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Welcome To The Opening
Steve Elmer really wanted an invite to The Opening.
After a hectic weekend last month, Elmer earned the invitation to this week’s elite event in Beaverton, Ore.
“I was really excited to know that I’d be going up there with a bunch of great players,” the Notre Dame offensive line commit said.
Elmer picked up the invite by performing at the Nike Football Training Camp in early June.
“It was a long drive to Champaign, Illinois to go to the NFTC,” said the 6-foot-6, 300-pounder from Midland, Mich. “I'm glad it paid off because that was kind of a rough weekend.
“I had states for track that weekend, the Nike camp and I had to write an eight-page paper for Econ, so I had to do that in the car. But it all paid off and everything worked out. So yes, I'm extremely excited.”
The Opening, which begins on Thursday at the Nike World Headquarters, will feature 150 elite prospects from across the country.
The Nike-sponsored event will include players from all positions along with a variety of training and testing, coaching from current and past NFL stars as well as a Linemen Challenge and a 7-on-7 tournament.
“It's an awesome experience,” said Elmer. “Just the experience of going out there and hanging out with the other guys, not only the five other Notre Dame commits, which will be awesome to be up there with those guys, but to get to know a lot of the other guys that I’ve seen around but haven't really spent much time with. It'll be a really good experience.”
IRISH WILL BE PRESENT: As Elmer said, he’ll be one of six current 2013 Notre Dame verbals in Oregon this week.
He will be joined by his fellow offensive line commit Colin McGovern, wide receiver commits James Onwualu and Corey Robinson, cornerback pledge Devin Butler and five-star linebacker commit Jaylon Smith.
Butler felt privileged to be invited.
“It was a huge honor,” he said. “I'm not going to take it for granted. I know that there were a bunch of other defensive backs who they could've gave it to and it's a blessing. I'm ready to work.”
Butler is excited for the opportunity to prove himself against the nation’s best.
“I just want to get better really,” the Washington, D.C. cornerback said. “I know that I'm going to be out there competing against a lot of the top competition in the country. It's an honor and I’m not going to take it for granted. I know that I have to go out there and work. There are going to be targets on my back, but I'm ready for it.
“Just being out there and competing against the guys who are getting all the press, all the five-stars, the ESPNU 150 in the guys you continuously see hitting the camp circuit.”
Like Elmer, Butler is looking forward to hanging with his future teammates.
“I've met pretty much everybody,” he said. “It's going to be great. I can't wait. We’re just going to be out there getting after.”
IRISH TO MAKE PRESENCE FELT: The Notre Dame verbals aren’t just looking to compete and hang out with each other, they’re also looking to help grow their current class.
“Of course,” said Butler. “It's a recruiting trip as well.
“I'm going to be putting in a lot of work. I'll definitely be talking to a lot of guys.”
Elmer plans on doing the same.
“For sure,” he said. “I know some of those guys, like James and a lot of the other guys, they do a lot more that stuff on Twitter than I do, but whatever I can do to help.”
Onwualu will undoubtedly be pushing the Irish.
“I'm going to do some work on recruiting this weekend,” Onwualu said confidently.
One prospect who will definitely be hearing from the Irish contingent is Pennsylvania linebacker Alex Anzalone. The one-time Ohio State pledge will be making his commitment during the weekend at the event and will choose from Notre Dame, Penn State and Florida.
The Irish seemed to have a lead last week, but it appears it was erased when Anzalone made another trip to Happy Valley. The two programs are neck and neck with Florida seemingly running third at this point.
“I'll definitely be talking to him and just making sure that he knows that we really want him here,” Elmer said of Anzalone.
Butler could end up having the most face time with Anzalone.
“I even asked if I can room with him so I can get in his ear some more,” Butler said. “I'm not sure if it's going to happen, but we both requested each other.”
In addition to Anzalone, there will be several other Notre Dame targets in attendance, some uncommitted and some committed elsewhere.
The list includes Arizona defensive back Priest Willis, Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, Florida receiver Alvin Bailey, New York defensive end/linebacker Ebenezer Ogundeko, California cornerback L.J. Moore, Hawaii linebacker Isaac Savaiinaea, Virginia linebacker Doug Randolph, Florida defensive end Jordan Sherit, Illinois receiver Laquon Treadwell, California receiver Demorea Stringfellow, Texas defensive end/linebacker Deon Hollins, Georgia linebacker Trey Johnson, Virginia running back Taquan Mizzell, Texas receiver Torii Hunter Jr. and Louisiana linebacker Kendell Beckwith.
