Todd Lyght didn’t step into an easy recruiting spot at Notre Dame.
Outgoing defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks worked Texas, his home state, during his tenure at Notre Dame with more success as time went on. He later added Louisiana to the slate, eventually helping land former four-star offensive tackle turned defensive lineman Jerry Tillery.
Lyght dove into Louisiana and the Houston area during the spring with no natural ties to the region. He’s also recruiting Arizona, Utah, Nevada, Oregon and Washington. Lyght started his coaching career in Las Vegas as an assistant at powerhouse Bishop Gorman, where the Irish landed Ronnie Stanley, Alize Jones and Nicco Fertitta. Lyght and Stanley overlapped at the school.
But given the material in Louisiana and Houston, that’s where Lyght has rolled up his sleeves most in recruiting.
“I think the Louisiana area has a lot of talent,” Lyght said. “But it’s kinda hard to recruit there because a lot of the young men there are so SEC-minded, which is understandable. But they don’t really know about the University of Notre Dame. So it’s my job to educate them.”
Lyght dipped into Shreveport to offer three-star safety Chanse Sylvie, now an Oklahoma commitment, meaning Cooks landed him. Three-star receiver Marquez Stevenson, also from Shreveport, scored an offer as well before giving Houston a commitment.
Getting prospects out of Louisiana, especially if in-state power LSU has offered, is difficult for any program. But a robust parochial school system helps draw similarities.
Programs like Holy Cross, St. Augustine and Brother Martin in New Orleans all produce talent on a regular basis.
“I think on the West Coast we have more success in California due to the Catholic school system,” Lyght said. “People understanding the importance of a Catholic education and kids getting that. In the South, we just need to do a better job because there’s so much talent in the Louisiana and Houston areas. I’m gonna do my best to bring some of those top quality players up here to play at Notre Dame.”
It will take time for Lyght to make a dent at those programs and in those states but his recruiting presence was felt almost immediately after being hired.
Lyght scored his first commitment in Julian Love, a three-star cornerback from Chicagoland. Love spent significant time with Lyght on an unofficial visit for a basketball game in the winter, landed an offer and then committed at Junior Day in March.
Over time, Love thinks Lyght’s combination of resume and feel for Notre Dame will lead to big results.
“He was telling me stories about him in college and what he did and what the classes were like,” Love said. “Things that a coach wouldn’t necessarily know about the college life, he had the insight about Notre Dame because he went there. That was a huge thing for me because I knew what I was getting. He knew what to tell me.”
Rumors swirled elsewhere last weekend that junior quarterback Hunter Johnson was ready to commit to Tennessee. That isn’t the case, at least not yet. Notre Dame and Tennessee remain the top two schools in his recruitment. He’s still in frequent contact with both programs. It would be unexpected if Johnson commits to Tennessee without seeing Notre Dame again.
As much as the recruiting process has worn on him and he would like to make a decision, Johnson’s main focus now is on his junior season, which means a decision may not be imminent. Look for Notre Dame to try to get him on campus for the Texas game in two weeks.
Johnson had expected to be in South Bend last weekend but scratched at the last minute for a high school commitment.
Athlete Marquez Callaway of Warner Robins (Ga.) has been off the recruiting grid for much of the summer, but soon he says he’ll be ready to sit down with his parents and coaches to discuss where he’ll take his official visits this fall. Notre Dame, Tennessee, Mississippi State, Miami, and South Carolina are the schools he listed on Friday as the programs he keeps in touch with the most. His mom's favorite is Tennessee. Callaway added that communication with Georgia has not been frequent. Distance is really the only factor working against the Irish, which are recruiting him for wide receiver but could still project him on defense. His recruitment will likely go the distance, so it’s too early to tell if location will be too much to overcome, though Notre Dame is in a good spot to receive a visit this fall.
Notre Dame expects to receive an official visit from four-star athlete Demetris Robertson for the Texas game, though nothing has been scheduled. Robertson de-committed from Alabama in April to reassess his options with schools more academically inclined.
Three-star Kentucky cornerback commitment Davonte Robinson, a Lexington native, will take an official visit to Notre Dame in mid-October for the USC game. The three-star prospect committed to Kentucky last October. Notre Dame offered him in April. He is ranked as the No. 4 cornerback in the Midwest and No. 36 cornerback overall in the Class of 2016.
Four-star forward Javin DeLaurier locked in a visit to Notre Dame this week for the Texas football weekend. He’ll visit Texas the next week and also wants to see Stanford.
Mike Brey and staff remain involved with several more targets, including five-star center Jarrett Allen. Allen has yet to make any decisions on visits, but the Irish staff has been in talks with the family about the Texas football weekend.
“I think it’s about keeping it real with the recruits and not lying to them because I expected the same thing,” Fuller said. "I think when I came here I had KeiVarae (Russell) and he kept it real with me. It was fun having him host me. It was me, him and Malik (Zaire), so it was actually really fun.”
Fuller says he’s in communication with the staff about the players following the visits, but he’s not asked to go in-depth.
"The coaches will ask us something quick, and I’ll give them something like, 'He really enjoyed his visit or I don’t know about his guy.' It’s something quick like that, and then they take it from there. If they need more help from me, then I’ll do it, but Notre Dame really recruits itself.”
"We just try and show them how it is,” Brown said. “There’s not too much of a difference between (Mike Elston and Tony Alford) in what they want us to do with them. When a guy comes in, and they want to chill with a guy in their position, I guess it means a lot more to them and they get to see how it is day in and day out. I did get us Max Redfield.”