

Caleb Kelly

The Irish are pitching Kelly on the chance to be the next Jaylon Smith. Kelly doesn’t have that level of athleticism, but he showed off some quality coverage skills during match-ups with running backs. The Fresno product shut down four-star running back D’Andre Swift on a red zone rep. Kelly wasn’t the best linebacker on Wednesday, but he has the long, lean build that every college covets. The Irish will get him to campus later this month if all goes according to plan.

Tony Jones

Jones’ game was as advertised on Wednesday, solid straight ahead speed, quality hands and not much east-west shake. Jones beat Irish linebacker target Jonathan Jones in the passing game and struggled to get open against linebacker Devin Bush. On wheel routes and working in the flat, Jones had no problem getting where he needed to go. He didn’t fight the football on deeper routes. There’s no question he’s a pure running back for Notre Dame’s offense and not a potential slot receiver. Jones had a comparable day to Elijah Holyfield and has a similar skill set to the Georgia prospect.

Parker Boudreaux

Boudreaux got a five-star taste of competition Wednesday, going against Oluwole Betiku and Rashard Lawrence in the afternoon. He held up against Betiku on his first rep. Then the five-star then got some hand placement advice from Ndamukong Suh. Betiku won the next rep handily. Boudreuax split with Lawrence, although the second rep was a bad beat. Boudreaux should get to show off his strength more when the pads come on. He held up against power moves but didn’t have the foot speed to always deal with counters.  He worked exclusively at guard.


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