Last year Notre Dame entered November with 20 verbal commitments in the senior class. Then the Irish went almost two months before adding to that haul.
Linebacker Te’Von Coney committed on Oct. 23, with safety Mykelti Williams coming next on Dec. 19. It was almost another month before former five-star tight end Alize’ Jones joined the fold in January. Notre Dame closed out its class of 24 with two National Signing Day commitments from wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and running back Dexter Williams.
That’s a total of four commitments in recruiting’s final three-plus months.
Notre Dame is on track to double that production this year with room for at least seven more commitments and the potential to sign a full boat of 25 prospects.
The Irish are 12th in the Scout.com team rankings today, but only Georgia has a better ranking (9) and fewer commitments (16).
Notre Dame already took an important first step in closing down the home stretch with a win over USC during a marquee recruiting weekend.
“It’s very important to beat your rival,” Brian Kelly said. “(We) had a big recruiting weekend. I don't know that it ever hinges on winning and losing in recruiting, but it sure doesn't hurt it.
“We were on the road recruiting and you could hear, there's a buzz about it.”
Four-star safety and Southern California native Brandon Burton was one of the official visitors that weekend and the victory affected how he views Notre Dame.
“I grew up a USC fan and always wanted them to beat the Irish,” Burton said. “This definitely gave me a different perspective. When one of your top schools beats your hometown school, it opens up your eyes to everything.”
Burton wasn’t the only official visitor impacted by that weekend.
Six days after Notre Dame’s win, the Irish landed Khalid Kareem, a four-star defensive end and one-time Alabama commitment. It jumped out in front for three-star running back Deon McIntosh and established itself as the team to beat for four-star linebacker Daelin Hayes.
Notre Dame also rallied with four-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch and gave prospects like Burton, four-star cornerback Damar Hamlin and Virginia Tech cornerback commitment Troy Pride Jr. plenty to consider.
Beat USC. Check. Now what?
Notre Dame was 6-1 this time last year. It was about to enter its bye weekend after losing at Florida State.
The same record holds true for Notre Dame today as it exits its bye week. As it enters November and hopes to cement itself as a playoff contender, a strong recruiting close should be the byproduct of all that winning.
Gary still in play?
Five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary, the nation’s No. 1 player, flirted with a Notre Dame visit in the spring. Then again in the summer.
He also talked about visiting South Bend this fall.
Now, the talk has shifted to the post-season, depending on how far his team advances in the playoffs.
“I'm thinking in January,” said Jennifer Coney-Shepard, Gary’s mother. “But then again, if they don't make it through playoffs it could be sooner.”
Gary previously stated he would announce his college decision on Jan. 2 during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl broadcast. It isn’t clear if a pending visit to Notre Dame could change that.
Notre Dame’s visit to Temple on Saturday would have given Gary a chance to see the Irish in person as Philadelphia is less than two hours from Paramus, N.J., but Gary’s Paramus Catholic team has a 4 p.m. game scheduled that day.
Playoffs begin for Midwest commitments
Current Notre Dame players are moving toward another primetime matchup with an eye toward important games next month.
Those crucial matchups have already started to arrive for commitments. Prospects in Illinois and Michigan begin their postseasons tonight and tomorrow. Kareem, who committed to the Irish last week, gets things started tonight.
Cornerback Julian Love and long snapper John Shannon, who also plays linebacker, have first round games Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve been preparing like this is a regular game basically,” Kareem said. “We still watch a lot of film. We’re still staying at practice and trying to execute everything to the best of our ability.”
Kareem led Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison to a 7-2 record and undefeated mark in the district this season. Their reward? Unbeaten Groves High School in the Division 2 playoffs. And that comes fresh off their second loss.
The finality of playoff football crept up on Kareem and senior teammates.
“It’s a little bit of motivation,” Kareem said. “But our motivation now is just if we lose our season is done. We’re trying to win out … I think it definitely has set in. It’s kinda unsaid. We know it’s there. Our main focus is on winning.”
Love takes Nazareth Academy (7-2) into a first round matchup with Sycamore (6-3) in the Illinois Class 5A playoffs. Nazareth won a state championship last season.
Shannon, meanwhile, is a top seed in the Illinois Class 8A playoffs with Loyola Academy, which hasn’t lost this season. Loyola hosts West Aurora (5-4).
No bye week for new offers
Kaindoh teams with current Irish commitments Tony Jones Jr. and Spencer Perry at IMG Academy. Kelly and running backs coach Autry Denson visited IMG during the bye week to check Jones, Perry and a host of other talented prospects.
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford made the trek to Cedar Hill, Texas, specifically to offer Davis. Colorado, Kansas, Oregon State, SMU, Texas Tech, Tulsa and Utah State have also offered.
Davis is expected to visit for the Wake Forest game next month.