Insider Report: Recruiting spotlight shines

Hear from a couple top prospects headed to South Bend, get the lowdown on where all the big names are leaning and look ahead to future classes ready to see Notre Dame. All that and more is in this week’s Insider Report.

Four-star cornerback Thomas Graham is one of the headliners on Notre Dame’s visitor list this weekend.

Graham has had the trip scheduled for months. He last made the trek to campus for Junior Day in the spring as a USC commitment. On Saturday, he’ll return to South Bend as an uncommitted prospect for an official visit.

“Basically I want to see what it’s like with the coaches and how good the game atmosphere is,” Graham said. “Just little things that I can pick up on to get a better feel for what it’s like there.”

Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght and offensive coordinator Mike Sanford are heading Graham’s recruitment. Graham’s mix of elite coverage skills and accomplishments in the classroom has him coveted in South Bend.

“(Lyght) is kind of laid back and chill, but that’s still my guy,” Graham said. “He has accomplished everything that I want to accomplish, so he knows what it takes. And coach Sanford and I relate to each other a lot. He knows what it’s like out here.”

There’s plenty of mileage between Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., and South Bend, but location isn’t necessarily a negative.

“I feel like Notre Dame’s location is both an advantage and a disadvantage,” Graham said. “It’s an advantage because I’ll be away from home and I’ll get to be on my own. It’s a disadvantage because it’s not close at all to home.”

Graham plans to announce a decision the first week of December. Before that, though, are more visits.

Nebraska hosted Graham last weekend and he’ll see Arizona, Oregon, and potentially Arizona State in the coming weeks on official visits. UCLA will get an unofficial visit.

“I have a top 10 now and I’m not cutting my list anymore before my decision,” Graham said. “I’m going to announce out of those schools.”

The Irish figure to be in contention until the end and this weekend’s visit offers another chance for them to showcase what they can offer one of the West Coast’s elite cornerbacks.

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound defensive back is the No. 7 cornerback and No. 59 overall prospect in the Class of 2017.

“Notre Dame offers something different,” Graham said. “I really enjoyed it a lot in the spring. They’ve got good football, coaches and it’s just a different type of school.”

Closer look at visitors in ’17

Notre Dame will host nine prospects in the Class of 2017 this weekend.

In addition to Graham, four-star athlete Salvon Ahmed, four-star offensive lineman Aaron Banks, three-star athlete Jaiden Cole, four-star wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman, four-star defensive end Donovan Jeter, four-star wide receiver Hezekiah Jones, four-star linebacker Jacob Phillips and four-star cornerback Shaun Wade are all set for official visits.

Ahmed, Cole, Holloman and Jeter will see campus for the first time. Banks visited in early August. Graham made the trek for Junior Day in the spring. Jones, who’s now committed to Texas A&M, attended the Blue-Gold Game. Phillips visited in the spring. Wade, an Ohio State pledge, did so during summer.

Here’s a closer look at each prospect.

Scout’s take: With Ahmed’s announcement coming up the weekend following his visit to Notre Dame, it will certainly help the Irish getting that last shot. But I still think it’s going to be hard for him to leave Washington and I still feel like the hometown Huskies are the team to beat. - Brandon Huffman, Scout Director of Recruiting

Scout’s take: Banks was wowed by his unofficial visit to Notre Dame in August and he really was impressed by his time with Harry Hiestand.  I think more good talks between those two will really help the Irish follow up on the unofficial, which got them buzzing with Banks.  He did visit Oregon last week and he’s likely to visit USC and UCLA, but the Irish made a big impression on him and another good trip could really go a long way for them. - Huffman

Scout’s take: Not a lot is known about Cole and his recruitment.  He quietly has put together a good offer list, he keeps his top schools to himself and he does not do a lot of media.  Much around his recruitment is speculation right now. Notre Dame will get his first official visit and could really set the bar high out of the gates. Some feel Arkansas is the top school, but Mississippi State, Notre Dame, Oklahoma State are also in the mix. I have heard he is leaning towards committing before the end of the season. - Chad Simmons, Scout National Recruiting Analyst

