Master List: Defense

Some of Notre Dame’s top defensive targets are dropping off the board. But others are in wait-and-see mode with an important visit weekend pending for safety Amari Carter and cornerback Elijah Hicks.

Defensive Line

Cortez Alston
6-3, 247
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Michigan State, USC, Tennessee
Alston had been scheduled to visit for the Miami game. Now it’s unclear if that trip will happen in light of Donovan Jeter’s commitment. It could be a numbers game that moves Alston away from the Irish at this point.
Darnell Ewell
6-4, 295
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Committed on July 15
Ewell finished off interior defensive line recruiting in a big way, giving the Irish a rare pledge out of the Tidewater area of Virginia. He could play on either side of the ball but will take his bullish talents to defense in South Bend.
Kurt Hinish
6-3, 285
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Committed on March 21
Hinish is sometimes overlooked in this defensive line recruiting haul, yet has been one of its most productive members during the season with tackles for loss. He’s been key for Central Catholic.
Donovan Jeter
6-6, 261
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Committed on Sept. 19
Fans bemoaned the potential recruiting impact of a home loss to Michigan State only to see Jeter give a commitment days later. Full credit to the Irish staff as they rallied to close on the four-star defensive end from outside his top five.
Jonathon MacCollister
6-4, 255
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Committed on June 17
Commitment runs have to start somewhere and it was MacCollister who got Notre Dame rolling just before Irish Invasion kicked off. MacCollister might be destined for the interior eventually, but he’s a quality add.
Joshua Paschal
6-3, 253
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Clemson, Maryland, Ohio State
UPDATE: Visiting last summer had Paschal talking about a return trip. Right now it’s unclear if Notre Dame can even be a legitimate option, although Paschal continues to list the Irish in his mix. Maryland is considered the favorite with Oklahoma making a push.
Notes: Could Notre Dame be done on the defensive line? It’s possible, even if not completely by choice. Four stars Darnell Ewell and Donovan Jeter are no doubt the jewels of the current commitments. Ewell is destined for the inside as a rugged yet athletic prospect. Jeter shows more pass rush ability in a similarly large frame. Kurt Hinish and Jonathon MacCollister round out the current haul. So, what remains? K’Jakyre Daley is officially off the list after giving Oklahoma a commitment. Cortez Alston might not be long for the list either. Alston had been scheduled to visit for the Miami game but with Jeter jumping on board, there’s not much need to push. Joshua Paschal continues to list the Irish. Other programs are clearly more significant players and Paschal likely has work to do if Notre Dame is to be a serious option. That’s not a bet you want to make at this point. That leaves the Irish with a four-man haul and few remaining targets. Elite pass rushers like Robert Beal and Joshua Kaindoh have fallen by the wayside. Should another one pop onto the radar, it’s hard to imagine them being turned away. If Notre Dame really goes to a more 3-4 defensive structure this class might be a perfect fit for it.


David Adams
6-2, 225
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Booker Committed on March 20
Adams plays with Kurt Hinish at Pittsburgh Central Catholic and beat his teammate in committing to Notre Dame by a day. In terms of position, Adams looks like a future middle linebacker.
Rahyme Johnson
6-4, 210
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: Florida, Nebraska, Texas A&M
UPDATE: Johnson started official visits with a trip to Nebraska earlier this month. Texas A&M has one on the schedule for November. Notre Dame had been in line to receive one this weekend but Johnson had to reschedule because of a game conflict.
Pete Werner
6-3, 210
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Committed on March 21
Werner capped off Notre Dame’s run on linebacker commitments with a somewhat surprising pledge. He stars at Indianapolis Cathedral, a school and program that often sends students up U.S. 31 for college.
Drew White
6-1, 220
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Committed on March 21
Notre Dame got back in at St. Thomas Aquinas in Fort Lauderdale by snagging White, one of its top defensive players. A foot injury held White back toward the end of last season but he’s since fully recovered and that didn’t keep the Irish, plus several others, from offering.
Notes: Options are dwindling at linebacker. It’s mostly predictable. Spring commitments from David Adams, Pete Werner and Drew White put Notre Dame in position to chase big, uncommitted fish. But as losses mounted, momentum eroded. Baron Browning and Jacob Phillips are off the list. Browning talked about returning to South Bend after an Irish Invasion visit. He’d even mentioned the Stanford game as a possibility. Instead, others have stepped into the void as the Irish have fallen off. Browning already visited Michigan and is expected to see Alabama, Florida State, UCLA and Ohio State before a planned Nov. 29 announcement. Texas is also involved — Browning visited the Longhorns for their season opener. Consensus seems to be Ohio State eventually landing Browning, so the rich get richer in that regard. Phillips seemed a more realistic target. He visited during spring and didn’t make it back over the summer but followed through with an official visit for the Michigan State game. Turns out Notre Dame couldn’t do enough. He committed to Oklahoma on Oct. 12. Rahyme Johnson is an option, at least for now. He’d been scheduled to visit for the Stanford game but had to postpone. Now it’s wait-and-see as to whether he puts a trip to South Bend back on the schedule. Nebraska, which hosted Johnson in early October, continues to emerge as a potential favorite. Notre Dame doesn’t necessarily need more linebackers with three already committed. Then again, like defensive line, it would be hard to turn an elite one way. There just aren’t any on the board at the moment.


