ND recruiting report card

Among the areas where the Irish scored big were at receiver and linebacker. Areas that might come into question down the road are along the defensive line and at safety, the former of which is always a priority and the latter of which went south when Prentice McKinney ran into an academic snag.

Quarterbacks

B+Signed: Brandon Wimbush

Swing & Miss: Blake Barnett (Alabama), Travis Waller (Oregon), Deondre Francois (Florida State)

Summary:
The summer news was devastating at the time, and all things being equal, the Irish still would choose Blake Barnett to be the quarterback in the Class of 2015.

But under the circumstances, which were difficult because Barnett had been committed to the Irish for so long, they were able to land a real potential gem in Wimbush, who is not as accomplished a passer as Barnett, but has excellent read-option skills and a good overall feel for the position.

The fact the Irish were able to turn Wimbush’s head so quickly despite his commitment to Penn State made this a real nice steal for the Irish. He may even be able to push DeShone Kizer for the No. 3 job this year, which would become the No. 2 job if Everett Golson chooses to play his fifth year of college football elsewhere.

Running backs

bSigned: Josh Adams | Dexter Williams

Swing & Miss: Soso Jamabo (UCLA), Jacques Patrick (Florida State), Jordan Cronkrite (Florida), Ronald Jones II (USC)

Summary: Early on, it looked as if the Irish would be able to land one of the more highly-touted running backs in the recruiting process, particularly Soso Jamabo, who appeared to be trending Notre Dame’s way. But the November collapse and recruiting pressure from other factions eventually prompted the Irish to reroute their running back tree.

Adams had a nice bounce-back season following a serious knee injury, and Williams has home-run ability and a really nice burst through the hole. Still, both have much to prove on the next level – Adams because of his height at the position and Williams because of his east-west penchant.

receivers

A+Signed: Miles Boykin | Jalen Guyton | Equanimeous. St. Brown | C.J. Sanders

Swing & Miss: Christian Kirk (Texas A&M), George Campbell (Florida State), Calvin Ridley (Alabama)

Summary: In reality, the Irish didn’t really swing and miss on any of the top receivers on their offer list because they never got to the plate with the five-star prospects.

Notre Dame was able to zero in on Guyton and Sanders early, and then had success down the stretch, first with Boykin, and then St. Brown, who didn’t reveal his choice until signing day, but was expected to choose the Irish over the last month-plus of the process.

Excellent size in the class with Boykin and St. Brown. The slot receiver position was tended to in landing Sanders. We may look back at this receiver haul and declare Guyton one of the biggest steals in the class. A solid group of prospects.

Tight Ends

A+Signed: Alize Jones

Swing & Miss: Chris Clark (UCLA)

Summary: The Bishop Gorman connection paid off big-time with one of the most exciting prospects in the country in the 6-foot-5, 220-pound wide receiver in a tight end’s body.

Make no mistake, Clark is a big-time prospect and the Irish obviously wanted him early in the process when there was little indication that Jones would trend Notre Dame’s way. But when it all shook out, it was Jones – obviously influenced to some degree by Nicco Fertitta and family – who wanted and chose Notre Dame. Most would lean toward calling Jones the best prospect in the class.

Offensive line

BSigned: Tristen Hoge | Trevor Ruhland | Jerry Tillery (also could play DL)

Swing & Miss: Jake Fruhmorgen (Clemson)

Summary: It’s not uncommon for offensive line recruiting to take off early, finish early and fall into place as planned. It’s just the way it works with offensive linemen, who tend to accelerate the process, particularly at Notre Dame.

But the late word in recruiting was that Tillery would get a first look along the defensive line. Coupled with the fact it was a small class of offensive linemen to begin with, losing one-third of the class’ unit would be significant, which is why the Irish kept looking for offensive linemen down the stretch. Plus, Ruhland – a talented player – is a bit undersized.

If Tillery were to be situated along the offensive line, the grade moves within the B to B- range.

