Top Performers: The Opening

How did Notre Dame’s top targets stack up at The Opening? Irish Illustrated reveals our top performers on the Irish board.

The nation’s top overall prospect was the best defensive lineman at the event, which is a compliment to Parker Boudreaux, who won a few reps against Gary. The five-star insists he’ll visit Notre Dame at some point, but the Irish are way off the pace and can’t be considered a serious contender until that visit happens. The buzz around Gary has him trending in a few different directions, notably Georgia and Clemson. While Michigan has been a rumored leader, those who know Gary don’t see him in Ann Arbor.

The must-have prospect for Notre Dame if this recruiting class wants to flirt with greatness. Betiku is built like an NFL weak-side defensive end and is incredibly raw for the position, a good thing considering he’s already a five-star prospect. Betiku said he’ll officially visit Notre Dame and has the Irish in his top six. While it’s easy to be skeptical about Notre Dame’s actual position in this recruitment, Betiku is a unique personality and backstory, emigrating to the U.S. from Nigeria. He actually exchanged a couple tweets with commit Julian Okwara about their backgrounds after The Opening.

Boudreaux enhanced his reputation at The Opening, both in the testing portion on Wednesday (top score of all offensive linemen) and the 1-on-1’s, where he split reps against multiple five-star defensive tackles. While he’s not a finished product and needs to keep improving his athleticism, Boudreaux showed he’s more than a weight room powerhouse who also plays football. The Irish have a quality guard here, although, Boudreaux is closer to 6-foot-3 than his listed 6-foot-4 ½. He’ll be back for the Texas game and hopes to attend the USC game as well.

Notre Dame trails Oregon, UCLA and Penn State for Hansford, who made the all-tournament team at The Opening. Hansford would be an ideal Sam linebacker in Notre Dame’s scheme considering his athleticism that borders on safety quality. With a father who’s a Notre Dame fan, the Irish will continue to hang around. Outside linebacker isn’t a huge need in this class, but Hansford is worth chasing down to get an official. Penn State is the most local option for the Washington D.C. area athlete who isn’t afraid to look outside his comfort zone.

The Florida commitment said he’ll officially visit Notre Dame this season and the Irish would love to get this safety with cornerback skills. Gardner ranked among the better safeties at The Opening. He’s from the same high school program as Tarean Folston, which gives Notre Dame a link. Recruiting has been fluid for Gardner, who’s committed to Florida twice and Miami once. Ohio State and Auburn are also involved in this recruitment, which figures to go to signing day next February. Notre Dame would be smart to keep in contact in case there’s a crack in Gardner’s desire to stay close to home.

Burton doesn’t jump off the field at 6-foot-1 ½, 187 pounds, but he was productive all week at The Opening and helped his team into the championship game. He showed good ball skills during tournament play, including a breakup of a ball intended for Javon McKinley. His 4.66 speed in the 40 won’t impress many, but the California prospect always got where he needed to go in the middle of the field. An official visit is already set for the USC game on Oct. 17 with the Irish in Burton’s top seven. USC isn’t in the picture for now despite Burton coming from Serra High School, a pipeline into the Trojans’ program.

Notre Dame is pitching Kelly on following Jaylon Smith to South Bend, but the five-star linebacker’s game is much different than the Irish All-American. Kelly is thicker than Smith entering his senior year but doesn’t have that extra gear or explosiveness. Kelly said he’ll visit Notre Dame later this month, with the Irish in his top seven. If signing day was today, Oklahoma would likely land the Fresno prospect who’s close with former Irish targets Michiah Quick and Tee Shepard. Quick signed with the Sooners over the Irish.

Arguably Notre Dame’s top receiver left on the board, McKinley had no problem getting open deep during The Opening, even if he didn’t always pull in the catch. Physically, few receivers can match McKinley’s ripped build. Notre Dame has already hosted the SoCal athlete twice and will get him back for a third visit. Word around McKinley is that he wanted to commit to USC earlier in the process but the Trojans didn’t have room. The Irish won’t be bothered if that’s the case and he falls to Brian Kelly’s program. McKinley is a high academic prospect too.

Robertson is a bundle of athletic ability and played both ways at The Opening at receiver and cornerback. That’s after he posted a 4.34 in the 40-yard dash, the fifth-fastest time of the event. Based on first impressions at Nike, Robertson’s best fit is wide receiver, where he’s a speed target with a wide catch radius. He has Alabama and Stanford in front, with Notre Dame in the next group. The former Crimson Tide commitment was supposed to attend the Irish Invasion this year but scratched for the 7-on-7 national championships. Notre Dame feels like a bit of a long shot right now just this isn’t a pipe dream.

Kraemer started strong at The Opening on Wednesday but faded later in the event. Not being to play in pads made it difficult to get a great evaluation of Notre Dame’s top-rated commit, but other linemen who didn’t wear pads stood out. There’s a lot to like about Kraemer as an athletic tackle who needs to get better against speed rushers. The fact Kraemer knows that is a positive. He’s a nice fit for Notre Dame’s program as a personality too. Comparisons to Steve Elmer suit Kraemer on the field and off it, although the Irish should be able to red shirt the Ohio product.

Notre Dame is barely hanging on with Holyfield, who is more focused on SEC programs entering the season. He wasn’t the best back at The Opening, but Holyfield harmoniously married power and speed during the event while also catching the ball well. He’s got the genes to match considering his father is a former heavyweight champion. Just getting an official visit would be a surprise with Holyfield, whose summer schedule is all SEC. He said he’d like to take a couple official visits outside his home region, but the Irish would be a surprise inclusion on that fall itinerary.

Notre Dame’s newest commitment didn’t get many chances to shine at The Opening but made plays when he did. His juggling touchdown catch during the 7-on-7 tournament was one of the best grabs of the entire week. Claypool caught the ball in traffic too. Give him credit for toughness too, taking a shot to the head during the tournament and returning to action later in the day. He committed on Friday and gives the Irish an athlete with position flexibility at receiver, tight end and even linebacker. Notre Dame beat out Oregon and Michigan to land Claypool.

Jackson wasn’t a known quantity around Notre Dame media entering The Opening, but he’s got an official visit set for the Texas game and has the Irish on his leaderboard. He’s an athletic Mike linebacker who showed sideline-to-sideline speed and played well in coverage during the week. Texas, Alabama, Michigan, LSU and Texas A&M are also involved. Notre Dame was one of Jackson’s more recent offers, which came after he put out his top schools. If the Irish want another athletic middle linebacker to throw into the mix, Jackson could be the guy.

Jones didn’t get many opportunities to impress at The Opening and his testing numbers won’t blow anybody away. His 4.68 in the 40-yard dash didn’t match up with his speed in drills, where Jones seemed to have decent straight-ahead explosiveness. He’s a one cut runner who can be productive between the tackles, although Jones is not at the level of Tarean Folston of Greg Bryant in overall athleticism. He showed good hands in limited opportunities during the 7-on-7 tournament. Making multiple east-west cuts is not Jones’ game and probably won’t be at Notre Dame.


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