football Edit

Irish Invasion: Offensive Evals

The 2nd Annual Irish Invasion is almost here. Notre Dame will be hosting some of the nation's top talent from across the land. It is a great recruiting weekend for Notre Dame, and also an opportunity for the staff to evaluate prospects from the 2016 class.
Here is a quick breakdown of the top players that plan to attend Irish Invasion, beginning on the offensive side of the ball:
NOTRE DAME COMMITS
TOMMY KRAEMER
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Cincinnati, Ohio/Elder
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-5, 310
BGI GRADE: 4.0 Overall / 5.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 4-star - No. 31 nationally
OFFERS: Notre Dame, Boston College, Duke, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisville, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest
EVALUATION: Kraemer was the first player to commit to Notre Dame in the 2016 class. He has long been considered one of the top offensive linemen in the country. The Elder standout brings strong versatility to the game, possessing the ability to play right tackle and either guard position. His ability to play several spots gives Notre Dame the flexibility to move him to the position that will allow him to get on the field the fastest. Kraemer is a solid athlete with good foot quickness for his size, the ability to move well laterally and enough ability to bend at his knees to keep him at tackle. At 6-5 and 310 pounds, Kraemer already has elite size. He already knows how to throw his weight around, and the scary part is he is just tapping into his potential. Kraemer has a very young body, one that will make major gains after a couple of seasons in a college weight room. Once his weight room strength matches his natural punch, he should be able to develop into a dynamic run blocker. His athleticism should also continue to improve once some of his baby fat gets converted. This is why Kraemer reminds me of current Irish OL Quenton Nelson. By the time he develops he will had a chance to be a truly dominant lineman for the Irish.
LIAM EICHENBERG
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Cleveland, Ohio/St. Ignatius
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-5, 290
BGI GRADE: 4.5 Overall / 5.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 3-star
OFFERS: Notre Dame, Alabama, Boston College, Florida State, Illinois, Miami (FL), Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Rutgers, Tennessee, West Virginia
EVALUATION: Even with the injury that slowed him down as a junior, Liam Eichenberg has shown himself to be one of the nation's top offensive tackles. Eichenberg has developed the total package. He is already a dominant run blocker and has shown flashes of excellence as a pass blocker. Once he gets healthy and continues to physically develop, his ability as a pass blocker should also become a major strength. Eichenberg has a tremendous frame. At 290-pounds with broad shoulders and a naturally thick frame, he should be able to get to an easy 310-plus pounds and make major strides in the strength department. Eichenberg also has ideal length for the tackle position at 6-5 with relatively long arms. The St. Ignatius standout is a quality athlete, possessing good agility and loose hips. When healthy, he is able to move well laterally, which is why he was so much better as a pass blocker as a sophomore before the knee injury. As a run blocker, he comes off low, plays with good pad level and drives his feet well. Eichenberg also flashes quick and naturally strong hands, which helps him lock on and dominate opponents. He could play guard, but his skill set is perfect for the offensive tackle position in Notre Dame's offense.
WIDE RECEIVERS (Listed alphabetically)
MARQUEZ CALLAWAY
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Warner Robins, Georgia/Warner Robins
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-2, 170
BGI GRADE: 4.0 Overall / 4.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 4-star - No. 115 nationally
OFFERS: Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, N.C. State, South Carolina, Tennessee
EVALUATION: Callaway is a smooth and fluid athlete that brings good versatility to the game. Notre Dame is recruiting him as a wide receiver, but he could easily play safety if the need arose. He is a silky smooth athlete that is able to weave his way in and out of traffic. Callaway is light on his feet, which allows him to show strong agility, changing direction with ease. The Warner Robins pass catcher has excellent leaping ability and strong body control. He is able to quickly get off the ground to high point the football, something he does on both sides of the ball. Callaway has long arms and fast hands, which allow him to snatch the ball out of the air. He tends to allow short passes to get into his body, but when he gets his arms out his hands are strong. Callaway shows the ability to track the deep ball well, showing good timing with his hands and as a leaper. He is a bit thin at the time, but he'll fill out his frame a bit as he develops. He shows good vision in the screen game and he is able to use his quickness and thin frame to get through tight spots for big gains. Although he lacks elite speed, he has enough range to get downfield.
