Insider Report: Who’s Next?

The Insider Report picks our five prospects we expect to go Irish, offers insight into the personality of new commitment Michael Young, highlights another top athlete looking hard at South Bend and more.

Adding three-star receiver Michael Young on Wednesday night put Notre Dame at 17 commitments with official visit season right around the corner.

Space is certainly at a premium now as seven of those pledges have come in the last month. Notre Dame would like to push this class toward a full 25 signees. How might that shake out? Any number of ways.

Insider Report surveys the Irish Illustrated recruiting staff on five prospects most likely to end up in the class.

Jake Brown

Tarik Black 
Guessing this will be consensus. And maybe it’s already happened as Black intended to be a silent commitment by the end of the month until revealing his choice in January at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. Having his teammate, C.J. Holmes, already on board certainly helps.

Hunter Echols
This is turning into more than just buzz. Echols likes Notre Dame plenty and plans to visit again this fall. Eventually, I could see the pull of things in South Bend getting him off that longstanding UCLA commitment.

Thomas Graham 
Quietly, it seems Notre Dame has been putting in strong effort here. Graham has had an official visit on the books for a long time. It wouldn’t be a surprise if that trip was enough to get a commitment.

Amari Carter
Yes, Miami is a legitimate threat to keep Carter home. But the Irish have two of his former teammates already on the roster and that should be a huge help. Getting Carter back on campus this fall won’t hurt either.

Osiris St. Brown
There’s a part of me that wonders whether St. Brown could get edged out if a numbers game develops at wide receiver. But when push comes to shove, I think he’ll end up being part of the class at some point.

Steve Hare

Tarik Black
Black won’t announce his commitment until January but the Irish are in a good position. The commitment of Black’s high school teammate, C.J. Holmes, certainly doesn’t hurt Irish chances of landing the primetime pass catcher.

Osiris St. Brown
Notre Dame already landed one member of the St. Brown family and the chances are good the Irish will add another. A solid season from Equanimeous could help the cause.

Joshua Paschal
Paschal left South Bend in June feeling good about what Notre Dame has to offer. The Irish are among Paschal’s favorites and now they need to close down the stretch. Another visit to South Bend certainly would help the cause.

Hunter Echols
Echols committed to UCLA in February but it doesn’t look like that pledge will stick. Notre Dame is one of a handful of schools that could lure Echols away from Southern California.

Foster Sarell
Landing Sarell would be a major coup for the Irish and it sounds like the family is warming to the idea of Sarell heading to the Midwest. Harry Hiestand certainly has built a strong reputation in developing top offensive linemen and that has to be appealing to one of the nation’s top tackles.

Anna Hickey

Tarik Black
Baring a change this fall, Notre Dame should land Black in January. The Irish appeal to Black’s parents more than any other school and Notre Dame already has Black’s teammate, C.J. Holmes, in the fold.

Osiris St. Brown
Stanford is the only program out there that could challenge Notre Dame for St. Brown, the younger brother of Irish wide receiver Equanimeous. Once Osiris is able to compare game weekend experiences in South Bend and Palo Alto, I think Notre Dame ultimately lands him.

Amari Carter
Miami and Notre Dame are battling it out for one the Sunshine State’s most coveted safeties. The Hurricanes have made Carter one of their top priorities, but so have the Irish. Notre Dame’s academic reputation and having former Palm Beach Garden standouts, Te’von Coney and Devin Studstill, in Irish uniforms will be what gives Notre Dame the edge in the end.

Hunter Echols
While Florida pass rushers Chris Whittaker and K’Jakyre Daley both consider Notre Dame their leader, Echols is the only one of the three that’s visited campus. UCLA owns his commitment for now, but Notre Dame has the arsenal of tools needed to flip him and sign him in February. 

Foster Sarell
I understand distance has been cited as an obstacle that Notre Dame must overcome to land the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect. Furthermore, Stanford as a competitor is no slouch. But Sarell is Hiestand’s top priority going forward. I’ll take those odds every day, even if I’m picking against the spread.

