Insider Report: Predictions, predictions…

The Insider Report makes our Christmas predictions for the biggest prospects Notre Dame wants in its haul. How do we think the Irish will finish this class? Our recruiting staff might surprise you.

Can Notre Dame finish with a Top 10 class?

How the Irish close with some of these 14 prospects will determine whether Brian Kelly is talking about a good recruiting haul on National Signing Day or a potentially great one.

The Insider Report offers predictions from our three recruiting analysts, revealing destinations and confidence that we’re right. There are two unanimous predictions to go Irish with three other prospects that got one Notre Dame vote. With space limited in this haul – the target number remains 25 prospects, meaning four more slots – when recruits make their commitments might matter.

Here’s our take on how this cycle will shake out for the Irish.

Damian Alloway

Brown: UCLA – Medium
Comfort level with leaving home has always been the primary issue keeping Alloway from picking Notre Dame. Not expecting that to change after he sees UCLA in full during a post-dead period visit.

Hare: UCLA – Low
Alloway’s visit to UCLA could be the tipping point for a prospect who likes what he sees out of Notre Dame but isn’t so keen on attending college so far from home. Notre Dame did its part in staying in the hunt but the distance could be the difference.

Hickey: UCLA – Medium
Notre Dame went above and beyond to land Alloway, but distance will prove unbeatable. UCLA will receive an official visit on Jan. 22, and a decision will come shortly after that. 

Oluwole Betiku

Brown: USC – High
How about this for quick turn in momentum? Others have been favored at different points in the process (though never Notre Dame) and now it appears the Trojans could be in line to snag Betiku in the end. USC was out during the summer.

Hare: USC – Low
Ever since seeing him at The Opening I thought Betiku could be become the next Manti Te’o by surprising everyone and picking Notre Dame over USC. Don’t bet the house, but also don’t rule out Betiku shocking the recruiting world by showing up for classes in South Bend next month.

Hickey: USC – High
Notre Dame was a dark horse that was a constant in Betiku’s recruitment but never a frontrunner. In the end the familiarity of Southern California will trump all for this Serra High School product.

Brandon Burton

Brown:  UCLA – Medium
Serra prospects most often end up at USC. But with Burton it looks like the crosstown rival is the most likely destination. After all the official visits, I’m guessing he ends up staying right by home.

Hare: Ohio State – Low
Smart money is on Burton staying closer to home but his interest in Ohio State is real. If he leaves the West Coast he’s probably headed to Columbus.

Hickey: UCLA – High
The Bruins have been the longtime favorite. The Buckeyes, Irish, Seminoles and Sooners provided competition, but signs point to UCLA. 

Ben Davis

Brown: Alabama – Medium
Davis has listed Georgia as his leader going into all-star season. But do we really believe Nick Saban will let an Alabama legacy and five-star prospect get way? Nope.

Hare: Alabama – High
It’s hard to beat out Alabama for an in-state prospect. It’s even harder to land a Crimson Tide legacy. Davis is scheduled to visit in January but it could be just a courtesy trip.

Hickey: Alabama – High
A Tide legacy that’s taking his last official visit to Alabama. Any other program that landed him would be pulling a major upset. 

Brendan Ferns

Brown: West Virginia – Low
Predictions on this one seem all over the place. West Virginia offers the petroleum engineering major Ferns wants, so there’s a start. Seems like a long way to go in this recruitment despite how close it is to signing day.

Hare: West Virginia – Low
An early offer could have locked Ferns up as one of the first commits in the Class of 2016. Now, the Irish are in a battle for his services. It comes down to Ferns’ comfort level that his degree would serve him well in the field of petroleum engineering and the Irish holding a spot.

Hickey: Penn State – Low 
It appears to be a Penn State and West Virginia battle down the stretch, but things could get interesting if he visits Notre Dame and the Irish have room. 

Jordan Fuller

Brown: Notre Dame – Low
Can my confidence be lower than low? Fuller is a very tough read, so this prediction could very well change once or twice down the stretch. But Notre Dame is the only official visit he’s taken. We’ll just go with that for now.

Hare: Ohio State – Low
Is Rutgers a real player? Probably not. That leaves Ohio State and Notre Dame as the two favorites to sign Fuller. Give the edge to the Buckeyes, but it’s close.

Hickey: UCLA – Low
He hasn’t shown his cards outside of listing a top eight, and Notre Dame’s the only school that’s received an official visit. It’s anybody’s best guess right now, so I’ll go out on a limb and say UCLA, where his older brother plays. 

Damar Hamlin

Brown: Pittsburgh – Medium
Notre Dame has no doubt made Hamlin among its top priorities in defensive back recruiting. The question was whether it was enough to get him away from home. It’s not, as Hamlin revealed on Christmas Eve.

Hare: Ohio State – Low
From Day One I felt Hamlin was a lock for Ohio State. Notre Dame made up some ground, but in the end Hamlin was destined to be a Buckeye. He eliminated the Irish just hours before Troy Pride Jr. committed.

