Jonathan Jones announced for Notre Dame on National Signing Day, but he knew in December how the rest of his recruitment would play out.
Even Brian Kelly and the Irish staff were in on the secret.
“After my official visit to Michigan in December, I came back home and knew I wanted to go to Notre Dame,” Jones said. “I called coach Kelly and silently committed then.”
Jones, a 6-foot-1, 215-pound inside linebacker, wanted to repay those that helped him along the way, so he delayed any sort of public announcement. He revealed his choice by releasing Notre Dame balloons from one of four boxes, each representing a finalist.
Michigan, Duke and UCF were also on the list.
“I wanted my school to be the first to find out,” Jones said. “That’s why waited until signing day. I didn’t want to announce it on Twitter or something because Twitter ain’t done nothing for me. It’s the people and the coaches at my school that have helped me accomplish everything.
“It feels really good. It was a big day. I’m really ready to get up there now.”
The three-star prospect from Oak Ridge High School in Orlando considered committing to Notre Dame while on his official visit in September. Before that, Michigan, which offered Jones four months before Notre Dame did, was considered to have the slight edge in his recruitment.
“Notre Dame and Michigan were pretty neck-and-neck for a long time,” Jones said. “I prayed on it a lot, and it’s where God led me. I went to Notre Dame in September and loved it. I went to Michigan in December and had a good visit and it went well, but it didn’t seem like that’s where God wanted me.
“Notre Dame has almost everything already, but I want to bring my leadership and a future Heisman Trophy winner,” Jones said. “I want to be a four-year All-American and I want to play for championships.”
Notre Dame projects Jones at the Will linebacker spot, the same position played last season by Notre Dame’s former Butkus Award-winning linebacker, Jaylon Smith.
“I’m embracing it fully that I’ll have come in behind Jaylon,” Jones said. “I want to come in and dominate like that. I want to be the best linebacker Notre Dame has ever had.”
Robertson continues to waitSteve Hare / IrishIllustrated.com
Five-star athlete Demetris Robertson didn’t sign a letter-of-intent Wednesday, choosing instead to take another visit while waiting on updated test scores.
Robertson plans to see Georgia this weekend. He recently retook the SAT and those scores should be returned Feb. 11. Stanford plans to review those scores before rendering a final decision on admissions, although Irish Illustrated has been told it’s “very much” a long shot anything changes.
Notre Dame hoped to sign Robertson earlier this week but is content to wait, not that it has an alternative. The Irish also have room should Robertson want to jump on board. No visit is expected to Alabama.
The Irish staff touched base with Robertson on signing day.
For now the family expects to have a final decision on or around Feb. 15.
More 2017 offers on signing day
With most prospects in the Class of 2016 signed, every program around the country turns its attention to the current crop of juniors.
Notre Dame is ahead of the game there, already having hosted a Junior Day at the end of the last month. More targets hit the radar on National Signing Day as the Irish extended more offers, including one to a prospect already committed to a rival.
Here’s a look at some new names on the recruiting board.
Notre Dame has been active at Pace Academy, taking a preferred walk-on receiver from the program for its next freshman class. Blount represents an elite receiver target in SEC country with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, Miami, Michigan State and South Carolina, among others.
Carr is committed to USC but wants to evaluate other options. Notre Dame is a program the four-star prospect has said he wants to visit, although ultimately people on the West Coast expect him to stay local. He attends the same school that produced four-star athlete Damian Alloway, a one-time Irish target who signed with UCLA.
Big 12 powers have already circled for Dobbins with scholarship offers in from Oklahoma, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M. Stanford is also on board, which indicates a strong academic profile. Dobbins plays his high school ball about an hour for Austin, so it might be a trick to get him out of the state.
Notre Dame went back to the Inland Empire with an offer to Phillips, who’s already a top priority for Pac 12 programs. Arizona, Cal, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington are among the offers. Phillips mentioned UCLA, Oregon and Washington in December as early standouts.
Offensive line is top ’17 priorityMatt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com
Head coach Brian Kelly has already prioritized the offensive line as one of the key positions Notre Dame will recruit next cycle.
“We'll get some offensive linemen, probably our biggest need is to go back onto the offensive line,” Kelly said. “We’ll go back there. And then I think we’ve put ourselves now in a position of balance, and then we'll have to look at balancing all position groups. But O-line, we're going to have to fill that back up a little bit more and then look at all position groups.”
Notre Dame already has a pair of offensive linemen committed in four-star tackle Josh Lugg and four-star guard Dillan Gibbons.
Scout.com ranks Lugg as the 13th best tackle in the country while Gibbons is the No. 14 guard.
“It’s a huge honor and privilege to be able to say I am committed to the University of Notre Dame,” Lugg said. “I’m very fortunate to be able to be a part of this 2017 class early as we build it to be one of the best classes in the nation.”
Notre Dame has offers out to top linemen Jedrick Wills, Wyatt Davis, Trey Smith, Austin Deculus, Isaiah Wilson, Austin Troxell and Austin Jackson.
Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand logged plenty of miles during the recent contact period with stops in Kentucky (Wills) and California (Davis). Wills also attended the Irish Invasion last summer.
“It means a lot,” said Wills, a 6-foot-5, 300-pound four-star prospect from Lexington. “It shows me how important I am to their program.”
The staff also saw Davis, a five-star guard from St. John Bosco High School in Bellflower, Calif. Bosco produces several major prospects each year, including recent Notre Dame signee D.J. Morgan.
“It definitely means a lot to you,” Davis said. “It was very humbling for me to know he came out to see me.”
Davis plans to return the favor later with a visit this spring or summer. He also plans to see Tennessee (April 16), Oklahoma, LSU, Florida and several others.
Other offensive linemen to remember include C.J. Thorpe, who landed an offer from UCLA on Thursday, Micah Clark, Alijah Vera-Tucker, Walker Little and Blaise Andries.
Notre Dame assistant coach Keith Gilmore checked in with Andries on Signing Day. Andries is a 6-foot-5, 290-pound three-star tackle from Marshall, Minn., with offers from Illinois, Iowa State, Kansas, Kansas State, Minnesota, Missouri and Northwestern.