Notre Dame’s Junior Day last month netted five commitments and put the Irish in the Top 5 of the Scout.com Team Rankings.
Irish Illustrated takes a look at where Notre Dame stands with its top targets moving forward with the spring evaluation period approaching. Numbers in parentheses represent the ideal number per position. The Insider Report also picks out the top target at each spot, the prospects who make up Notre Dame’s lead pack and tries to single out at least one player per position where the Irish are on top or close to pole position. However, on the defensive side of the ball that’s a major challenge entering April, which is why the spring evaluation period will be key to Notre Dame.
Notre Dame added four-star Avery Davis during his second visit to campus, a trip in March for Junior Day. Three quarterbacks in the Class of 2017 landed Irish offers: Hunter Johnson (Clemson) was the first, Davis the second and Hendon Hooker (Virginia Tech) was the third.
RUNNING BACK (2)
This board is without clear direction after Irish legacy A.J. Dillon committed to Michigan. But that doesn’t mean the remaining targets lack star power.
Notre Dame is working hard to flip the top two prospects in the nation from their commitments to Alabama (Najee Harris) and USC (Stephen Carr). Miami commitment Robert Burns and Auburn commitment Alaric Williams are also on the radar and both have visited.
Top Target: Harris (Five-star, No. 1 running back, Antioch, Calif.)
Lead Group: Carr, Burns, Williams, Ty Chandler, Devan Barrett
Irish On Top: None
WIDE RECEIVER (3-4)
Notre Dame already has good depth, meaning the Irish can recruit from a position of strength. A top target at the position, Charleston Rambo, committed to Oklahoma last week, and Notre Dame is no longer recruiting athlete Tyrell Aijian, who at one point listed Notre Dame as his leader. Osiris St. Brown is the younger brother of Irish receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and has visited multiple times. Stanford is recruiting him hard and likely teams with Notre Dame as a co-leader. Tarik Black visited Notre Dame for Junior Day and the Irish made a huge impression. They could make a move with Kolby Taylor if he visits this summer. Top target Joseph Lewis visited last spring with his 7-on-7 team and is slated to return this month.
Top Target: Lewis (Five-star, No. 1 wide receiver, Los Angeles, Calif.)
Lead Group: St. Brown, Trey Blount, Tyjon Lindsey, Donovan Peoples-Jones
Irish On Top: Black, St. Brown
TIGHT END (2)
Notre Dame has secured the commitments of the No. 1 and No. 2 tight ends in the country in four-stars Brock Wright and Cole Kmet. No other team can claim that at any other position.
OFFENSIVE LINE (5)
Notre Dame has a pair of four-star commitments in tackle Josh Lugg and guard Dillan Gibbons. Harry Hiestand is still in pursuit of three more — preferably, a tackle, guard and swing tackle/guard to round out the class. Notre Dame is hosting priority tackle target Trey Smith of Tennessee on campus this weekend. Top tackle prospect Foster Sarrell is working to set a visit. Top-ranked guard Wyatt Davis is being heavily pursued.
Top Target: Sarrell (Five-star, No. 1 OT, Graham, Wa.)
Lead Group: Beach, Robert Hainsey, Trey Smith, Andrew Thomas, Jedrick Wills
Irish On Top: None
DEFENSIVE LINE (4-5)
After losing Robert Beal earlier this year, Notre Dame is still on the hunt for an elite defensive end in this class. Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy defensive end Joshua Kaindoh fits that description, and he’s expected on campus for the first time for the Blue-Gold Game later this month. Along the interior, local prospect Phil Paea is high on Notre Dame, but Michigan and Michigan State are providing solid competition. Three-star defensive tackle Kurt Hinish represents a good start.
Top Target: Kaindoh (Four-star, No. 7 DE, Bradenton, Fla.)
Lead Group: Kaindoh, Paea, Jaelen Phillips, Logan Rudolph, Marlon Tuipulotu, Dalyn Wade-Perry
Irish On Top: Paea
After adding three linebackers following Junior Day in March, Notre Dame could be done at the position. But adding a fourth is not out of the question. Top target Hamsah Nasirildeen is rated as a safety but is an outstanding athlete that could project at multiple spots, including linebacker. Jacob Phillips visited for Junior Day. But if the Irish finish with Drew White, David Adams and Pete Werner, the coaching staff will sign off on that haul as a success.
Top Target: Nasirildeen (Four-star, No. 13 S, Concord, N.C.)
Lead Group: Jacob Phillips, Will Ignont, Sampson Niu
Irish On Top: None
Notre Dame doesn’t have a tremendous shot at its top cornerback, DeAngelo Gibbs, but four-star Chevin Calloway isn’t far behind on the Irish board. Calloway, the nation’s seventh-ranked cornerback, is a Bishop Dunne product in Dallas. That’s the same high school that produced cornerback Nick Watkins. Calloway has early interest in Notre Dame, but it could be a tall order stealing him from the Big 12. The Irish immediately jumped into the top group of Elijah Gates after offering in February.
Top Target: Gibbs (Five-star, No. 2 ATH, Loganville, Ga.)
Lead Group: Calloway, Gates, Thomas Graham, Amir Riep, Ambry Thomas
Irish On Top: None
Notre Dame expects to get top target and Alabama commit Xavier McKinney on campus this spring. Another top target, Jaylen Kelly-Powell, will make a return visit this month. Four-star Chaz Ah You added an offer during Junior Day, and the Irish will be a major player, along with a host of other national programs. Expect the Irish to push for a summer visit from Daniel Wright, who attends the same school as incoming freshman Deon McIntosh.