Defensive Line

C-Signed: Micah Dew-Treadway | Elijah Taylor | Brandon Tiassum | Jerry Tillery (also could play OL) | Bo Wallace

Swing & Miss: Keisean Lucier-South (UCLA), Jashon Cornell (Ohio State), Porter Gustin (USC), Cassius Peat (Michigan State), Rasheem Green (USC), Byron Cowart (Auburn)

Summary: When it comes to defensive linemen, you better be really good at those positions and you better have difference-makers because if you don’t, it is nearly impossible to be a major bowl/playoff contender with any degree of consistency. Don’t see a standout in this group, let alone a difference maker, although Kelly puts Tillery in that category. Kelly lists Bo Wallace as a defensive end prospect, but he’s many, many pounds away from that.

Potential difference-makers include prospects like Lucier-South and Gustin, who gravitated toward southern, sunny California over the Irish. Notre Dame loaded up on bodies along the defensive line last year, but a higher level of prospect was in order, and it never materialized.

linebackers

ASigned: Josh Barajas | Asmar Bilal | Tevon Coney

Swing & Miss: Justin Hilliard (Ohio State), Osa Masina (USC), Adonis Thomas (Alabama)

Summary: Some early misses – Thomas, Hilliard and Masina in particular – did not bode well. Normally, when you miss on that level of prospect, which is high, it’s difficult for the Irish to dig much deeper into the pool of elite players.

Actually, Barajas was one of those early misses when he surprised many with a Penn State commitment. But he had a change of heart, chose the Irish, and is one of the crown jewels of the class. His physical maturity should get him on the field early.

Bilal continued the Indiana pipeline that the Irish have tapped, and Coney seemed like a real Florida long shot at one point. Wallace was no easy catch out of Louisiana, but he put a real nice cap on the linebacker position, which most would consider one of the best hauls in the country along the second rung of the defense.

Cornerbacks

b+ Signed: Nick Coleman | Shaun Crawford | Ashton White (also could play S)

Swing & Miss: Iman Marshall (USC), John Reid (Penn State)

Summary: The Irish made a run at the five-star Marshall, who actually visited Notre Dame in mid-December. But that was a tough catch and a long shot at best, even with the visit. Reid (John not Justin) looked like a strong possibility early, but he made the move toward the Nittany Lions during the pre-season.

Crawford was a great steal for the Irish, although his size could prove to be an issue. We also believe White and Coleman are underrated with four-star qualities if not an overall four-star rating. If White has to help the Irish at safety – where it’s needed – that obviously would alter this grade fairly significantly.

safeties

D+ Signed: Nicco Fertitta | Ashton White (also could play CB) | Mykelti Williams

Swing & Miss: Frank Buncom IV (Stanford), Ben Edwards (Stanford), Arrington Farrar (Wisconsin), Gary Jennings (Virginia), Tyree Kinnel (Michigan), Prentice McKinney (Oklahoma), Justin Reid (Stanford), Nathan Meadors (UCLA)

Summary: Were it not for the December commitment of Indianapolis product Williams, this would have been an utter disaster, particularly when you consider the Irish had Prentice McKinney in the fold -- only to lose him to academics -- and numerous other near-misses down the stretch.

By the final weeks of the recruiting campaign, it was a mad scramble, and the Irish lost every one of the battles, including several to Stanford.

Beginning with McKinney’s situation, this aspect of the 2014-15 recruiting campaign was badly mishandled, which is a little hard to fathom at Notre Dame/this level of recruiting.

Punters/Kickers

A+ Signed: Justin Yoon

Swing & Miss: None

Summary: Injuries slowed Yoon during his senior season of high school, but there was plenty to like when seeing him on the all-star circuit, where he was top-notch in the Under Armour game, which included a 47-yard field goal.

Looks to be a real fundamentally-sound technician. Kelly has named him the starter for 2015.


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