Insider Report: Quarterback Countdown

Notre Dame could be weeks away from landing a quarterback. But which one will go Irish? Could there be room for both? The Insider Report explains that recruiting picture, updates Demetris Robertson’s next step, highlights the importance of hitting Michigan hard and rounds up new offers.

Notre Dame could land a quarterback by the end of March. In fact, it might be a surprise if the Irish didn’t hit that position in the coming weeks.

Right now the more pressing questions appear to be who jumps on board and how many want in.

Four-star Avery Davis landed a Notre Dame offer in November. He visited campus for the first time later that month. Davis is slated to return March 19 for Junior Day. If the Irish still don’t have a quarterback pledge by then, expect a Davis commitment on his visit or soon after.

Houston, Kansas, Oregon State, Texas Tech, Utah and Virginia are some of the other offers Davis is considering. He hasn’t released a formal list of favorites.

Notre Dame has also offered four-star quarterback Hendon Hooker, but not until last month. Hooker has a top three of North Carolina State, Notre Dame and West Virginia and is closing in on a decision, according to his head coach.

“He wants to make a decision pretty soon here,” Stephen Davis said. “He wants to have it out of the way.”

N.C. State was thought to be in the driver’s seat until the Wolfpack accepted a commitment from quarterback Matt McKay on Monday. State is still recruiting Hooker, sources told Irish Illustrated this week, though he’s unlikely to end up in Raleigh.

Hooker has yet to visit Notre Dame, but that fact is something Stephen Davis says isn’t important in evaluating Hooker’s decision-making process.

“He knows the history of Notre Dame,” Davis said. “His dad was an All-American quarterback at North Carolina A&T that worked out with the Cowboys in the 1980s. They’re well aware. So I know he wants to visit Notre Dame, but a visit doesn’t have to come before should he want to commit there.”

In addition to the trio of schools that headlines his leaderboard, Hooker has offers from Clemson, Indiana, Missouri, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, Virginia and Wake Forest.

“He can be a dual-threat or a drop-back passer,” Davis said. “I view him more as a drop-back, especially in what we ask him to do in our offense.

“He’s not a rah rah type of type of guy. But he definitely leads by example. He’s got a lot of spunk to him. He really knows how to read the field. He knows what the defense is giving him.”

Notre Dame will push for a commitment from Davis when he’s on campus in two weeks. There’s a chance, however, that Hooker could commit to Notre Dame before that visit happens. Sources indicated to Irish Illustrated this week it’s not necessarily first-come, first-serve for Hooker and Davis, especially if both wanted to commit this month.

Georgia expects Robertson’s final official

Five-star athlete Demetris Robertson visited Alabama last weekend and is tentatively scheduled to take his fifth and final official visit on March 19, which Georgia landing that trip. Robertson plans to retake the SAT this month to score high enough to green light admission to Stanford.

Notre Dame has regular contact with Robertson, who visited the Irish on an official visit back in September. Should he ultimately gain admission, Stanford is a safe bet to land a commitment. It’s still not clear if the Cardinal will let Robertson in, however multiple sources have indicated Stanford continues to work that front. That’s a change from January when the Pac 12 program was a fringe contender at best.

Otherwise, Notre Dame is up against Alabama and Georgia. A decision isn’t expected until later this spring.

Michigan could be big for Irish in ‘17
Matt Cashore / Irishillustrated.om

Jim Harbaugh isn’t the only head coach focused on the state of Michigan.

That’s because the state could be critical to Notre Dame’s recruiting haul for a second straight campaign. Michigan boasts not only top end talent in the Class of 2017 but also depth. Nearly 30 prospects already hold Power 5 offers with eight in the latest Scout300 rankings.

Needless to say, it’s a great cycle for programs to hit Detroit, the surrounding suburbs and even outlying areas of the state.

“I think it’s one of the better recent years in Michigan,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting manager for Scout.com. “There is top end talent, but there is also good depth and more is developing as more kids come on the radar. Last year was really deep. I don’t think it’s as deep as last year right now, but I think the first 10-15 are right up there with any recent year.”

