Ranking the Notre Dame recruits

Of the top six rated players in Notre Dame’s Class of 2016, including undecided WR Demetris Robertson, four are linemen – two on each side of the football.

Six Irish Illustrated staffers participated in a vote to determine the order of impact we believe Notre Dame’s Class of 2016 will have over the course of their careers. Participants in the survey included Tim Prister, Pete Sampson, Jake Brown, Tim O’Malley, Steve Hare and Anna Hickey.

Included in the survey were the 23 scholarship prospects who signed letters of intent on Wednesday, Feb. 3, as well as undecided Georgia wide receiver Demetris Robertson, who did not sign on Wednesday and is expected to make a decision in short order, likely between Notre Dame and Georgia.

For the record, had Fresno, Calif. linebacker Caleb Kelly landed in Notre Dame’s class, he would have ranked No. 2 on the chart behind Robertson, who was a unanimous No. 1 selection by our six panelists.

WR-DEMETRIS ROBERTSON
• Average ranking: 1.0
• Highest ranking: 1
• Lowest ranking: 1
• Comments: “We all know the cliché about SEC speed, right? Robertson is the closest thing to a direct replacement for Will Fuller that Notre Dame could possibly find.”

“Robertson’s elite feet are reminiscent of former Miami Hurricane and Dallas Cowboy WR Kevin Williams, only Robertson is four inches taller.”

“In a word, make that two words, NFL receiver.”

DE/OLB-DAELIN HAYES
• Average ranking: 2.5
• Highest ranking: 2 (Prister/Hickey/Sampson/O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 4 (Hare)
• Comments: “Every evaluation begins with ‘When healthy…’ Multiple shoulder injuries have created such speculation. The fact is Hayes is country-strong with wrecking ball physical impact. Listed as a linebacker, the closer he can get to the snap of the football, the better. Four-star player due to injuries; five-star prospect.”

OT-TOMMY KRAEMER
• Average ranking: 3.5
• Highest ranking: 2 (Brown/Hare)
• Lowest ranking: 6 (O’Malley)
• Comments: “Kraemer has proven it against top competition throughout his recruitment. He’s an elite tackle, just short of five-star territory.”

“It’s not often the third best player at his position nationally could be considered undervalued, but Kraemer certainly warrants a higher ranking, both at his position and overall.”

“A great run blocker with tremendous leg drive. Balance can be an issue at times and the jury is out as to whether he has the footwork necessary to be a consistent pass protector. But he’s a player and likely will correct any shortcomings.”

WR-JAVON MCKINLEY
• Average ranking: 6.6
• Highest ranking: 3 (Hare)
• Lowest ranking: 11 (Prister)
• Comments: “Does anybody else see the next Rhema McKnight in McKinley? Big body, good speed, good athleticism. Might not be elite in any singular trait, but quality in all of them.”

“This young man has worked very hard to put himself among the elite wideouts in the Class of 2016. He has some Michael Floyd-type skills in his game, which means he’s a big, productive receiver without breakaway speed per se. Doesn’t have Floyd’s catch radius, but if he keeps trending up, he’ll be a very productive college receiver. Echo Sampson’s comparison to Rhema McKnight.”

DE-KHALID KAREEM
• Average ranking: 7.1
• Highest ranking: 3 (Prister/O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 16 (Hickey)
• Comments: “Kareem’s short-space quickness and Notre Dame’s other pieces in the 2016 haul suggests a move to the three-technique position as the ideal. And yet that’s what many believed about Isaac Rochell, who has played effectively inside, but yet remains Notre Dame’s starting big end. If Daelin Hayes stays healthy, Kareem would form quite a big-end/three-technique tandem.”

“His highlight film reminds me of a high school prospect named Victor Abiamiri.”

“Kareem gets a below-the-middle rank on my list. The jury is still out on his work ethic and ability to be coachable.”

OT-LIAM EICHENBERG
• Average ranking: 7.6
• Highest ranking: 6 (Brown/Sampson)
• Lowest ranking: 11 (O’Malley)
• Comments: “It’s difficult to evaluate an offensive lineman without seeing him live, but Eichenberg’s sound technique, long arms and inherent advantage in that he’s slowly grown into his frame stand out.”

“Kraemer’s prowess on the camp circuit and his high rating have overshadowed Eichenberg throughout the process. Make no mistake, Kraemer deserves the recognition. But it would not be a shock if Eichenberg proved to be the most well-rounded of the offensive linemen in this class because his pass blocking looks to be further along than Kraemer’s.”

WR-CHASE CLAYPOOL
• Average ranking: 8.1
• Highest ranking: 4 (Sampson)
• Lowest ranking: 13 (Hare)
• Comments: “Claypool spent most of his senior season off the radar while playing Canadian high school football. His summer camp circuit showed an elite level athlete. If you don’t believe it, watch him on the basketball court.”

“Love the pure, untapped upside of Claypool after scouting him at The Opening. The step up in competition could be a major learning curve, but the athleticism is very unique for a bigger body.”

“Blessed with the feet of a slot receiver in the frame of Corey Robinson.”