DONNIE CORLEY
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Detroit, Michigan/Martin Luther King
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-2, 190
BGI GRADE: 4.0 Overall / 4.5 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 4-star - No. 79 nationally
OFFERS:Notre Dame, Alabama, Arizona State, Florida State, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, LSU, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Missouri, Nebraska, N.C. State, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Tennessee, USC, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Wisconsin
EVALUATION: Corley has emerged as one of the premier players in the Midwest and one of the top receivers nationally. He racked up 47 receptions for 1087 yards and 19 touchdowns as a sophomore. If that wasn't enough, Corley picked off nine passes as a cornerback. He could easily be graded out as a four-star cornerback if he wanted to play defense. But it is as a receiver that he truly shines. Corley has a strong all-around athletic skill set. He possesses the quickness and agility to one day develop into a top notch route runner. He is agile, has loose hips and is able to get in and out of breaks quickly when is technique is right. He flexibility, body control and leaping ability make him an outstanding one-on-one pass catcher. As he gets stronger he should be able to develop into an elite jump ball receiver. He has exceptionally long arms, which also help his jump ball ability. Having a receiver with his speed and one-on-one ability alone make him a top target. When those traits are combined with his after-the-catch skills, vision and still developing game it's no wonder he has become a national recruit.
RONTAVIUS GROVES
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Nashville, Tennessee/Pearl-Cohn
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-0, 175
BGI GRADE: 4.0 Overall / 4.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 4-star
OFFERS: Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Mississippi, North Carolina, Penn State, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, West Virginia
EVALUATION: Notre Dame is looking for a slot receiver in this class and Rontavius Groves is a new name on their board. Groves plays all over the place for Pearl-Cohn. He will line up on the outside, he plays a great deal in the slot and even gets the ball on hand offs. He has the skill set and physical traits I like in a punt returner. Groves also shows himself to have potential as a possible cornerback, thanks to his length for the position, quick feet and instincts. Athletically, Groves has the skills you want in a slot receiver. He gets off the line quickly, showing a good burst and a second gear, which allows him to get over top of the defense. Groves is able to accelerate to the football and shows good concentration on deep balls. I like his instincts as a route runner. Groves knows how to work defenders, avoid contact and make sharp moves to get open, which gives him good separation. After the catch, Groves shows the vision, quickness and burst to produce explosive plays. He gets downhill towards the perimeter and shows the suddenness to make quick cut backs, going against the grain for big gains.
JAVON McKINLEY
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Corona, California/Centennial
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-2, 195
BGI GRADE: 4.5 Overall / 5.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 4-star - No. 99 nationally
OFFERS: Notre Dame, Arizona, Arizona State, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Miami (FL), Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State, Oregon, Stanford, Tennessee, Texas Tech, UCLA, USC, Vanderbilt, Washington, Washington State, Wisconsin
EVALUATION: McKinley is the type of receiver whose film really grows on you. When you first his film you realize he is a good player, a legitimate four-star prospect. The more you watch it, the more you see him dominate and the more you see who he is going against the more you realize he is an elite wide receiver. His numbers as a junior were unbelievable. McKinley racked up 97 catches for 2059 yards and 22 touchdowns, leading Centennial to a state championship. What is even more amazing is the fact he had racked up 44 catches for 860 yards and 9 touchdowns……in the playoffs. That was against Gardena Serra (14-240), Mater Dei (6-187), Bishop Amat (11-282) and St. John Bosco (13-151). In the regular season, McKinley had 7-109 against Bishop Gorman and 3-118 against Long Beach Poly. He has the total package. He's a strong athlete that is in the Michael Floyd mold when it comes to agility, speed and strength combinations. He is still a bit skinny but has a solid frame that will allow him to get to an easy 210-pounds. McKinley has exceptional ball skills, he tracks the deep ball well and shows strong hands. Hhis concentration is at an elite level, which allows him to make tough catches even when he is covered. McKinley uses his strength to make plays after the catch. His route running technique needs a lot of work, but he shows good instincts when it comes to working to get open. Once his technique comes around he'll be truly special at the collegiate level.
EMMANUEL RUGAMBA
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Naperville, Illinois
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-0, 175
BGI GRADE: 3.5 Overall / 4.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 3-star
OFFERS: Boston College, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Iowa State, Pittsburgh
EVALUATION: Emmanuel Rugamba is a highly intriguing prospect. He is one of two offensive players (along with Noah Turner) who could shake up the current recruiting board for the Irish. In my opinion, if Rugamba had better speed he would be an automatic take. If you can get beyond his lack of ideal speed, you will see that Rugamba has a lot of good skills. He has excellent quickness, having been timed at a 4.03 in the pro-shuttle last summer. That quickness shows in film, where he is able to make defenders miss in space and flourish as a route runner. He shows a natural understanding of how to use leverage and his release to manipulate defenders. Rugamba simply knows how to get open, and he is not afraid to go over the middle of the field. His ball skills are very good, as Rugamba shows fast hands, strong hands and he excels at getting his hands away from his body and to the football. These traits make him the ideal slot receiver, but Rugamba has the strength, height and route running ability to also play on the outside. Rugamba is also a quality defensive back prospect, one with the quickness and length to play cornerback and the toughness to play free safety at the next level. Rugamba is near the top of my watch list for the Invasion.