Scout’s take: Graham has already visited Arizona, Notre Dame and Oregon with UCLA in line for an unofficial visit. At the end of the summer, the Wildcats had most of the buzz as the leader with the Bruins and Irish pushing hard as well. It will be interesting to see how much impact his trips will have on his decision.” – Greg Biggins, Scout National Recruiting Analyst

Scout’s take: Every time Holloman goes to a college game or college practice, he is looking to see who uses their playmakers and how he could fit into an offense.  He wants the football.  He wants to be given a chance to make plays.  At this time, Notre Dame is on the outside looking in, trailing schools like Georgia, Miami and Tennessee, but that makes this visit that much more important.  He is a sharp young man that looks for details to separate schools.  He wants to feel the coaches genuinely want him, so the interaction between Holloman and the Irish coaches this weekend will be very important. - Simmons

Scout’s take: Jeter is an interesting prospect because he does offer position versatility. Right now, he can play defensive end, but he can also move inside and play defensive tackle if he gets bigger. He has good explosion and length. One of the challenges for him will be making sure he plays with a low pad level. His recruitment is intriguing. A month ago I thought he was a Notre Dame lock but he has spent a lot of time visiting Pitt, and if Lamont Wade winds up at Pitt, there is a good chance Jeter will be there too. Michigan also is involved. He is looking to make an official visit there as well. He is deciding on Halloween, so getting to Notre Dame first is crucial.” –Brian Dohn, Scout National Recruiting Analyst

Scout’s take: Jones seemed to be about as solid to Baylor as a prospect could be, but then came the late May turmoil, which resulted in a mass exodus of the Bears’ 2017 class. That included Jones, who de-committed May 28. In early July, Jones announced a top five of Alabama, Auburn, Houston, Notre Dame and Texas A&M. By late July, he had unofficially visited Texas A&M for the second time in the summer, then pledged there on July 29. He has made two in-state verbal commitments already, but it never hurts getting a top prospect on campus multiple times. That is a key factor in landing out-of-state prospects. The fact that he’s visiting South Bend again has to be a concern to A&M.”  - Gabe Brooks and Greg Powers, Scout National Analysts

Scout’s take: If Alabama truly pursues Phillips, the Crimson Tide is considered to be the favorite.  Oklahoma has also been a school considered to be a true contender since he took an unofficial visit there earlier this year.  Oregon made an impression on him and his family, but the distance likely hurts the Ducks.  He canceled his official visit to LSU earlier this week, so the Tigers are out, but we will have to wait to find out who gets that final visit.  Phillips is definitely considering Notre Dame.  The Irish impressed him on multiple levels when he was in South Bend early in the spring.  Alabama has to be considered the favorite at this time, but these visits are not just visits for Phillips. - Simmons

Scout’s take: Wade hopes to take five official visits and make his decision by late November/early December. The Ohio State pledge has only set one official visit so far: Notre Dame. But Alabama, Michigan, USC and Ohio State are likely to his others. His most recent visit was two weeks ago to Florida. It was his first visit to Gainesville with his parents. The Gators did a lot to move higher in the mix with Wade, but Alabama is still one to watch moving forward. His visit to Notre Dame in the summer really moved the Irish up, and it’s a big deal both parents will make the trip. His parents will play a big role in his decision. – Jacquie Franciulli, Scout Florida Reporter

Vann key among ’18 visitors

Malik Vann, a Scout 300 junior defensive end from Fairfield, Ohio, attended the Blue-Gold Game in April and returned to South Bend in the summer for Irish Invasion.

