In the film room...Spencer Perry

The addition of Spencer Perry to the fold – with Jalen Elliott’s commitment a week ago – has Notre Dame on the fast track in its safety recruiting. The Irish are trending upward with other safety prospects as well.


• Stats: Totaled 34 tackles in nine games for IMG. Also credited with 16 receptions as a wideout

• Assets: Has the length combined with athleticism to cover a wide patch of land on the gridiron. Excels at the present time predominately as a physical run defender. Good bounce and aggressiveness out of backpedal. A punishing tackler who is willing to create contact and stick his nose into every battle.

Flows smoothly to the football and is light on his feet as a longer athlete growing into his body. Shows a ton of range while also playing with a good pad level. Gets through traffic and finds ways to get to the ball carrier. Will throw a shoulder into a ball carrier or flatten out and propel himself into the fray.

Has a linebacker’s frame. Provides the versatility to one day grow into an outside linebacker if the situation dictates. A big, athletic body that can be utilized on coverage teams as well.

• Room for improvement: Still gaining control of his length. Can be somewhat deliberate when changing directions laterally. Will occasionally lunge as a tackler. One-on-one coverage skills raw. Still learning the importance of being a turn-and-run last line of defense.

• Top offers: Notre Dame; SEC: Auburn, Florida,, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt; ACC: Clemson, Pittsburgh; Pac 12: Colorado, Oregon; Big 12: None; Big Ten: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State; Other: Georgia Southern, Memphis, South Alabama; Interest: Alabama, Georgia Tech

• Why Notre Dame: Perry verbally committed to Florida on March 20.

“My family and I felt at home,” said Perry of Gainesville. “I like the coaches and the style of play.”

But shortly after returning from his Irish Invasion visit to Notre Dame, Perry de-committed from the Gators. Prior to his visit, he spoke highly of Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght.

“He pretty much told me his whole resume,” said Perry of Lyght to Irish Illustrated’s Jake Brown. “He was a first-round draft pick playing at Notre Dame. I even watched his highlights. He was a very good player and he’s actually gone and been to where I want to go. I can relate to him in that way. It’s always better to be coached by somebody that’s actually played the game.”

Perry was influenced by Tony Jones, Jr., Notre Dame’s running back commitment from the IMG Academy, where Perry also plays.

“Tony told me Notre Dame has a very good business program,” Perry said. “Pretty much life after football. Once you get that Notre Dame degree you’re set for the rest of your life. That’s something big. He told me how nice it is up there and how the coaching staff treats you nicely.”

• ND’s 2016 safety recruiting: Notre Dame put a notch on its safety board during the Irish Invasion weekend when it received a verbal commitment from Jalen Elliott (Chesterfield, Va.). Perry is safety No. 2 on a list that should continue to grow.

There remain strong indications from the Irish Invasion weekend that Ikenna Okeke (Smyrna, Tenn.) could fall Notre Dame’s way. Chacho Ulloa (Corona, Calif.), who also attended the Irish Invasion, has narrowed his choices from five (Arizona State, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Stanford and Vanderbilt) to three (Notre Dame, Stanford and Arizona State).

Other safeties at the Invasion were Carlos Becker (Kissimmee, Fla.) and Devin Studstill (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.).

• ND’s 2016 safety depth chart: Elijah Shumate and Avery Sebastian will be gone from the equation by 2016, and Max Redfield could be if he bypasses his senior season. Drue Tranquill will be a junior and the face of the secondary unit if Redfield departs after the ’15 season. John Turner and Nicky Baratti likely will be gone with Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta entering their sophomore seasons with three or four years of eligibility. Jalen Elliott will be a true freshman.

• Summary: The former Auburn, Ala., product went to the IMG Academy in Florida and parlayed his active length into a scholarship commitment with the Gators before his life-altering experience at the Irish Invasion a couple of weekends ago. He committed to the Irish shortly after saying he wanted to visit about a half-a-dozen schools this summer.

Perry is far from a finished product and is particularly raw in pass coverage skills. He has yet to master the fundamentals of dealing with receivers who change course, forcing him to shift his length quickly, which doesn’t come naturally per se. But you can’t teach the length/reach he has defending the ball in the air, and what he brings in other areas at his size is particularly noteworthy

His natural instincts are that of a run-stopping safety, and he’s good at it, which is why in the long run, it may make better sense that Perry ends up at outside linebacker where he can concentrate more on setting the edge than chasing receivers deep down the field. And so begins the long road that some prospects must go down while others fit into roles a bit more naturally.

From a frame perspective, Perry is reminiscent of Notre Dame 2005 signee David Bruton, who went on to have a fine college and pro career. But Perry’s pass-coverage skills do not come as naturally to him as they did to Bruton, so the journey ahead will require some patience and a ton of development on the back end of a college defense.

The Irish are addressing their safety needs with the recent verbals of Perry and Jalen Elliott. There are others that could fall Notre Dame’s way, which is one of the most significant needs in this class. With a frame like the one Perry possesses, he could be a very key component in the Class of 2016 if/when he reaches the light at the end of the tunnel.



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