Irish commit C.J. Saunders dazzles at The Opening

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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.