Master List: Defense

With National Signing Day one week away, Irish Illustrated updates the Master List on defense one more time as the Irish look to close with five-star talent on defense.

Defensive Line
Jamir Jones
6-3, 215
Rochester, N.Y.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Hiestand Committed on June 23
Jones helped the Aquinas Institute to a state title this year by playing both ways all fall. The younger brother of Jarron Jones was a receiver/linebacker but projects at defensive end long-term in South Bend.
Khalid Kareem
6-4, 255
Farmington Hills, Mich.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Committed on Oct. 23
Kareem enrolled early as expected and should play as a true freshman considering Notre Dame’s poor depth. Freshman defensive linemen rarely play more than bit parts, but that would be fine by the Irish.
Adetokunbo Ogundeji
6-4, 215
W.L., Michigan
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Committed on July 16
UpdateNotre Dame took Ogundeji as a long-term project and that process was extended by a season-ending injury. He’s undersized for defensive end but does have length that can be developed on a five-year plan.
Julian Okwara
6-4, 220
Charlotte, N.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Committed on April 14
In terms of an edge rusher who can help early, the younger brother of Romeo Okwara could. He’s been solid in his pledge since making it back in April. He’s more advanced physically than his brother this stage.
Notes: Notre Dame met its needs with defensive line recruiting this cycle but the Irish didn’t go above and beyond. Still, Brian Kelly should feel good about his position with four commitments and a potential fifth growing into a defensive end in Daelin Hayes. Landing Khalid Kareem after he parted ways with Alabama is a coup considering he’s a big body and early enrollee. Notre Dame needed an athletic upgrade at jumbo defensive end with Isaac Rochell entering his final year of eligibility. Kareem offers that and will be asked to play right away. It would be ideal if Julian Okwara could red shirt, but he’s likely to be pressed into immediate action too considering how limited Notre Dame’s options are with pass rushers. The Irish are desperate for help. However, Jamir Jones and Ade Ogundeji should red shirt as both are developmental prospects. Ogundeji is raw and underweight, meaning weight room gains are necessary. Jones played linebacker, safety and receiver in high school, meaning his technique is rough. After signing four interior prospects last cycle, Notre Dame did well to hit the edges in this class. There’s no Aaron Lynch or Stephon Tuitt, but there’s another Okwara and a potential replacement for Rochell. Overall, the Irish did well here.
Ben Davis
6-4, 235
Gordo, Ala.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Top Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Georgia
UpdateDavis took his Alabama official during the Jan. 23 weekend and has declared the Crimson Tide, where his father played, the leader. Brian Kelly is scheduled to go in-home with Davis on Jan. 28.
Daelin Hayes
6-4, 250
Ann Arbor, Mich.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Committed on Dec. 10
Hayes enrolled at Notre Dame for the spring semester, giving the Irish a dynamic athlete in the front seven. His long-term position is unclear and Hayes needs to get right health-wise, but this is a five-star talent.
Jonathan Jones
5-11, 209
Orlando, Fla.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Michigan
UpdateNotre Dame’s best bet on defense down stretch, this is a heads-up battle between the Irish and Wolverines. Look for Brian Kelly to come out on top over Jim Harbaugh for this pure inside linebacker.
Caleb Kelly
6-2, 220
Clovis, Calif.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Oklahoma, Oregon
UpdateBrian Kelly went in-home with Kelly on Jan. 26 and the Irish remain optimistic about their chances. The five-star linebacker will announce his commitment on National Signing Day in the evening.
Jeffrey McCulloch
6-2, 225
Aldine, Texas
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Texas, Texas A&M, Alabama, Stanford
Texas hosted McCulloch in mid-January on an official visit with Stanford and Alabama both making pushes. The Irish seemed to lead in December. Now this field is muddled with a burnt orange hue.
Notes: The drama position during recruiting’s final months, Notre Dame will wake up on National Signing Day with everything still in play. Jonah Morris was dropped (academics) in mid-January and ultimately landed at Indiana, but the higher-end linebackers are still on the board. Caleb Kelly is the biggest name Notre Dame has the best chance to get, with Brian Kelly making his in-home visit on Jan. 26. Sources told Irish Illustrated throughout January that this was a “50-50” proposition with Oklahoma, although a different source close to Kelly indicated the Irish led with two weeks go. However, that momentum waned after a Mike Stoops in-home, and Oklahoma’s defensive coordinator will get the last shot following Brian Kelly’s in-home. Kelly will reveal his choice the night of National Signing Day, likely well after Notre Dame’s press conference at the Gug. The Irish need Kelly to sign to land a great class this cycle. Ben Davis would also get Notre Dame there, but he’s an Alabama legacy and has the Tide in front. Scoring that commitment would go down as one of the biggest upsets in recruiting history for Notre Dame. Jonathan Jones rounds out the linebacker board with Notre Dame in front for the interior prospect. Notre Dame and Michigan are the last teams standing. However, the Wolverines have four linebackers committed with two ticketed for the interior.