Young a ‘class act’ at Destrehan

Michael Young has been able to develop in near anonymity for most of his high school career.

There’s been no shortage of productive players on offense at Destrehan High School in recent years. Former four-star running back Kirk Merritt headlines that list. Merritt starred at Destrehan before leaving the New Orleans area for Oregon. He’s now at Texas A&M.

Former three-star wide receiver John Williams is another example. He paired with Young for Destrehan last season before signing with Memphis.

All the while, Young continued to grow into a top prospect himself.

“Mike was with those guys and they got kind of a lot of the hype,” said Stephen Robicheaux, the head coach at Destrehan. “Mike was able to sit back but still make a lot of plays for us because of his athletic ability and the people that were around him. He’s a phenomenal athlete and a kid that works extremely hard. I think he’s a guy that’s never gonna give any kind of trouble.

“He’s a class act. He’s the kind of guy that you love to talk about when you’re in this business because he really represents a student-athlete.”

Young reeled in several major scholarship offers. Arizona, Arizona State, Arkansas, Kansas, Memphis, Minnesota, Oregon, Purdue, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, Virginia and Virginia Tech were among those to come calling.

Notre Dame did so in the spring. Robicheaux still remembers the conversation he and Young had shortly after the Irish offered.

“Awhile back he came in and we were talking,” Robicheaux said. “He goes, ‘Coach, I just got an offer from Notre Dame.’ I said, ‘Do you understand the tradition of Notre Dame?’ He gave me a big old smile and a wink. I kinda thought that might be a good indication of where he would like to go. I think it’s a deal where he’s excited to go and I think Notre Dame is excited to get him.”

Young followed up with a visit to campus for Irish Invasion. That trip turned into a commitment earlier this week as the 5-foot-11, 178-pound prospect chose Notre Dame over Oregon and Texas A&M.

Wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock has talked with Young about starting as a slot receiver but having the versatility for multiple positions. Dabbling on the outside isn’t out of the question.

Robicheaux sees a comfortable fit there. It’s how he uses Young now.

“He can go deep with the best of them and catch the long ball,” Robicheaux said. “He’s a guy that also goes across the middle well and makes plays when you need it. Exceptional blocker. Just a guy that does a tremendous job with top-end speed and can catch the ball well. Once he gets the ball in his hands he’s real exciting.”

Looking ahead to the coming season, Robicheaux expects more of the same out of his star receiver. Young has set the tone for that himself, including the day he committed.

“This one story will tell you how he is,” Robicheaux said. “We kinda talked about him committing. So, we went to practice (Wednesday) afternoon and I said, ‘Mike, I thought you were gonna commit today.’ He said, ‘I’m gonna commit after practice so it doesn’t take away from practice.’ That’s the kind of kid he is. A lot of guys want to set up a place to commit. He’s not like that. He’s the kind guy that’s like, ‘OK, let’s commit and get it over with and get on and do what we need to do.’ He’s that type of person. That says a lot about him and his character.”

Ahmed eyeing September visit

Salvon Ahmed is one the nation’s fastest two-way prospects. He clocked a 4.32 40-yard dash earlier this month at The Opening Finals, where he named Notre Dame to his top five.

Oregon, Stanford, USC and Washington also made the cut.

Ahmed, a four-star prospect from Kirkland, Wash., has visited every school in his top five except Notre Dame. Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght is working to change that this fall.

“I’ve been talking to Notre Dame a lot recently, especially coach Lyght and coach (Brian) Kelly, and (Lyght) said I’m one of their top guys,” Ahmed said. “They want me as an athlete, but I don’t really have a preference as long as I can get on the field as a freshman. He talked about getting me out to campus in the fall for an official visit.”

Ahmed plans to make a commitment in late September or early October, so it’s possible not every school in his top five receives an official visit.

