Monday recruiting insider

There are a quite a few talking points surrounding Notre Dame recruiting following a weekend in which the Irish hosted a number of prominent visitors.

1. Tight end Chris Clark decommitted from North Carolina on Saturday evening. Not a big surprise, Clark admitted in a recent interview with Irisheyes.com that he felt like he had "rushed the decision" to commit to UNC.

Clark is visiting Michigan and Ohio State the weekend of April 18 and 19, and then he plans to announce his decision among Michigan, North Carolina, Notre Dame and Ohio State shortly thereafter. Clark visited Notre Dame two weeks ago with his parents and had a great time. It's surely not set in stone yet with two visits left on the table, but at this point, I would project him to Notre Dame based on Notre Dame's success in grooming tight ends for the league and his family connections to the university.

Clark is a four-star prospect, ranked as the nation's No. 3 tight end, and is Notre Dame's No. 1 target at the position.

2. No giant headlines involving visitors at the Blue-Gold game.

However, Notre Dame continued to bolster its position with its No. 1 linebacker target, Justin Hilliard, who was joined by both of his parents on his visit this weekend. Hilliard has visited Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma this spring. He plans to cut his list to five after he visits Florida and Florida State. Likely to make his second cut are Iowa (where his brother attends), Michigan, Notre Dame, and Ohio State, and the last spot could be up for grabs. I like where Notre Dame sits at this point with Hilliard, as he's visited Notre Dame the most out of all schools and has the closest relationship with the Irish staff. Ohio State will be the biggest competition in the end.

Also worth pointing out that defensive end Jashon Cornell visited Notre Dame Saturday night and hung out with the players. Along with Notre Dame, Cornell has also visited Mississippi State and Iowa this spring. Cornell plans to announce his final decision before his senior year starts, and like we've said all along, it's likely to be a Michigan-Notre Dame battle.

Cornell, like Hilliard, has the best relationship with Notre Dame's staff. But, previously he's talked with Irisheyes.com about liking Michigan's campus more and overall atmosphere better. I thought this was interesting what Cornell told Scout.com in early April:

"I want to make my decision before the beginning of my senior year. I want to go somewhere that I have a great relationship with the coaches and then I want to see how long those coaches have been together. Academics are going to come first though, so I am looking into who all has a really good business school."

Coaching staff and business school play nicely in Notre Dame's favor. I would say Notre Dame is recruiting him hardest right now, but whether that will the tipping point in the end is undetermined.

3. Continuing our recap of the weekend, Elijah Taylor, Alex Ofodile and Nick Conner were the other noteworthy (uncommited) junior prospects on campus.

It is hard to see Taylor going anywhere else other than Notre Dame considering his relationship with the staff, but I do believe he wants to continue the recruiting process since he's currently riding a wave of momentum. Ohio State is a threat since they've offered, but I still like Notre Dame's chances the best.

This was Ofodile's second visit to Notre Dame. We'll catch up with him (and Conner) soon for a detailed recap, but the Irish should be in good position to make Ofodile's cut in late April or May. Ofodile has plans to announce his final decision in June. Obviously, Iowa is big competition considering his legacy status with the Hawkeyes. He also plans on visiting Clemson, Michigan State, North Carolina, Ohio State and Penn State before making his final decision.

4. Switching gears, in one person's opinion, it will be interesting to watch how Notre Dame continues its pursuit of two running backs in this class.

Running back target Dexter Williams committed to Miami over the weekend. Williams has already exhibited a roller coaster of recruitment, naming numerous leaders over a short period of time.

Notre Dame and Irish assistant Bob Elliott offered four-star running back Paul Lucas of Pheonix (Ariz.) Mountain Pointe on Thursday. It was his seventh offer, and he also holds offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Oregon State and Washington.

Lucas, 5-foot-11, 175-pounds, rushed for 847 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. He could also project as a slot wide receiver and has elite (sub 4.5 forty) speed. Hope to have more from Lucas soon.

Other top running back prospects that have expressed interest and hold offers - Josh Adams, Nicholas Brossette (LSU commit), Malik Lovette, T.J. Simmons

5. Next commitment?

Prediction: Chris Clark will be on board by early May.

6. Extra points...

Recapping a few of the recent offers to go out...

Last Wednesday, Notre Dame offered junior linebacker Tevon Coney of Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High. Coney could project inside or outside, and he's currently favoring the Gators.

Notre Dame offered sophomore offensive tackle Willie Allen of River Ridge (La.) John Curtis Christian. Allen also has offers from the likes of Florida, LSU and Michigan.

Sophomore wide receiver Desmond Fitzpatrick of is one of the top wide receivers in the Midwest, and he visited Notre Dame last week. The Farmington, Michigan product left without an offer, but he's likely to be an important prospect down the road.

Junior cornerback Micah Abernathy of Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian picked up an offer late last week. Abernathy runs track (100-meter and 200-meter) which has hindered him from setting any dates for visits this spring or summer.

IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories