Insider Report: Recruits in decision-making mode

Insider Report previews the official visits to Notre Dame this weekend for a four-star wide receiver and five-star defensive end, examines the recruitments of a trio of defensive backs, and provides insight into a four-star linebacker that has newly entered the scene.

Notre Dame to host pair of California official visitors

Notre Dame will host five-star defensive end Oluwole Betiku of Gardena (Calif.) Serra and four-star wide receiver Damian Alloway of Fontana (Calif.) Summit this weekend on official visits.

Betiku de-committed from UCLA last month in favor of finding a school that operates out of a true 4-3 defensive front. Florida State and Texas A&M have since received official visits. Betiku returned to College Station last weekend on an unofficial visit, and he saw USC on an unofficial visit on Wednesday.

The Aggies appear to be the team to beat, but the Trojans have gained momentum. USC, which primarily operates under a 3-4 scheme under the current coaching staff, was nixed from contention earlier in the process for that reason. But Trojans’ defensive line coach Chris Wilson is emphasizing to Betiku the advantages of playing in such a scheme.  

 “(USC) wants to use me the way Von Miller is, just like a rush end that gets to the passer on all downs,” Betiku said. “I kind of like it. Standing up and putting your hand in the dirt, mixing it up makes me more versatile and going to the next level, they want defensive ends that can do everything, so that's why I'm giving them a look.”

If Notre Dame wants to emerge as a legitimate threat by weekend’s end, the following will have to register strongly for Betiku: 1) early playing time 2) Notre Dame’s academic reputation, networking opportunities and overall “business decision” rhetoric 3) the college experience at Notre Dame will be unlike anything he’ll find at any other school in the country.

Betiku arrives on Friday night and leaves Sunday afternoon.

Alloway considers Notre Dame and UCLA his leaders, and this weekend will go a long ways in determining his college destination.

“It’s 50-50 between Notre Dame and UClA right now,” Alloway said. “I don’t know if I’m going to stay home or go to Indiana.”

Alloway visited campus in July, but this will be his first time seeing a game at Notre Dame.

“It want to see if Notre Dame feels like home this weekend,” Alloway said. “And I want to talk to the coaches more in person.”

Alloway will likely take his official visit to UCLA in December.

“(UCLA) wants to get me on campus after the season so they can spend more time with me,” Alloway said. “But it will have to be soon because I want to make my decision by mid-December.”

Alloway arrives on Friday night and leaves on Monday. His uncle will join him on the trip.

Okeke, Studstill nearing decisions

Three-star safety Ikenna Okeke has visited Notre Dame several times and has been close to committing to the Irish on multiple occasions. Last weekend he visited Texas A&M, and he includes both schools among his favorites.

"I enjoyed it. It was a great atmosphere," Okeke said of Texas A&M. "They're matched up pretty even. Two great schools, so basically a win-win
situation."

Okeke is scheduled to take an official visit to Penn State later this month and will announce his commitment shortly thereafter.

“I plan on committing the week after my official visit to Penn State on the 21st,” Okeke said.

Three-star safety Devin Studstill is scheduled to visit West Virginia in two weeks. He’s a Mountaineer legacy and has a close relationship with the coaching staff. He’s Notre Dame’s top defensive back target on board, and the Irish are hopeful they can close on him following his trip to Morgantown. Studstill took his official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game, but it was trip for Irish Invasion that provided Notre Dame best odds to land him. Miami is also still in contention.

Expanding the linebacker board?

Notre Dame has entered the mix for four-star linebacker Brendan Ferns, who has considered Penn State and West Virginia as his top two schools since the summer. He almost committed somewhere in August but decided to hold off. 

Ferns visited West Virginia multiple times on unofficial visits this season, and his older brother on the team. Both West Virginia and Penn State offer strong petroleum engineering programs, which is a priority for Ferns. He dropped former longtime leader Ohio State in May because the Buckeyes didn’t offer what he was looking for on that front.

Notre Dame doesn’t offer specific petroleum engineering major, but Ferns was told that Notre Dame can come close enough to offering what he wants. Plus, the added benefit of a Notre Dame degree carries weight with Ferns.

A tentative date of Dec. 12 is scheduled for Ferns to take an official visit to Notre Dame. This would be his first official visit. The back-and-forth communication between Notre and Ferns is in the beginning stages, so there’s still much to play out.

Ferns was offered by Notre Dame in January and is being recruited as a middle linebacker by Mike Elston.

Three-star linebacker Zach McCloud de-committed from Miami on Thursday. He told Scout last month Auburn, Florida State, Georgia, Notre Dame and Ohio State would receive official visits after the season.

Auburn and Florida State are considered the favorites going forward.

Hayes narrows the list

Four-star linebacker Daelin Hayes can see the finish line to his recruitment and is making some decisions to reflect how close it is to ending.

Hayes, who’s visited Notre Dame twice this season, revealed Thursday morning plans to cancel a couple remaining official visits in favor of focusing on his top three — Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan State. LSU and Oregon had been on the schedule for the next two weeks.

Instead Hayes will visit Michigan State this weekend and may return to Notre Dame for the banquet weekend on Dec. 12. As an early enrollee, a decision will have to come by next month.

Notre Dame last hosted Hayes for the USC game weekend and is still considered the favorite. Ohio State, however, made up ground with an official visit last weekend.

Buckeyes coaches paired Hayes with wide receiver commitment Austin Mack, a shrewd move considering the four-star prospect chose Ohio State over Notre Dame earlier in the process despite several ties to the program.

Mack attends the same high school in Ft. Wayne that produced Jaylon Smith and visited several times as an underclassman.

Most still believe Notre Dame will win out, and it appears everyone will find out for sure soon enough, but it’s gotten a little more interesting for Hayes down the stretch. Smith, who’s put a personal touch in recruiting Hayes to Notre Dame, and the coaching staff will have to fend off some eager challengers.

Irish co-lead for Pride Jr.

Notre Dame three-star cornerback target Troy Pride Jr. named co-leaders of Notre Dame and Virginia Tech following his de-commitment from Virginia Tech on Wednesday night.

Pride Jr. is keeping a close eye on the coaching situation at Virginia Tech, but a final decision could still come before a new head coach is named in Blacksburg.  

North Carolina and Tennessee are also in the mix, but Notre Dame is the team to beat down the stretch.

2017 QB headlines underclassman visitors

Four-star junior quarterback Avery Davis is expected among the visitors this weekend.

Davis hit the Notre Dame radar last month when offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford made the trip to Cedar Hill, Texas, specifically to extend a scholarship offer. Scout.com rates Davis the No. 96 player overall in its rankings for the Class of 2017.

How serious is Davis about Notre Dame? He’ll play one of the biggest playoff games in Texas on Friday night when Cedar Hill takes on Southlake Carroll then make the roughly 15-hour drive to campus with his family.

Notre Dame scoring a commitment — silent or public — isn’t totally out of the question.

Four-star defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher is also expected back on campus this weekend, fresh off a day that netted three scholarship offers. Minnesota, Cincinnati and UCLA all jumped into the mix Wednesday.

Right now the most serious contenders for Malone-Hatcher remain Michigan, Notre Dame and Michigan State. He’s missed most of this season with an ankle injury.

Notre Dame expects 25-30 underclassmen on campus this weekend, but no new offers are expected to go out at this time.


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