SOUTH BEND — Four catches helped Jay Brunelle earn an offer from Notre Dame on Sunday.
They weren’t just ordinary receptions by the 2020 wide receiver. The Shrewsbury (Mass.) St. John's High product dominated the one-on-one portion of ND's Irish Invasion football recruiting camp. All but one of his four receptions came against defensive backs bound for Power Five football. Two were of the jaw-dropping variety.
Over 250 recruits competed at the LaBar Practice Complex. Prompted by the light drizzle accompanying the four-hour camp, the Irish coaching staff relocated half of the group inside during the final one-on-one section.
Among all of the quarterbacks, tight ends, receivers and defensive backs competing inside the Loftus Sports Center, it was Brunelle who grabbed the spotlight. The 6-foot-1, 200-pounder seemingly caught everything thrown his direction.
Brunelle’s hands, jump ball ability and catch radius made him a tough cover. As a three-star recruit, Brunelle ranks as 247Sports’ No. 154 receiver and No. 970 overall player. He caught 70 passes for 1,157 yards and 18 touchdowns last season. Michigan, Boston College, West Virginia, Rutgers, Connecticut, Wake Forest and Tulane have offered Brunelle.
Two of Brunelle’s receptions came at the expense of Alaka’i Gilman, the younger brother of starting Irish safety Alohi Gilman. Brunelle bested him on a contested stop route and skinny post. Alaka’i otherwise had a solid camp, intercepting a pass and recording a pass breakup. The three-star 2020 safety holds offers from USC, California, Oregon and more.
Brunelle caught two jump balls that evoked surprised gasps from spectators. One of the receptions came over 2020 athlete Nigel Williams, who performed well and intercepted a pass. Williams holds offers from Connecticut, Virginia, Wake Forest, Navy and more.
Special teams coordinator Brian Polian pulled Brunelle aside following the camp. That conversation could have been when Brunelle landed his offer. Brunelle also began the day running a 4.48 40-yard dash in the rain. Though he possesses solid speed and leaping ability, Brunelle will need to improve on creating separation and his route running.
It’s telling that Brunelle stood out among all the competing 2020, 2021 and 2022 recruits. More Power Five-caliber players participated compared to last week’s Sunday Night Football camp.
Four Notre Dame targets were present — 2021 tight end Cane Berrong, 2021 cornerback Daylan Carnell, 2021 athlete Billy Bowman Jr. and 2022 receiver Tyler Morris. ND’s 2021 offensive line commit, Greg Crippen, was another attendee.
Other impressive campers
Bowman impressed more than Berrong, Carnell and Morris. The latter three looked the part but did not particularly shine. The amount of recruits participating limited opportunities to stand out. The one-on-one section came after testing, which included 40-yard dashes, and various position drills, which last close to three hours.
Berrong, the only 2021 tight end to hold a Notre Dame offer, still has work to do before reaching the level of 2020 Irish tight end commits Michael Mayer and Kevin Bauman. Berrong needs to add to his 6-4, 220-pound frame while improving his speed and hands.
The following campers stood out but do not hold Notre Dame offers: 2020 cornerback Jairo Faverus, 2020 athlete Nigel Williams, 2020 safety Alaka’i Gilman, 2021 receiver JoJo Johnson, 2022 linebacker Tyler Martin, 2022 tight end Nicholas Elksnis and 2022 quarterback Brady Allen.
This camp’s best quarterback was Allen, but it seems like an offer would need to come later for him. Last year’s Elite Skills Camps resulted in 2021 quarterback Tyler Buchner landing an offer. Buchner verbally committed to the Irish on March 8.
The 6-5, 196-pound Allen accrued offers from Cincinnati, Purdue, Indiana and Virginia Tech. But something seemed off about Allen's throwing motion. The Fort Branch (Ind.) Gibson Southern product didn’t struggle, but he also didn’t stand out.
Quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, tight ends, and linebackers were plentiful at Irish Invasion. Not linemen. Only a handful competed. Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn took advantage of Crippen’s attendance by putting him to work.
Quinn also used ND’s four early enrolled freshman offensive linemen to his advantage. Andrew Kristofic, Quinn Carroll, Zeke Correll and John Olmstead assisted Quinn in teaching Crippen and Jay Kauffmann, an under the radar 2020 offensive lineman.
In fact, Quinn even tasked the freshmen quartet with more responsibilities than just demonstrating how to execute certain drills. They also received coaching from Quinn while completing drills. Carroll looked much bigger than his listed size when arriving in January (6-7, 285).
Crippen seemed to enjoy learning from the 2019 signees and Quinn. The 6-4, 280-pounder committed to Notre Dame on March 27.
Other Irish players in attendance
The following Notre Dame players attended Irish Invasion: cornerback Houston Griffith, safeties Alohi Gilman and Jalen Elliott, linebackers Asmar Bilal, Bo Bauer, Shayne Simon and Jordan Genmark Heath, defensive ends Julian Okwara, Khalid Kareem and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, running back Kyren Williams, quarterbacks Ian Book and Phil Jurkovec, receivers Chris Finke and Chase Claypool and the aforementioned offensive linemen.
Like he did at Sunday Night Football, Elliott once again provided the entertainment of the evening with his theatrics. He cheered louder than anyone for the defensive backs competing in one-on-ones. Former Notre Dame quarterbacks DeShone Kizer, Dayne Crist and Andrew Hendrix also assisted with the camp, which included a QB Academy.
A pair of Notre Dame official visitors — wide receiver A.J. Henning and safety Lathan Ransom — spent some time observing the Irish Invasion while on campus for the weekend.