Insider Report: Irish staff in evaluation mode

Irish Illustrated takes a look at notable recruiting stops made by the staff this week, the latest in recruiting the Peach State, and a trio of Scout 300 defensive backs eyeing visits to South Bend.

The spring evaluation period is fully underway.

It kicked off on April 15 and extends through May 31. Coaches are permitted to evaluate individual prospects twice during this period, but no in-person communication is allowed.

This past week Notre Dame coaches touched down in California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana and Indiana.

Listed below by high school are the headlining prospects that received visits from the Irish staff.

Mike Denbrock (California)

St. John Bosco: OG Wyatt Davis (offer), S Jaiden Woodbey (2018 offer)

Mission Viejo: WR Austin Osborne (2018), CB Olaijah Griffin (2018) 

Orange Lutheran: S Brandon McKinney, ATH Malone Mataele (2018) 

Calabasas: CB Darnay Holmes (offer), CB Brendan Radley-Hiles (2018 offer) 

Buena Park: CB Elijah Gates (offer)

Hawkins: WR Joseph Lewis (offer), WR Jalen Hall (2018 offer), S Aashari Crosswell (2018 offer), ATH Marcus Johnson (2018 offer) 

Mater Dei: WR Osiris St. Brown (offer), ATH Amon-ra St. Brown (2018 offer), QB J.T. Daniels (2019 offer) 

Autry Denson (Florida)

St. Thomas Aquinas: LB Drew White (2017 commit), WR Josh Palmer (2017), CB Asante Samuel Jr. (2018), DE Nik Bonitto (2018)

University School: CB Al Blades Jr. (2018)

Bishop Moore: DE Jonathon MacCollister (2017)

Suncoast: DE K’Jakyre Daley (2017)

Mike Elston (Indiana)

Cathedral: LB Pete Werner (2017 commit), RB Markese Stepp (2018 offer), OG Emil Ekiyor (2018), LB Hugh Davis (2018)

Ben Davis: DT LeShaun Minor (2017), DE Esezi Otomoweo (2017), LB Willie Ervin (2018)

Todd Lyght (Florida and Louisiana)

Cardinal Gibbons: S Daniel Wright (offer)

Palm Beach: S Amari Carter (offer)

Mater Academy: CB Latavious Brini (offer)

Destrehan: WR Michael Young (offer)

Amite: WR Devonta Smith (offer)

Note: Brini plans to visit Notre Dame for Irish Invasion.

Mike Sanford (California)

Luther Burbank: DE D.J. Johnson (offer)

Rancho Cucamonga: CB Thomas Graham (offer), CB Jaylon Redd (offer)

Note: Following Sanford’s visit, Graham scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame for the weekend of Sept. 17 when Notre Dame hosts Michigan State. UCLA is Notre Dame’s biggest competition. Graham visited Notre Dame for Junior Day in March. 

Brian VanGorder (Georgia)

Morgan County: DE M.J. Webb (offer)

May Commitments Scarce For Irish

Recent history says the spring evaluation period, specifically May, leads to summer commitments rather than immediate returns. During the past six recruiting cycles the Irish have landed just seven May commitments that ultimately signed. Three times they’ve gone without a verbal pledge this month only to fire back up in June. 

The Irish had 10 commitments when May began with the most recent coming from four-star athlete Isaiah Robertson on April 15. That’s ahead of Notre Dame’s usual pace even if nobody else jumps on board until June. 

Only once — with the Class of 2013 — has Notre Dame had more total commitments at this time of year. Nobody committed in May that year but the Irish already had 12 pledges heading into the month. Former five-star prospect Jaylon Smith started things back up again June 2. 

Brian Kelly and staff also didn’t add May commitments in the classes of 2011 and 2016. Those groups entered June with eight (2011) and six (2016) commitments. 

C.J. Sanders and Josh Barajas gave Kelly a pair of May commitments in the Class of 2015. They boosted the total to seven heading into the June camp season. 

Likewise, Kelly added a pair of May commitments — offensive linemen Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars — in the Class of 2014 to bring the total to nine by month’s end. Two years previous is the high water mark: wide receiver Justin Ferguson, offensive lineman Mark Harrell and future running back C.J. Prosise all pledged in May. But that moved the Irish to just six total pledges entering June. 

All told, Notre Dame averages eight total commitments heading into June under Kelly while adding just about one in May per cycle. Regardless of what happens between now and June, Notre Dame has done well up to this point. 

Five-Star Corner To Visit?

