There aren't many doubters when it comes to the talent of Notre Dame
linebacker commit Jaylon Smith.
So when Smith was extended an invitation to Nike Football's The
Opening Camp, not many were surprised. But Smith won't be the only
high school football player representing the Irish out in Beaverton,
Ore., on July 5-8.
Five other class of 2013 Notre Dame verbal commits will be joining
him: offensive linemen Colin McGovern and Steve Elmer, wide receivers
James Onwualu and Corey Robinson, and cornerback Devin Butler.
McGovern said he wasn't quite sure what to expect from the event, but
he was glad to be invited as one of the top players in the country and
to represent Notre Dame.
“It just demonstrates how good of a recruiting class Notre Dame has
picked up this year,” McGovern said. “It shows how much potential the
class has while at Notre Dame.”
While each player has yet to officially start their senior season of
high school football, the event offers another chance to prove the
class belongs in the discussions of the top five or 10 recruiting
classes in the country. Only USC, Michigan, Georgia, and Florida will
have more verbal commits than Notre Dame's six at the event. USC will
have the most with eight.
“Everybody says Notre Dame has to lower their standards when it comes
to athletes because of the academics,” Butler said. “I think with all
of us going to The Opening, it shows that we have upped our standards
and nothing has really fallen off. It's just been finding the right
type of people. I feel like this year we have a special group. We have
SEC athletes with Ivy League minds.”
The 150 athletes expected at The Opening will have the chance to
compete in the SPARQ Rating National Championship and then will be
split up for an Elite Lineman Challenge and the Nike 7ON over the four
days. Butler said he's looking to prove his ability on an individual
“It's a chance to compete with the best of the best on a national
stage. It's just a chance to prove myself as one of the elite corners
in this class,” Butler said. “A lot of people have questions on
whether I'm a corner or if I'm a safety. I just want to go out there
and learn more about the position of corner, better my craft and
translate it over to the season.”
Robinson was also intrigued by the opportunity to compare himself to
some of the nation's best football prospects. Robinson may be one of
Notre Dame's least heralded prospects, carrying a three-star rating
overall with Rivals.com ranking him as the 73rd best WR in the country
and 247Sports the 90th.
“I was speechless when I first heard,” Robinson said about receiving
an invitation to the event. “I just started playing football a couple
of years ago, so I never expected to go this far this quickly. It was
such an honor.”
“I'm really excited to go up there and see the best. In my district I
don't really see the best competition, but now I get a chance to go to
this camp and see what the nation's best have to offer and how I match
up against them. I'm really excited.”
Elmer will be making his first ever trip to Oregon and will be
bringing his dad and both grandpas with him. Elmer admits he has seen
himself drop in some ratings by national recruiting websites and knows
that a strong performance at The Opening would help boost his rating.
In February, Rivals ranked Elmer as the No. 49 player in the country.
In April, CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming ranked him 74th.
Since those rankings, Elmer has dropped out of Lemming's Top 100 and
fallen to 107th by Rivals.
Because he already has found the school he wants to attend, Elmer's
not exactly fretting over those ratings.
“That stuff is just something that I see as a tool for getting
noticed. I got noticed and I got where I wanted to go,” Elmer said.
“It would be nice to have a good ranking. I'm still going to do my
best. But it's not the most important thing in the world to me.”
Onwualu will still head to The Opening despite a broken jaw that
required his jaw to be wired shut two weeks ago. He's been forced to
ingest most meals through liquid form and keeps working out on regular
basis. At The Opening, Onwualu will sit out any contact drills, but
will still take part in workouts to prove his athleticism.
He can't enunciate his words as well with the wiring, but he's hoping
his performance does the talking for him. Onwualu said he's not
content with the rating that he's received from some recruiting
websites — three-star rating — and has used that as motivation.
In fact, Rivals doesn't list Onwualu as a wide receiver, but as an
athlete where he's ranked 23rd. 247Sports ranks him as the No. 61 WR.
“Things like this don't really stop me,” Onwualu said. “I'm trying to
get better and prove everybody wrong.”
The Irish commits may also add another member to the recruiting class
while at The Opening. Linebacker Alex Anzalone has said he will be
announcing his college decision on either Saturday or Sunday at the
event. The decision is thought to be between Notre Dame, Penn State,
A number of Notre Dame commits have been recruiting Anzalone hard and
will get a chance to hear his decision in person and give him some
final words if he hasn't made the decision yet.
“I think he's already made his decision in his mind,” Onwualu said.
“We've all befriended him throughout this process even after he
committed to Ohio State. It will be important for us to be there and
support him either way, but I think he's pretty set with where he
wants to go.”
Besides competing, the Notre Dame commits making the trip all said
they're looking forward to hanging out with their future teammates and
doing a little recruiting of other players.
Other players slated to be in attendance that have varying degrees of
Notre Dame interest include defensive end/linebacker Ebenezer
Ogundeko, defensive end Jordan Sherit, cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves
III and L.J. Moore, wide receivers Laquon Treadwell and Alvin Bailey,
running back Taquan Mizzell and safety Priest Willis.
Smith said he'll be recruiting anyone who has their eyes on Notre
Dame. After recently earning linebacker MVP at the Rivals100 Challenge
in Atlanta, Smith said he's ready to prove his prowess again.
“We're all getting to represent Notre Dame by taking our talents on
the road and getting that national exposure,” Smith said.