Last spring Tommy Kraemer turned in a dominant performance at The Opening Regional in Columbus, Ohio. It earned the incoming Irish freshman an invitation to The Opening Finals in Oregon.
His performance against some of the country’s top defensive linemen helped elevate Kraemer to the No. 37 overall prospect in the nation and No. 3 offensive tackle.
Josh Lugg, a 2017 Irish commitment, had hoped to follow a similar path but a schedule change means he’ll now compete in the regional camp in Chicago rather than Columbus.
However, there are plenty of other Notre Dame recruiting targets headed to Westerville North High School on Saturday too. They hope to punch their ticket to the finals.
Aeneas Hawkins, a 2018 defensive tackle from Cincinnati, is ready to showcase his skills against some of the top linemen in the region.
“My goal for the camp is to come out and compete at the level that I'm capable of playing at,” Hawkins said. “This is another great opportunity to play against the best competition in the region and it will be a great way to get ready for the season. I'll approach my competition no differently than I would in a game. Every drill, every rep, and everything I do will be 100-percent.”
Notre Dame offered Hawkins last month during his visit to campus. Irish assistant Mike Elston recently visited Moeller High School to check on him and the two have remained in contact.
“He said he liked how I was moving and he just told me to keep working hard,” Hawkins said. “I’m very happy that he (visited).”
Sophomore running back Jaelen Gill also landed an offer from Notre Dame late last month. The Westerville South product will make the short trip to his rival high school to compete in the camp.
“My two goals for the camp are to show all of the scouts that I deserve the invite with no questions asked and to get the invite,” he said. “I expect to approach this weekend with a chip on my shoulder because I feel that at all of these camps I get overlooked because the other running backs are bigger than me. I'll make sure that doesn't happen this weekend.”
Boston College offered on Thursday.
Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State, Penn State, UCLA and Iowa State all have visited the school during the spring evaluation period.
Elston was at the school last Friday.
“He said that they love my film and that they want to get me on campus ASAP so that I can really get a feel of what it's like to be a part of the family there,” Gill said. “Also, that they love my personality and how level-headed I am.”
Sophomore defensive end Leonard Taylor committed to Michigan on April 1 but he’s still open to the Irish and Notre Dame hasn’t stopped recruiting him.
“Coach Mike (Elston) came to see me in the field,” Taylor said.
Elston invited Taylor to the Irish Invasion and he plans to take part in that elite event.
On Saturday, he’s just hoping to identify any weaknesses in his game so he can develop his skills and become an even fiercer pass rusher.
Three-star junior cornerback Allen Stritzinger is excited to have the opportunity to showcase his skills and to compete against some of the region’s top players.
“It's rare that I'm at invite camps like these because I'm usually getting more prepared for the season by working out and going to track practice,” he said. “My goal is to compete at all times while doing my best. I'll approach it like it's any other day because I want to compete at all times.”
Stritzinger now holds about a dozen scholarship offers and several other college coaches have made their way to De La Salle Collegiate High School in Warren, Mich., to check on him.
Notre Dame defensive backs coach Todd Lyght dropped by and talked with Stritzinger’s football and track coaches.
He hopes to land an offer from the Irish when he attends their June camp.
“I really like everything Notre Dame has to offer,” he said. “They want to evaluate me in person so, I'll be camping there on June 25 and we will see more from there.”
Sophomore defensive end Alex Reigelsperger is ready to make a name for himself.
“My goals at the camp are to show everyone I mean business,” he said. “Whether you’re no offers and no stars or 50 offers and a five-star, I'm treating you the same. You’re competition. Everyone will be treated as competition and approached as competition, and when the time comes I'll show everyone that I mean business.”
Rutgers and Iowa offered Reigelsperger this week. He will camp at Notre Dame this summer.
Top offensive lineman Jedrick Wills and sophomore running back Markese Stepp also plan to attend The Opening Regional in Columbus this weekend. Wills hit the Irish Invasion last summer and the tackle has long been one of Notre Dame's top targets at the position. Stepp ranks among Notre Dame's top running back targets in the 2018 class and is a Cathedral teammate of Irish commitment Pete Werner.