Notre Dame LB target Jeffrey McCulloch thriving at The Opening

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

BEAVERTON, Ore. — It’s only fitting that Jeffrey McCulloch has performed at a high level during Shark Week.

The special programming on the Discovery Channel this week likely won’t include any footage of the 6-foot-1, 229-pound linebacker recruit, but McCulloch is putting on a show of his own at The Opening Finals.

McCulloch, nicknamed "The Shark" for his tendency to wreak havoc against opposing offenses, started the week at Nike World Headquarters by earning one of 10 spots in the Nike Football Rating Championship after putting up the fourth-best testing score in the preliminary round in a field of 166 recruits. He slid to sixth in the finals but only after proving to be one of the most athletic linebackers in the country.

Then the four-star linebacker dropped word of an unofficial visit spree later this month.

McCulloch, a rising senior at Houston (Texas) Aldine Davis, plans to visit Texas (July 18), LSU (July 23) and Notre Dame (July 27).

Notre Dame only recently offered McCulloch in June, but he said he hears from head coach Brian Kelly regularly.

“I’ve always loved Notre Dame,” McCulloch said. “I was kind of wondering why they were so slow on me, but I’m really happy that they have that offer out on the table now. I can’t wait to get down there and hang out with the coaches.”

The delayed offer from the Irish didn’t hurt their chances with McCulloch, he said. The upcoming visit to South Bend will give him a chance to get questions answered from the Notre Dame coaching staff.

“Where do they see me fitting in?” McCulloch said. “What is their plan for me getting to the next level and getting my degree?”

Working in Notre Dame’s favor will be its academic pedigree. McCulloch said his education is the top priority in his recruitment.

“It has to be a prestigious academic program,” McCulloch said. “That’s been the criteria from day one. That’s the most important thing to me. I have to be sure I get a good job.”

The Longhorns, who have coaches reaching out to McCulloch daily, hope to keep him from leaving the state. But if he continues to perform well, plenty of schools from across the country will keep pushing hard for him.

Rivals ranks McCulloch as the No. 10 inside linebacker in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him 10th at outside linebacker.

On Thursday, McCulloch showed strong coverage skills in seven-on-seven. He’s more than a talented athlete credited with a 4.72-second 40-yard dash and a 4.0 agility shuttle.

South Carolina quarterback commit Brandon McIlwain likely received that message when McCulloch snagged one of his passes out of the air for an interception. "The Shark" was just waiting for his prey.

“We were in Cover 3 and I dropped back into my zone,” McCulloch said, “and I saw (Miami wide receiver commit) Sam Bruce, Mr. Superstar, cut across so I was like, ‘If he’s running a slant inside it’s gotta be going to him.’ I jumped under him and the quarterback underestimated my hops. I just went up and grabbed it with one hand.”

Trying to be like Odell @OBJ_3@TheOpeningpic.twitter.com/j7K4Tntdt7

— The Shark (@jmcculloch17) July 10, 2015//

Star sightings

Some of the best players in the NFL have been hanging around the recruits at The Opening Finals. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and cornerback Richard Sherman were among those on the Nike campus this week. Former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o also spoke to the athletes on Wednesday.

Boxing legend Evander Holyfield was in attendance to watch his son, four-star running back Elijah Holyfield, on Thursday.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Four-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch plans to visit Notre Dame in July. (Photo courtesy of Nike)