The marquee event of the summer recruiting season is over, with The Opening in the rearview mirror after three days of SPARQ (speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness) testing, Elite 11 quarterbacking and seven-on-seven touch football at Nike's headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
For college football fans following recruiting, The Opening gave us a rare apples-to-apples comparison of some of the nation's top recruits.
With NFL combine-like testing, live drills and reps for linemen, and a seven-on-seven tournament between teams with ridiculous names like Vapor Carbon, Fly Rush and Apocalypse, the event may be a tribute to the Swoosh, but it's a great look at recruits who will be some of the best players of tomorrow in college football.
For Notre Dame fans, The Opening gave us a first true look at commitments Shaun Crawford, Tristen Hoge, C.J. Sanders and Jerry Tillery. And all four more than held their own among the country's elite.
Let's take a closer look at how the camp went for not just the four Irish commitments, but a few key recruits still taking a long, hard look at Notre Dame.
The diminutive cornerback recruit showed the athleticism and speed that he displayed to the local South Bend, Indiana, media at the Irish Invasion camp, backing up that performance with elite testing numbers and solid play during the seven-on-seven tournament.
Crawford measured in at 5'8.5" and 170 pounds but dazzled with an impressive 4.48 40-yard dash and a 3.94 shuttle time. The latter was good for a top-five rating in the camp, with fellow Irish recruit Sanders leading the camp with a ridiculous 3.80 time.
Crawford and Sanders played on the same team in the seven-on-seven tournament, with Crawford pitching in interceptions while Sanders scored a few clutch touchdowns. It's hard to think of a recruiting class where Notre Dame found speed and agility like this on both sides of the ball, but both undersized recruits (Sanders is 5'9", 177 lbs) will look very good on the FieldTurf inside Notre Dame Stadium in the near future.
Few can question Hoge's commitment to Notre Dame, with the interior offensive lineman among the ringleaders of the Irish recruiting class. But as B/R's Michael Felder discusses, the Irish might also have the best center in the country.
Tristen Hoge good rep vs Neville Gallimore https://t.co/B8eb4U7KoK— Barton Simmons (@bartonsimmons) July 10, 2014
Hoge checked in at 6'4.5" and 291 pounds, running a more than respectable 5.15 40-yard dash. He's one of the better-put-together offensive linemen at the event and looks ready to play at the college level already.
Hoge won't be needed with Nick Martin and Matt Hegarty both eligible for a fifth year, but Notre Dame's staff identified Hoge early as a priority target on the offensive line and his performance in Oregon cemented that reputation.
We already spent Wednesday raving about Sanders and his future in the slot for the Irish, and his speed and athleticism will be keys to getting him on the field early. Notre Dame fans weren't the only ones who noticed Sanders' impressive SPARQ combine, with Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman putting Sanders on his blue-chip Freaks list in the class of 2015:
The Notre Dame commit got a lot of ND fans pumped when word spread of him clocking a 4.31 40 and vertical jumping 45 inches. Maybe even more impressive, though, was his shuttle time of 3.80.
Sanders also has quite the background. He's the son of former Ohio State WR Chris Sanders and was actually the actor who portrayed a young Ray Charles in the hit movie ‘Ray’ that starred Jamie Foxx. He's also appeared in a bunch of TV shows, including ‘Grey's Anatomy’ and ‘Six Feet Under.’
Sanders' acting career is behind him for now, with football the focus as he prepares for his senior season at Notre Dame high school in Sherman Oaks, California. It's also worth noting that even though Sanders has a connection to Ohio State, he's sticking with his decision to play for the Irish, with Notre Dame fans expecting another late push from Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer.
Tillery showed impressive athleticism in Oregon, finishing second among offensive linemen in overall SPARQ testing—a nice bit of work for the Louisiana native who checked in ready-made 6'5.5" and 317 pounds.
Probably just as important, Tillery did his best to debunk rumors that had him giving LSU another look.
"I wouldn't read too much into that," Tillery told 247Sports.com's Tom Loy. "You can't believe the hype. I'm committed to Notre Dame."
Still, Tillery will take his official visits, making it clear that Notre Dame won't stop recruiting the blue-chipper until he's on campus as an early enrollee or signed the first Wednesday of February. But Tillery is worth the effort, with 247Sports.com pegging him as the third-best prospect in Louisiana and the No. 78 overall recruit in the country.
Still Considering Notre Dame
In addition to the four prospects currently committed, Notre Dame got good news from a few top targets who are planning on visiting South Bend this fall for an official visit.
According to 247Sports.com, the following elite prospects are lining up official visits to Notre Dame.
- 5-Star cornerback Iman Marshall
- 5-Star defensive end Byron Cowart
- 5-Star defensive end Keisean Lucier-South
- 4-Star outside linebacker/defensive end Porter Gustin
- 4-Star running back Soso Jamabo
- 4-Star defensive end Austin Bryant
Notre Dame might have also received help in its recruitment of linebacker Tevon Coney, who also camped at The Opening.
With the quest for Coney's services looking like a two-horse race between Notre Dame and Florida, the Gators landing linebacker Jerome Baker on Friday, per 247Sports' Steve Wiltfong, might have made Coney's decision to pick the Irish even easier now that Florida has one fewer spot to fill.