Other notable prospects include Missouri running back Ezekiel Elliott, New Jersey cornerback Tre Bell, Florida receiver Travis Johnson, Florida receiver Ahmad Fulwood, Georgia athlete Tramel Terry, Florida safety Leon McQuay III, Florida running back Ryan Green, Maryland cornerback Kendall Fuller, Ohio cornerback Cam Burrows, New Jersey cornerback Eli Woodard, Ohio athlete Jalin Marshall, California cornerback Chris Hawkins, Illinois running back Ty Isaac, California linebacker Michael Hutchings, Texas receiver Eldridge Massington, California receiver Steven Mitchell, Illinois offensive lineman Kyle Bosch, New Jersey defensive end Tashawn Bower, Pennsylvania running back David Williams, Ohio defensive end Taco Charlton, California safety Hatari Byrd, Kentucky defensive end Jason Hatcher, Indiana lineman Darius Latham, California defensive Joe Mathis, Texas defensive end Torrodney Prevot, California receiver Sebastian Larue, California defensive back Tahaan Goodman, Michigan offensive lineman David Dawson, Indiana defensive end Elijah Daniel, Florida safety Marcell Harris, California receiver Darrell Daniels and Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster.
ISD ON SCENE: Irish Sports Daily will have full coverage of the entire event as Christian McCollum and Sean Mele are already on site. We’ll be providing several full interviews and breakdowns for all relevant prospects on the site. Also, be sure to follow our blog on the message board as well as ISDUpdate on Twitter for live updates throughout the event.
ND Commits Break Into Opening
BEAVERTON, Ore. – The Opening is quite a sight to see, and I’m not even talking about Nike’s outlandish and unbelievable world headquarters.
The most amazing thing thus far has been the players. We are talking about kids who have received numerous scholarship offers from various schools across the country. Some have even committed to their school of choice and have nothing to prove.
And you wouldn’t know it.
The way these 17 and 18-year-olds are competing against one another makes you think that every college coach in the country is watching them and they haven’t received one single scholarship offer up to this point.
The SPARQ competition started the day with genuine camaraderie between all players, regardless of position or level of speed or agility. These kids are going to knock the snot out of each other in a year or so and they’re whooping it up with each other over a 40 time or vertical jump.
The afternoon was filled more football related activity, and although access was limited to one side of the field, you could still feel the competition heating up from a distance.
The offensive lineman worked specifically on pass blocking for the entire practice. There wasn’t an iota of time spent on run blocking. I believe the thought process behind this has to do with the one-on-ones with the defensive line being pass block only drills.
I was impresses with Notre Dame offensive line commit, Steve Elmer. I’ll be honest, he really looks like a plodder when you first see him, and you wouldn’t think he was capable of moving the way he did today.
His feet are quicker than you’d think, and his arms may the longest I’ve ever seen on a human being. He was playing left tackle against the defensive line and more than held his own against two defensive ends who were flying off the edge with their pants on fire. His only issue is he plays a little high, but even so, he was pretty impressive today.
I’m not going to say I was disappointed in Irish offensive line commit Colin McGovern, which would be an overstatement on my part. I guess when I looked at Elmer and Mc Govern together, I figured McGovern would be better based upon body type. I was wrong.
After seeing both of them in action I believe Elmer is the better lineman--at least after one day of observation. McGovern’s feet weren’t as quick as Elmer’s, nor did he display the pass blocking ability that Elmer did. McGovern was beaten twice in defensive line drills, and one of those times he was air-lifted into the dummy that was playing quarterback.
I’m in no way, shape or form throwing the towel in on this kid; he just has a lot to learn and some core strength to develop before he’s ready.
James Onwualu bleeds blue and gold like nobody’s business. The poor kid’s jaw is wired shut from a 7-on-7 injury and he’s still out there competing (and recruiting) as best he can. You would think he’d take it easy and stay home, but he really wanted to be in Oregon to promote the advantages of becoming Irish.
He runs very smoothly and effortlessly. He looks like he’s not even trying. I like his attitude, and his route running is precise and is something he’s worked on over the summer. He’s bigger than I thought he was. I'd say he’s every bit of 6-foot-3.
Corey Robinson, another Notre Dame wide receiver commit, is an intimidating sight on the field. Standing at least 6-foot-5, he needs to improve upon beating press coverage and route running. I know he’s only played football a few years, but he needs to be a go-to guy for the Irish, especially in the red zone.
His frame leads me to believe that tight end may be in his future, but we’ll have to wait and see if he sprouts late, like his famous father did.
