Julian Love and his fellow commitments plan to work this weekend.
That’s where the commitments come into play.
Love will be joined by quarterback Ian Book, running back Tony Jones Jr., offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer, defensive end Ade Ogundeji, safety Spencer Perry, wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and long snapper John Shannon on campus. Their point of emphasis will be adding to the class.
“We’ve been talking about it for awhile,” Love said. “It’s good because over the last couple months, some of the names we’ve been saying are visiting. It helps that most of the commits will be there from different regions, different areas. We can target that specific area with recruits coming in.
“We have kind of an idea who we want to talk to. We have an idea of who’s close for a commitment. We’re gonna try to use that and just be friendly and be nice guys.”
Breaking things down by region is a start.
Take Book, a California native, for example. He’s already been talking with four-star wide receiver Javon McKinley ahead of the trip. McKinley will be making his third visit to campus. He first saw Notre Dame last spring, followed by a stop at the Irish Invasion.
“Javon McKinley is obviously a big one and I talk to him the most,” Book said. “He seems to really like Notre Dame. He’s made it clear that he’s focused on his season right now, but he told me he’s probably going to be a silent commit somewhere and announce his decision at the all-star game. I’ve talked to him about how I fell in love with Notre Dame and I figure it could be the same way for him.”
Book plans to encourage McKinley and others to join up as commitments while trumpeting a tried and true recruiting pitch: Come to Notre Dame and you’re set for life, regardless of when your football career comes to a close.
“If you go to Notre Dame for four years, then you’ll be set for the next 40 years,” Book said. “I will definitely talk to them about that. You get the best education and you’re playing the best football.”
Notre Dame coaches have been forthright with the commitments about their potential targets.
Love has already touched base with four-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, who will be making the trip from Houston with his mother. Four-star cornerback Damar Hamlin and Love already know each other.
“Coach (Todd) Lyght talked to me maybe a month or two ago about the two linebackers, Jeff McCulloch and Daelin Hayes,” Love said. “I want to make sure I talk to them. I was texting Jeff a little bit, so I’m just gonna show my face and say hi to him. Damar I’ve been around at multiple camps the last couple years and some 7-on-7s. We always go out of our way to say hi to each other and talk a little bit.”
And those recruiting pitches won’t be limited to the current senior class.
Notre Dame already has four commitments in the Class of 2017 with offensive tackle Josh Lugg, tight end Cole Kmet, offensive guard Dillan Gibbons and tight end Brock Wright. Lugg and Kmet will be back for visits this weekend.
“I know David Adams pretty well so I'm going to be recruiting him hard and then any offensive linemen that are there on Saturday I will be talking with,” Lugg said. “I’m trying to recruit Damar, Paris Ford and David Adams in the WPIAL. I know all three of them have ND very high on their list.”
Stars To South Bend
Here’s a rundown of the official visitors ticketed for Notre Dame this weekend, including the probable leaders in those recruitments.
Brandon Burton – safety – Gardena, Calif.
Damar Hamlin - cornerback - Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hamlin will get a second look at Notre Dame, always a good sign. But there’s still plenty of work to be done. Ohio State is the presumed leader while Pitt could be an under-the-radar contender. Auburn, Clemson, Miami, Michigan State, Penn State, UCLA and Virginia Tech are also in the top 10.
Daelin Hayes - linebacker - Ann Arbor, Mich.
Times have certainly changed for Hayes in the last couple weeks. First he officially de-committed from USC. Then he set up a string of official visits: Ohio State (Nov. 7), Michigan State (Nov. 14), Oklahoma (Nov. 21) and LSU (Nov. 28). Yet Notre Dame still feels like the favorite.
“He’s going to take all of his official visits, but unless any of those really blow him away, Notre Dame will remain the team to beat,” said Scout.com Midwest recruiting manager Allen Trieu. “He’s an early enrollee, so he won't have long after his officials to settle on a decision.”
Khalid Kareem - defensive end - Farmington, Mich.
Kareem formally de-committed from Alabama earlier this week, something that had been brewing for awhile. Notre Dame gets an immediate visit and rates him near the top of their board. That bodes well. How well? Check out the Commitment Watch section below.