Paulson Adebo
6-1, 180
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Sanford Committed on June 20
UPDATE: Adebo hasn’t been back in South Bend since giving Notre Dame a somewhat surprise commitment in June after visiting in March. That’ll change this weekend as the four-star prospect gets back on campus for the Stanford game.
Thomas Graham
5-11, 163
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Oklahoma, UCLA, USC
Graham returned to Notre Dame for the Michigan State game, which left a real impact. But how far away from home does Graham want to be in college? That’s the question. Arizona seems to have positioned itself well. Oregon and UCLA are also involved with the one-time USC pledge.
Elijah Hicks
5-10, 170
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: Oregon, UCLA, USC
UPDATE: Notre Dame finally gets Hicks, who attends the same high school that produced Irish tight end Tyler Luatua, on campus this weekend. Hicks is fresh off another trip to USC. Northwestern, UCLA, Washington and Cal are also on the list.
Michael Onyemaobi
6-1, 185
Offer: No Visit: No Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Cal
Notre Dame started its evaluation of Onyemaobi back in the spring. He later committed to Cal, so the communication fell off. Things have since picked back up with Mike Sanford telling the Cal pledge that Notre Dame will check early season film.
Ambry Thomas
5-11, 160
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
Somehow even with multiple visits to campus it seemed like a matter of time before Thomas started to fade off the radar. Feels like that's started to happen. Thomas hasn’t been back on campus since summer, plus in-state programs Michigan and Michigan State have become more firmly entrenched.
Shaun Wade 
6-2, 175
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Ohio State
UPDATE: At the very least, Notre Dame made things more interesting with Wade after an official visit for the Michigan State game. He’s since said his parents are “comfortable” with the Irish. Florida, Alabama and Virginia Tech are also involved with the Ohio State pledge.
Notes: You’re probably looking for a little more optimistic news in defensive recruiting. Cornerback offers some hope. Paulson Adebo gave Todd Lyght a strong foundation with his summer pledge. Elijah Hicks bears watching as his official visit nears. Hicks is a top academic prospect from a high school that’s already sent Tyler Luatua to South Bend. He’s considering other top academic choices like Northwestern and Cal, so distance isn’t necessarily an issue. There’s little doubt Hicks will enjoy and identify with things on campus. Thomas Graham has already done so. Graham returned with his parents for the Michigan State game. Word is his parents have essentially signed off on the Irish. Now it’s a matter of whether Graham wants to play college ball that far from home. Arizona has emerged as a dark horse. It’s a close race. Shaun Wade is intriguing even if his recruitment is murky. Ohio State has held a commitment for months. Yet Wade continues to evaluate other options. Notre Dame hosted him in the summer and again for the Michigan State game. Wade spoke highly of the experience. But it’s not a head’s up battle between two Midwest powers. Florida is also involved and received a visit recently. Alabama will get an official visit soon and Wade has talked about setting one up to Virginia Tech as well. It’s hard enough to flip a prospect committed to Ohio State. It’s even more difficult when you’re not the only other option he’s considering. There have been a couple deletions: Elijah Gates scratched the Irish after the firing of defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder. Five-star Darnay Holmes is also off the list pending some renewed interest.


