BEAVERTON, Ore. – Michigan and Oregon were Chase Claypool’s “dream schools” when his recruitment was in its infancy less than five months ago. But it was Notre Dame that landed Claypool when he announced his decision at The Opening on Friday.
Eddie Ferg, head coach and founder of Air Raid Academy in Vancouver, B.C., works as Claypool’s trainer and spoke with Irish Illustrated about the roots and path of his South Bend-bound star pupil.
“When he first started looking, he didn’t know what he wanted,” Ferg said. “He just wanted something. He had a couple of dream schools at that point. They were Michigan and Oregon. But we definitely educated him on what to look for in a school. Education is always first for us. Honing in on that really changed things.”
Ferg only began working with Claypool earlier this year.
“It’s really an interesting story,” Ferg said. “A friend of mine is his high school coach, so I had always thought pretty highly of him. Around February, he hadn’t received much interest, so we put some highlights together and fired out his tape to a few places. A bunch of schools jumped all over him, and that’s where it took off.”
Nevada was the first school to offer Claypool in March and Rutgers soon followed. Two months later, Claypool also held offers from Arizona, Michigan, Mississippi State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Tennessee, Utah and Washington.
“Claypool knew nothing about recruiting when I spoke with him about his Rutgers offer,” Scout national analyst Brian Dohn said. “After I finished the phone interview with him, he asked me if he owed me money for talking to him.”
Fast-forward to June, and Claypool took trips to Oregon, Michigan and Notre Dame. Notre Dame received its visit from Claypool for the Irish Invasion.
“I wouldn’t say he knew for sure right after the Notre Dame visit, but it was a visit that changed everything,” Ferg said. “He wanted to visit Rutgers because there was a long buildup of relationships there with the coaches. He definitely enjoyed that visit, but it was then he really knew what school he wanted. Notre Dame struck him as the place he fell in love with when he first saw the driveway to campus, and it would have taken a lot to change that.”
Claypool’s relationship with Notre Dame associate head coach Mike Denbrock played a defining role in the decision. The great nephews of Simon Lazanja, a close friend of Denbrock, have worked with Ferg at Air Raid Academy for the past two years.
As the top college prospect in Canada this year, the 6-foot-5 ½, 215-pound athlete proved he was worthy of The Opening invite with solid play over the three-day camp in Oregon. His standout moment came in 7-on-7 play with high-leaping grab in the end zone against tight coverage.
“Being so big but being able to do the things of smaller players, that’s one of his best assets,” Ferg said. “He’s got aggressiveness on the field and great vision. We have worked quite a bit on his ball skills since he’s been in our program. He’s the type of athlete that you tell one time and show one time, and then he knows how to do it. We have worked extensively on wide receiver work. The competition from 7-on-7 that he’s faced has helped him improve, too.”
Claypool’s body control, athleticism and fluidity for his size means the versatile receiver could project as a hybrid tight end or linebacker or defensive end at the next level.
“I think you can use him a few different ways,” Ferg said. “He can take the extra weight and still move well. But I also think he can stay at 220, 230 pounds and play that outside receiver position. He can definitely play defense, probably as an outside linebacker or defensive end.
“He plays safety in high school, so he has a nose for the ball. He comes through the alley and has great instincts. He hits the alley fast.”
Off the field, Claypool doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
“Really goofy kid,” Ferg said. “He’s a real character away from football. He’s definitely not shy.”
The takeoff and landing of Claypool’s recruitment made headlines. Notre Dame hopes his impact in an Irish uniform will do the same.