Notre Dame is no stranger to recruiting the state.

Last month it signed a trio of Michigan prospects — linebacker Daelin Hayes plus defensive ends Khalid Kareem and Adetokunbo Ogundeji. But if the Irish staff has its way, Notre Dame will do even more damage in the Class of 2017.

Seven juniors already have Irish offers: wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, cornerback Ambry Thomas, linebacker Josh Ross, defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher, safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell, linebacker Antjuan Simmons and defensive tackle Phil Paea.

All have visited campus at least once and six remain uncommitted. Simmons went off the board to Ohio State earlier this week.

Peoples-Jones, Thomas, Ross and Kelly-Powell all hail from Detroit or its near suburbs. Malone-Hatcher lives in St. Joseph, which is about a 45-minute drive from South Bend. Paea is about a half hour away in Berrien Springs, the school that produced former Notre Dame defensive end Jhonny Williams, who’s since transferred to Toledo.

“The 2017 kids are getting to South Bend for visits and have been and I think that’s all you can ask at this point,” Trieu said. “You look at the offers that are out and all of those kids have been to campus multiple times. Kids like Phillip Paea, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, Ambry Thomas, Josh Ross, Corey Malone-Hatcher etc., have all been on campus. I think sometimes recruiting gets measured solely on commits but it’s not just about that.

“Notre Dame has put themselves in position to be in the game and to land Michigan kids. I think they've done a great job of getting kids over as much as possible.”

Landing any of those prospects, won’t be easy given the current in-state recruiting climate.

Harbaugh taking over at Michigan has generated considerable buzz. Michigan State has established itself as a Big Ten power under Mark Dantonio. Ohio State is also a power, with enough sway to land Simmons, an Ann Arbor native whose high school is across the street from Michigan Stadium.

Not only that, several national programs are throwing out offers to Michigan prospects and trying to lure them to other parts of the country.

Many, if not most, will end up staying in the Midwest. But it’s not simple to keep them close. Come this time next year, we’ll see exactly how well Notre Dame and the others have done in that effort.

“I think it's a lot like other states,” Trieu said. “As in, a lot of areas are now over-recruited because it’s easy for out of state and out of region school to recruit kids via Twitter and the internet. So there is more competition than ever. You see the Antjuan Simmons, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Ambry Thomas, Kelly-Powells etc., getting Texas A&M, Clemson, USC type offers.

“At the end of the day though, Simmons is already committed to Ohio State and I do expect most of the Michigan kids to end up in the Midwest, but the recruiting climate in Michigan is as national as ever.”

New offer roundup

Avery went on a mini-run of new offers this week by adding Notre Dame, Arizona, Southern Miss and Louisville. Alabama, Stanford and the in-state programs are among the other suitors. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Mississippi State has the best relationship at this point in the process.

Barrett is already one of the elite targets in Florida with offers from Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Miami, Ohio State and several others. Florida seems to have separated from the pack.

Oklahoma secured an early verbal commitment from Draper in December, potentially locking up an elite in-state prospect. But as the Irish expand their linebacker board, they deemed Draper worth chasing. Scout.com rates him the No. 75 prospect overall in the most recent rankings and No. 3 outside linebacker.

Offering helped Notre Dame push into the lead pack with Ignont, an Alabama native now at IMG Academy. Other programs are chasing Auburn but there’s still room for competition. Ignont listed Georgia, Michigan, UCLA and Florida as the other main contenders.

Alabama scored a commitment from McKinney back in September, although much has changed since. Keep an eye on in-state Georgia with Kirby Smart now the head coach. McKinney has also recently visited Florida, so he’s clearly open minded about other possibilities.

Landing an offer from Notre Dame left Niu speechless and with much more to consider as his options continue to expand. A lifelong USC fan, Niu told Irish Illustrated he’s open to the idea of leaving California. He’s already visited Auburn, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. USC hasn’t offered at this point.


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