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Irish commit C.J. Saunders dazzles at The Opening

Jul 9, 2014, 8:48 AM EDT

Photo: George Walker IV / THE TENNESSEAN Photo: George Walker IV / THE TENNESSEAN

Some of the top recruits in the country are in Oregon this week, taking part in The Opening, a combine and football camp hosted at the Nike headquarters. For recruitniks, it’s an opportunity to see the top prospects of the cycle compete in a 7-on-7 tournament, as well as go through the Nike SPARQ Rating Championship, an NFL combine-like set of testing events that measure speed and explosiveness.

For Irish fans, The Opening also gave them a closer look at wide receiver C.J. Sanders. And after yesterday’s performance, Sanders will be a much more appreciated recruiting. After entering camp as a modestly-ranked three-star prospect, Sanders will get a huge boost after putting up ridiculous numbers.

Sanders made the SPARQ finals, televised on ESPNU on Tuesday evening. He didn’t win, but it was his work during testing that opened eyes, with the 5-foot-8.5, 175-pounder showing dazzling speed and quickness to go along with impressive strength numbers as well.

Sanders ran a 4.32 40-yard dash in the prelims, just two-hundredths of a second slower than the top time. (His time would’ve been the fastest at last year’s SPARQ testing.) He also put together a ridiculous 3.80 20-yard shuttle time, the best in the entire camp. Throw in a 38.6″ vertical leap and you’ve got yourself a freak athlete.

While the timing system isn’t quite apples to apples with the NFL Combine, Sanders shuttle time would stand as the fastest at the NFL level dating back as far back as the NFL’s website records, when Jason Allen and Brandin Cooks both clocked 3.81 in 2006.

Sanders wasn’t the only Irish prospect who looked impressive. While linemen Jerry Tillery and Tristian Hoge held their own for big men, cornerback Shaun Crawford also put up elite numbers.

Measuring in at 5-foot-8.5 and 170-pounds, Crawford clocked a 4.48 40-yard dash, while leaping 38.8 inches in the vertical. That should more than make up for a lack of height, and Crawford also ran a sub-four second shuttle, making him one of the quickest guys at camp.


  1. mediocrebob - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:21 AM

    I’m sure the staff is still all over these guys. Can’t lose any of them.

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:09 PM

      California kid its gonna be hard to keep USC UCLA and Stanford away.

      • rossumnminor - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:56 PM

        This one will stay irish.

      • mediocrebob - Jul 9, 2014 at 2:15 PM

        Gee John. I didn’t think of that. Probably Cal, Fresno St, Sacromento State, SDSU, San Jose state and any other school in Cali as well…

      • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 9, 2014 at 4:08 PM

        I think this is once again another speed demon for the Ducks. No way he stays with Brian K sluggish offense.

      • andy44teg - Jul 9, 2014 at 4:26 PM

        How about you just name all of the Pac-12 schools, t0$U, and Alabama for good measure??

      • johngaltisspeeking - Jul 9, 2014 at 8:58 PM

        You seem dumb.

  2. mtflsmitty - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:38 AM

    Anyone understand how a Sparq 40 timing relates to the way the NFL administers timing for the 40 at the combine? I suspect Sparq timing allows for better times, but don’t know why. What might a 4.32 translate to at the combine? Anyone?

    • onward2victory - Jul 9, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      I don’t know the answer to your question, but based on these sparq results plus his highlight video, I really hope he wins the kick/punt returner job from day 1.

  3. norvturnersneck - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:32 AM

    My nipples just got hard thinking of this guy on our team. Please keep him and ward off Nick Satan.

    • rossumnminor - Jul 9, 2014 at 5:09 PM

      Welcome back norv, haven’t heard from u in a bit. Looking forward to ur insight/commentary over the season. At the most, I think our threats with sanders will be oregon or ucla. I get a feeling he’s over the whole south and bama thing.

