The Midwest is feeling the recruiting wrath of Michigan State, maybe for the first time.
After making a career of coaching up under-the-radar talent in East Lansing, head coach Mark Dantonio is now primed to do more with more. Notre Dame, Michigan and Ohio State have been forced to take notice, like it or not. That fact is affecting Irish recruiting in some serious ways.
Michigan State enters the summer with 14 commitments. Safety Kenney Lyke, defensive end Josh King, offensive guard Thiyo Lukusa, safety Demetric Vance and receiver Cameron Chambers are all four-star prospects. Michigan State is likely to add to that group this weekend with another player coveted by Notre Dame.
“They’re a legitimate threat to land anyone in the Midwest these days,” said Scout.com Midwest recruiting manager Allen Trieu. “The days where it was Ohio State, Notre Dame and Michigan battling for the Midwest’s best are done because Michigan State has the recent on-field success as well as the recent history of putting guys into the pros to land blue-chippers, especially on defense.”
Michigan State is considered the favorite to land four-star defensive end Auston Robertson on Sunday when he announces a verbal commitment, a blow that will hit close to home for Notre Dame. Robertson is a product of Fort Wayne and trains at AWP, which has been friendly to the Irish in past cycles with Jaylon Smith, Tyler Eifert and Drue Tranquill.
There’s no doubt Notre Dame recruiting has suffered during the Spartans’ surge.
Lyke chose Michigan State over Notre Dame not long after receiving an offer. Cornerback Austin Andrews, linebacker Jonah Morris, receiver Justin Layne and running back Abdul Adams all held Notre Dame offers. Robertson has been on the radar for much longer — Mike Elston offered last June after working him out at camp — but the Irish struggled to maintain a spot at the top of the list.
King had misgivings about the academic workload at Notre Dame, pushing it down his list despite efforts from the staff to work their way more into the mix.
Losing King (Chicago) and Robertson (Ft. Wayne) means Notre Dame missed with relatively local prospects at a position of desperate need. Four-star defensive end Khalid Kareem plans to announce a verbal commitment June 24, with Michigan the likely pick. He visited for Notre Dame’s Junior Day in March.
Four-star defensive end Julian Okwara is a bright spot on the Irish commitment list at this position.
Solutions will have to come from elsewhere and Michigan State certainly isn’t going anywhere it terms of recruiting clout.
The next major battle that will come into focus is over four-star wide receiver Donnie Corley, who has talked about a return visit to Notre Dame. Michigan State is among those heavily involved with the Detroit native. However, the Irish appear off the pace for the Detroit athlete with the Spartans’ competition coming more from SEC programs.
Indiana’s top two prospects, four-star receiver Austin Mack and Robertson, will announce their college commitments Sunday at R.A.S. camp held in their hometown of Fort Wayne.
Mack will announce among an official top four of Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee. Robertson will announce among an official top three of Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame. Barring a surprise, the Buckeyes will land Mack, and the Spartans will land Robertson.
Notre Dame received a final visit from Mack and Robertson last Friday.
Four-star cornerback Eric Cuffee confirmed Wednesday plans to visit Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion later this month. He’s expected to stay multiple days for the unofficial visit. Baylor, TCU, Texas, Alabama, Texas A&M, Stanford and Oklahoma are among the other heavyweights involved.
Notre Dame made a handful of new offers this week following the spring evaluation period. Here are the highlights.
ILB Devin Bush Jr: A Florida State legacy, Bush Jr. is a national recruit who could visit Notre Dame in the fall. Alabama, Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Miami and Michigan are top contenders early in his recruitment.
TE Luke Farrell: The four-star tight end from Perry, Ohio had recently identified a top four of Boston College, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State but had to expand that list to five when Notre Dame offered. Farrell camped at Notre Dame last summer, then returned to South Bend for a game in the fall. Now the Irish are pushing for one more visit before an expected July decision.
LB Aaron Hansford: Notre Dame offered the two-sport standout on Tuesday. Scott Booker visited St. Johns College High during the evaluation period. Academics will play an important role in Hansford selecting one of the 20 schools that have offered. He hasn’t ruled out running track in college. Florida’s track coach had already expressed interest and the Gators’ football team offered a scholarship on Thursday. Hansford’s parents both excelled on the track in high school and college. His mother, Maudeva Jackson Hansford, held the Louisiana state record in the 400-meters for 32 years. Hansford hasn’t identified any favorites but the Irish certainly should get a good look.
ATH Lamar Jackson: Mike Sanford visited the three-star safety and a few days later reached out to offer. Jackson now holds 19 offers and isn’t close to identifying favorites. He hopes to visit Oregon and Oregon State soon. A Notre Dame visit probably won’t happen until fall. Irish Illustrated will get a good look at Jackson during The Opening Finals in Oregon next month.
S Thomas Jones Jr: Keith Gilmore and Autry Denson evaluated Jones Jr. this spring. Duke, Louisville, North Carolina, South Carolina and Vanderbilt are among his offers. Notre Dame should receive an official visit in the fall if Jones Jr. is still on the market.
CB William Poole: A 2017 prospect, Poole also holds offers from Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, Penn State, South Carolina, Tennessee, UCLA, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Virginia Tech.
CB Troy Pride Jr: A Virginia Tech commitment, Pride could give Notre Dame an official visit in the fall. North Carolina is also working hard to flip him from the Hokies.
WR Marquez Stevenson: Added an offer after a conversation with defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, new area recruiter for Louisiana. Stevenson plans to visit Oklahoma State, TCU and Mississippi State this summer.
S Chanse Sylvie: The Louisiana defensive back also talked with Lyght this week and scored an offer. Like Stevenson, he hails from Shreveport, albeit a different high school program. Sylvie is starting to formulate top schools and said the Irish are probably among them without disclosing a list.
As part of Michigan’s inaugural satellite camp tour, Indianapolis Bishop Chatard hosted the Wolverines on Thursday. Following camp, Michigan picked up a commitment from three-star running back Kiante Enis of Winchester, Indiana. Enis had received initial interest from Notre Dame.
Athlete Chris Evans of Indianapolis (Ind.) Ben Davis could pop for Michigan at any time, though it’s also possible he holds out to see if a Notre Dame comes at Irish Invasion. Either way, expect Evans to be at Notre Dame on June 19. He’s a former high school teammate with incoming linebacker Asmar Bilal.
Junior safety R.J. Potts of Fishers High School and sophomore offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor of Cathedral also attended the Michigan camp. Notre Dame will be involved with both. Ekiyor plans to attend the Irish Invasion.
- On Thursday night three-star wide receiver Josh Hammond announced a commitment to Florida, which had been the favorite since offering. He visited Notre Dame during spring practice.
- Four star athlete Trevon Sidney took to Twitter on Thursday night to release the following top 10 (no order): USC, UCLA, Washington, Notre Dame, Miami, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Arizona and Utah. Sidney teams with five-star wide receiver Tyler Vaughns, considered a USC lean with an announcement planned for the end of the summer.