Monday Recruiting Insider

In this edition of Monday Recruiting Insider, 10 predictions are made about Notre Dame recruiting in 2015.

1. Notre Dame will sign two running backs.

It's way too early to say who those two will be, considering the Irish aren't in grade A standing with any of the current prospects they've offered, which could lend its hand to some doubt they'll get two quality guys on board. However, a running back can have a tendency to raise its stock late in the recruiting cycle with a solid senior season, and it's a position that's prone to decommitments. Notre Dame could reap benefits of such occurrences come December and January, and even February.

2. Notre Dame will sign in-state linebacker Asmar Bilal.

Bilal picked up an offer from the Irish less than a month ago during a visit to campus. The four-star 'backer from Indianapolis also has offers from the likes of Michigan, Nebraska, and Texas A&M. Even though I'm not expecting an early decision, Notre Dame looks to be in the drivers' seat right now. Bilal not only possesses a tremendous amount of upside, but he's versatile enough to find a home at outside (where Notre Dame is recruiting him) or inside (if necessary) linebacker. Michigan figures to be the biggest competition right now.

The Irish also are not down and out with Indianapolis linebacker Darrin Kirkland, though Notre Dame hasn't yet expressed its serious about extending an offer. Kirkland, who had scheduled an announcement date at the end of May, has now opened things back up and has not set a timetable for decision. He is expected to release his top 10 any day now, and I expect the Irish to be on that list (if he's including schools that haven't offered). If Notre Dame makes him a priority, the Irish could very well land him.

3. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder will be a closer down the stretch.

You could see it a little bit last year, even though he was at a disadvantage considering the timing of his hiring. VanGorder is intense with his one-on-one conversations with defensive prospects, and he relies on that intensity to portray his NFL background to recruits. He'll be relentless to land a prospect he really likes, regardless of ranking and star status. No knock on Diaco, but VanGorder will add a new dimension to the recruiting game for the Irish November-February that they haven't had before.

4. Justin Hilliard and Jashon Cornell will sign with Notre Dame.

Notre Dame's two biggest priorities on defense, and likely in the entire class, defensive end Jashon Cornell and outside linebacker Justin Hilliard, are both seriously considering Notre Dame and have been since the beginning of their recruitment. Iowa is a factor for both, though Michigan State is likely to be the biggest competition for Cornell and Ohio State for Hilliard. Hilliard, hailing from Cincinnati, has visited Notre Dame the most of any school so far, and I fully believe the recruiting adage of "follow the visits" if you want to figure out where a prospect is leaning. Cornell hasn't taken an abundance of visits this spring and didn't visit Notre Dame, but that's not a negative sign. I would read more into the fact that he plans to announce his final decision by the start of the season, which is a positive for Notre Dame and Michigan State. Notre Dame has made Cornell more of a priority and I think that gives the Irish the edge in the end.

5. Getting Blake Barnett on board early shouldn't be underestimated.

This is an observation rather than a prediction, but it's important to point out. Not only did Notre Dame gain his commitment right before word of Barnett's upside really hit the national stage, but building your recruiting class around you signal-caller is ideal each and every year. Notre Dame can now sell to its wide out and tight end prospects that its offense will feature a mobile quarterback for years to come, and spreading the ball around will be a staple of moving the chains.

6. Notre Dame isn't done in Texas.

Notre Dame has secured commitments from Prentice McKinney (Dallas) and Jalen Guyton (Allen) already in this class. Cornerback Jaylon Lane (Nacogdoches) has over 30 offers, and Notre Dame is likely sitting in his top three. Wide receiver Ryan Newsome (Aledo) is visiting this summer with his family and he fits the "RKG" bill to a T in my opinion. Notre Dame could have some ground to make up with defensive tackle Darrion Daniels (Dallas), but his Bishop Dunne roots could give the Irish reason to believe they're a smart bet as a dark horse. Defensive end James Lockhard (Ennis) and cornerbacks James Locke (Beaumont) and Josh Butler (Mesquite) are also considering the Irish.

7. A prospect from California will go Irish.

Blake Barnett won't be the only one from California to choose Notre Dame. The Irish barely missed on some key prospects from Cali last year (Juju Smith, Michiah Quick). In 2015, Equanimeous St. Brown, Cordell Broadus (now in Las Vegas), Dechaun Holiday, Isaiah Langley, Keisean Lucier-South, John Houston and Rasheem Green are viable California prospects, to name a few.

8. Notre Dame will finish 11-1 and prospects will take notice.

Notre Dame will turn some heads in recruiting with a more than a solid season this year. This strays from the topic of recruiting somewhat, but I'm predicting Notre Dame's only loss of the regular season to be at Florida State. That's lofty thinking, but I think Notre Dame beats Michigan and Stanford at home, loses in Tally, regroups the next week with Navy at home and beats USC in the finale.

With that type of momentum, and attention highlighting Everett Golson and a young but scrappy D, Notre Dame could snag a few unexpected big names in the end.

9. Notre Dame will finish inside the top five in national recruiting rankings.

Currently, Notre Dame is at No. 14 with three four-star commits and four three-star commits. McKinney and Guyton have the pedigree to rise nicely in individual rankings, and Notre Dame still has an abundance of spots open for some top guys to fill.

10. Notre Dame will take upwards of 19 prospects in this class.

With room for 20.

So far, Notre Dame is likely done at quarterback (one), offensive line (three) and safety (two). Notre Dame surely wants to take two cornerbacks and two defensive tackles. One wide receiver is on board. That brings the total so far to 11. It's my opinion they can be more flexible on the following:

Running back (1/2), Tight end (0/1), Defensive end (1/2), Wide receiver (2/3), and Linebacker (3/4).

The Irish could conceivably take five defensive backs in this class, if they decide to offer Justin Tranquill, the younger brother of 2014 signee Drue Tranquill.

Point being, getting to 19 or 20 isn't an exact science at this time of year.


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