The Opening: Awards

Irish Illustrated hands out some staff awards from The Opening, picking out who would impact Notre Dame most, who was the toughest recruiting loss, who we want to scout again and more.

The Opening left Irish Illustrated’s staff with plenty to ponder.

Here are our biggest recruiting takeaways from the week spent at Nike headquarters.

Best Player

Rashan Gary
Everyone was talking about Gary, a testament to his impact. Camp organizers even listed Gary as one of the best defensive linemen to participate in The Opening ever (they also listed Sheldon Day in that group). Gary was dominant, without question. Seeing Parker Boudreaux stand him up during one rep was a compliment to the Irish commit because this defensive tackle was breathtaking. – Brown

Trevon Sidney
When it comes down to making plays nobody was more consistent than Sidney, who committed to USC on Friday. Sidney was at his best in crunch time. He caught two touchdown passes in an overtime loss in the 7-on-7 tournament. – Hare

Rashan Gary
Gary is the No. 1 player overall for a reason. Notwithstanding his power, hands and technique, Gary is relentless on every rep. He was a match-up problem for everyone and dominated a majority of one-on-one competition. – Hickey

Greg Little
The five-star offensive tackle smoked most of the competition, although Rashan Gary handed him a bad beat. Still, the former Texas A&M commitment looked like a junior year version of Ronnie Stanley, just entering his senior year of high school. Little is a former prep teammate of freshman receiver Jalen Guyton. – Sampson

Biggest Impact

Oluwole Betiku
Theoretically, Gary could slide into this spot. But I’m going with a more realistic option. Betiku is everything Notre Dame needs in a pass rushing defensive end, plus he’s ready to go right now. He wouldn’t need to stay on the sidelines for a couple years to build strength. Sure, he’s technically raw. His physical attributes, however, get him on the field at Notre Dame from day one. – Brown

Oluwole Betiku
Rashan Gary may be the top-rated prospect in the nation but Betiku might prove to be the most dominant at the next level. He’s big, fast and possesses a ton of upside as he learns the game. It’s scary to consider how dominant he could become once he completes his arsenal of moves.  – Hare

Oluwole Betiku
The combination of Betiku’s college-ready body, five-star billing, and Notre Dame’s needs at defensive end makes this one a no-brainer. Betiku was outstanding all week and he’ll only continue to improve technique-wise. – Hickey

Oluwole Betiku
Great minds think alike. Or at least they’re able to identify the obvious. Notre Dame doesn’t have an elite pass rusher. Betiku is one. If the Irish land the California prospect with Nigerian roots they might have an immediate starter. – Sampson

Biggest Impression

Demetris Robertson
I spent a lot of time watching the 7-on-7 competition and there wasn’t a player with Notre Dame connections that stood out more than Robertson. We’re talking about elite, game changing speed here and not in a small body. He would be a fantastic, versatile receiver capable of playing inside and out. Could you imagine him as a slot receiver? Nickels and linebackers would have nightmares. – Brown

Parker Boudreaux
After pulling a bus during his over the top commitment video, Boudreaux had a lot to prove. After stuffing Gary in one rep and taking down another five-star later in the day, Boudreaux quieted the critics. – Hare

Tyler Vaughns 
It only took one 7-on-7 game, but that was all Vaughns needed to wipe away any doubt that he’s a top three player at his position. The USC lean carved up the opposing defense with his speed, hands and elusiveness. Vaughns showed he’s a smooth route-runner that has no problems getting open against any caliber of defender and can garner big yards after the catch. – Hickey

Parker Boudreaux
I came into The Opening prepared to not like Boudreaux, but the Irish commitment impressed in victory (many) ad defeat (few) during 1-on-1’s. He wanted contact and competition. He mixed it up with defensive linemen after reps. Despite that showy commitment video, Boudreaux has a more old-school game than people might think. – Sampson

New Name

Jeffrey McCulloch
We didn’t know much about McCulloch heading into the event. I came away impressed with his ability — long, fluid, capable of playing multiple linebacker spots — and also his interest in Notre Dame. When McCulloch talks about wanting a great education, he means it. That should boost Irish coaches as they get him on campus later this month.  – Brown

Aaron Hansford
Hansford isn’t necessarily a new name but he wasn’t near the top of my list. He changed that with a solid performance in Beaverton. He’s got speed and the natural instincts to become a consistent playmaker. – Hare

Jeffrey McCulloch
McCulloch, who will visit Notre Dame on July 27 and plans to return on an official visit, finished in the top 10 overall of testing. He registered a 38-inch vertical and checked in at 6-foot-2, 230-pounds. He showed he’s capable of covering the flats well, though his strength is putting his hand down, disrupting the backfield and securing the edge. His size to speed ratio showed why he’s one of the most coveted linebackers in the country and one of the top on Notre Dame’s board. – Hickey

Chauncey Gardner
The Florida commitment said he’ll officially visit Notre Dame this season and has a family and high school connection to Tarean Folston. Based on his play at The Opening, he should slot near the top of Notre Dame’s board at safety. – Sampson

