Steve Hare /

Master List: Defense

Notre Dame scored a big commitment in four-star end Donovan Jeter. But work remains at cornerback and safety. With a plenty of September official visits in the books, Irish Illustrated updates the Master List.

Defensive Line

Cortez Alston
6-3, 247
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Booker Top Offers: Michigan State, USC, Tennessee
Update: 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.
K’Jakyre Daley
6-3, 215
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Mississippi State, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Update: It’s starting to feel like the trend here should be down. Daley put Notre Dame in his top group after landing an offer but didn’t get to campus over summer. He’s visited Iowa State and Oklahoma so far this season. Right now the Sooners are considered the favorite.
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
Update: 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
Update: 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 over the summer helped Paschal see Notre Dame in a different light, vaulting the Irish into his top group. But it’s uncertain if the Irish can be a real option unless Paschal gets some things done off the field to make it happen. We’ll see.
Notes: Looking for a bright spot during a rough September on the field? Donovan Jeter is a great place to start. Notre Dame didn’t make Jeter’s top five coming out of the summer. But persistent work from the coaching staff and the Western Pennsylvania commitments got a visit on the schedule. Jeter attended the Michigan State game and committed two days later. He’s a legitimate four-star prospect with size and pass rush ability. Jeter joins a defensive line haul that includes Kurt Hinish, Darnell Ewell and Jonathon MacCollister. Hinish and Ewell project on the inside. MacCollister likely does as well, although he could be more of a strong side defensive end. Either way, Notre Dame still seeks more edge rushers and hasn’t had much luck finding them. Joshua Kaindoh (Maryland) and Robert Beal (Georgia) are two big misses there. Cortez Alston had been scheduled to visit for the Miami game after not being able to schedule a summer visit. Donovan Jeter might have beat Alston to the proverbial punch, however, meaning numbers aren’t working in his favor. K’Jakyre Daley has taken official visits to Iowa State and Oklahoma with no other trips currently on the schedule. Oklahoma is considered the favorite. Predictions on Joshua Paschal are all over the place. Maryland seems difficult to beat for the in-state product. But there are others in play as well. Notre Dame boosted its chances with a summer visit. Right now there’s no official visit on deck and it’s likely Paschal has a little work to do if the Irish are going to be a legitimate option. Make no mistake, this is a nice defensive line haul as it stands. Could it be better? Absolutely. There’s still need for a difference makers at weak side defensive end. If one were to become available or be more interested, the Irish won’t turn them away.


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.
Baron Browning
6-4, 230
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Alabama, TCU, Texas
Update: Browning has been tentatively scheduled to visit for the Stanford game since summer. Now we’ll have to see if that trip actually happens. Michigan hosts the five-star talent this weekend and Ohio State is scheduled to do so in November. Texas has been trending recently. Browning visited the Longhorns for their game against Notre Dame.
Rahyme Johnson
6-4, 210
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: Florida, Nebraska, Texas A&M
Update: Johnson is lining up official visits. Nebraska gets one to start October and Johnson is looking to visit Texas A&M in November. Notre Dame had been on the docket for the Stanford game, but Johnson had to reschedule because of a game conflict.
Jacob Phillips
6-3, 223
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Elston Top Offers: Auburn, Oklahoma, Tennessee
Update: Phillips made it in for the Michigan State game and gave the trip positive reviews. He’s already seen Oklahoma, long considered the leader by some, and Oregon. Alabama is up next, then Phillips is likely headed into decision-making mode. Notre Dame is right in the thick of things. Could Oklahoma win out? Is Alabama going to make a push? We’ll know soon enough.
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: Realistic linebacker targets have dwindled and with good reason. Notre Dame essentially filled its quota during the spring with commitments from David Adams, Pete Werner and Drew White. Now it’s about chasing luxury targets, prospects the Irish view as so talented or versatile they wouldn’t turn them away. Baron Browning headlines that list. Browning spoke highly of his Irish Invasion visit and liked it enough (more than he even expected) to set a return trip for the Stanford game during the fall. It will still be tough to land Browning, as it is with most elite defenders, but getting him back on campus for an official visit speaks to his interest. Browning plans to visit Michigan this weekend and has a trip to Ohio State scheduled. Texas has been pushing as well. Browning’s older brother, Barry, played for Jim Harbaugh at Stanford. Jacob Phillips will have seen all his primary contenders by the end of this week. Alabama gets the last visit. There’s much to be decided here. Could Alabama make a final push to land Phillips? Can Oklahoma hold others off? Did another visit let Notre Dame work its way to the top? We’ll likely know the answer sooner than later. There’s been an emerging consensus with Phillips that Alabama has made a move, joining or perhaps even surpassing Notre Dame and Oklahoma atop the list. But for now the plan is to take visits and go from there. It’s also worth noting, Phillips could grow into a defensive end down the line, a la Daelin Hayes. That’s just fine by the Irish as they continue their pursuit and will worry about his position later.