Associate head coach Mike Denbrock made several stops in California this week, including a visit to Calabasas High School about an hour outside Los Angeles.

Sophomore cornerback Brendan Radley-Hiles scored an offer as a result of Denbrock’s trip but it’s five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes that could be the more intriguing story. Holmes and his father have both communicated to the Irish staff their intent to visit Notre Dame in June.

Up to this point, Notre Dame hasn’t been overly involved with 5-foot-10, 185-pound prospect.

Stanford, Nebraska, Ohio State and UCLA have received more buzz. Stanford is probably considered the favorite while Nebraska already has commitments from a pair of Calabasas prospects — wide receiver Keyshawn Johnson Jr. and quarterback Tristan Gebbia.

Holmes is tentatively scheduled to announce a commitment June 23, although recently there’s been talk of scrapping that plan and potentially taking all five official visits. Notre Dame would take that scenario for more time to work their way into the mix. 

Can Irish Get Back Into Georgia?

Notre Dame hasn’t signed a Georgia prospect since punter Tyler Newsome, striking out the past two cycles and taking more hits this campaign. 

The Irish suffered a de-commitment from four-star defensive end Robert Beal in February. On May 1, five-star athlete Demetris Robertson spurned Notre Dame and Georgia to commit to Cal. That same day Notre Dame’s top receiver target from the state in the ’17 cycle, Trey Blount, committed to Georgia.

So what’s left for the taking in the Peach State for Notre Dame? The Irish have offered nearly 20 Georgia prospects in the senior class.

Here are the top five names to know:

Holloman plans to visit Notre Dame next month for the Irish Invasion after being offered last week. Georgia leads, though, and a decision could come before the start of his senior season.

McKinney has been committed to Alabama since September, but he’s still pursuing different options, including Notre Dame. A visit could occur this summer.

Notre Dame made Terrell’s top five after he visited for Junior Day in March. Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and South Carolina also made the list. Look for Terrell to return to campus in the fall.

Thomas visited Notre Dame for Junior Day in March. In April, he declared Georgia and Clemson as his top schools with the Bulldogs holding the edge. Teammate Blount committed to Georgia last week. Notre Dame could still host Thomas on an official visit even if a commitment to the Dawgs occurs this summer. He was impressed on his first visit to campus and declared the Irish a “ top school” afterward.

Notre Dame offered Webb this past week. He’s being courted by numerous SEC programs but says a visit to Ohio State opened his eyes to leaving the South. Webb plans to visit Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion.

New Offer Roundup

UCLA scored a commitment from Johnson last summer but he’s not solid to the Bruins. Johnson said he’s open to Notre Dame after its offer and noted Jaylon Smith’s path from South Bend to the NFL despite a knee injury. Nebraska, Miami, Michigan and Michigan State are other programs in contact.

Let’s just say this will be an uphill battle for Notre Dame, even if signing day is a long way off for the Class of 2018. Joseph is from Baton Rouge, La., and committed to hometown LSU in February. He’s already one of the top defensive backs in the South, so it’s no surprise the Tigers made their move early.

At 6-foot-5, 230-pounds, the sophomore tight end already holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Texas, Texas A&M and UCLA. He hasn’t named favorites, but it’s fair to say he’ll be a highly coveted prospect next cycle.

There’s plenty of talent worth seeing at Calabasas High — notably five-star cornerback Darnay Holmes — and Radley-Hiles is next in line. Mike Denbrock visited the school and left word of a scholarship offer. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and UCLA are already on the sophomore cornerback too.

Redd is one of the top cornerbacks on the West Coast with offers from Arizona State, Cal, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, UCLA, USC and Washington, among others. He recently mentioned wanting to visit Nebraska and Oklahoma this offseason. UCLA and Oregon played host last month. Notre Dame is no stranger to Rancho Cucamonga High School, which produced former Irish target Chris Hawkins, who ended up at USC.

Another defensive back from St. Augustine in San Diego worth pursuing for Notre Dame, this time in the Class of 2018. Former target Frank Buncom, who signed with Stanford, also came out of St. Augustine. Taylor also has offers from Arizona, San Diego State, UCLA and Utah.

Webb might be a three-star prospect but his offer list reveals one of the most talented defensive linemen in the South. Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan, Penn State and Tennessee are all among the suitors. He plans to visit Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion before making a decision before the start of his senior year.

Denbrock made a stop this week at St. John Bosco, one of the top programs in Southern California. There are always multiple prospects worth noting and Woodbey is one of the best in the Class of 2018. Elite offers — LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, UCLA, USC and Alabama — are already on the list. Top Stories