Juniors To Know: Irish Elite In ’17?

Five commitments, all rated in the four-star range, have given Notre Dame a jump on the next recruiting cycle. Irish Illustrated reveals 25 juniors to know as the Class of 2017 moves into the spotlight.

Putting the Class of 2016 to rest doesn’t mean Notre Dame will take time off from recruiting.

Late last month the Irish put emphasis on the current crop of underclassmen by hosting a Junior Day. Several prospects in the Class of 2017 visited campus, most of which already held scholarship offers.

In fact, Notre Dame is already starting to assemble one of the best recruiting classes in that cycle. Irish Illustrated is here to introduce those five commitments, plus 25 other names to know in the Class of 2017 as their time in the spotlight begins.

Commitments

Beal is already the jewel of this recruiting class. Think about it. When was the last time Notre Dame went into SEC country and pulled an elite pass rusher? Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch come to mind and they’re both now in the NFL. Beal has family connections to South Bend, which proved beneficial in scoring a commitment.

Gibbons is one of two offensive line commitments, which is hardly a surprise given how Harry Hiestand has continued to bring in top talent. Notre Dame once recruited an older Gibbons, Reilly, but never offered. Reilly signed with Stanford then transferred to USF. The younger Gibbons was the first commitment in the class, pulling the trigger last April.

Notre Dame felt it could pass at tight end in the Class of 2016 after landing Kmet in October. Kmet worked out for the staff at the Irish Invasion, earning an offer, then chose Notre Dame over Ohio State in the end. His father, Frank, played defensive line at Purdue.

Another elite offensive tackle targeted by Hiestand, another eventual commitment. Lugg jumped on board in August over offers from Boston College, Duke, Maryland, Michigan State, Northwestern, Penn State, Tennessee, UCLA, Wisconsin and several others. He was back at Junior Day last month.

Right now, Wright is the highest ranked player in this group of commitments. How talented is he? Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh and Alabama coach Nick Saban both stopped by school in during the contact period to express interest despite his commitment. Wright is the top-ranked tight end in the Scout.com rankings.

The Names To Know

Adams turned into a top linebacker target during the season after landing an offer during an August unofficial visit. Notre Dame coaches watched him play live before their game against Pittsburgh. Speaking of which, Pittsburgh and Penn State are serious contenders for the top prospect from their region/city.

There's already been buzz more than once during the process that Ajian has almost committed, in particular after he visited from the season opener. Ajian has other major offers — Michigan, Nebraska, Tennessee, Wisconsin — but Notre Dame has been in the mix for a long time.

Although he picked up an offer just a week before signing day, Black has been on the radar for awhile. He’s likely to visit sometime soon for a junior day or spring practice. Alabama, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State and UCLA are among the several other offers.

When Hunter Johnson came off the board to Tennessee (later switching his commitment to Clemson), Davis emerged as Mike Sanford’s top quarterback target. Davis visited campus very quickly after receiving an offer in the fall, a signal of serious interest. Consensus is the Irish lead.

Davis is the latest in a long line of elite prospects out of St. John Bosco, which produced recent signee D.J. Morgan. Several elites are already in on Davis, including Alabama and Stanford. He’s long talked about wanting to visit Notre Dame. Hiestand would no doubt enjoy getting a prospect of Davis’ caliber on campus.

More offers are starting to roll in for Dillon, but there’s probably no more important offer than Notre Dame for the grandson of Irish great Tom Gatewood and his family. Notre Dame likes Dillon as an athlete while he prefers running back.

Notre Dame headed back to Bishop Gorman, the alma mater of Nicco Fertitta, Alize Jones and Ronnie Stanley, for this elite defensive lineman. Garrett has already put Notre Dame at or near the top of his list. Seems like an offseason visit is likely and he debated the Junior Day in January. The Irish are in excellent shape here.

Davis is the clear No. 1 quarterback target right now. Hooker might be next in line. He said the Irish have been talking to his coach and believes an offer could be right around the corner. Clemson, N.C. State and West Virginia have offered. Alabama and Ohio State are also showing interest.