Paulson Adebo
6-1, 180
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Sanford Committed on June 20
Notre Dame had been quietly in the driver’s seat for Adebo following a Junior Day visit during the spring. Ultimately that’s all it took as the Irish won out over Stanford, Texas and a couple others.
Elijah Gates
5-11, 170
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: Michigan, Oregon, UCLA
Update: Gates had to postpone a planned visit to TCU and hasn't come up with a new date. Short list schools include Notre Dame, UCLA and Oregon with many believing the Ducks hold a slight edge. The Irish are likely to get a visit but it’ll take more work to get Gates off the West Coast.
Thomas Graham
5-11, 163
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Sanford Top Offers: Oklahoma, UCLA, USC
Update: 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
Todd Lyght extended an offer to Hicks, who’s from the same high school that produced Irish tight end Tyler Luatua. Hicks takes academics seriously and is already looking to use one of his official visits for a trip to South Bend.
Darnay Holmes 
5-10, 185
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denbrock Top Offers: Ohio State, Stanford, USC
Looking for star power? Holmes brings plenty of that to the table as the nation’s top-ranked cornerback. He visited late in the summer and has since talked about taking an official visit. Michigan and Michigan State got Holmes on campus in early August.
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
Update: 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: Wade was serious when it came to seeing Notre Dame again after a summer visit. He returned with his family for the Michigan State game. Now it seems likely Wade doesn't end up at Ohio State. Problem for the Irish is Alabama and Florida are also very much involved.
Notes: Paulson Adebo, who’s missed some time this season with a minor knee injury, remains the only commitment at cornerback and it’s somewhat difficult to see from where another might come. Salvon Ahmed is off the board after taking an official visit. He committed to Washington a week after seeing the Irish. Thomas Graham and Shaun Wade joined Ahmed on campus for the Michigan State game. It’s clear the Irish have had an impact on Graham, who also visited for Junior Day back in the spring. But is it enough? Graham is strongly considering options closer to home. Some think Arizona is the team to beat. UCLA is also in the mix. It’s becoming more and more clear that Wade could very well get away from Ohio State. Notre Dame has scored two visits — one during the summer and the fall follow up — but it’s not a head’s up battle. Alabama and Florida are working to flip Wade as well. Having a crowded field in that situation isn’t a good thing for anybody, less so for a program that’s farther from home like Notre Dame. Elijah Gates is a likely official visitor at some point and Elijah Hicks, another California-based prospect, is worth monitoring. Hicks is strong academically and a seemingly clear match for the program off the field. He’ll have to visit at some point. It’s a downward trend with Ambry Thomas these days as it’s hard to envision him getting away from one of the major programs in Michigan barring a sea change. Darnay Holmes has always been a long shot. It’s especially difficult to convince elite talent like Holmes to jump on board when the wins aren’t piling up. Jaylon Redd, a teammate of Graham’s, is off the board to Oregon.


Chaz Ah You
6-2, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Oregon, Stanford, UCLA
Update: Notre Dame has been consistently mentioned by Ah You since an unofficial visit, yet UCLA has long been considered the leader. Ah You likely stretches his recruitment into the winter with Stanford and Washington potential January visits. Oklahoma State will get a trip this weekend.
Amari Carter
6-2, 180
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Denson Top Offers: Clemson, Miami, Wisconsin
Update: Carter remains a top target at safety as it shapes up to be a Miami-Notre Dame battle. Right now the plan is to visit again for the Stanford game, following up on an Irish Invasion trip. Carter has said he’d like to be committed in either September or October.
Jaiden Cole
6-1, 195
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Arkansas, Texas A&M, Washington
Update: 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
It says something about Notre Dame’s recruiting effort just to be in the conversation. Hunter said at The Opening Finals he wants to visit in the summer. If not, it’s looking like an official. Alabama is in line for an official too with several others also in the mix.
K.J. Jarrell
6-2, 185
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Arizona, Arizona State, USC
Jarrell hasn’t yet ruled out Notre Dame and is even talking about an official visit, although nothing is scheduled. He recently listed Arizona State, Nebraska, USC and Washington as the programs recruiting him hardest.
Isaiah Pola-Mao
6-4, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: No Recruiter: Lyght Top Offers: Arizona State, USC, Washington
Update: Right now the signs point toward Pola-Mao staying close to home at Arizona State. But Washington has emerged as a real contender as well. Notre Dame is on the short list and could/should receive an official visit. Don’t count out USC and Cal, either.
Jaylen Kelly-Powell
6-1, 190
Offer: Yes Visit: Yes Recruiter: Gilmore Top Offers: Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State
Update: 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: Safety recruiting has gotten a little more interesting since the season started, especially as those on the current Notre Dame roster have struggled. There’s some promising young talent in Devin Studstill and Jalen Elliott. But the Irish need more. Isaiah Robertson is a nice start. He’s smooth, athletic and is having a productive senior season on offense and defense. But there needs to be more than just one safety in this class. Amari Carter, who attends the same high school that produced Studstill and linebacker Te’von Coney, is the top target. It’s a Notre Dame-Miami battle no matter what other programs are mentioned. Miami is about 90 minutes from home and will get Carter on campus again Oct. 8. He’ll be at Notre Dame the following week for the Stanford game and it’s not out of the question that a decision comes that month. Notre Dame would, no doubt, like to finish that recruitment off sooner than later and beat back the Hurricanes down the stretch. 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. It’s not necessarily a deal breaker either as the Louisiana prospect otherwise gave things in South Bend a positive review. Chaz Ah You and Isaiah Pola-Mao are two of the top safeties in the West and both continue to list Notre Dame as a future visit destination. Ah You has already been on campus once. UCLA is considered the comfortable leader at the moment with more visits likely to happen during the winter. It’s also worth noting that Ah You plans to serve his Mormon mission after high school, so the program that receives his pledge won’t get him for a couple more years. All in all, things will be much more clear after Carter visits. Adding him would be a big boost. Otherwise, it might be time to extend some new offers.

Updated: 9/28/16 Top Stories