Irish commits measure up well at The Opening

South Bend Tribune

Four Notre Dame commitments left a mark at The Opening this week.

Competing in the invite-only camp held at Nike Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., the four Irish pledges displayed their potential in the midst of the nation's top football prospects.

ESPN recruiting analyst Tom VanHaaren and national recruiting analyst Bud Elliott were both in Oregon and took note of the Irish prospects. Here's a breakdown of the week for each Notre Dame 2015 commitment with help from VanHaaren and Elliott.

• WR C.J. Sanders: The 5-foot-9, 175-pound prospect started the camp with blazing times in the SPARQ testing Tuesday. The timing systems proved favorable to the recruits, many producing better times than draft prospects in the NFL Combine, but Sanders' performance measured up well against the other prospects at the camp. He finished with the sixth-highest SPARQ score in the preliminary round which was aided by a 40-yard dash time of 4.32 seconds, a 20-yard shuttle time of 3.8 seconds, and a 38.6-inch vertical jump. His 40 time was third-fastest in prelims and no one beat his shuttle time.

Sanders carried those measurables into the one-on-one drills and seven-on-seven scrimmages.

"I thought C.J. looked really good," Elliott said. "There was a stretch where he just kept getting open underneath and they kept finding him. He has quickness in and out of his breaks. He's not the biggest guy, but he did a nice job against some of the better defensive backs and defenders in the country."

His performance matched the expectation that Sanders could become a threat from the slot wide receiver position for the Irish.

"You put that guy in space and there's not a whole lot of guys who are going to be able to hang with him," Elliott said.

CB Shaun Crawford: The highlight for Crawford came with a twinge of cruelty. The former Michigan commit intercepted a pass from current Michigan quarterback commit Alex Malzone in one of the seven-on-seven games televised on ESPNU. The footage quickly spread online via Notre Dame fans rubbing salt in the wounds of their rivals.

The 5-9, 170-pound prospect flashed his playmaker potential in a scrimmage setting more than once."This type of event fits Crawford well because of his athleticism," VanHaaren said. "He isn't the biggest guy out there, but he doesn't need to worry about that in seven-on play. He has speed and breaks on the ball as he showed in his interception."

Crawford also showed well in SPARQ testing with the fifth-highest score for defensive backs. He recorded a 4.48 40, a 3.94 shuttle and a 38.8 vertical.

OL Tristen Hoge: The 6-5, 291-pound prospect did his most impressive work in one-on-one drills against defensive linemen. Hoge, who projects as a center, held his own against the powerful and quick defensive tackles. The jump from Idaho high school football to the top competition in the country didn't seem to bother him.

"I came into the event wondering how he was going to do against the tough competition," Elliott said. "When you watch his film, he's by far the biggest player on the field against his high school competition. You wondered how much of that translates over. Even with the huge step up in competition, I thought he fared very well."

Hoge, known for his strength rather than athleticism, recorded a mediocre SPARQ score. But those measurables didn't matter for him in the trenches.

"Hoge had some good reps against some of the top guys on the interior and showed off his strength," VanHaaren said. "He should be an excellent interior lineman for Notre Dame in the future."

OL Jerry Tillery: The 6-6, 317-pounder didn't get a chance to compete in pads, so he did his shining in the SPARQ testing. He recorded the second-highest score for offensive linemen which ranked better than some defensive backs and wide receivers.

"It's hard to evaluate someone who doesn't pad up, but he was a pretty athletic kid for that size," Elliott said.

Louisiana high school rules prevent its football players from taking part in camps with pads. Tillery did some one-on-one drills in just a helmet. He recorded a 5.17 40 and a 4.53 shuttle.

Elite 11 results

The final rankings of the national Elite 11 quarterback competition reflected well on Notre Dame's evaluations in the 2015 class. However, the MVP of the event will leave some wondering what could have been.

Blake Barnett, the former Notre Dame pledge who currently holds a verbal commitment with Alabama, won MVP honors of the camp run by Super Bowl-winning quarterback Trent Dilfer. It's the latest step in the rise of Barnett since he originally committed to Notre Dame in November. He solidified his status as one of the top quarterbacks -- pro-style or dual-threat -- in the country.

The three other quarterbacks offered by Notre Dame after Barnett ditched the Irish also finished in the top 11 of the 18 quarterbacks in the competition. Oregon commit Travis Waller finished third, Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham finished seventh and uncommitted Deondre Francois finished ninth.

Francois indicated to multiple reporters at The Opening that he hopes to visit Notre Dame this month before making his decision. He also is considering Florida State, Auburn and Oregon. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame wide receiver commit C.J. Sanders competes at The Opening (Photo courtesy Student Sports/Tom Hauck).
Notre Dame wide receiver commit C.J. Sanders competes at The Opening (Photo courtesy of Student Sports/Tom Hauck).