Big Board: Defense

The latest edition of Notre Dame's top prospects on defense.

The Big Board focuses on Notre Dame's targets at each position, including those that have reciprocated Irish interest. Today's review is of the program's top targets on defense:

Top Safety Targets

-- 3-star Payton Hendrix (Dallas, Texas): Jumping into the picture relatively late, the Irish have work to do to beat out Arkansas, who received two unofficials from Hendrix this summer. Look for him to schedule an official visit to Notre Dame, and the Irish could steal Hendrix, especially if teammate Nick Watkins jumps on board as well.

-- 5-star Juju Smith (Long Beach, California): Has a top five of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, UCLA, and USC. He's taking official visits to Alabama, Michigan, Notre Dame (Oct. 18), Ohio State and Ole Miss, but is also considering California and USC.

-- 4-star Kyle Gibson (Seffner, Florida): Vanderbilt commit that is still expected to take an official to Notre Dame.

Top Cornerback Targets

-- 4-star Nick Watkins (Dallas, Texas): Told IrishEyes.com he is taking official visits to Alabama, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, Oregon and UCLA. Other schools in the mix are Baylor, Oklahoma and SMU. He has pushed back his decision date to next January and plans on taking all five officials. UCLA could end up providing the stiffest competition.

Top Outside Linebacker Targets

-- 4-star Andrew Williams (McDonough, Georgia): Schools certainly on his radar include Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech, LSU, Notre Dame, Ole Miss, South Carolina and Tennessee. Whether the Irish will get an official visit or not is yet to be determined as Williams is keeping things very close to the vest. Schools in the South have the edge in his recruitment right now.

-- 4-star Lorenzo Carter (Norcross, Georgia): Being recruited for CAT linebacker, Carter enjoyed his visit to Notre Dame earlier his summer, and he told IrishEyes.com recently he will "probably" give Notre Dame an official visit. His top seven consists of Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and Notre Dame.

Hickey's Top Defensive Line Targets

-- 4-star DE/LB Solomon Thomas (Coppell, Texas): He has a top eight of Alabama, Arkansas, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Texas and Stanford. He only has one official scheduled so far, and that is to Stanford.

-- 4-star NG Natrell Curtis (Phoenix, Arizona): Arizona is his leader, with Washington a distant second. Notre Dame is still hoping to secure an official, but a decision for Curtis could come sooner than later.

-- 4-star NG Matthew Elam (Elizabethtown, Kentucky): Has a top three of Alabama, Kentucky, and Notre Dame, with Louisville and Ohio State rounding out his top five. He will give the Irish an official visit on Oct. 19 Notre Dame has a great shot here; he was really impressed after his late-June visit, and similar to defensive tackle commit Matt Dickerson, the Irish could end up stealing this 350-pound athlete.

-- 4-star DT Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, New York): Has a top five of Florida, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers. Irish are likely to get an official visit, which could go a long ways in winning him over Ohio State and Penn State. He doesn't plan on deciding until after the season.

Top Middle Linebacker Targets

-- 4-star Drue Tranquill (Fort Wayne, Indiana): Purdue commit that recently visited Notre Dame and will choose between the two sometime this season. Likely to be a tough decision, Tranquill will likely struggle with telling Purdue "no" even though Notre Dame is the more high profile offer. He will take an official visit sometime this season.

-- 4-star Jaylen Johnson (Corona, California): He's still considering the Irish, but Boise State leads, and he has yet to schedule an official to Notre Dame. He'll visit Boise State early in the season, and it's possible a decision could come after that.

-- 4-star Nyles Morgan (Crete, Illinois): Irish should get a visit from Morgan this season, though he is giving the South (Ole Miss, Vanderbilt) a hard look right now.

Where Will the Irish Add?

Total Commitments: 16

Commitments on defense: 7 (2 DE, 2 DT, 1 CAT LB, 2 ILB)

Need: 1 NG, 1 S, 1 CB

Luxury: an additional CB, OLB/DE, ILB


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