Defensively, I was really impressed with future Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith. He’s fast and chiseled with a great nose for the ball. When watching him in drills it’s clear he has great closing speed and instincts for what’s going on around him. He also has genuine enthusiasm for the game, and it seemed to be contagious for the entire linebacker core.
He wants to be the best linebacker in the country and was beaming that he was in the 99th percentile of all linebackers in the country. I believe he is a special player who will shine in South Send.
I need to comment on linebacker recruit, Alex Anzalone. I like him as a MIKE or WILL in the Irish scheme. He has good speed and agility, but I worry about him in space at DOG and I’m not sure if he can be the pass rusher needed at CAT.
He’s got good instincts and a passion for the game, I just like him inside, as the Notre Dame coaching staff does as well. His lower half is impressive, and it’s evident he’s been friends with a squat rack for a long, long time. He would be a good fit for the Irish to bolster the inside linebacker depth in South Bend.
Future Irish cornerback Devin Butler performed well at the SPARQ portion of the day, turning some heads with his athletic ability. The afternoon was lukewarm, though, as he didn’t make a ton of mistakes, but he really didn’t shine, either.
Granted, its one day, and he’s going up against the best of the best, especially at wide receiver, but I’d like to see a little more fire in his belly from rep to rep.
There were a few instances where he didn’t get his hips turned with the receiver and he was a split second too late in catching up. He also bit on a few fakes, leaving himself vulnerable and out of position when he should have been patient and taken a more conservative approach.
That being said, he is good in press coverage and was pretty physical when he needed to be, not shying away at all from the contact. The bottom line with him is he has all the tools to be really good, and playing smarter will make him better player in the future.
Tomorrow will mark day two of The Opening and even more football related drills, such as 7-on-7s and a lineman challenge. In addition to the Irish commits, I plan on focusing on some of Notre Dame’s top recruits as well as how the competition’s commits stack-up to Notre Dame’s commits.
2014 WR Visits ND, Will Return
Corey Holmes was only at Notre Dame for a couple of hours last month and didn’t get to see everything, but what he did see was enough to get him to come back.
“I really liked Notre Dame,” said Holmes, a 2014 wide receiver from Florida powerhouse St. Thomas Aquinas. “It’s a great school academically and of course, a very good football program. I'm very interested in Notre Dame.
“I didn't really get to meet too many of the coaches, but the coaches I did meet were very good people. I was only there for a couple hours, about two or three hours. I got to tour all the football facilities and all that, the training facilities and the football offices.”
The 6-foot-1, 180-pounder will get a chance to see and learn even more about Notre Dame when he returns for a game in the fall.
“During the season I should be going up to Notre Dame for the Notre Dame-Michigan game,” he said. “I think that will probably be one of the most exciting games of the year, so I'm really looking forward to that.”
Holmes already holds offers from Michigan, Florida, Wisconsin, Rutgers and South Florida while also receiving interest from programs like Florida State, Miami, LSU and Clemson.
He stopped in Ann Arbor on his recent trip to the Midwest.
“I actually went to Michigan for football camp,” he said. “I really enjoyed Michigan. The camp was very nice. Halfway through the camp, I got the opportunity to look at the football facilities and the football offices. I also got taken into the stadium, so I got to see the Big House and all that. We took a look around the campus as well and that was very nice.”
After the Midwest, Holmes and his father traveled to the West Coast, where they visited USC on Tuesday.
“We took a look around the campus, took a look at the stadium,” said Holmes. “We visited the football offices. It was very nice, very interesting.”
On Thursday, Holmes will visit Cal and on Friday, he’ll stop at Oregon.
The unofficial visits will undoubtedly give Holmes an idea of how the programs stack up against each other, but there’s one factor that will certainly play a major role when it comes time to make a decision.
“I would definitely say that academics will be a very strong factor in my decision,” said Holmes. “The football program will be another factor as well as the coaches. I want to go to a place that has great coaches.”
BEAVERTON, Ore. - James Onwualu didn't have anything to prove Friday. Not by anyone else's standards.
The 6-1, 203-pound receiver from Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minn.) already has a scholarship to Notre Dame secured. He's ranked the No. 19 wide receiver in the country by MaxPreps and even higher by many other recruiting services. Combine all that with the fact he broke his jaw in a 7-on-7 game a couple weeks ago, and no one would have blinked had he skipped Nike's The Opening, the nation's top showcase for high school football players.
MaxPreps News - Gritty Minnesota receiver James Onwuala overcomes broken jaw; Super fleet Texas linebacker Mike Mitchell wins the Sparq national championship with a record-breaking performance.
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