KEVIN STEPHERSON
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Jacksonville, Florida/First Coast
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-1, 180
BGI GRADE: 3.5 Overall / 4.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 3-star
OFFERS: Notre Dame, Colorado, Florida, Georgia Tech, Illinois, Indiana, LSU, Miami (FL), Michigan, Michigan State, North Carolina, Virginia, Wake Forest, West Virginia
EVALUATION: Kevin Stepherson is a bit of a difficult player to evaluate. It seems that right now there are two versions of him. One is the guy you see from game film, and that guy is a solid prospect. The other is the guy who is working the summer circuit, and that guy is building a much stronger reputation. That makes him one of the top guys for me to watch at the Irish Invasion and I guy I am looking forward to seeing as a senior with pads on. On film, Stepherson is a solid all-around prospect. There is no skill set or trait that is elite, nothing jumps out at you. What makes him so effective is that he also lacks any discernable weaknesses. He is just a solid all-around wide receiver. Stepherson has solid size at 6-1 with the frame to add good weight. It is not there now, but I could see his strength becoming a weapon down the road. Stepherson shows above average quickness, enough to allow him to develop into a strong route runner. He is a good after-the-catch player at the high school level, but he lacks the burst and balance right now to see that project to the same degree in college. Stepherson has sure hands and he is an extremely confident pass catcher. He can out-play defenders for the ball downfield and he is not afraid to go over the middle.
TIGHT END
NOAH TURNER
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Mundelein, Illinois/Carmel Catholic
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-3, 235
BGI GRADE: 3.5 Overall / 4.0 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 3-star
OFFERS: Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, N.C. State, Purdue, Wake Forest
EVALUATION: Noah Turner lacks the length a lot of schools look for in a tight end. He has more of an H-Back body at 6-3 and 235-pounds. He is more of a slot type player, as he lacks the speed or length to go outside at the collegiate level. Turner is a good effort blocker in the run game, at least on his highlights. He shows good strength, a willingness to mix it up and the leg drive to really finish off blockers and get downfield movement. With some work in the weight room he could be an attached player at times, but he'll need to do a lot of his damage in the wing position and in the slot. That is where Turner really thrives and excels. He is a smooth athlete, knows how to runs routes and has a knack for finding soft spots in the zone. Turner's catching ability is outstanding. Turner has long arms for a player his size and he has quick hands. He has enough hip fluidity to turn for poorly throw balls and his overall body control is good for a tight end. His focus is excellent and his hands are big and strong. His ability to work the zones, out-play defenders for the ball, toughness and ball skills give him a strong all-around receiving package. If he runs well tomorrow and is at his best catching the ball, he could be a guy that could shake up the Notre Dame recruiting board at tight end.
RUNNING BACK
TOKS AKINRIBADE
HOMETOWN/SCHOOL: Brownsburg, Indiana/Brownsburg
HEIGHT/WEIGHT: 6-0, 205
BGI GRADE: 3.0 Overall / 3.5 Upside
RIVALS GRADE/RANK: 3-star
OFFERS: Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Purdue
EVALUATION: If Notre Dame did not already have a commitment from Tony Jones Jr., who is a better prospect than Akinribade, I would not be surprised if the staff was on him even harder. There are some skills to work with. I like his running back skills. He has good vision, he anticipates well and he reads his blockers exceptionally well. His timing when attacking the hole is good, which allows him to maximize his athletic tools at the high school level. He has some one-cut ability to his game and he runs with good leg drive. Akinribade runs with good pad level and knows when to run a defender over and when to make a move. I like his thick lower body and frame, which should allow him to add good weight and strength to his game. It would also not surprise me if his speed took a tick upwards after some college strength and conditioning work. He has okay hands, which should allow him to make plays in the screen game, but he won't be making plays downfield or on the perimeter in the pass game. His size, physicality and willingness to mix it up should help him develop into a strong blocker at the next level. If he was faster and had a better burst his grade would be higher.