Is the Irish secondary class complete?

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


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

Jalen Elliott  – Chesterfield, Va. – 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  – La Grange Park, Ill. – cornerback/nickel back – three-star
Slot cornerback and nickel back prospect … committed in 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 – Bellflower, Calif. – 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 – Bradenton, Fla. – strong safety – three-star
True strong side safety prospect that can play in the box … flipped from Florida to Notre Dame in June after attending the Irish Invasion … attends IMG Academy in Florida, which also produced running back commitment Tony Jones Jr.

Troy Pride Jr. – Greer, S.C. – cornerback – three-star
Recruited for his speed and man coverage skills … de-committed from Virginia Tech in November… took his official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game … offered by Clemson this month but never visited.

Devin Studstill – Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. – 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 – Memphis, Tenn. – safety – four-star
Committed to Notre Dame in October over six SEC offers … long safety that excels near the line of scrimmage … could develop into a boundary cornerback.


Notre Dame isn’t done recruiting defensive backs, although it’s getting close. When four-star cornerback Damar Hamlin eliminated the Irish hours before Pride’s commitment it nixed the program’s No. 1 target at the position. And with safety stocked with four commitments, the Irish are down to two serious targets remaining.

Seven defensive backs figures to be the final tally here, a high during the Brian Kelly era. Still, these two athletes are worth watching.

The candidates:

Brandon Burton – Gardena, Calif. – 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 … UCLA is the favorite … 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 – Old Tappan, N.J. – cornerback – four-star
Took his official visit to Notre Dame for the awards show weekend on Dec. 11, his first official anywhere … 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


Notre Dame expects to return 11 scholarship defensive backs (five safeties and six cornerbacks) next year.


Free safety Max Redfield and strong safety/nickel Drue Tranquill will likely return as Notre Dame’s only upperclassmen safeties with extensive game experience. Avery Sebastian could return as a sixth-year candidate after breaking his foot in the opener against Texas and missing the remainder of the season.

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. Top Stories