CB-DONTE’ VAUGHN
• Average ranking: 8.3
• Highest ranking: 4 (O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 14 (Sampson)
• Comments: “There’s always concern with a player of Vaughn’s length that it won’t translate to the cornerback position. After all, a guy like Bobby Taylor doesn’t come along very often. But with Vaughn – a physical, talented football player – there’s always a spot at safety if cornerback doesn’t work. He also has the physicality to slide up in the box to use his size and physicality. The specific position at the present time is not a great concern. Get him in and mold him into a football player.”

S-DEVIN STUDSTILL
• Average ranking: 9.1
• Highest ranking: 4 (Prister)
• Lowest ranking: 14 (Hare)
• Comments: “Of the 12 three-star prospects signed by Notre Dame, my No. 1 choice for the most underrated player in the class. A true run-support/pass-defend safety. Plus, his early arrival this spring will get him in the mix from the outset.”

“Possesses the instincts of a free safety if not the raw speed, but the former is more important than the latter on the back end of the defense. Strikes upon impact, shows very good hands and anticipates, traits that will afford him a chance at early playing time in the thin Irish secondary, particularly with his early enrollment.”

CB-TROY PRIDE, JR.
• Average ranking: 9.8
• Highest ranking: 5 (Brown/Sampson)
• Lowest ranking: 15 (Hickey)
• Comments: “His rise late in the recruiting rankings was well-deserved. Has a chance to be an elite college cornerback. Have to like his tenacity and technical ability.”

“He’s a rich man’s Robert Blanton, able to help on special teams immediately and smart enough to pick up the defensive scheme. If he’s not a multi-year starter, I’ll be surprised.”

“Even some four-star prospects are underrated. He wasn’t acknowledged as such early in the recruiting process due to his lack of bulk. But when this kid is college-ready physically, which may be sooner rather than later because of his technical skills, you’re going to see a dynamic cover cornerback. Great Notre Dame fit, too.”

CB-JULIAN LOVE
• Average ranking: 12.3
• Highest ranking: 8 (Prister)
• Lowest ranking: 16 (Sampson)
• Comments: “If Devin Studstill isn’t the most underrated three-star in the class, Love is. That often happens with early commitments. His senior film shows what a physically mature, diverse talent he is. His recovery skills out of the backpedal are a sight to behold. Those who may have forgotten about him during the recruiting process will say come August, ‘Oh, yeah, Julian Love!’”

“Love is a better athlete than people realize and a bright football player. That’s a productive combination, especially when you factor in special teams.”

DE-JULIAN OKWARA
• Average ranking: 13.0
• Highest ranking: 5 (O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 22 (Hickey)
• Comments: “In the world of recruiting hyperbole, he reminds me of Aldon Smith in his ability to uncoil upon impact. He’ll arrive on campus as a rush end and play that position from Day One. Can’t think of a viable reason to move him, nor for him not to succeed as a collegiate pass rusher.”

“The tape says natural pass rusher. Now it’s a matter of size, strength, toughness and maximizing a skill set that is much further advanced than his brother Romeo’s from four years ago.”

“Okwara has good upside, but simply lacks the toughness required to develop into a great football player, which is why he gets a near-the-bottom-of-the-barrel ranking from me.”

OG-PARKER BOUDREAUX
• Average ranking: 13.1
• Highest ranking: 10 (Hickey/Sampson)
• Lowest ranking: 19 (O’Malley)
• Comments: “Potential mauler of a guard at the next level, but not the type of athlete Kraemer and Eichenberg appear to be.”

“While Boudreaux’s commitment video was off the chart, he has some work to do on his technique.”

“Boudreaux needs to follow the strict lead of OL coach Harry Hiestand and listen to his older brethren along the offensive line where being one of five rules over individual notoriety. Quenton Nelson is another massive bundle of energy who corralled his enthusiasm and channeled it in the right direction in ’15. He’d be a good player for Boudreaux to emulate.”

RB-TONY JONES, JR.
• Average ranking: 13.8
• Highest ranking: 8 (Hickey)
• Lowest ranking: 17 (O’Malley)
• Comments: “For the U.S. Army All-American and four-star back, it’s more about filling a need than ranking. The Irish don’t have a short-yardage back who runs with power. Jones might be able to provide that.”

“Sneaky vision, solid pass protection skills, and a power element put Jones in my top 10 of Notre Dame’s class.”

“The lack of wiggle with Jones is overrated/misevaluated. He’s a power north-south runner. His wiggle comes at the point of attack, and then he knows the ‘straight path’ rule for a big back. My question is does he have the toughness to withstand the ebbs and flows of the college game?”

S-JALEN ELLIOTT
• Average ranking: 15.6
• Highest ranking: 10 (Hickey)
• Lowest ranking: 20 (Brown)
• Comments: “Showed good strength, balance and feet as a wide receiver, each of which will serve him well on the back end of the defense.”

“More athlete than any one position. Projected as a safety, which means he’ll be one of a handful of freshmen with a chance to make an early impact, although early-entry Devin Studstill gets the jump at free safety. One of the more difficult prospects in the Class of 2016 to project because most of his prep highlights are on the offensive side of the ball.”