Kelly-Powell was one of the Junior Day visitors and gave the event a positive review. Notre Dame likes his versatility — Brian Kelly mentioned playing nickel, cornerback or safety. Kelly-Powell holds programs with strong academics in high regard, making the Irish a serious player.

Notre Dame has been a steady presence at Augustus Hawkins High for a bunch of talent, Lewis being the headliner. Lewis visited last spring as part of the B2GSports group that also brought Morgan, Javon McKinley and several others to campus.

It’s not often there’s a legitimate defensive line prospect in the local area. Malone-Hatcher lives about 45 minutes from campus and has already visited several times. He called his Junior Day visit a “personalized” experience. Michigan, Alabama and Michigan State are among the other offers but Notre Dame is as serious a player as any.

In what looks like a down cycle for in-state targets, Potts is a bright spot. Notre Dame offered early and the list has since expanded a little bit. Potts has yet to make it on campus since receiving an offer, but it’s hard to believe that will last for very long as the process begins to take shape.

Peoples-Jones made it to Junior Day as well. He teams with Kelly-Powell at Cass Tech High in Detroit. Notre Dame hasn’t had much success at Cass Tech but both prospects represent real possibilities. Peoples-Jones is an elite athlete and legitimate top-of-the-board receiver target. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are all heavily involved.

Rambo is one of three Division I receivers that team with Davis at Cedar Hill High. Notre Dame offered in January after Sanford visited school. Should the Irish get a commitment from Davis down the line, no doubt he’d encourage some of his talented current teammates to join him in South Bend.

Robertson is one of a couple prospects to make this list without an offer. Notre Dame has indicated one should come down the road and Robertson covets that opportunity. Let’s be plain: If the Irish offer, it’ll be a shock of Robertson doesn’t join the class in short order.

Remember this last name? Notre Dame recruited his older brother, James, who played at Michigan. The younger Ross is a similarly high-end linebacker target with elite regional options. Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State are in the mix. He’s already expressed plenty of interest in Notre Dame.

How likely are the Irish to land a prospect from Ann Arbor? Well, consider this: Simmons recently released a top 11 that excluded Michigan despite his high school being across the street from the Big House. Simmons later said he was “heartbroken” when plans to visit Notre Dame for Junior Day fell through.

Smith is the latest offensive line target to hit the radar. Hiestand visited University School to offer during the contact period. Most of the SEC has already lined up for Smith plus Clemson, Florida State, Miami and Stanford.

Yep, there’s another St. Brown in the pipeline. Osiris recently picked up an offer from USC as his recruitment continues to expand. He’s been on campus before and Sanford visited Mater Dei High during the season to check in. Seems like the Irish will win out here eventually, but there’s no rush from Osiris to decide.

Another Detroit product who visited for Junior Day. Thomas attends the same school (King) that produced former receiver target Donnie Corley, who enrolled at Michigan State. But he’s already more interested in the Irish than Corley ever really was. Thomas sees them as a player at the top of his list with a few other programs.

Potts might be the only in-state prospect Notre Dame has offered at this point, but Werner is worth monitoring. He plays at Cathedral High, a feeder to Notre Dame whether football is involved or not. Boston College, Indiana, Northwestern, Syracuse, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin are among the offers already on the table.

Williams is an elite athlete out of SEC country and his interest in Notre Dame isn’t just lip service. He visited for Junior Day, making the drive from Georgia with his father. Clemson is running out front but there are several other programs nipping at its heels.

Junior Day drew a couple potential defensive backs out of SEC country. Williams, no relation to Jamyest, picked up an offer while on campus. He’s no stranger to major offers as Alabama, Clemson, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Michigan and several others are already on the list.

Hiestand is already assembling another strong offensive line class and would like to make Wills part of it. Wills visited for he Irish Invasion and worked out in a hands-on setting. Hiestand and Kelly stopped by Lafayette High School during the contact period to show Wills he’s a high priority target.

Notre Dame doesn’t always do well at the Catholic programs in and around Washington D.C. but Young represents a chance to strike back. He’s an elite defensive lineman with a long offer list. Alabama, Clemson, Florida State, Michigan State and Ohio State are just some of the others to have already pulled the trigger.


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