Hickey: Pittsburgh – Low
Notre Dame, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Ohio State comprised his top four. Then the Irish were voted off Hamlin Island, leaving the Nittany Lions, Panthers and Buckeyes. Staying local seems like the smart pick.

Jonathan Jones

Brown: Michigan – Medium
Coin flip between Michigan and Notre Dame right now. I’ll stick with the Wolverines as they’ve been a favorite for longer and there’s still a spot open for Jones to end up there even with recent additions to the class.

Hare: Michigan – Medium
Jones could be a numbers casualty if Notre Dame lands one or more of its top linebacker prospects. I would expect the Irish to end up with McCulloch and either Ferns or Morris ahead of Jones.

Hickey: Notre Dame – Low
Michigan basically stopped recruiting Caleb Kelly so it could zero in on Devin Bush and Jones. It already landed Bush and is going hard after Jones. I think Notre Dame wins in the end, but with Jim Harbaugh involved, it’s not over until it’s over.

Velus Jones

Brown: Oklahoma – Low
One thing seems clear: Jones is trending away from his longtime USC commitment. Oklahoma already has an official visit under its belt and has picked up momentum as a frontrunner.

Hare: USC – High
Jones is tentatively scheduled to visit Notre Dame in January. If that happens, Jones could see enough out of the Irish to give him something to think about down the stretch but odds are he sticks with the Trojans.

Hickey: USC – Low
With the promotion of Tee Martin, who has Alabama ties, to offensive coordinator, Jones could end up sticking with the Trojans. A bunch of schools are trying to flip him late. 

Caleb Kelly

Brown: Oklahoma – Medium                        
We’ve seen this dance before: Fresno native favors Oklahoma but likes Notre Dame enough to keep the Irish in the mix until National Signing Day. The Sooners have been winning those battles more often than not.

Hare: Oklahoma – Low
Oklahoma seems an odd choice for a California prospect but the Sooners have been in the hunt for quite some time and own Fresno connections. Notre Dame made up some ground following Kelly’s official visit but the Irish continue to trail.

Hickey: Oklahoma – Low
It’s a close battle between Notre Dame and Oklahoma, but the Sooners get the nod. 

Jeffrey McCulloch

Brown: Notre Dame – Low
Why not? There’s always a surprise in there somewhere. Unrest at Texas A&M, even if mostly centered around quarterbacks, might just help the cause.

Hare: Notre Dame – Medium
It’s hard to imagine McCulloch could land up anywhere else but Notre Dame. Both historically top in-state schools are in precarious situations with their respective coaching staffs. Stranger things have happened, but all signs point to McCulloch choosing the Irish.

Hickey: Notre Dame – Low
A probable delay in his decision means it will tougher for the Irish to land McCulloch, but the reasons he likes Notre Dame’s aren’t changing. That could be the tipping point in the end. He was supposed to decide at the Under Armour All-America Game but may wait.

Javon McKinley

Brown: Notre Dame – High
Have to love Notre Dame in a battle with Washington to land any kid, especially one very familiar with South Bend. McKinley has visited more times than most California kids do in the recruiting process.

Hare: Notre Dame – Medium
McKinley is a big-time prospect who will announce at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl and the Irish are in good position to come out on top. His commitment would solidify the position regardless of what happens with Notre Dame’s other receiver targets.

Hickey: Notre Dame – High
USC circled back this month on one of southern California’s top prospects, but McKinley turned down the late interest from his childhood favorite. No team has recruited him harder or longer than Notre Dame, and the Irish will reap the benefits. 

Jonah Morris

Brown: Notre Dame – Low
Still some things to get sorted out here, but it’s a matter of options. Rarely do prospects go back to the place where they de-committed (Michigan State). So could it be down to Notre Dame and Pittsburgh if Ohio State declines to offer. We’ll see.

Hare: Notre Dame – Low
The former Michigan State commitment is scheduled to visit in January. Morris could commit soon after but he’s also hoping for an offer from Ohio State. The Buckeyes could snap him up with a scholarship  be a game changer.

Hickey: Pittsburgh – Low
If Notre Dame doesn’t have room and Ohio State doesn’t end up offering, Pittsburgh’s the most likely destination. He’s slated to visit Notre Dame in late January. 

Demetris Robertson

Brown: Georgia – Low
Home state Georgia has a new head coach in Kirby Smart, which sometimes delivers momentum. But don’t count Alabama out of this race just yet with Jeremy Pruitt moving there from Athens as defensive coordinator and ace recruiter.

Hare: Alabama – Low
Robertson never appeared to seriously consider Notre Dame. He’ll likely end up in the SEC somewhere.

Hickey: Georgia - Low
The hire of Kirby Smart is helping the case for the in-state Dawgs. Alabama is up there as well. Notre Dame is likely third. There’s still time for the Irish to make a run. Robertson had talked about a late South Bend return.


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