  4. yllibnosredna - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:03 AM

    Not trying to be a dick here, but shouldn’t the title read, “C.J. SANDERS dazzles at the Opening” ?

    • kylehealy - Jul 9, 2014 at 12:47 PM

      So you’re saying the “Irish Commit” at the beginning of the title isn’t necessary? Why? Considering its an “Inside the Irish” page I would imagine that it is pretty necessary that they’re highlighting singular recruits for ND who are doing well. Otherwise they might as well have 150 articles for every prospect going to any given school on here who “dazzled” at the Opening.

      • schuey73 - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:18 PM

        I’m guessing he meant that “Saunders” should be “Sanders” in the title.

  5. shaunodame - Jul 9, 2014 at 1:46 PM

    I can’t help but think about how Isaiah McKenzie (too lazy to check spelling) blew up late last year and flipped to Georgia. I hope CJ sticks with us, he really is a diamond in the rough.

    • brianfallon6 - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:01 PM

      I think McKenzie was also having academic difficulties.

      • shaunodame - Jul 9, 2014 at 10:44 PM

        Ahh fair enough Brian, I didn’t remember that part I guess lol

  6. yllibnosredna - Jul 9, 2014 at 2:12 PM


    You guessed right.

  7. kansasirish - Jul 9, 2014 at 4:08 PM

    We lost Alex Flanagan and got Kathryn Tappen…….looks like NBC is going younger

    • andy44teg - Jul 9, 2014 at 4:29 PM

      Upgrade! That last name sure leaves a lot of opportunity for tasteful dickasman jokes….

  8. 25kgold - Jul 9, 2014 at 5:48 PM

    Here’s the funky truth, unlike the old guys, these kids care NOTHING about tradition! In fact, most don’t even know what the word tradition really means to the core. Only thing they care about (next to flashy uniforms, and girls) is WINNING!! Yup; kicking BUTT! All we have to do in order to keep these good players is win, that’s it…JUST WIN!

    Carry on. -_-

  9. wisner74 - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:03 PM

    I don’t know whether this kid will stay with ND or go somewhere else, but I do think that this says a lot about Kelly’s ability to evaluate HS players.

    Several people have expressed concern here about the number of kids BK is bringing in who are merely three-star recruits according to the recruiting sites. I think BK has proven that he knows what he’s doing. No doubt he sometimes misses (Bruce Heggie for example), but he’s brought in a bunch of kids whose production exceeds the expectations of the so-called experts. How about Corey Robinson, just to name one.

    When the recruiting services miss on a kid, either too high or too low, who cares? Who remembers? At the end of the day, they don’t have much skin in the game. But if BK and staff make a mistake, they have to live with it for four years. I’ll go with the guy who has to live with his choices.

    • mediocrebob - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:17 PM

      Well said, sir.

    • shaunodame - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:08 PM

      Could not agree more. Year after year schools like Kansas State and Boise State (and even Oregon) buck the notion that you need a bunch of “5-Star” players to have any chance at success. BULL.

      There’s also a bit of a phenomenon that I like to call the Brian Kelly effect where we constantly have lower rated players that come in and contribute way ahead of their more heralded classmates. Tarean Folston over Greg Bryant, Corey Robinson over a bunch of guys, Mike McGlinchey over a bunch of guys, Durham Smythe over Mike Heuerman, etc. etc. It really speaks to coach Kelly’s ability to identify and evaluate prospects regardless of their so called “Star Rating”.

      If most people knew how these “expert” sites went about calculating their rankings it would blow a lot of minds. It’s an extremely subjective and unstable process that has more to do with how much said player helps contribute to the site then it does with anything having related to their actual football prowess.