Chaz Ah You
6-2, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
UPDATE: Right now it looks like most of Ah You’s visits will take place after the season. Notre Dame is still a possibility but has plenty of work to do. Stanford and Washington are likely January visits. UCLA is the prohibitive favorite.
Amari Carter
6-2, 180
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Top Offers: Clemson, Miami, Wisconsin
UPDATE: Carter will make the trek Notre Dame again this weekend and there might be no more important visitor in attendance. He’s long been the top safety target on the board. Connections to the current roster via former teammates helps, but the Irish have to overcome hometown Miami, which might lead right now.
Jaiden Cole
6-1, 195
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Arkansas, Texas A&M, Washington
Cole made it to campus for the Michigan State game, a trip he reviewed positively while also mentioning South Bend was colder than expected. In September. That’s not exactly a great narrative for the Irish moving forward. Arizona State and Oklahoma State are other official visit possibilities.
Devon Hunter
6-1, 206
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Alabama, Auburn, Clemson
UPDATE: There was good news on this front. It didn’t last long. Hunter had been slated to visit for the Stanford game but then postponed. Nothing else is scheduled at this point. It’s never a positive when a long shot recruitment starts pushing back potential visits.
Isaiah Pola-Mao
6-4, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Arizona State, USC, Washington
UPDATE: Pola-Mao continues to express a desire to see Notre Dame. There’s no reason to doubt his sincerity in that regard. But it’s difficult to see him leaving the West Coast. Arizona State has been considered a favorite with Washington emerging as well.
Jaylen Kelly-Powell
6-1, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
Kelly-Powell is similar to Ambry Thomas, a fellow Detroit native. He gave Notre Dame a real look in the spring and summer. Since then it feels like things have tapered off. Michigan has been a heavy favorite for months.
Isaiah Robertson
6-3, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denbrock Committed on April 15 
Robertson pushed up the inevitable by giving the Irish a spring commitment. Also a potential wide receiver, Robertson expects to get his first shot on defense when the time comes to enroll next summer.
Notes: Make no mistake: Stanford weekend is a big one for Notre Dame safety recruiting. Isaiah Robertson has been a foundation at the position since his April commitment. Robertson plays wide receiver as well at the high school level but will start on defense in college. He’ll join a young safety pairing of Devin Studstill and Jalen Elliott that’s shown promise. What about adding more talent to the defensive backfield? Amari Carter is and has been the primary target. Carter attends the same South Florida high school that produced current Irish linebacker Te’von Coney and Studstill. Those connections help. Yet there’s a been a sense that Miami, given its 4-1 start and hometown vibe, has taken the lead. Notre Dame could overcome that and perhaps surge into the poll position with a standout visit as a follow up to Irish Invasion. One way or another, Carter’s decision will be known soon. He’s set to announce Oct. 22. Aside from Carter, other targets are less certain. Chaz Ah You continues to list Notre Dame as a possible visit. He last saw campus in the spring. Ah You had been scheduled to visit Oklahoma State but that trip has been pushed back until after the season, most likely. Other postseason visits include Stanford and Washington. Oregon, like Notre Dame, is hanging around the fringes. UCLA remains the favorite. Ah You might sneak in a trip to Los Angeles before the season ends. Jaiden Cole made his visit to Notre Dame and came away thinking a nearly 80-degree day was cold, which probably isn’t a good sign. Cole has listed Arizona State and Oklahoma State as other official visit possibilities. Devon Hunter has talked about visiting South Bend since summer. That appeared to be finally happening for Stanford weekend. But early in the week, Hunter revealed the visit would be postponed. Notre Dame would no doubt like the five-star safety to reschedule. We’ll see if it happens. Same goes for Isaiah Pola-Mao, who’s consistently mentioned wanting to visit. In the end, it’ll be difficult for the Irish to pull Pola-Mao off the West Coast. Still worth a try if he’s willing to make the trip. Carter looks like Notre Dame’s best option and it likely needs to make a serious rally with one more visit before he announces. Should Carter pick the Canes, it might be time to extend a new offer or two at safety if the plan is to add at least one more.

Updated: 10/13/16 Top Stories