Notre Dame is hosting 13 of its top targets in the 2014 class this weekend when the Irish welcome rival USC to town. Inside is a visitor's list and a breakdown of what is riding on this weekend's trip for each prospect.
A glance at Notre Dame
's visitor list this upcoming weekend tells you this is unquestionably Notre Dame's most important recruiting weekend of the season, and likely a weekend that will determine how well it closes out the 2014 class. With 16 commitments already in the fold, and seven more likely to join by National Signing Day 2014, it is conceivable all of the missing pieces to this class could be sitting in the stands at Notre Dame Stadium come 7:30 p.m. on Saturday night.
The 2014 targets on the visit docket for this weekend…
Notre Dame will play host to five players from California this weekend, and four of them also hold offers from USC
TE Tyler Luatua
The No. 2 ranked tight end in the nation, Luatua was the first high profile 2014 prospect to plan his official visit to Notre Dame this season. As IrishEyes.com alluded to
at the first of this month, Notre Dame is the favorite to land the La Mirada standout. This weekend will be his first visit to Notre Dame. He also has an official planned to Alabama and Wisconsin in November. But, if Luatua likes what he sees this weekend, those November visits likely won't be too much cause for concern.
S/WR Juju Smith
The No. 1 ranked safety in the nation, Juju Smith, set all five of his official visits to out of state schools, which implies leaving California is a viable – if not likely – option for him. Ohio State exceeded Smith's expectations earlier this month, and Smith will still make trips to Oregon, Michigan and Alabama after seeing Notre Dame this weekend. Do not write off UCLA and USC completely, but if Smith elects to go out of state, the Irish have a better shot than most to land this five-star, and that's due to their academics, tradition and faith-based foundation. Smith does like wide receiver better than safety at this point, so the Irish likely won't demand he play defensive back on this recruiting trip. Smith doesn't plan to announce until January.
OL Damien Mama
The No. 1 ranked offensive guard in the nation, 370-pound Damien Mama, will decide from a top eight that includes Alabama, BYU, LSU, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Wisconsin, UCLA and USC. Mama grew up in a Trojan household, and USC will likely be a tough team to beat. Mama told IrishEyes.com this summer he was hesitant about Notre Dame outside of football and academics, so this visit is important for Mama to judge how well he fits in at South Bend.
WR Michiah Quick
The general consensus seems to be that the No. 4 ranked wide receiver is favoring Oklahoma and UCLA, but I believe the Irish are still more than just afterthought for Quick, who sees a fit in Notre Dame's offense. Whether or not Quick sees himself leaving the West Coast will likely be decided this weekend.
WR Erik Brown
Brown is a Washington commit, but the No. 17 ranked wide receiver has already taken a visit to Oregon State this season and has Notre Dame and (possibly) UCLA visits on tap. The Irish are in good position to close out this class with an elite wide receiver corp (Holmes, Brent… plus possibly Lazard, Quick, McKenzie, Smith), so this four-star may not have Notre Dame still on the table as an option if he elects to wait until the end of the season to make a final decision.
Next Man In
ATH Drue Tranquill
This in-state product seems to want more time to decide between Purdue and Notre Dame. The Boilermaker commit was in West Lafayette last weekend for Purdue's 44-7 loss to Nebraska, and he was in South Bend in mid-September for the Irish's win over Michigan State. If Tranquill doesn't decide soon after the USC game that he wants to switch his pledge, it may not happen. However, I think the atmosphere that Tranquill will experience on Saturday night will be too much for him to walk away from, and I predict he'll end up Irish.
CB Nick Watkins
A lot is riding on this weekend visit to Notre Dame for the No. 9 ranked cornerback Nick Watkins, who almost committed to the Irish this summer. He doesn't have any other visits on his schedule, and this will be his first time taking in a home game at Notre Dame. He may not necessarily pull the trigger after this weekend, but when he does choose to commit, the Irish are the team to beat due to their winning tradition, Catholic background and excellent business school.
S Payton Hendrix
Similar to Watkins, the No. 22 ranked safety Payton Hendrix only has a Notre Dame visit planned. That's not to say he doesn't schedule a couple more visits after the season, but the Irish appear to be in great shape here. He saw Notre Dame play against Arizona State, and he visited South Bend this summer. Hendrix has been to Arkansas twice and he's interested in Texas Tech, but it is hard to see Hendrix choosing to go anywhere but Notre Dame, especially if teammate Watkins elects to go Irish.
Turning the Tide
RB Bo Scarborough
The No. 11 ranked running back is an Alabama commit, but he's set on playing running back at the next level and that may not be in his plans if he chooses the Tide. Scarborough is being recruited by Tony Alford, and he's largely the No. 1 running back target for Notre Dame right now, so this weekend all stops will be pulled to impress this four-star. Florida, Florida State and Georgia will also get official visits from Scarborough.
From the Midwest
DT Matt Elam
The Irish need a nose guard in this class, and Elam seems to be their guy. The No. 15 ranked defensive tackle also has Alabama and Kentucky high on his list, but if the Irish continue to impress Elam this weekend, Notre Dame could end up beating out the two schools in the SEC and stealing this one out of Kentucky.
ILB Nyles Morgan
Morgan has been wary of mentioning the Irish among his top schools in interviews this past summer and so far this season, but a visit planned this weekend tells you the Irish are still in contention to land the No. 4 ranked inside linebacker. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt are the favorites, but we'll see how much of a move Notre Dame can make on those two schools after this weekend.
WR Allen Lazard
An Iowa State commit and legacy, the No. 21 ranked wide receiver Allen Lazard seems like a solid commit, but he has ties to Notre Dame assistant Bob Elliott, and he's one of Notre Dame's top wide receiver targets. Too early to tell if Lazard will make the switch, but it goes without saying, this weekend will have a lot to do with it.