“I haven’t scheduled any of (the official visits) yet but I know coach Lyght was talking about getting me there for the Michigan State game in September,” Ahmed said. “I know I’ll take a visit to Notre Dame because I get really good vibes from coach Lyght. He was recruiting me since the beginning of my junior year. Notre Dame’s tradition is awesome and so are their academics.

“I’ve been talking to coach Kelly too through Twitter, so I know that Notre Dame wants me if the head coach is talking to me. I appreciate that.”

The 6-foot, 186-pound athlete says distance won’t factor into his decision.

"I’m not worried at all about the distance,” Ahmed said. "I’ll just figure out the best place for me. I feel like I would really like (Notre Dame). Now I just have to go visit and see it for myself.”

More inroads in ’18 recruiting

Notre Dame already has four commitments in the Class of 2018 while continuing to make inroads for more.
Those pledges are plenty active in lending a hand. Quarterback Phil Jurkovec and running back Markese Stepp are among the most active recruiters.
“I've mainly been staying in contact with guys like Phil Jurkovec and Markese Stepp,” said junior defensive tackle Aeneas Hawkins. “They've really been saying good things about Notre Dame. They've told me that committing to Notre Dame is a decision I won't have to worry about regretting. They talk about the culture at Notre Dame that I've already gotten to witness firsthand. They talk a lot about the goals that 2018 commits have already begun establishing.”
Jurkovec’s words left quite an impression on Hawkins.
“Phil told me that I have a home at Notre Dame and he gave them as good of an endorsement as any of their coaches have, and that's not easy to do,” Hawkins said. “Those guys make Notre Dame seem like a no brainer and they make me excited to go and visit again.”
Jurkovec chose the Irish over offers from Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State, among others. Many of those schools continue to check in with the Keystone state prospect but the Irish don’t have anything to worry about.
“I'm 100 percent committed and will continue to be but some schools still try and contact me,” Jurkovec said.
Jake Venables, a three-star linebacker and the son of Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, continues to hear from Notre Dame as well. He plans to visit South Bend this fall.
“A couple schools have reached out and are really interested,” he said. “I think I will go to the Notre Dame-Virginia Tech game in November.”
Three-star defensive Alex Reigelsperger had hoped to camp at Notre Dame this summer but an injury left him on the sidelines.
He recently was cleared to get back on the field and will attend Ohio State’s Friday Night Lights Camp tonight. He hopes to visit Notre Dame next weekend.
“I’m finally getting cleared so I'm able to attend camps now so I'll be at Friday Night lights at OSU,” he said. “I hate being out … I'm so happy to be back.”
Four-star linebacker Dallas Gant continues to add offers. He picked up Penn State earlier this week and landed one from Notre Dame following the Irish Invasion.
He’ll join Reigelsperger at Ohio State’s camp. Gant remains in close contact with Irish assistant coach Mike Elston.
“I talk to Coach E every now and then,” he said. “We’re just trying to create a relationship.”
Four-star defensive tackle P.J. Mustipher, the younger brother of Irish center Sam Mustipher, expects to be back on campus this fall.
“Right now I’m just preparing for a big season,” he said. “As the season progresses I’ll schedule some visits because my parents are trying to keep up with my brother and myself.”

The week in top lists           

Multiple Notre Dame targets released top groups this week.

Four-star linebacker Jacob Phillips is down to Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama, Notre Dame and Oregon. He’s one of the few remaining linebacker targets on the Irish board.

Three-star safety Amari Carter went with eight: Louisville, Miami, Notre Dame, Auburn, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Michigan and LSU. Miami and Notre Dame have edged ahead of the pack. Expect the Irish to receive an official visit.

Four-star outside linebacker Justin Foster has Clemson, Tennessee, Notre Dame, Georgia and Kentucky left on the board. Foster plans to trim to a top three in the next month and has said Clemson and Tennessee will make that cut. So, it’s basically three programs for one remaining slot. Foster visited for Irish Invasion.

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