Notre Dame didn’t go into Irish Invasion with a five-star guest list.
The Rivals Challenge in Indianapolis took care of that with a talent drain down US-31. A standardized testing weekend didn’t help either. So instead of having a half-dozen five-star prospects working out on Saturday night inside Notre Dame Stadium during the program’s annual showcase, the Irish didn’t have any.
Still, there was one player Irish Illustrated could see in that conversation moving forward after a strong night. And he leads our list of Top Performers, a rundown based on what prospects showed at Irish Invasion, not their recruiting rankings and profiles.
1. Jayson Oweh
Is it a stretch to consider the New Jersey defensive end a potential five-star prospect? Maybe. But not by a lot. The Blairstown product was the best talent Irish Illustrated watched on Saturday night despite his three-star ranking on Scout that’s sure to change in short order. Oweh was outstanding at Ohio State earlier in the weekend too. In the course of a month he’s gone from a regional prospect on the East Coast to a national one. Credit Notre Dame for getting in early with Oweh, whose parents attended Harvard, which makes the Crimson a serious threat. Notre Dame’s hope is that it can offer the best of both worlds in terms of athletics and academics. If that clicks, the Irish could have the steal of these recruiting cycle on their hands. Notre Dame doesn’t have a body type like this on the roster.
2. Shayne Simon
Brandon Wimbush made sure to get in on the scouting of Simon, tracking the latest standout from St. Peter’s Prep on Saturday night, even offering a couple high fives. While Jayson and Justin Ademilola will carry this recruitment for Notre Dame, having the starting quarterback here know you is big too. And Simon is worth knowing. The rover prospect looked like the kind of athlete Clark Lea would draw up in a lab if he could. Even at No. 151 overall on Scout, Simon might be underrated. He looked light on his feet in pass coverage drills but also had no problem during run support work. While most linebackers can’t keep their feet moving when they break down to make tackles, Simon does this effortlessly. He’s a must get for Notre Dame in terms of position need and school profile.
The higher-ranked Ademilola twin didn’t have a night that backed up his dominant showings at The Opening Regional in New Jersey, but he was quality in 1-on-1’s. The lack of offensive line talent at Irish Invasion didn’t offer a serious evaluation. Neither did not being able to get on pads, which won’t be the case at Nike later this month. Unofficially, Ademilola ran a 5.28 in the 40-yard dash, not that defensive tackles run that distance often. Did we want to see more? Of course. But he showed plenty too. Ademilola can show even more at the end of the month in Oregon. Odds are that he will. That’s when he’ll get a real chance to back up his No. 126 overall ranking.
4. Cam McGrone
Considering McGrone is less than a year away from an ACL tear, the Indianapolis linebacker arrived at Irish Invasion with something to prove, even if he’d already been offered by Notre Dame. And the four-star did, over and over again. He ran a 4.6 and a 4.62 during testing, which was faster than Matt Bauer or Shayne Simon. And where McGrone shined was during 1-on-1 reps, even going against Markese Stepp. It’s hard to know much about his tackling skills based on this event, but like Simon, there’s no hesitation when McGrone breaks down a running back. He just plows through them, literally in one case. McGrone had the hit of the night, laying out a running back do badly that the coaches stopped the drill. The current Irish linebackers on hand were impressed.
For a running back who basically played one snap last season, Stepp could have been off the pace on Saturday night. His 4.57 in the 40-yard dash was a passable time, especially for a player who’s rounding back into form after last season’s severe hamstring injury. Stepp is built like a lighter Jonas Gray with the lower body to match. The Cathedral standout was far and away the best offensive prospect to work out on Saturday night. Is he the next Zeke Elliott or Leonard Fournette? Probably not. But he’ll be an interesting player to watch this fall when the high school football season gets cranked back up. He should prove plenty in August, September and October.
6. Paul Moala
The Penn High School safety picking up a Notre Dame offer wasn’t expected going into the camp. Then Moala ran a 4.4 on Irish Invasion. Then he looked incredibly fluid in positional drills. Then Notre Dame offered. He won’t blow anybody anyway standing on the sidelines, but Moala appeared to be on par with all the defensive backs in South Bend on Saturday night. Not only is Moala local for Notre Dame, he’s connected to Manti Te’o and Robby Toma too. Basically, if Notre Dame stays after this one, Moala should be part of the next Irish class.
When Justin Ademilola ran a 4.98 in the 40-yard dash it raised a couple eyebrows. His performance in 1-on-1 reps reminded analysts not to make too much of sprint times. Even against lightweight competition, Ademilola had no issue winning virtually every rep with little resistance. He’s not Jayson Oweh, but Ademilola should fit nicely into Notre Dame’s defensive end depth chart, probably on the strong-side. Credit to both twins for working out. Commits don’t always grab their helmets when coming back to campus for these events.
8. Matt Bauer
The four-star linebacker bulked up big time from his performance at last year’s Invasion and now looks the part of a traditional Mike linebacker. He’s admitted that he’s still growing into that new frame, which showed at times on Saturday night in agility drills. A 4.74 in the 40-yard dash won’t blow anybody away. The Pennsylvania product was up-and-down in 1-on-1 drills, sometimes getting back on his heels when breaking down running backs. But in terms of what you want a middle linebacker to look like, Bauer is it. Tuning his build will be a storyline to watch this fall.
This is an inclusion based on potential that could have gone to a few different prospects. We’ll stick Thomas in here because he looked all of that listed 6-foot-3, 185-pound frame. Coming from Pittsburgh Central Catholic should give Notre Dame a leg up if it wants to pursue moving forward. Thomas’ frame looks like it could add another 30 pounds during the coming years. If that clicks, who knows how good he can be. Maybe he should be on a “Most Intriguing Performers” list more than “Top Performers” but keep on eye on this ’19 athlete moving forward.
10. D.J. Johnson
The in-state cornerback did some good things on Saturday night, but the best might have been just showing up and competing. Johnson carried a left ankle injury into Irish Invasion and still worked out despite wearing a brace and already owning a Notre Dame offer. That ankle gave out during the event, confining Johnson o the bench for the final hour. Still, the four-star cornerback from Indianapolis showed some good things until then. He ran a 4.58 in the 40-yard dash with that bum ankle. He wasn’t perfect in coverage and change of direction was a chore. Still, it was easy to see why the Irish like Johnson at corner. He’s uniquely broad-shouldered for a cornerback and long in the lower body. He’s worth tracking into his senior year.