Want To See More

Tony Jones Jr.
It’s not so much I have questions about Jones’ ability. Far from it. Instead I just want the season to arrive so I can see Jones in pads. I don’t think 7-on-7 is where his full skill set comes to light. Jones has nice speed and looked comfortable catching the ball. We’ll get a better look at his ability as a running back during the fall. – Brown

David Long
Long didn’t do anything to question his ranking but he also didn’t do anything to prove it was accurate. Notre Dame’s interest in Long hasn’t faded so it would have been beneficial to see him step up to the challenge of competing against some of the top wide receivers. – Hare

Tony Jones Jr.
I went into The Opening wanting to see what Jones Jr. could do in an elite field, but my questions weren’t answered. Jones Jr. is only part to blame for that as his power running style isn’t paid any favors by the format of 7-on-7. Did Tony Alford pass on offering him for a reason? Or does he have the ability to develop into a big time back at Notre Dame? – Hickey

Tommy Kraemer
Notre Dame’s top-rated commitment didn’t work out in pads due to eligibility requirements, but he wasn’t on top of his game when he took reps, regardless. Kraemer struggled at times with speed rushers, common for offensive linemen in 1-on-1 events. The athleticism seems to be there, but I want to see a dominant/mean streak. – Sampson

Got My Attention

Defensive Line Recruiting
Let’s just be plain: Notre Dame needs to keep getting better in this area. Oluwole Betiku represented pretty much the only realistic target at an event full of elite talent. Julian Okwara is a nice player. Jamir Jones and Ade Ogundeji (should he commit to Notre Dame tomorrow) can help. But those instant impact, College Football Playoff types have been too few and far between in recent cycles. – Brown

Betiku
Betiku was impressive. Very impressive. – Hare

Parker Boudreaux
With mixed opinions on Boudreaux’s ability coming into The Opening, the Notre Dame commitment rose to the occasion. He tested the best of any offensive lineman and his brute strength and grit were on display during one-on-ones. The next step is developing his pass protection skills and practicing his steadiness and consistency against bigger inside men. Another huge takeaway for me was that Boudreaux wanted more reps. He didn’t back down once from lining up against the top guys, and that’s a sure sign he’s one of Harry Hiestand’s guys. – Hickey

USC Rising
USC picked up a couple commitments at The Opening and is coming off a No. 1 class last cycle. The Trojans seemed to be in with everyone at this event and had already landed a handful of Irish targets. USC’s talent levels are now trending toward the Pete Carroll era, and that’s bad news for Notre Dame. – Sampson

One That Got Away

Shea Patterson
Patterson was the best quarterback by a lot. He was accurate at all levels and showed the arm strength to make any throw required. Patterson also displayed leadership, maturity and a mental aptitude for the position. Notre Dame doesn’t need a quarterback in the Class of 2016 with Hunter Johnson trending its way in the junior class. Landing Patterson would’ve been a coup though. – Brown

Trevon Sidney
See above. Sidney was good and could have been very successful in a Brian Kelly offense. – Hare

Austin Mack
Granted, Notre Dame is stocked at receiver and could land an impressive wide out corps this cycle. But Mack beat elite corners at The Opening like he’s done to Indiana defensive backs before. His route running was among the best I saw all week and so was his separation from the defensive backs when targeted underneath. Mack registered a 4.50 in the 40-yard dash. He's a playmaker that Notre Dame would have loved to landed out its backyard. – Hickey

Daelin Hayes
Middle linebackers aren’t built like Hayes often, long, lean and already 250 pounds. Notre Dame led for the Michigan prospect and USC commitment at one point last summer and he’s better than anything the Irish have on the roster, save Jaylon Smith. His commitment to USC hurts considering the Trojans took him out of the Midwest. – Sampson

Best Single Play

Claypool’s Acrobatics
This barely beats out Boudreaux’s rep against Gary. Claypool didn’t get a ton of opportunities but he cashed this one in, going up to high point the football and coming down with it even with a defensive back in position. Always give credit to a receiver for making things happen against solid coverage, especially in the red zone. – Brown

Boudreaux Stuffs Gary
There were a lot of great offensive and defensive plays in the 7-on-7 tournament but it’s a thing of beauty when an offensive lineman can stuff a defensive lineman in a one-on-one drill, especially when that defensive player is Rashan Gary. – Hare

Claypool’s TD Catch
During 7-on-7 on Thursday, Notre Dame’s newest wide receiver commitment went up in the air to grab a jump ball in the end zone. He ousted his defender one-on-one and hauled in the catch all the way to the ground for the score. It showed his athletic ability, toughness and concentration. – Hickey

Cooper’s Sack
Voted the top overall play at The Opening, Jonathan Cooper’s de-pantsing of Michigan commitment Michael Onwenu was shocking. The Ohio State commit ducked inside and Onwenu barely touched him. That came a couple reps after Onwenu buried Cooper into the turf when he tried to go outside the tackle. – Sampson


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