SAN ANTONIO - Greetings, Domers. It's good to be you right about now, isn't it?
My name is Eric Nahlin and I write for Inside Texas, so yeah, it's not that great being me. Us Texans love the Alamo, but we'd rather read the folklore of it than be part of its bowl lore.
Speaking of the Alamo, Christian McCollum asked me to pass along some thoughts on the Notre Dame commits and targets that are participating in the Army All-American game this week in San Antonio. I'll be in attendance starting Wednesday and will provide some coverage over the course of the week. After the gut punch of the Longhorn season, I'm looking forward to the breath of fresh air that is Notre Dame football.
I'm certainly not an expert of any sort, and my knowledge of Notre Dame football is remedial, but I'll give my thoughts before seeing these players live to give myself a baseline understanding of their abilities. I'll be interested to see how these thoughts change in the coming days.
RB Greg Bryant: While I'm not totally sold on Bryant as the top two or three back in the nation, I'm an automatic fan of any kid that decommits from Oklahoma, just as I'm a fan of any team that goes to Norman puts it on the Okies. Well done, by the way.
From what I've seen of Bryant he's a very natural and smooth runner and looks to have some of the same skill sets Cierre Wood had coming out of high school, especially with his ability as a receiver. My only real question about Bryant is his top end speed. This is probably where somebody tells me his forty time is 4.4 or he's "Florida fast," but I'll counter with my familiarity with guys who run 11 second hundred meters that have the same play speed as guys that run 10.5. By no means am I saying Bryant doesn't have big play ability because he certainly does, but I'll be watching his speed of play more so than anything else this week.
LB Jaylon Smith: I'm not going to be able to write anything about Smith (pictured) that hasn't already been stated, but I love this kid. Just like I look for play speed on the Rocket Ismail side of the ball, I look for the same on Bryant Young's side. Smith's closing speed is obvious as he devours ground at an elite pace, like a cheetah chasing an impala.
Other than Su'a Cravens, no other player's highlights provide as much entertainment value as Smith's. Coincidentally enough, Smith and Cravens are very similar players in that they're poetry in motion at running back with their body lean and attractive gait, but are heavy metal when it comes to defense with their reckless and fearless disposition.
Smith could play running back in college, that's how gifted he is but playing linebacker is a wise business decision. James Wilder he is not.
In my opinion, Smith is a superior prospect to Manti Te'o and it's not close. I'll use comparisons to make my case. To me Te'o is a Luke Keuchly type, and that's high praise if you saw any of Keuchly's rookie year. But Smith, he's the evolution of the position. I don't know who he reminds me of, other than maybe Florida commit Matthew Thomas (he's a special player as well). I cover Texas and there's nothing like him down here.
LB/DE Doug Randolph: I'm not sure if the ND staff wants Randolph to put his hand in the ground or play in space but he looks like he can do both. I was prepared to be underwhelmed by Randolph and pretty much any other 'Doug' but I see a lot to like. He looks to have a good frame and first step and will likely be a quality player assuming Kelly and company find his proper fit and function. Are you amazed at my ability to alliterate?
OL John Montelus: I literally laughed out loud as I watched the young man from Massachusetts' highlights as a car drove by not 15 feet from the field of play. I was surprised to not see the game being played on a lacrosse field.
This week I'll be looking to see how Montelus' athleticism translates to real football because it's hard to tell watching him go up against the progeny of the academic class. His highlights didn't really show a lot, but he does have a wonderful build for a lineman. The good thing about taking tackles is if playing on the edge doesn't work out, they can always slide inside. Guard may be a real option. Or, he could be better than Ryan Harris right now. What do I know?
WR Corey Robinson: Did you guys know that Corey Robinson is the son of David Robinson??? It's that type of inside information that makes me one of the best down here. Because he's relatively new to football and he plays in what might as well be Montelus' district, it's a popular perception that Robinson is a bit of a project. I don't necessarily disagree with that, but being tall and having good ball skills tends to translate rather quickly. He has a way to go in learning the nuances of the position, but he's naturally gifted enough that he could play a bit earlier than expected. At the very least, Robinson should be a quality red zone weapon.
WR Torii Hunter Jr.: I actually had a reader ask if Torii Hunter Jr. is related to Torii Hunter. So I did some investigative journalism and sure enough, he is. I love baseball players as football players because the diamond requires an entirely different type of coordination and if you thought it was a beautiful sight watching old man Hunter tracking fly balls, you'll really enjoy watching Junior. When the ball's in the air, Hunter attacks it and there isn't a better wide receiver in Texas in that regard, and we have Ricky Seals-Jones and Robbie Rhodes.
I was disappointed to hear about Hunter’s injury during Tuesday’s practice. I opined after The Opening that Texas should give Hunter Jr. a more thorough evaluation and they did, but no offer came. You can lead a horse, or in this case a Longhorn, to water, but you can't make them drink.
OL Steve Elmer: I'm a big fan of Elmer or any large player that gives max effort. It tells me he truly loves the game. Elmer isn't the most athletic lineman I've ever seen, but he does move well and actually impressed me a bit in space. A lot of times the big uglies have trouble locating smaller defenders in the open but Elmer appears to have that ability. This helps when pulling or on outside zone/stretch type plays and screens.
Like many linemen, Elmer lunges a bit when firing off the ball rather than bringing his feet with him, but this is a minor fundamental flaw that should be coached out of him by the time he's ready to contribute. I don't know how your offensive line depth looks, but he's a guy that would be in the Texas two-deep mix almost immediately, though it's always wise business to redshirt offensive linemen.
PERSONS OF INTEREST
LB/DE Torrodney Prevot: I'm not sure how much you've talked about Prevot, but I could basically be his biographer at this point. He's a fun and engaging young man that's nearly impossible to project as a player. At 6-3 and just barely over 200 pounds, it's hard to fathom him at defensive end and I'm not quite sure he's an every down linebacker either. What he is, is exceptionally quick off the edge and surprisingly strong for his size.
I've maintained the Alief Taylor star is a situational pass rusher and I've learned that's how USC sees him as well. Normally you don't want to invest a scholarship in a player that may prove to be one dimensional, but what if he's Bruce Irvin?
DL Eddie Vanderdoes: I like Vanderdoes for the same reasons I like Elmer; the kid just looks like he loves the game. He recently decommitted from USC and if he's smart - and I'm sure he is - he's paid attention to how the Irish have used their defensive linemen this year. Vanderdoes would provide Kelly with a versatile lineman capable of playing anything from five gap on down (at least over time).
WR Marquez North: I had never heard of North until Christian told me about him, but I'm impressed. North's marriage of size and speed should ensure he sees the field early where ever he goes, but it was hard to get an idea of his hands. I don't know how reliable they are, and that's kind of a big deal.
DE Al-Quadin Muhammad: Like North, I had never heard of Muhammad. Thankfully here in America, having not heard of Muhammad isn't punishable by death.
What a wonderful player this kid is. A lot of times I see hyper athletic players that just run around with an over reliance on natural gifts, but you can tell Muhammad has a very good understanding of his assignments and goes through his progressions exactly how he's coached to. He keeps contain, plays low and flat and absolutely explodes off the ball. If he was in Texas, he'd be in the discussion for top defensive player in the state not named A'Shawn Robinson.
If these are the types of players Notre Dame is going to get from here on out, you guys are going to be back in ways that make the Lou Holtz days look pedestrian.