Jeffrey McCulloch – linebacker – Houston, Texas
Credit Mike Elston for landing McCulloch’s first official visit. McCulloch and his mom will likely find Notre Dame a good match, but the pull from the Texas schools is strong. He was one of the most athletic linebackers at The Opening this summer.
Deon McIntosh - running back - Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
McIntosh arrives at Notre Dame on Saturday morning with his parents for his first official visit. He’s also considering Louisville, Miami, West Virginia and Tennessee. West Virginia is considered his leader and no other official visits are set at this point.
“I want to ask questions about the school, get to know the players, talk to the coaches and check out the atmosphere,” McIntosh said. “I want find out what type of academic help the players get and how they plan to use me in their offense. I want to be a running back that also spreads out and runs routes and catches balls.”
Whatever happens this weekend, McIntosh plans to play out the process.
“I’ll decide after all of my visits,” McIntosh said. “It will probably be close to signing day.”
Javon McKinley – wide receiver – Corona, Calif.
McKinley holds Notre Dame as his leader, but it’s not a forgone conclusion he lands in South Bend. UCLA and Oregon are coming hard after this big receiver. Notre Dame needs a strong visit this weekend to impress.
Ikenna Okeke - safety - Smyrna, Tenn.
Okeke almost committed to Notre Dame once already. Could there be room for him this time around? Sure seems like it with how the Irish continue to push for more defensive backs. Keep reading for more on Okeke below.
Troy Pride Jr. – cornerback – Greer, S.C.
A Virginia Tech commit, Pride has Notre Dame interest. He’ll likely have to act quickly if he wants to make the flip.
Devin Studstill – safety – Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
The top defensive back prospect left on Notre Dame’s board, Studstill is also considering Miami and West Virginia. A decision close to signing day is expected but could come sooner if Notre Dame blows away the competition.
Who’s On Commitment Watch?
Let’s be up front on this one: Kareem heads to Notre Dame this weekend after de-committing from Alabama. He has no public plans for an immediate Notre Dame pledge. But this is recruiting. Those plans change all the time, right? Michigan and Michigan State aren’t really on the table and Kareem’s family wants him close to home. Notre Dame needs defensive ends, so the math works for the Irish.
Maybe Kareem exits the weekend without committing and falls to the Irish later. Either way, it wouldn’t be a total surprise if he sped up what seems like the inevitable.
Said Trieu: “He’s freshly de-committed from Alabama and to put it simply, unless something really changes, my expectation is that he will end up at Notre Dame. He’s a smart kid and it’s a good academic fit and I think he's a much better fit in Notre Dame's defense than he was in Alabama’s.”
Okeke nearly committed to Notre Dame following a summer visit. He’ll return to South Bend on Saturday, this time with both parents and two brothers. Is a commitment likely?
“It’s still up in the air,” he said. “In my head I’m ready to get this process over with. I just want to see what everybody offers, but there’s actually a good chance. I love Notre Dame.”
Okeke had hoped to visit Stanford before making his commitment but that trip has yet to be scheduled. The only other official visit he has scheduled is a trip to Penn State in November. He’s also looking at several other schools including Penn State, Louisville and Vanderbilt.
Tracking Underclassman Offers
Linebacker David Adams won’t be the only junior visiting this weekend but he is unique in having a scholarship offer.
Four-star offensive guard Matt Bockhorst, four-star safety A.J. Harris, safety/outside linebacker Derrek Pitts, four-star cornerback Amir Riep and four-star wide receiver Isaiah Robertson all descend on campus this weekend without Irish offers in hand. They’re solid candidates to pick them up.
Bockhorst has visited campus multiple times in hopes of scoring an offer. Boston College, Cincinnati, Illinois, Louisville, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State and Vanderbilt are already on board.
Riep has added Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois in the last week. Robertson has Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin already on board. He’s friends with Love and the two plan to connect on campus.
Four-star wide receiver Nico Collins is also on the list. Auburn has been considered the leader while Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Ole Miss and Mississippi State are among the offers.
A Long Shot?
Notre Dame was running an uphill race in its bid to land four-star cornerback David Long, a Stanford commitment who suggested his visit to South Bend was a Plan B effort in case he wasn’t admitted to Stanford. Then he visited campus.
One Notre Dame commitment who spent time with Long during his visit thinks the Irish could win out eventually.
“He’s an awesome dude and a great ND fit and I honestly think so.”