Top Target: McKinney (Four-star, No. 9 S, Roswell, Ga.)
Lead Group: Ah You, Kelly-Powell, Amari Carter, A.J. Terrell
Irish On Top: None
Pair of 4-star visitors this weekend
Smith arrives as one of the top tackles not only on the Irish board but also nationally. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma are on a lengthy offer list. The visit to Notre Dame will be Smith’s first to South Bend.
“Smith doesn't reveal too much when talking about his recruitment,” said Scout.com national recruiting analyst Chad Simmons. “So when schools get him on campus, that is a sign that he is interested. Alabama, Clemson, Ole Miss and Tennessee are schools definitely in the race. This visit will be big for Smith and the Irish.
“He’s an offensive tackle that teams will build around in the future. He can be a real anchor up front and he is planning to graduate early, so this time next year, he will be practicing college football.”
Robertson returns to campus hoping to add a Notre Dame offer. Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Penn State, Vanderbilt and Wisconsin are already on board.
Something else to keep in mind: Robertson has also done some work at safety.
Gibbs readies as Jackson departs
Demetrius Jackson declaring for the NBA Draft doesn’t trickle down just to the current roster.
Four-star prospect TJ Gibbs enrolls at Notre Dame in June and the incoming freshman figures to be the heir apparent at point guard. Matt Farrell remains as well, fresh off a strong close to the season as a starter during the NCAA tournament.
Head coach Mike Brey has a history of leaning on veterans and hasn’t yet talked to Gibbs about the potential impact Jackson’s departure might have. Gibbs is in wait-and-see mode.
“I’m not really sure, to be honest with you,” Gibbs said. “Matt’s a great player. He played really well in the NCAAs. I’m kinda a little upset that I don’t get to learn from Demetrius. He was out there making plays, making reads and stuff like that. That would be another great thing to come in as a freshman and learn from him.
“But Matt is playing really well. Hopefully he can build off the NCAA tournament he had and I can still learn from him. He has experience there that I don’t have.”
Gibbs got to know Jackson during recruiting visits and played with him during pickup games on those trips. Even though they won’t spend a year together in South Bend, Gibbs sees it as validation the Irish coaching staff can move him along the same path.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for him,” Gibbs said. “He really stepped his game up to a whole other level this year. Last year he played great. This year he just played out of his mind. I’m happy for him. It proves Notre Dame has and keeps getting the talent and gets players to the league. That’s something I’m really gonna be striving for. That’s one of my goals. I hope that I can do the same thing he’s doing.”
No matter the role, Gibbs will come in uniquely prepared.
Both older brothers — Ashton and Sterling — played Division I basketball. Ashton starred at Pittsburgh while Sterling started his career at Texas, transferred to Seton Hall and finished with Connecticut this season.
TJ passed them both this season in career scoring and is now the all-time leader at Seton Hall Prep in New Jersey with 1,987 points. He received first team all-state honors as a senior while leading Seton Hall Prep to a 29-2 record.
Gibbs incorporated more mid-range into his game this season and has some other strengths he believes will ease the transition to college.
“I think one thing that really helps me is that I’m a little bit more physical than guards in the high school game right now,” Gibbs said. “I know it’s a whole different level from high school to college. One thing I know I’m gonna have to adjust to is the learning curve. Learning the plays, learning the reads, learning the defenses and different sets and stuff like that.”
New offer roundup
Echols has been committed to UCLA since February but did speak well of Notre Dame after scoring a scholarship offer. Of course, the Los Angeles product visited UCLA for one of its spring practices the next day. It’s always difficult to beat out a hometown program, especially when it already has a commitment.
There are some preexisting connections with Taylor, whose uncle went to Notre Dame. He also has NFL bloodlines through his father, Keith, a nine-year NFL veteran. Both of Taylor’s older brothers played major college football. Taylor hopes to visit this summer. That might let the Irish make up ground on a current top three of Arizona State, Oregon State and Northwestern.
News and notes
- Three receiver targets in Texas came off the board in the last week: Charleston Rambo (Oklahoma), Tylan Wallace (Oklahoma State) and Jalen Reagor (Oklahoma). Rambo teams with Notre Dame quarterback commitment Avery Davis at Cedar Hill High. He visited with Davis for Junior Day. Wallace and his twin brother, Tracin, both committed to Oklahoma State. Reagor, a one-time Texas Tech commitment, picked up an offer shortly before pledging to the Sooners.
- Offensive tackle target Tyler Beach made a visit to in-state Wisconsin this week. The Badgers join Notre Dame and Michigan as the three biggest contenders. Beached picked up an offer last month during a Junior Day visit.
- Four-star offensive lineman Robert Hainsey formally cut his list to a top 10 earlier this week: North Carolina, Penn State, Miami, Michigan, Ole Miss, Michigan State, Ohio State, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame and Florida. Notre Dame offered during a recent unofficial visit. Penn State is a major player for the Pittsburgh native while Michigan State is a semi-dark horse candidate to land his services after several unofficial visits. Hainsey attends IMG Academy in Florida.
- Four-star safety Jaylen Kelly-Powell told Irish Illustrated earlier this week he plans to visit Notre Dame again April 14. He’s likely to be joined by four-star receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, a Cass Tech teammate. Both have offers and last visited for the January Junior Day.
- Four-star wide receiver Osiris St. Brown plans to visit Stanford this weekend. Notre Dame has offered St. Brown, the younger brother of freshman wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Stanford is considered a serious contender, and perhaps leader, for Osiris.