In the film room...Chacho Ulloa

With Kenney Lyke making a move in the direction of Michigan State, and D.J. Morgan sticking with his Arizona State allegiance, Notre Dame must continue to zero in on prospects such as Chacho Ulloa, who has a high school teammate – WR Javon McKinley – that also could end up with the Irish.


• Stats: Credited with 59 tackles and three interceptions as a junior for the Huskies of Centennial High School.

• Assets: A gritty, scrappy, tenacious, bouncy athlete who clearly loves everything about football and defensive back play. A versatile, plug-in player who can roam the back end of a defense, and step up into the box, support the run and even pressure the quarterback.

Light on his feet. Relishes contact. Plays the game with a high level of physicality. A hard-nosed, try-hard player on every snap. Throws his body around with reckless abandon. Wraps and drives through ball carriers and receivers. Does an outstanding job of using his hands, locking out a blocker, and snapping off to make the stop.

Has an incredible knack for being around the football, forcing fumbles and finding passing lanes. A turnover-forcing machine. Because he’s so light on his feet, he’s very difficult to get out of a good tackling position. Won’t be juked. Shows elusiveness as a punt returner.

• Room for improvement: An undersized safety. Can be a short-stepper out of his backpedal, which makes it difficult to cover forward ground in a short period of time. Because he’s a short-stepper, there’s a question as to whether he can cover the width of the field on the deep balls. Needs to work on his turn-and-run technique defending the deep ball, as opposed to shuffling out of his backpedal.
 
• Offers: Notre Dame. ACC: Boston College; Big Ten: Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Wisconsin; SEC: Vanderbilt; Big 12: None; Pac 12: Arizona State, Cal, Colorado, Oregon State, Stanford, Utah, Washington State; Other: Boise State, Colorado State, San Diego State; Interest: Miami, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, USC, Washington
 
• Early line: Ulloa is the type of prospect whose offer list should continue to grow through his senior season as his physicality and play-making abilities shine through his lack of ideal stature for a safety.

He’s admitted that those additional offers could change where he stands on his top choices. But as of the first week of May, his top four were Stanford, Notre Dame, Arizona State and Michigan State, as spoken by Ulloa to Scout’s Greg Biggins. (Note: Ulloa recently added Vanderbilt to his list of top choices.)

In a different interview, Ulloa said: “My top four is Michigan State, Arizona State, Notre Dame and Stanford. In the next couple of months, it could change. I know the Florida Gators are coming up to see me, and hopefully offer me. I know they’ll be high on my list, too, because I’m trying to go to DB U., if you will.”

Ulloa has said that the two official visits he’ll take for sure are Michigan State and Notre Dame. He’s slated to visit East Lansing for the Oregon game on Sept. 12 while he and high school teammate/fellow Notre Dame recruit Javon McKinley will make the trek to South Bend for the Oct. 17 game against USC.

Ulloa visited the Notre Dame campus in April and officially was offered a scholarship by Brian Kelly. He engaged in conversation with Irish assistants Brian VanGorder, Mike Elston and Todd Lyght.

“I love it,” said Ulloa of Notre Dame to Irish Illustrated’s Steve Hare on May 8. “(McKinley) loved it and so did I. When I think about it, it’s such a prestigious school in both school and football. It’s rich in history. If I were to go there, I would love it, but it just depends on my final decision on where I end up going. I know they’re going to be in my top five.”

Ulloa called Notre Dame Stadium “electrifying.” He is expected to attend Notre Dame’s Irish Invasion on June 19.

• ND’s 2016 safety recruiting: This list likely will be under construction for the rest of 2015 with some less likely to end up at Notre Dame than others.

Four-star Craig Watts (St. Petersburg, Fla.) wants to make a decision by the summer and no trip to South Bend is scheduled. Kenney Lyke (Palatine, Ill.) was said to be trending Notre Dame’s way until his May 22 pledge to Michigan State. Cameron Lewis (Monroe, La.) is an LSU verbal commitment, although he has hinted at participating in Notre Dame’s June Irish Invasion.

D.J. Morgan (Bellflower, Calif.) was inclined to keep the Irish in the race, but when an offer was slow to come following the transition in California recruiting from Matt LaFleur to Mike Sanford, Morgan remained firm with Arizona State.

Notre Dame’s best chances at the present time appear to be with Ulloa, Devin Studstill (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), Ikenna Okeke (Smyrna, Tenn.), and C.J. Pollard (Gardena, Calif.).

Pollard has family ties to USC, but is expected to make an official visit to Notre Dame during the season (probably for the USC game). Studstill is from the same high school as early-enrollee Te’von Coney. Stanford and Tennessee are in the running for Okeke, but the Irish got in early.

• ND’s 2016 safety depth chart: Elijah Shumate and one-year fill-in Avery Sebastian will be gone, and many believe that if Max Redfield parlays his junior season into a standout 13-game performance, he’ll bypass his final year of eligibility, although Redfield is far from a finished product at the present time.

Nicky Baratti would have a fifth year of eligibility, but his health (shoulder) is a perpetual concern. John Turner also would have a fifth year of eligibility, and yet he hasn’t established himself at the safety position. That leaves Drue Tranquill, who will be a junior, and 2016 sophomores Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta.

• Summary: With some players, you can watch two or three clips and know exactly what you have. With others, you can watch play after play after play, and still come away split on your impressions.

Personally, I’d put Chacho Ulloa in the latter category.

This kid relishes his opportunity to play football. He has a great knack for being in passing lanes, finding the football and taking the football away. When you force as many fumbles as he does, it’s more than just happenstance.

He’ll strike you every time because he enjoys it. He has a ton of personality on the field and winning qualities. He’s the kind of kid who probably says his favorite place on earth is between the white lines of a football field. It shows. He brings spirit and life to a defense.

But all of that does not eliminate his shortcomings. He’s short for a safety, and because of that lack of length, it can take him time to get from point A to point B, particularly as it pertains to the passing game. His instincts and passion compensate for those less-than-ideal variables, but there have been a ton of instinctual, passionate players who simply didn’t have the necessary ingredients to be a consistent, effective player on the next level.

I wouldn’t bet against a young man like Ulloa. In fact, and especially considering Notre Dame’s safety recruiting, I would take him in a heartbeat. But there’s a reason why programs like USC, Oregon, Oklahoma and Miami have not offered a scholarship, and there are reasons why Ohio State and Michigan – just to use some high profile names as examples – are not all-in on Ulloa.

Can he compensate for his shortcomings? There’s a strong possibility. Plus, there’s much to be said for a Ulloa-Javon McKinley package deal that would give the Irish a couple of promising prospects while opening up a pipeline to California, where the Irish have had a hiccup in transitioning from Mike Denbrock-to-Matt LeFleur-to-Mike Sanford, which is part of what cost the Irish with D.J. Morgan.

Ulloa is the type of player you keep an eye on throughout his collegiate career -- regardless where he ends up -- as a checkpoint for evaluating prep talent. If he can bridge the gap between his want-to and his physical skill, you’ll be hearing from him, and he’ll be fun to watch because he has so much fun playing the game.



IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories