Two weeks separate most of Notre Dame’s incoming freshmen from their first college classes.
Some have already joined the program — safety Devin Studstill, defensive end Daelin Hayes, safety Spencer Perry, wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and defensive end Khalid Kareem finished high school a semester early and went through spring practices.
The rest will show up for the summer session. They’ll get a jump on their academics and start going through the offseason conditioning program with strength and conditioning coordinator Paul Longo. They’ll also dive into the playbook, compete in 7-on-7, and participate in organized training with the coaching staff as allowed by NCAA rules.
Irish Illustrated caught up with a few of the incoming freshmen for a final time before they officially join the program, with summer school’s first classes coming on June 13.
Jonathan Jones has been a high school graduate more than a week. The inside linebacker signee has been enjoying his time at home in Orlando, Fla. until he reports to Notre Dame.
“I’ve just been chilling with friends and family,” Jones said. “I’ve been looking at the playbook and working out. I’m definitely ready to get up there. I definitely don’t have a scared feeling. I’m ready to ball out. I’m most curious about the academics and how they plan that out for us. I feel real confident in myself, just ready to get up there.”
Jones is pleased with his offseason efforts from a physical standpoint.
“I’m at 225 right now, which is a real good weight,” Jones said. “It’s a good default weight. They could keep me at 225 honestly, but they’ll probably put 15 pounds on me.”
By mid-June, here’s what cornerback signee Troy Pride Jr. will have accomplished in a span of less than one month: Winning four state championships, giving the closing remarks at high school graduation, and enrolling at Notre Dame.
Earlier in May, Pride took home South Carolina Class 3A state championships in the 100-meter dash (10.55 seconds), 200 (21.28 seconds) and 400 (48.20). He ran the second leg in the 4-by-100 relay (42.20), which won him a fourth state championship.
“I missed the state record of the 200 by .18 seconds,” Pride said. “All of my times were all-time Greer records except for the relay time, which we missed by .20 seconds.
“I made up my mind I was going to take what I wanted. Once I decided what I wanted, I took it. I started the day winning the 100, which I haven’t ran well in the past, so that gave me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the day. The 400 was the one I felt most confident about because I was the returning state champion. But you never you know because it’s such a long race. None of them came easy.”
Next week, Pride will take center stage to send off Greer’s graduating Class of 2016.
“I’m our class representative for our student government, so they chose me to close things out at graduation,” Pride said. “I think I symbolize what being a student at Greer is all about. I’m definitely honored.”
Julian Love has spent spring packing on muscle, adding 11 pounds from last season to get to 186 pounds. He hopes to be at about 190 upon enrollment.
As for expectations, Love is trying not to have any. Instead of quizzing good friend Miles Boykin about what’s in store, Love simply wants to figure it out on his own starting next month.
“I expect a lot of weight lifting and I expect it to go by fast in regards to the playbook and installs,” Love said. “But I’m not really sure. I haven’t really asked Miles a lot because he usually tells me everything I need to prepare for. But I don’t want to. I want to figure out everything on my own. I’m just excited. I’m not sure what’s in store.”
Cracking the rotation for Love would make his freshman season a success. As for a baseline, he sees being on most of the special teams units as a good starting point.
“This sounds weird but special teams is probably my favorite part about football,” Love said. “It’s my mom’s favorite part. She always tells me her most exciting part of a football game is the opening kickoff. I agree with that. You can set a tone whether it’s on kickoff, kickoff return, punt. Punt return, I don’t even need to be returning the ball. I’d love to be a gunner, corner, anything.”
Other signees weigh in:
“I cannot wait to begin my career at Notre Dame. It’s always been a dream of mine to play college football. I just can’t believe it’s here now. I just can’t wait to form that bond with all the teammates and meet new friends around campus.” – linebacker Jamir Jones
“This is something that I knew was going to happen but I didn’t realize how fast it has come. I’m ready and excited to start my career at Notre Dame and being coached by Harry Hiestand.” – offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg
“I'm very excited to work with the guys up there. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and working with coach Hiestand as much as possible.” – offensive lineman Tommy Kraemer
“It's an amazing feeling to know that the next stage of my life is about to start. I’m looking forward to just getting to know everybody and making connections and getting in the playbook and weight room.” – defensive back Jalen Elliott
RB outlook: Trending up for Wilson, down for Williams?
Scout 300 running back Colin Wilson considers the Irish among his top five schools in a recruitment that has been difficult to track. In-state programs Florida, Florida State and Miami have been patient in their pursuit of Wilson, who was injured for most of last season and played defense.
Wilson grew up a diehard Gators fan, so if Florida turns up the heat, general consensus is that he ends up in Gainesville. But Wilson has not taken a visit in over a year and isn’t enamored with the recruiting process. It will be interesting to see who gets him on campus this summer and fall. If Notre Dame can be one of those schools, the Irish could end up emerging as serious contender for the second-ranked running back in the Sunshine State.
If the outlook is trending in a positive direction for Wilson, it’s the opposite scenario for four-star running back Alaric Williams, who visited Notre Dame in the fall as an Auburn commitment.
“(Notre Dame) has kind of laid back, you could say,” Williams said. “Most of the schools that are still recruiting me in are the South, so that may be it. But Nebraska is still coming after me, so I’m not sure. I used to talk to coach (Autry) Denson often but now not so much.”
Williams has been committed to Auburn since last July.
News and notes
Four-star prospect Nate McBride of Vidalia, Ga. plans to check out Notre Dame for the first time on an official visit this fall. Alabama and Georgia are considered the frontrunners for McBride, but Notre Dame, Oregon and Stanford are also in the mix.
Four-star cornerback Yusuf Corker capped a productive spring evaluation period with a Notre Dame offer earlier this week. Michigan State, Penn State, West Virginia and Louisville are some other programs to offer this month. South Carolina appears to lead with Tennessee not far behind.
Irish quarterback commitment Avery Davis landed an invite Tuesday to the Elite 11 Finals, slated to take place in Los Angeles next week. Davis was the 22nd quarterback added to the event. Participants will compete June 3-5 with the top 11 chosen at the end earning a place at The Opening Finals on the NIKE campus in July. Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford watched Davis on Wednesday during the Cedar Hill spring game. Davis will be back on campus for Irish Invasion.
Incoming long snapper John Shannon is fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery. He’s been lifting weights and snapping this spring and expects to be full go for the offseason conditioning program.
Some updated heights and weights of the incoming class are listed below.
QB Ian Book: 6-1, 208
OL Parker Boudreaux: 6-4, 303
OL Liam Eichenberg: 6-6, 295
DB Jalen Elliott: 6-1, 197
LB Jamir Jones: 6-4, 225
LB Jonathan Jones: 6-1, 225
RB Tony Jones Jr.: 6-0, 220
OL Tommy Kraemer: 6-6, 315
DB Julian Love: 6-0, 186
WR Javon McKinley: 6-2, 202
S/LB D.J. Morgan: 6-2, 208
DB Troy Pride Jr.: 5-11, 178
LS John Shannon: 6-2, 235
DB Donte Vaughn: 6-3, 200
- The offensive linemen are currently the only position group to know what number they’ll be wearing at Notre Dame. Boudreaux (No. 50), Kraemer (No. 78) and Eichenberg (No. 74) make up that group.