  10. johngaltisspeaking - Jul 9, 2014 at 9:38 PM

    South Bend doesn’t attract the speedy kids and in all honesty Brian K isn’t after speed. He plays a slow style of football. Blake Barnett was built for Oregon why he ended up at Alabama I will never know. But I can say with great confidence this kid is good as gone. My guess would be USC. The exposure these kids get from committing to Notre Dame is unreal. Well played Sanders Well Played,

  11. irishmob89 - Jul 9, 2014 at 11:41 PM

    John, I realize you’re probably just a troll since all of your posts are pretty much trashing Notre Dame in a backhanded way, but Kelly’s offensive philosophy isn’t a “slow style of football”. He’s had to tweak his offense the first four years because he had Tommy Rees and a bunch of Weis recruits to deal with, but now he has the personnel to run his style of the Spread. And last time I checked, he does go after speed. Will Fuller, Chris Brown, Torii Hunter, and CJ Saunders are just a few names off the top of my head.

    • c4evr - Jul 10, 2014 at 8:23 AM

      I just took a screen shot of your post. You Kelly fan boys have been giving him outs all along – Weis recruits, injuries, Diaco sucks/Diaco is king/Diaco sucks, Tommy Rees sucks, He has to dumb down the playbook – but now Kelly has to put up or shut up. His teams regularly played uninspired and look bewildered (remember the timeout before the first play from scrimmage?). Last year’s team put up as much offensive production as 2012’s team, the defense was the gaping wound. T’eo’s presence and leadership was the reason for great defense during the undefeated season. Tell me, was he that much of an anomaly? Why haven’t we seen that kind of leadership under Kelly from any of the other kids if he’s that great a molder and developer of players? Looking forward to hearing from the BK apologists after another 8 -4 season…

      • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 10, 2014 at 10:38 AM

        Brian K has more excuses than any other coach alive. It shouldn’t take more 3 years to turn the corner. If last year was a 10 win season I would say yes we are headed in the right direction. Last year was another 8 win season and I wouldn’t call another squeaker by Rutgers a great bowl game. I agree with C4evr if he doesn’t win big this year we need a new coach or its gonna be rinse and repeat. On college Football they had Notre Dames listed as #9 as the top programs. In all honesty I dont even seen how its possible that we are listed higher than Oregon, Stanford, South Carolina, or even Sparty. Until we can win double digit every year we are a joke in progress. Everyone is so excited about Brian K offense but remember Even Golson is no Pike. Golson has very average numbers in 2012 and had some really bad habits on the field.

      • wisner74 - Jul 10, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        Hey, Plastic Explosive, remember the time that Brian Kelly took ND to the Nat’l Championship game for the first time ever after going 12-0 in a season where he had a roster he had to keep together basically with chewing gum and baling wire?

    • johngaltisspeaking - Jul 10, 2014 at 6:58 PM

      Oh yeah you mean the crappy call on the Stanford game and the beat down of Pitt. This team was a 10 win team and Pitt did us no favors. True I will give him credit for a 12 win season. This year if Brian gets 8 wins it will be a good year. For the majority of fans it will be a failure. I don’t think he can get the job done. Way too many unknowns. I expect a ten win season within 5 years if we are lucky. Outside of that we are a 8 win team playing the schedule we do. But I guess we are not afraid of anyone and I am sure the teams playing us aren’t either.

      • wisner74 - Jul 11, 2014 at 12:11 PM

        Mr. Ayn Rand-o-phile — I’m beginning to agree with those who contend you are a troll. Did your name used to be PaulHargis?

  12. fnc111 - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:10 AM

    25kgold has it nailed. It’s so easy for ND to get a quality recruiting class. Win big and you get guys like Max Redfield to come here. Lose a chunk of games in a season and you get guys like Ronald Darby de-committing. It’ll all work itself out in due time guys.

  13. johngaltisspeaking - Jul 10, 2014 at 12:19 PM

    On a positive note Byron Cowart seems like a great fit for Notre Dame. Man I hope we land this Defensive Player. Oregon and Florida are the big ones.

    • DPU Man ND Fan - Jul 10, 2014 at 11:02 PM

      The word “we” just called, and respectfully requested that you please leave it the hell out of any future posts. Thank you.

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