Camp season is already making its way to the Midwest.
Nike wasted no time getting its regional camps underway, holding its first in Houston a few days after National Signing Day. Stops in Orlando, Miami, Dallas, Los Angeles, New Orleans and Atlanta have followed. Next up is Chicagoland.
Prospects from across the region will descend Sunday on Halas Hall, the Chicago Bears practice facility, for a chance to punch a ticket to The Opening Finals later this summer.
“I’ve been waiting for a long time,” said four-star linebacker Ovie Oghoufo, one of the Notre Dame pledges expected to participate. “My cousin, Mario Ojemudia, back when he was going through his recruiting process, he was blessed enough to have an opportunity to go to The Opening in Oregon. It’s just an opportunity I’ve been waiting on for a long time, to show the coaches out here that I’m able to compete with the best of the best in the country.”
Notre Dame connections are sure to run deep at the event as it attracts top prospects from across the area. But it’s a trio of commitments — Oghoufo, four-star cornerback Kalon Gervin and three-star wide receiver Micah Jones — hoping to represent the Irish well.
Oghoufo hopes all three are able to land an invitation to The Opening Finals on at Nike later this summer by virtue of their regional performances. It would reflect the recruiting class Notre Dame is putting together in the Class of 2018, he thinks.
“It would be great if all three of us could get it,” Oghoufo said. “That would show that this Notre Dame class is up to something. That’s the goal I’ve set for all three of us, for all of us to go get it. I feel like, not to toot my horn or anything, but I feel like with the linebacker competition coming up I’m one of the best out there. I’m really trying to showcase what I can do.”
Jones is spending a few days at Notre Dame before returning to his Chicago area hometown ahead of the regional. Gervin is using the rest of this week to tune his preparation.
Gervin believes he’s already been given an advantage.
Four former teammates of Gervin at Cass Tech in Detroit went to The Opening Finals last summer — five-star wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, four-star safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, four-star offensive lineman Jordan Reid and four-star cornerback Donovan Johnson.
Gervin has come up through the ranks at Cass Tech against the type of talent he’ll see at the regional. He also knows what it takes to make it on to the Finals.
“I’ve always seen all the videos and all the big time players,” Gervin said. “Being at Cass, we had four players that went. It’s real big. Donovan Johnson was telling me about the tests and to make sure I’m prepared for that. I’ve been preparing for that all week. Most importantly, dominate the camp and make sure you take a lot of reps. I’m gonna take as many as I can.”
The Irish already have one commitment headed to the Finals after four-star safety Derrik Allen, who secured his spot with a standout performance last week at the Atlanta regional. Gervin, Oghoufo and Jones hope to add their names to the list Sunday.
“It’s real big,” Gervin said. “I can’t wait to compete. I’ll have a chance to compare myself.”
Scout.com released an updated set of rankings for the Class of 2018 this week.
Eight Notre Dame commitments made the list with no major movement in terms of overall ranking. Four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec continues to headline the group at No. 49 overall. He’s rated fifth at quarterback behind No.1 overall prospect Trevor Lawrence, five-star Matt Corral, Justin Fields and Tanner McKee.
Other Irish pledges in the rankings are safety Derrik Allen (95), wide receiver Braden Lenzy (97), linebacker Matthew Bauer (177), offensive lineman John Dirksen (191), running back Markese Stepp (196), defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola (207) and cornerback Kalon Gervin (294).
Notre Dame currently sits third in the Scout.com team rankings with its 12 commitments.
Miami is in first overall, followed by Penn State at No. 2. LSU and USC round out the top five.
Penn State leads the way with five commitments in the top 100 prospects. Miami is right on its tail with four. Notre Dame joins USC and Ohio State with three pledges in the top 100. Clemson, Florida State, Washington and Oklahoma are next with two a piece.
In terms of overall commitments, Penn State leads with 15. Notre Dame, Penn State and LSU each have 12.
Sophomore Day on tap
As the recruiting world keeps its eye toward the Chicago The Opening regional, Notre Dame will have some prospects on its campus.
Sophomore Day is set for Sunday with several prospects in the Class of 2019 expected in South Bend. Some headliners include defensive end Joseph Anderson, wide receiver David Bell, defensive tackle Jowon Briggs, offensive tackle Quinn Carroll, cornerback Moses Douglass, offensive lineman Will Putnam and cornerback Wesley Walker.
Defensive end George Karlaftis will be making the trek from West Lafayette on Saturday then spend Sunday at The Opening regional. He’s eager for a closer look.
“Well the first time I didn’t really get to see everything,” Karlaftis said. “I showed up late because we got lost on the way there. I just wanna see all the facilities, practice, the practice field, locker room, the field more. I wanna get to know all the coaches because right now I only know coach (Mike) Elston. I just wanna get to know them better I guess.”
Karlaftis represents the type of prospect the Irish want to get on campus for such an event: One within driving distance that is likely to land a scholarship offer either during the visit or in short order. Carroll, Douglass and Putnam are also in that group.
Notre Dame has expressed to Karlaftis, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound prospect, that an offer is likely forthcoming.
“I think getting an offer from such a big school would really impact my recruiting,” Karlaftis said. “My stock is gonna rise up as a recruit.”
Organizing an event around prospects in the current sophomore class is Notre Dame breaking new ground. Notably, it’ll give the Irish a chance to keep compiling visits with some top regional prospects.
It also makes South Bend a spring destination for others, notably a contingent of prospects from Tennessee.
Getting to know the coaching staff better is key for prospects near and far. Karlaftis sees it as a huge benefit to visit again at this stage.
“It’s real important,” he said. “Anywhere I go, that’ll be a huge factor in my decision. I wanna really get to know the coaches at the university I wanna go to. That’ll be a huge factor in where I wanna go, whether I like the coaches.”
Irish Wow Sophomore D-Tackle, Again
While he would have fit in just fine at Sophomore Day, top ’19 defensive tackle Jacob Lacey got to South Bend earlier than that when he made the trip to Notre Dame last weekend for another visit. It was the 6-foot-2, 301-pound athlete’s fourth visit here in the past year and probably won’t be his last.
“Really could not have gone any better,” said father David Lacey.
Lacey’s visit started with a 6:15 a.m. meeting with defensive line coach Mike Elston, who has served as primary recruiter since Notre Dame got Lacey on campus for Irish Invasion last summer. The defensive tackle followed up with two game day visits last season.
From there, Lacey watched practice, met with defensive coordinator Mike Elko, toured the stadium and met with head coach Brian Kelly for about 20 minutes. The family also reconnected with academic advisor Adam Sargent.
Visits to Florida State, Louisville and Tennessee are next.
A return to Irish Invasion this summer is possible.
Lacey said he wants to cut his list down before his junior season and wouldn’t rule out an early commitment. It’s hard to imagine many sophomores higher on Notre Dame considering the banked visits and the fact former Irish safety Dave Duerson was part of Lacey’s extended family.