Notre Dame commits tested at The Opening

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

BEAVERTON, Ore. — Jayson Ademilola lived the goal he set for himself as a freshman in high school.

Following his first season of football at Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep, the future Notre Dame commit compiled a to-do list on his iPad.

“One of the goals was to make it to The Opening and make it to the Final 5,” Ademilola said. “Some days it was hard. Some days it was easy. Some days I didn’t think I would make it to The Opening. It just all happened. I kept on praying and everything. It was a great experience.”

The four-star defensive tackle recruit received his invitation to The Opening Finals, a national camp hosted at Nike World Headquarters, in May. He had to wait nearly two months to earn Final 5 honors.

At the end of every The Opening camp, the coaches select the top offensive and defensive linemen to square off in one-on-one pass rush drills. On Monday, the 6-foot-3, 290-pound Ademilola was selected among the very best of the best.

#NotreDame DT commit @jaysonademilola vs. Curtis Dunlap Jr.

— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) July 3, 2017

By the end of the event, Ademilola displayed his explosive pass rush capabilities. But it was never easy for Ademilola, especially at the beginning.

“Day one I came out here kind of nervous,” Ademilola said. “The first day was kind of rough. The second day I sat in the meeting room, took notes, went to sleep early and prepared myself for this time.

“A lot of the guys who came out here like (Florida State defensive end Josh) Sweat and (defensive end Da’Shawn) Hand from Alabama, they really helped me a lot. Even my boy (offensive guard Quenton Nelson) from Notre Dame, he helped me a lot on the pointers. I want to thank them so much for helping me get to the finals.”

.@jaysonademilola vs. @jamareesalyer69 in the #Final5. First rep to Jayson. Last two to Jamaree.

— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) July 3, 2017

Ademilola had the best showing of Notre Dame’s five commitments at The Opening. Here’s a rundown of how the rest of the Irish pledges fared.

• S Derrik Allen, 6-2, 211; Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter: Few recruits — Notre Dame commit or not — had a more impressive highlight at The Opening than Allen. On Saturday night, Allen showed the talent that has led him to be ranked as the top defensive commit in the Irish class.

Running down the sideline in one-on-one coverage against three-star wide receiver Gunner Romney, Allen put himself in perfection position between the ball and Romney. With his left arm extended to keep track of Romney as they sprinted down the sideline, Allen spotted the ball, casually extended his right arm and pulled in a cool one-handed interception.

Ridiculous. (@DsmoothAllen)

— Ronny Torres (@RonnyTorresSS) July 3, 2017

“I just mess around and try to catch balls like that in practice at my school,” Allen said. “It just kind of happened naturally.”

Allen’s high ceiling as a player — and one who can fill such a vital need for Notre Dame — includes his ability to cover like a cornerback at times while also being a reliable tackler against the run.

How much pride does he take in his coverage skills?

“It’s just a tool of the trade,” he said.

#NotreDame safety commit Derrik Allen (@DsmoothAllen) continues to do Derrik Allen things here at The Opening Finals.

— Corey Bodden (@BGI_CoreyBodden) July 3, 2017

• DT Ja’mion Franklin, 6-2, 306; Ridgely (Md.) North Caroline: There was a good chance the competition at The Opening would be too big of a gap for Franklin to overcome.

The three-star recruit doesn’t play against many high quality offensive linemen at his high school, and he came into the camp ranked outside the top 30 defensive tackles in the 2018 class. But the numbers didn’t matter for Franklin. He proved he could hang with the big dogs with his relentless motor and upper body strength.

More Ja'mion Franklin (@Jamion_Franklin).

— Irish Sports Daily (@ISDUpdate) July 2, 2017

Franklin named Trey Hill as his toughest matchup throughout the camp. But even against Hill, ranked as one of the top three guards in the country, Franklin notched a few victories.

“I proved to myself and hopefully all the doubters and sleepers watching that I can ball out with the elite talent in the country,” Franklin said. “I thought I did great and really had a great pass rush.”

#NotreDame DT commit @Jamion_Franklin vs. Trey Hill

— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) July 3, 2017

• LB Ovie Oghoufo 6-3, 209; Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison: There were times during The Opening that Oghoufo would have liked nothing more than to actually hit somebody. But that would have definitely been frowned upon as a linebacker running drills and taking part in 7-on-7 without pads.

Finding balance in cat-and-mouse drills, where linebackers are required to tag running backs in the open field, challenged Oghoufo. He felt most comfortable working in coverage.

“Definitely coverage in clutch moments,” Oghoufo said. “When it’s on the line, I really lock stuff up. I was able to do that (Monday).”

In one instance, Oghoufo positioned himself perfectly to defend a play near the goal line. He prevented the score by forcing an incomplete pass, but the offense would eventually convert on fourth down. It was a microcosm for how Oghoufo’s team, Lunar Beast, fared during the tournament. Lunar Beast, which also included fellow commit Derrik Allen, was the first team eliminated from the tournament.

Some goal-line coverage for #NotreDame LB commit

— Tyler James (@TJamesNDI) July 3, 2017

While the losses brought frustration, Oghoufo took away valuable lessons in coverage and leadership.

“I’m playing against the best in the country, and it made me better,” Oghoufo said. “I felt like I did really well during the 7-on-7.”

• TE George Takacs, 6-6, 235; Naples (Fla.) Gulf Coast: Events like The Opening aren’t designed for well-rounded tight ends like Takacs to shine. With the only opportunities coming as a pass catcher, tight ends with elite receiver skills are best set up for success.

Still Takacs proved to be plenty capable catching the ball. He displayed a wide catch radius and a knack for adjusting to the ball in the air.

In a fitting reflection of how he can best be used, Takacs caught a touchdown pass for his 7-on-7 team, Vapor Speed, on a rare play-action fake. Vapor Speed advanced to the championship game of The Opening tournament and lost.

They set up the run and then Justin Rogers goes play-action to hit Notre Dame TE commit George Takacs for the TD.

— Shea Dixon (@Sheadixon) July 3, 2017

“It’s an awesome experience,” Takacs said. “Everyone always talks about it as ‘Football Heaven.’ You don’t really realize it until you’re here. You get to talk to some of the greats like Jerry Rice and Larry Fitzgerald. It’s just been an awesome experience.”


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Jayson Ademilola during Irish Invasion Saturday, June 10, 2017, inside Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN