Recruiting Battles: Notre Dame vs. USC

Notre Dame and USC will both see players that got away on Saturday. Irish Illustrated breaks down battles won and lost by the Irish and Trojans.


On Notre Dame’s roster, the following players held USC offers: 

Starting receiver Amir Carlisle (2011)
Starting corner KeiVarae Russell (2012)        
Starting safety Max Redfield (2013)
Starting linebacker Jaylon Smith (2013)
Starting tight end Tyler Luatua (2014)
Starting kick and punt returner C.J. Sanders (2015)
Backup linebacker Nyles Morgan (2014)
Backup cornerback Nick Watkins (2014)
Backup tight end Alize’ Jones (2015)
Backup receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (2015)

Carlisle had been committed to Stanford for almost a year when he decided to open his recruitment. He took an official visit to USC in September and added an offer from Notre Dame in November. After an official visit to South Bend that month, Carlisle named the Irish, Cardinal and Trojans as leaders. Carlisle de-committed from Stanford when former head coach Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL. USC received a last-minute visit and ultimately his commitment too.

In March of 2012, Carlisle was granted a waiver to transfer to Notre Dame and play immediately. Carlisle cited reasons of wanting to be closer to family, which had recently relocated to West Lafayette, Ind. His father, Duane Carlisle, is Director of Sports Performance at Purdue.

Redfield committed to USC in July of 2012 but de-committed in October following an official to Notre Dame. USC starting safety Chris Hawkins, who was also a Trojan commit at the time, joined Redfield that weekend. Redfield named the Irish his leader following the visit. In December, five USC coaches, including former head coach Lane Kiffin, went in-home with Redfield after they watched his basketball game. But his mind was already made up.

Just three days before Notre Dame played Alabama in the BCS National Championship, Redfield announced his decision at the Under Armour All-America Game. Mike Denbrock recruited Redfield for Notre Dame.

"It came down to making a business decision and what school offers the most academically and athletically," Redfield said. “I had to cut the emotions out and go with what would be best for me in the long run."

Luatua chose Notre Dame over Alabama in December of 2013. He held an offer from USC but wasn’t heavily pursued by Ed Orgeron’s staff. 

Notre Dame picked up a surprising commitment from Sanders in May of 2014 following an under-the-radar visit to campus. Sanders, who played his freshman through junior high school seasons in Tennessee, chose Notre Dame over Duke, Stanford and USC.

It was Notre Dame’s offense that set the Irish apart from the other academically prestigious programs on his list.

“They are going to be more of a spread offense and are going to utilize the slot wide receiver,” Sanders said. “I see a real opportunity to make a big difference in that offense."

St. Brown was first recruited by Kiffin at USC. He developed an early relationship with receivers coach Tee Martin and made multiple visits to USC as an underclassman. Notre Dame offered in February of 2014 and St. Brown named a top three of Notre Dame, Stanford and USC. St. Brown took his first visit to Notre Dame in June and spent time with Redfield and Malik Zaire. He returned on an official visit for the Stanford game in October and was hosted by defensive lineman Pete Mokwuah. Following that visit, Notre Dame quietly emerged as the team to beat. Utah was the only other program to receive an official visit. Brian Kelly offered his younger brother, 2017 receiver Osiris, during an in-home visit in January. St. Brown announced his decision on National Signing Day

“No matter where you go, not just in the United States but other countries, there are Notre Dame alums there to connect with,” St. Brown said. “My family travels a ton so that's big.”


On USC’s roster, the following players held Notre Dame offers: 

Starting right tackle Zach Banner (2012)
Starting tight end Taylor McNamara (2012)
Starting linebacker Su’a Cravens (2013)
Starting running back Justin Davis (2013)
Starting safety Chris Hawkins (2013)
Starting cornerback Adoree’ Jackson (2014)
Starting left guard Damien Mama (2014)
Starting receiver Juju Smith-Schuster (2014)
Backup right guard Nico Falah (2013)*
Backup linebacker Michael Hutchings (2013)*
Backup cornerback Jonathan Lockett (2014)
Backup nose tackle Jacob Daniel (2015)*
Backup right tackle Chuma Edoga (2015)
Backup defensive end Rasheem Green (2015)*
Backup defensive end Porter Gustin (2015)
Backup linebacker John Houston (2015)*
Backup running back Ronald Jones (2015)
Backup cornerback Isaiah Langley (2015)*
Backup cornerback Iman Marshall (2015)
Backup linebacker Osa Masina (2015)*
Backup cornerback Ykili Ross (2015)
Backup safety Marvell Tell (2015)
Center Max Tuerk (2012) – Injured
Wide receiver Steven Mitchell Jr. (2013) – Injured

*Not on the two-deep

Banner took an official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game in 2011 after naming Notre Dame to his top five. The Irish lost the game and Banner’s attention.

"Coach (Lane) Kiffin, coach (Ed Orgeron) and the entire staff knew I was there and they showed off for me,” Banner said. “They couldn't talk to me after the game, but they had that little wink and smile as they went into the locker room. The coaches at USC make me feel like they want me. Even Matt Barkley spotted me through the crowd as he walked past."

Notre Dame made McNamara’s top seven before he committed to Arizona. McNamara de-committed from Arizona in the fall of 2011, but Notre Dame didn’t re-enter the mix. He signed with Oklahoma before transferring to USC.

Former five-stars Jackson, Mama and Smith-Schuster took official visits to Notre Dame, but only Smith-Schuster seriously considered the Irish. Smith-Schuster took his official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game in October, the same weekend Luatua took his. Smith-Schuster chose USC on signing day over Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA.

A one-time Oklahoma State commit, Jones Jr. picked USC over Notre Dame at the Under Armour All-America Game. He took his official visit to Notre Dame in December for the Irish’s end-of-season awards show.

The Irish got Gustin’s first official visit in September of 2014. Notre Dame recruited Gustin until the end, but he chose the Trojans over Ohio State on signing day.

The five-star Marshall took an official visit to Notre Dame in December of 2014 but USC was always the favorite. Another former five-star in the Class of 2015, Masina, visited Notre Dame in the early stages of his recruitment. Notre Dame didn’t make it past his top eight.

Notre Dame worked hard to get Ross on campus for a visit, which finally happened in November for the Louisville game. USC was always the longtime favorite to land him. Ross and Gustin both attended USC’s blowout of Notre Dame last November.


Currently no players committed to Notre Dame hold USC offers.

Players committed to USC that hold Notre Dame offers include receivers Tyler Vaughns and Trevon Sidney, safety C.J. Pollard, tight end Cary Angeline and offensive tackle Nathan Smith.

California skill players Vaughns, Sidney and Pollard considered the Irish but never visited. Angeline visited Notre Dame multiple times, including with this mom and sister for the spring game last April. He pledged to USC in June, which surprised many. Notre Dame and Penn State were finalists for the Exton, Pa. native.

Smith visited Notre Dame in April, but wary of the recruiting process, committed to USC less than two weeks later.

Notre Dame has 16 commitments in the Class of 2016. USC has 14.


Four-star linebacker Daelin Hayes de-committed from USC last week, and Notre Dame is now the likely leader to land the Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline standout. Hayes visited Notre Dame in September and he returns on an official visit this weekend. Trips to LSU, Michigan State, Ohio State and Oklahoma have also been planned.  

Current seniors considering USC and Notre Dame include receivers Theo Howard and Melquise Stovall, linebackers Caleb Kelly and Mique Juarez, defensive end Oluwole Betiku and safety Brandon Burton. All six are from California.

Howard, a former Oregon slot receiver commitment, is considering Texas A&M and UCLA along with Notre Dame and USC. He takes an official visit to Texas A&M this weekend.

Stovall de-committed from USC before the season and visited Notre Dame on an official visit in September. An all-purpose back with slot traits, Stovall will visit Utah this weekend. He plans to announce his decision at the Army All-American Bowl in January. He is Notre Dame’s top target at the position along with Damian Alloway.

Kelly visits Notre Dame in December, though Oklahoma is the current favorite to land the five-star.

Juarez de-committed from USC on Tuesday, though the No. 1 outside linebacker was considered a soft verbal to the Trojans prior to the termination of Steve Sarkisian. UCLA likely leads for Juarez but look for Notre Dame and Ohio State to receive visits.

Betiku was scheduled to take an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend but chose to visit Texas A&M instead. The five-star UCLA commitment from Gardena (Calif.) Serra is still considering the Irish, Florida State, Texas A&M and USC. Betiku could reschedule his Notre Dame visit for Nov. 14.  

Burton, a high school teammate of Betiku and heavy UCLA lean, takes an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend.


Since 2011, Notre Dame has signed the nation’s No. 8, 16, 5, 6, and 6 recruiting classes, respectively. USC has signed the No. 5, 20, 18, 10 and 1 classes, respectively. That’s an average of 8.2 for Notre Dame and 10.8 for USC.

In that timespan, Notre Dame recruiting classes averaged a star ranking of 3.72. USC averaged 3.84. Note that USC’s 2013 recruiting class finished 18th in rankings because it signed just 12 players – but it averaged an astonishing 4.42 stars.

From 2011-2015, Notre Dame signed 10 five-stars while USC signed 14. The Irish inked 49 four-stars, and USC inked 55.

Of those 10 five-stars that signed with Notre Dame, Sheldon Day, Smith, Morgan and Jones are still on the roster. For USC, 11 are still on the roster including Kenny Bigelow, Max Browne, Cravens, Davis, Jackson, Mama, Smith-Schuster, Edoga, Green, Marshall and Masina. The final seven are freshmen and sophomores. Top Stories