Notre Dame Secondary taking shape

Defensive backs could comprise a quarter of Notre Dame’s recruiting class. Irish Illustrated examines what Notre Dame has in its secondary haul and what the Irish can still add.


Notre Dame has six defensive backs (four safeties, one cornerback/nickel back and one combo cornerback/safety) committed in the Class of 2016.

Jalen Elliott  – combo cornerback/safety - three-star

Projects as a free safety or cornerback … played quarterback and safety in high school … committed in June during the Irish Invasion weekend over Auburn, Georgia, Virginia and Virginia Tech.

Julian Love  – cornerback/nickel back - three-star

Slot cornerback and nickel back prospect … committed in over March at Junior Day over Boston College, Northwestern and Rutgers … won back-to-back state championships playing for Nazareth Academy outside Chicago.

D.J. Morgan – strong safety - three-star

Has potential to develop into a linebacker … flipped from Arizona State to Notre Dame in September … cousins with former Irish All-American basketball player Skylar Diggins.

Spencer Perry – strong safety - three-star

True strong side safety prospect that can play in-the-box … flipped from Florida to Notre Dame in June … attends IMG Academy in Florida, which also produced running back commitment Tony Jones Jr.

Devin Studstill – free safety - three-star

Notre Dame’s top free safety prospect since the spring evaluation period … committed in December over Miami, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia … father played quarterback at West Virginia … former prep teammate of freshman linebacker Te’Von Coney.

Donte Vaughn – safety - four-star

Committed to Notre Dame in October over six SEC offers… Long safety (6’3”, 195) that excels near the line of scrimmage… Can potentially develop into a boundary cornerback. 


Notre Dame wants to add one to two more cornerbacks to close out its secondary haul. That would give the Irish seven or eight defensive backs in this class, the most of the Brian Kelly era.

It’s a first-come, first-served situation for secondary prospects with less than two months until National Signing Day.

The candidates:

Brandon Burton – strong safety - four-star

Can play free safety or wide receiver … an elite prospect that would have a spot in the class if he wanted it … Pac-12 schools are the favorites … attends Serra High School, a traditional feeder program into USC … took his official visit to Notre Dame for the USC weekend.
Decision timeline: January

Jordan Fuller – cornerback - four-star

Took his first official visit to Notre Dame last weekend … still considering Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State, TCU and UCLA … no dates set up for future visits … brother Devin Fuller plays receiver at UCLA.
Decision timeline: Late January/National Signing Day

Damar Hamlin  – cornerback- four-star

The top cornerback on the board … has a top four of Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, Penn State and Ohio State … took official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game … officials to Penn State, Pittsburgh and Ohio State are likely to happen in January
Decision timeline: National Signing Day

David Long – cornerback - four-star

Current Stanford commitment … took official visit to Notre Dame for the Navy game back in October … Pac-12 schools and Michigan have the upper hand … admissions for Stanford can be a storyline unto itself for many Cardinal commitments.
Decision timeline: None

Troy Pride Jr. - cornerback - three-star

Former Virginia Tech with Notre Dame as his leader … also considering North Carolina, North Carolina State, South Carolina and Virginia Tech … took official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game.
Decision timeline: Could commit this month or take January visits


Notre Dame expects to return 10 scholarship defensive backs (four safeties and six cornerbacks) next year.


Free safety Max Redfield and strong side safety/nickel back Drue Tranquill will likely return as Notre Dame’s only upperclassmen safeties.

Technically, Nicky Baratti and John Turner will have fifth-year options, but considering how little impact they’ve made through four seasons, it wouldn’t be a surprise if both departed.

Freshman Nicco Fertitta was utilized this season on special teams while freshman Mykelti Williams received a red-shirt.


Notre Dame expects to lose KeiVarae Russell to the NFL Draft, and baring unknown attrition, the Irish should return everybody else. Cole Luke and Devin Butler will exhaust their eligibility after next season, while Nick Watkins will be entering his third year.

Freshman Nick Coleman saw action in 2015. Freshmen Shaun Crawford (medical) and Ashton White received red-shirts.

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