Evaluating Notre Dame recruits from Army Bowl practice

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A handful of Notre Dame recruits have the chance to impress on a national stage Saturday.

Three Irish commits and four top recruiting targets will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl at 1 p.m. EST on NBC.

The biggest moment will come when wide receiver Javon McKinley announces his commitment during the game. The four-star recruit said earlier this week that he has made his decision. It’s only a matter of revealing whether Notre Dame, Oregon or Washington will be his choice.

The game marks the end of a week full of competition between some of the top high school seniors in the country. Some will start their college careers next week and already have moved into their dorms on campus.

Others are still wading through their options on a life-shaping decision.

While the headlines during the week of practice are dominated by the latest recruiting leanings from the players, recruiting analysts are taking one final look at the prospects to complete their 2016 class rankings.

Rivals national recruiting director Mike Farrell shared his thoughts on how a number of relevant Notre Dame recruits performed throughout the week.

• OL commit Tommy Kraemer, 6-5, 310: “A bit up and down. He’s a big kid and certainly a physical kid. He’s been playing mostly right tackle for the East from what I saw. There’s a lot of upside there.

“I’m not sure if I see Top 50 in the country. He doesn’t have natural footwork for a potential left tackle. He’d be a good right tackle down the line. He appears to be an even stronger run blocker than he is a pass blocker at this stage.

“If I’m Notre Dame, I’m happy because he’s a big kid who’s willing to hit and you can work with that.”

Current Rivals ranking: Four stars, No. 3 offensive tackle, No. 36 overall.

• RB commit Tony Jones Jr., 6-0, 210: “He’s not the fastest running back in the world, but he’s very decisive. That helps make up for the lack of speed.

“Probably out of all the guys here, he may be a tick slower than the other running backs at times, but he’s a big kid. He’s gotten bigger. He played at a high level of competition, which helped his confidence.

“He has very good vision. He’s probably the guy who has been consistently the most decisive runner. When he sees the hole, he hits the hole.”

Rivals ranking: Three stars, No. 27 running back.

• WR target Javon McKinley, 6-2, 194: “I’ve been impressed with the West wide receivers overall. Him and (USC commit Tyler) Vaughns have been the most physically impressive guys to me on the West squad.

“Vaughns is a little bit more smooth, but McKinley is a little bit more physical. You have to like what you see from a kid who’s 6-foot-2, filled-out, strong and can catch the ball pretty consistently.

“He’s not one of those guys who plants his foot and makes someone look silly, but I think he could play outside or inside.”

Rivals ranking: Four stars, No. 12 wide receiver, No. 59 overall.

• WR target Demetris Robertson, 6-0, 175: “Very explosive as we expected. He’s a super fast kid. He’s a slot guy. He could play outside too if he wanted or had to.

“He had some drops this week that was surprising. He knows it. That’s more of a concentration thing. He’s shown his downfield speed. He beat Mecole Hardman on a long fly route, and that’s hard to do because that kid can fly.

“He’s shown almost everything we expected except for a little bit more consistency with his hands.”

Rivals ranking: Five stars, No. 1 athlete, No. 8 overall.

• LB target Caleb Kelly, 6-3, 215: “He’s been good. He’s instinctive with the depths he gets in his drops in coverage. He’s very natural. He’s had a couple picks this week.

“They don’t tackle to the ground in practice so linebackers are tough to evaluate. I’ve been impressed with him and a lot of the West linebackers in the way they diagnose plays, the angles they take when they need to force the ball back inside in traffic or when they need to accelerate to the edge. They don’t tend to over-pursue. They stay under control.

“Kelly has been the most productive guy in pass coverage for the linebackers.”

Rivals ranking: Five stars, No. 4 outside linebacker, No. 17 overall.

• CB Jordan Fuller, 6-2, 196: “We have the bar set fairly high for him and he’s come in below it. There have been times where he’s been very good turning his head and running with guys. He has good size. There have been other times where he’s been lost. He’s bit on moves and been a second too late.

“We probably have him a little high. But again, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There have been other people here who have absolutely loved him.”

“He’s a safety to me. He’s a big kid and he moves better forward than he does backward. But it’s funny, a guy like Robert Blanton, who was at this game (in 2008), I was pretty sure he would be a safety and he played corner at Notre Dame.”

Rivals ranking: Four stars, No. 21 safety.

Surgery for Shannon

John Shannon's snaps in Saturday's U.S. Army All-American Bowl will be some of his last for the next few months.

Next week, Shannon, a long snapper committed to Notre Dame, will have surgery to fix a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Shannon suffered the injury during his senior season at Wilmette (Ill.) Loyola Academy. He has played despite the issue since October.

Shannon said this week that the expected recovery time is four to six months. After discussing the injury with Notre Dame, Shannon said he was encouraged to get the surgery done now.

Shannon, who plans to sign with the Irish on Feb. 3, should be ready to resume snapping by the time he arrives on campus in June. He should have plenty of time to heal as the Irish can bring back long snapper Scott Daly for his fifth year and allow Shannon to redshirt as a freshman.

VIEWING GUIDE

WHAT: U.S. Army All-American Bowl

WHEN: Saturday, 1 p.m. EST

WHERE: Alamodome, San Antonio

TV: NBC

NAMES TO KNOW: The East team includes DB target Jordan Fuller (No. 1), WR target Demetris Robertson (No. 5), RB commit Tony Jones Jr. (No. 24), LS commit John Shannon (No. 42), OL commit Tommy Kraemer (No. 75).

The West team includes LB target Caleb Kelly (No. 19) and WR target Javon McKinley (No. 88).

LB commit Daelin Hayes was also selected for the West team but will not play as he continues to recover from a November shoulder surgery.

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

Notre Dame running back commit Tony Jones Jr. has been running hard at U.S. Army All-American Bowl practices this week. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army All-American Bowl)