Notre Dame Insider Report: Quarterbacks up, D-line down

The Insider Report checks in with both Notre Dame’s quarterback commitments, with Avery Davis in for a big weekend. What’s next with defensive line recruiting? The Irish face some tough questions.

Last week quarterback commitment Avery Davis earned a spot to the Elite 11 Finals, an invite-only competition in Los Angeles featuring 24 of the nation’s top quarterbacks in the Class of 2017.

Davis spoke to Irish Illustrated about the honor.

“It feels great,” Davis said. “I was overlooked for most of high school, so to now get the recognition is a good feeling.”

Davis, who leads Cedar Hill High School in Texas, is one of five signal-callers from the Lone Star State headed to the finals. That’s more than any state.

Quarterbacks committed to Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, LSU, Michigan, Michigan State, Oklahoma, Penn State, Rutgers, Stanford, Syracuse, TCU, Texas and Texas A&M all earned invites. 

“That’s what I’m really excited about,” said Davis, referring to the opportunity to compete side-by-side with other top quarterbacks. “I’m excited about picking the brains of the other quarterbacks and learning new things when I’m out there.”

Following this weekend’s competition in Los Angeles, 12 quarterbacks will be invited to the prestigious Elite 11 camp held in July at Nike World Headquarters as part of The Opening Finals.

Davis has the opportunity to join Irish quarterbacks Malik Zaire, DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush as Elite 11 alumni if selected to compete in Oregon. 

“I think I just have to play my brand of football,” Davis said. “I’ve been studying the playbook. It’s really about finishing every throw and competing. I need to finish every throw.” 

Notre Dame offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford watched Davis play in Cedar Hill’s spring game last week. In two weeks he’ll coach his future quarterback inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Davis will head back to South Bend for the first time since making a commitment.

“This is going to be a really big month, now that I think about it,” Davis said. “I can’t wait for Irish Invasion. I’m really excited to get coached by coach Sanford when I’m there and meet the other players and recruits.

“I’ve met (offensive line commitments) Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons before, but I’m excited to meet some of the other guys and see the Notre Dame players that I got hang out with last night on my visit.”

Auburn offered Davis last week, but the 5-foot-11, 190-pounder is solid with the Irish.

“Oh yeah, I rep Notre Dame everywhere I go,” Davis said.

Jurkovec all in with Irish

Phil Jurkovec was the first when he went Irish last month. Now the quarterback commitment wants to help Notre Dame add to its Class of 2018.

The 6-foot-5, 200-pounder from Gibsonia, Pa., has spoken to several rising junior prospects already, including four-star running backs Markese Stepp (Indianapolis) and Jalen Gill (Westerville, Ohio), plus top tight end Zack Kuntz (Camp Hill, Pa.).

“I just hope for a great 2018 class to go to Notre Dame to help the 2017 class, which is already loaded,” Jurkovec said. “There’s a ton of time before my class signs but it would be awesome to get those three players.”

Jurkovec plans to reach out to several more prospects as well.

“There are a number of guys who I’ve either seen at camps or follow on Twitter who share interest in Notre Dame, so I want to reach out to them,” he said. “I’ll never be one to try to pressure someone into a decision though.”

Irish near the top with 4-star Florida back

Four-star running back Colin Wilson plans to make the trek from Green Cove Springs, Fla., for a closer look at Notre Dame soon. He’ll visit later this month for Irish Invasion, his first trip to campus.

“I’m really excited to check it out,” Wilson said. “They tell me that Notre Dame’s something I’ll understand once I see it for myself. (Autry Denson) is really cool, laid back and very relaxed. I like talking to him.”

Multiple programs are currently after Wilson, but two programs lead the pack in their communication with the 6-foot-1, 215-pound back.

“I talk with coaches from Notre Dame and Louisville the most,” Wilson said. “But I still talk to South Florida, Virginia Tech, South Carolina and North Carolina, too.”

Wilson foresees a commitment occurring this summer. Other trips in the works include Louisville, North Carolina and South Carolina.

Notre Dame offered Wilson in December.

“I think coaches are going to want to commit this summer,” Wilson said. “It’s going to depend on what I want to go to school for, and I don’t know that yet.”

D-line recruiting search drags on

Notre Dame defensive line recruiting suffered a few setbacks this week.

Four-star defensive end Corey Malone-Hatcher committed to Michigan on Thursday, an expected end to his recruitment. Malone-Hatcher chose the Wolverines over Notre Dame and some other finalists, but there’s no doubt the Irish finished in second place.

Malone-Hatcher hails from nearby St. Joseph, Mich., and had visited nearly a half-dozen times. He’d been scheduled to visit again for Irish Invasion.

“I know Notre Dame was right there in contention and I think there was a point in time where you could have said they were either the top school or one of the top schools on his list,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting manager. “He just seemed more comfortable at Michigan. Notre Dame was closer to home and he even mentioned that. I don't know if it was one of those cases where it was too close but for whatever reason, he said Michigan was the right fit.

“I definitely don't think it was a surprise. Michigan has been considered the leader for a little while now.”

Four-star defensive end LaBryan Ray said this week that family finances will probably stop him from making the Irish Invasion. Not getting an elite defensive target from the South on campus in the summer makes it a severe uphill climb, especially against local competition.

Even if Ray takes an official visit down the road, as he indicated is possible, Alabama is a formidable frontrunner. It will be hard to beat out the in-state powerhouse on one visit.

In another region, four-star defensive tackle Greg Rogers left Notre Dame out of his top six after previously saying the Irish were one of the programs recruiting him hardest. Colorado, USC, UCLA, Michigan, Oklahoma and Arizona State made the cut.

But there could be reasons for optimism as Irish Invasion nears.

K'Jakyre Daley has Notre Dame as his outright leader heading into a scheduled visit for its marquee summer event. He plans to announce shortly thereafter, which puts the Irish in the driver’s seat.

“More of a hybrid as he continues to get stronger and pack on weight,” said Corey Bender, Florida analyst. “Wins the majority of his battles with first step and sheer quickness. He also does a good job of staying low and playing with good pad level when turning the corner. Slippery type of athlete on the edge.”

Notre Dame is also in the top group for three-star defensive end Cortez Alston ahead of his Irish Invasion visit. And let’s not forget about a few more upcoming visitors: four-star defensive end Robert Beal, five-star outside linebacker Baron Browning, four-star defensive end Hunter Echols and three-star defensive end Jonathon MacCollister.

MacCollister, who attends Bishop Moore, the same school that produced incoming offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux, could very well join his former teammate in South Bend.

“I remember interviewing him when he was a freshman at Deland,” Bender said. “Started out as an offensive line prospect, but will be a defensive end in college. Tenacious kid that plays with a whole lot of emotion. Really loves the game of football. He's obviously loaded with versatility, so I think you'll be able to move him around the defensive line, especially as he continues to get bigger and stronger.”

Needless to say, June is an important month when it comes to future pass rushers.

News and notes

- Four-star wide receiver Tarik Black is looking to make visits to Notre Dame, UCLA and Stanford this summer. Those programs are currently in his top five along with Michigan and Alabama. Michigan will conduct a satellite camp at Black’s school, Cheshire Academy, this weekend.

- Four-star linebacker Deandre Wilder announced a top 11 this week with Auburn, Cal, Colorado, Florida, Louisville, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, West Virginia still standing. Hometown Miami is perceived as the formidable favorite.

- Five-star offensive guard Wyatt Davis will make a long awaited trip to Notre Dame starting June 13. Davis plans to see Michigan and Ohio State while in the Midwest with his father.

- Four-star outside linebacker Rahyme Johnson is already looking ahead to official visits and plans to be in South Bend on Oct. 15 for the Stanford game. With the matchup set for prime time, expect the West Coast visitors list to expand.

- Three-star receiver Jordan Pouncey added a Notre Dame offer this week during a phone call with running backs coach Autry Denson, who recruits Florida. Pouncey quickly scheduled an Irish Invasion visit. He also plans to see UCF, Alabama, Tennessee, Florida, LSU, South Carolina, Duke, North Carolina, N.C. State, Wake Forest, Clemson and Georgia this month.

- Add Will Putnam, an offensive tackle in the Class of 2019 from Chatham, Ill., to the list of Irish Invasion visitors. Illinois has already offered the 6-foot-4, 235-pound prospect. Putnam will also camp with Pitt (June 4), Nebraska (June 10), Michigan State (June 15) and Iowa (June 20).

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