Julian Love
6-0, 175
La Grange Park, Ill.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denbrock Committed on March 21
Love had an outstanding senior season playing both ways as Nazareth Academy as he captured back-to-back state championships. He’s been solid since committing to Notre Dame last spring.
Troy Pride Jr.
5-11, 166
Greer, S.C.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Committed on Dec. 24
Pride was the biggest mover in Scout’s final rankings among Notre Dame’s commits, adding a fourth star and jumping to No. 176 overall. That makes him to top-rated defensive commitment in this class.
Donte Vaughn
6-3, 195
Memphis, Tenn.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Committed on Oct. 12
UpdateCould Vaughn grow into a safety at Notre Dame? That’s not a bad Plan B if cornerback doesn’t work out for this 6-foot-3 athlete. The Irish beat a host of SEC programs for this commitment.
Notes: Notre Dame can breathe at cornerback after wrapping up Troy Pride Jr. on Christmas Eve, giving the Irish three commitments at the position with one being a pure cornerback. That’s the product of Greer, S.C., a former Virginia Tech pledge who was targeted by both in-state programs late in the game, but too late to move Notre Dame off its No. 1 position in this recruitment. Todd Lyght and Autry Denson made sure of that by visiting during December’s contact period, connecting with the family and making the idea of leaving the ACC region comfortable. In the end, Notre Dame beat out North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia Tech for this commitment. Pride follows Julian Love and Donte Vaughn into the class as cornerbacks with room for one more, although Notre Dame is unlikely to add here. Damar Hamlin was dropped in late December due to a lack of interest. The same goes for David Long, who’s since committed to Michigan after dropping Stanford. Technically, Jordan Fuller could be included here with Notre Dame pitching the New Jersey athlete on playing cornerback instead of safety.
Jalen Elliott
6-1, 185
Chesterfield, Va
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Committed on June 19
UpdateElliott was one of Brian Kelly’s later in-home visits with the Virginia athlete solid since his summer commitment. The Irish might have a steal in this ACC prospect with a regional offer list.
Jordan Fuller
6-1, 197
Old Tappan, N.J.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Michigan, Ohio State
UpdateFuller will announce on Feb. 1, with three programs left standing. Notre Dame doesn’t need defensive backs as much as Michigan and Ohio State do, which probably favors the Big 10.
D.J. Morgan
6-2, 185
Bellflower, Calif
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denbrock Committed on Sept. 27
Notre Dame was late to offer Morgan but once the Irish did this commitment became almost inevitable. Morgan keeps fill a major need.
Spencer Perry
6-3, 195
Bradenton, Fla.
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Committed on June 29
Notre Dame has Perry in the program for the spring semester and it will be interesting to see where he fits. The Irish should learn a lot about Perry’s game during spring ball.
Devin Studstill
6-0, 183
Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
ffer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Committed on Dec. 15
Few prospects should benefit more from early enrollment than Studstill, who has a chance to play immediately. With the Irish hurting for quality depth at safety, this freshman has a unique opportunity.
Notes: Notre Dame can’t complete its safety rebuild with one class, but it’s a nice step with Spencer Perry and Devin Studstill enrolled and two more commitments coming this summer. Make no mistake, this is the kind of class the Irish needed to sign last year. Instead, Notre Dame inked only Nicco Fertitta and Mykelti Williams. Now the safety depth chart is a free-for-all with numbers light and experience even lighter. Perry, Studstill, Jalen Elliott and D.J. Morgan should set Notre Dame up for the future with Jordan Fuller still on the board but trending elsewhere. Notre Dame has talked up playing cornerback to Fuller following his official visit, although Ohio State seems to lead. Donte Vaughn could grow into a safety as well considering his size. Like along the defensive line, Notre Dame should feel good about its recruiting but not great. The Irish got more quantity than quality, although the incoming talent is solid.

Updated: 1/27/16 Top Stories