Following that second trip, Vann said the Irish moved to the top of his list.
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound athlete will return to Notre Dame on Saturday. But just because he’s visiting again with the Irish leading, it’s not necessarily time for him to start thinking about making a verbal commitment.
“Next year,” Vann said when asked if there is a timeline for his pledge. “I still want to enjoy the process.”
Vann visited Tennessee earlier this month and he’ll return to Knoxville next weekend. He also has a trip scheduled to Wisconsin on Oct. 15, Michigan State on Nov. 19 and possible trips to UCLA on Oct. 1 and LSU on Nov. 5.

He’s far from the only major visitor in the Class of 2018 expected at Notre Dame this weekend.

Four-star safety Derrik Allen, four-star offensive tackle Jack Carman, three-star defensive end Leonard Taylor, four-star linebacker Dallas Gant and four-star cornerback Christian Tutt join Vann among the junior visitors who already hold Irish offers.

Vann and Carman are teammates at Springfield High School. Carman visited South Bend last week for the Nevada game as well.

“He is a kid where it is not out of the question that he could end up as a five-star,” said Midwest analyst Allen Trieu of Carman. “Tackle prospects with his frame and athleticism are rare and early on in his junior season, he has flashed dominance, which is what we wanted to see in progressing from his sophomore year to now.

“As far as recruiting, I think Ohio State is the school to beat but recent contact with Notre Dame has them as the school I think has the best chance of unseating the Buckeyes.”

Other notables include four-star lineman Verdis Brown, three-star receiver Dashon Bussell, four-star offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor, three-star defensive tackle Lawrence Johnson, four-star defensive end Tyreke Smith and tight end Tyneil Hopper.

Smith already holds offers from Michigan State, Penn State, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Maryland, Rutgers, Syracuse and programs in the MAC. It probably won’t be long until other major powers follow suit.

“He has all the tools and talent,” Trieu said. “Great size and athleticism, just a little more on the raw side but I think his upside is top power-five level. Because he hit the radar a little bit later than some of the other kids in the class, I think it will take him longer to figure out his recruiting but I think some big offers will be on their way towards the end of this year.”

Looking ahead: Class of 2019 visitors

Four-star defensive end Stephen Herron is just one name to remember in a solid group of visitors in the Class of 2019. Herron visited for Irish Invasion. Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Ohio State and Tennessee have already offered scholarships.

Cornerback Moses Douglass (another Springfield, Ohio product) will also return after an Irish Invasion visit. Cincinnati, Kentucky, Iowa, Iowa State, Rutgers and Syracuse have offered.

Also keep in mind a pair of teammates from Kentwood, Mich., defensive tackle Mazi Smith and offensive tackle Logan Brown. Each hold an early offer from Wisconsin.

Hoops: Guard trio descends on campus

Mike Brey is still looking to score his first commitment in the Class of 2017 with another visit weekend on tap.

Four-star combo guard Darryl Morsell arrived in South Bend on Thursday night with both parents. Brey conducted an in-home visit with Morsell in Baltimore earlier this week with assistants Rod Balanis and Ryan Ayers in tow.

“There is no doubt that Morsell really likes Notre Dame,” said Brian Snow, Scout basketball recruiting analyst. “While a commitment shouldn’t be expected on the visit, it also shouldn’t be completely dismissed. Notre Dame along with Villanova and the home state Maryland Terrapins seem to be the top three schools. The Irish have done as good a job recruiting Morsell as anybody.”

Dayton and Virginia Tech are also in play.

Villanova had an in-home visit Wednesday.

Notre Dame will also host junior guards Robby Carmody, Dwayne Cohill and Cormac Ryan.

Carmody, a four-star prospect, was the first prospect in the Class of 2018 to land a Notre Dame offer. This will be his fourth visit inside a year, including one earlier this summer. He’ll be joined by Cohill, an AAU teammate and four-star prospect who has offers from DePaul, Ohio State, West Virginia and Xavier, among others.

Ryan is certainly an offer candidate after a strong summer with Middlesex Magic, the same AAU program that produced former Irish star Pat Connaughton. Michigan, Boston College and DePaul have already offered.

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