“If you listen to the Notre Dame coaching staff, Elliott might have the greatest leadership skills in the Class of 2016.”

S-SPENCER PERRY
• Average ranking: 16.0
• Highest ranking: 13 (Prister)
• Lowest ranking: 18 (Brown)
• Comments: “Do you want Elijah Shumate Part II at strong safety or a slightly undersized OLB that can aid the Irish at the second level against modern spread offenses? Could morph into a 230-pound OLB as a red-shirt sophomore in ’18.”

“Perry arrived in South Bend as an early-entry ready to compete for playing time after spending last season at IMG Academy, where he received second-to-none physical training and quality coaching.”

ILB-JONATHAN JONES
• Average ranking: 16.5
• Highest ranking: 5 (Hickey)
• Lowest ranking: 22 (O’Malley)
• Comments: “My pick for most underrated player in the class. He was outstanding against top competition at The Opening.”

“Remember: being undersized doesn’t automatically make you Sam Mills or Zach Thomas. Most of the time, it’s bad.”

QB-IAN BOOK
• Average ranking: 17.1
• Highest ranking: 13 (Hickey)
• Lowest ranking: 23 (Hare)
• Comments: “This is Tommy Rees-plus, a heady quarterback with limited arm strength but decent mobility. Unlike when Notre Dame got Rees into the program early, no desperation will be attached to this development.”

“Shows more arm strength than he’s given credit for, not so much on the deep ball, but firm intermediate throws. Throws a catchable ball and has the consistent habit of placing the football where only his receiver can catch it. Don’t like his initial-step speed when the pocket breaks down, although he has a good feel for where he needs to slide to buy time.”

DE/LB-JAMIR JONES
• Average ranking: 17.5
• Highest ranking: 9 (Hare)
• Lowest ranking: 24 (Hickey)
• Comments: “Extensive experience and skills shown on offense suggest he’ll maintain good short-space quickness while adding necessary weight to play defensive end. Certainly on a five-year plan. Does he grow into an interior defensive line player like his brother? He’d have uncommon quickness at tackle, but that’s a long road.”

“Needs time to shape his body into a collegiate-level physique, particularly if he transitions to an end position. If he’s like his older brother Jarron, he’ll need time to mature into the college game. The notion that he can be a player at an inside linebacker position would fit a short-term need with Jonathan Jones the only other likely linebacker in the class.”

RB-DEON MCINTOSH
• Average ranking: 17.5
• Highest ranking: 12 (O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 22 (Hare)
• Comments: “I like his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield and turn upfield in a hurry.”

“Shows excellent 10-yard quickness and an innate desire to get and stay north-south, one that belies his 170-pound frame. Good hands and balance. I like McIntosh as a No. 2 running back in a spread scheme more than as a slot receiver.”

“Can’t help but see an Amir Carlisle-like talent. Difference may be his desire in the weight room.”

S-D.J. MORGAN
• Average ranking: 19.0
• Highest ranking: 6 (Hare)
• Lowest ranking: 24 (O’Malley)
• Comments: “He’s not flashy, but Morgan is consistent and has big-play potential on the back end of the defense.”

“Passes the eye test and will come up and strike you, but doesn’t impress with pass-coverage technique. Looks like a project who really needs to fine-tune the details.”

DE-ADETOKUNBO OGUNDEJI
• Average ranking: 21.0
• Highest ranking: 18 (Prister)
• Lowest ranking: 23 (Brown/Sampson)
• Comments: “Ogundeji’s get-off from a three-point stance is impressive. The flip side is that guys who project from small schools often can’t rise to the major college level of play. The Jhonny Williams comparison is natural.”

“Can he catch? Is so, a move to tight end would be intriguing. So too would 70 more pounds to his lengthy frame to compete in 2018 at offensive tackle. Reminds me a little of Jhonny Williams, whose potential I liked coming out of high school. But sometimes sleepers don’t wake up.”

WR-KEVIN STEPHERSON
• Average ranking: 23.8
• Highest ranking: 16 (O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 22 (Sampson)
• Comments: “His film is impressive. He could be one of the surprises of the recruiting class. We may be kicking ourselves down the road with our modest film evaluations.”

“Love his strengths – a natural ability to track the football, go get it in traffic, and to come down with contested catches. Great concentration on 50-50 balls. More wide receiver than athlete, and that’s fine with me.”

“A difficult prospect to project. Will show nothing flashy play after play, and then all of a sudden, make a gazelle-like catch. An interesting prospect to track, particularly with the early-entry start.”

LS-JOHN SHANNON
• Average ranking: 23.6
• Highest ranking: 23 (Hickey/O’Malley)
• Lowest ranking: 24 (Prister/Brown/Hare/Sampson)
• Comments: “He’s a long-snapper. The less we hear his name the better.”

“Long-snappers are people too. They’re just difficult to slot ahead of position players.”

“Compact, consistent snapping motion. Quick to the snap upon initial movement, which is reflected in firmness the football arrives to the punter. When he errs, it’s low due to an early release point.”


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