Local safety Paul Moala earns Notre Dame offer at Irish Invasion

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — The Irish Invasion featured recruits from as far away as California and New Jersey, but the first to receive a new Notre Dame scholarship offer came from right down the road.

Paul Moala, a rising senior safety from Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn High School, closed his camp with a conversation with head coach Brian Kelly and an opportunity to play football for the Irish.

“I was definitely surprised and very humbled,” Moala said in a phone interview after the camp. “The offer meant a lot to me especially since it’s really close to home. It means a lot that they saw something in me at camp.”

More than 70 recruits showed up for the invite-only camp Saturday night inside Notre Dame Stadium, but Moala managed to make an impression. A reported time of 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash certainly helped the 5-foot-11, 200-pound prospect state his case.

Moala has previously received offers from Iowa, Hawaii, Air Force, Utah State and several MAC programs, but he didn’t think a Notre Dame offer was going to be a possibility before Saturday.

“Going into the camp I just wanted to perform as well as I could,” Moala said. “I tried, and I guess I did well enough for the coaches.”

Next on Moala’s summer schedule is a camp at Stanford and a visit to Utah State. A Notre Dame offer could lead to many more schools reaching out to Moala, but a commitment to the Irish is something he’ll have to weigh.

“It definitely is something in my mind with Notre Dame offering,” Moala said. “I’m a guy who really likes family and focuses on family. To be close to home would be really great for me.”

Saturday night’s camp also included four Notre Dame commits in the 2018 class and five targets in the 2018 and 2019 classes who have already received offers.

No one stood out more than defensive end Jayson Oweh. The 6-5, 236-pound senior from Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy lived up to his four-star hype. During the testing portion of the camp, Oweh appeared to complete a broad jump of roughly 11 feet. He also showed his speed around the edge in pass rush drills and a hand-timed 4.57 in the 40.

Notre Dame twin defensive line commits Jayson and Justin Ademilola proved hard to block in one-on-one scenarios against offensive lineman. Jayson, a defensive tackle, overpowered opponents with his strength and quick hands. Justin, a defensive end, kept offensive linemen guessing with outside speed and inside moves.

Shayne Simon, a teammate of the Ademilolas at Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep, looked smooth operating as hybrid linebacker/safety. The Irish have targeted him as a top rover candidate in the 2018 class, and he displayed the versatility required at the position.

Moala wasn’t the only in-state recruiting target showing his skills on Saturday night. Indianapolis Lawrence Central linebacker Cameron McGrone and Indianapolis North Central cornerback D.J. Johnson, both seniors, and West Lafayette defensive end George Karlaftis, a junior, all showed flashes.

McGrone showed his speed and explosiveness as he has fully recovered from an ACL surgery last fall. In one open-field tackling drill, McGrone collided with a running back so hard that the opponent had to gather himself after falling to the ground. The players weren’t wearing pads and the drill was not designed for the linebackers to actually finish the tackle, but McGrone refused to cede ground.

Johnson’s night ended early with ice wrapped on his left ankle. He was wearing a brace on the ankle earlier in the camp. Karlaftis received plenty of attention from defensive line coach Mike Elston.

Notre Dame running back commit Markese Stepp, a senior from Indianapolis Cathedral, joined in the competition after sitting out last year’s event and watching as a spectator. Stepp and McGrone squared off in the open-field drill, and Stepp was awarded a victory, though the judge — running backs coach Autry Denson — may have been biased.

Irish linebacker commit Bo Bauer returned for his second Irish Invasion looking much thicker than last summer. Bauer received an offer from Notre Dame last August, committed on the spot and has filled out his 6–3, 220-pound frame since then.

Former Notre Dame head coach Lou Holtz surprised the campers with a guest appearance and pep talk. Holtz arrived midway through the camp and spent time chatting with Kelly before the recruits. Former Irish quarterback Brady Quinn also stopped by the camp.

Several current Irish players attended the Irish Invasion and encouraged the campers including quarterback Brandon Wimbush, offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey, defensive end Daelin Hayes, wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and tight end Alizé Mack.

On Saturday night, the recruits were hoping to impress Notre Dame’s coaching staff. As more visitors come and go throughout the weekend, the Irish will hope to do the same.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Paul Moala makes a catch while running drills during Irish Invasion Saturday, June 10, 2017, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN