Insider Report: Trending up or down?

Notre Dame’s season has already missed the mark, but can Irish recruiting move in the opposite direction? The Insider Report offers a sober look at the good and bad facing Notre Dame on the trail heading into October.

One major official visit weekend is in the books for Notre Dame, giving everyone a little more perspective on where the recruiting campaign stands heading into October.

Needless to say, there’s work to be done across the board. Hosting Stanford in two weeks should bring not only an opportunity to snag a major victory after a 1-3 start but also several more recruits to town for a closer look at the program. That next home game will no doubt be important on multiple levels.

Until then, the Insider Report tackles some themes in the current campaign, including trend lines.

Landing another offensive tackle: Trending down

Let’s take a look around the landscape at this position.

Harry Hiestand has a nice three-man class committed with Dillan Gibbons, Robert Hainsey and Josh Lugg already on board. But it’s been pretty clear the plan is to try and land another tackle and, in somewhat unusual fashion, Hiestand has left it a little late.

Five-star prospect Foster Sarell is the top target but distance is a serious issue the Irish have to overcome. The season’s poor start probably won’t help. The good news is Sarell will be back in town when Notre Dame hosts Stanford, which has long been considered the favorite. Still, it’s hard to see the Irish overcoming the Cardinal.

Trey Smith, another five-star tackle, feels like another unlikely option. He’s starting to take official visits with a December commitment date in mind. No return trip to Notre Dame is set and presumptive favorite Tennessee is a hot name at 4-0.

That brings us to a couple potential dark horses: Jedrick Wills and Aaron Banks.

Wills has visited multiple times, yet Notre Dame has never felt like the favorite. Alabama made a move last summer with many predicting Wills would end up making a commitment. That’s yet to happen. Wills is scheduled to visit Michigan this weekend. Again, no return trip to South Bend on the books.

Notre Dame has taken its shot with Banks, who visited in early August then again for the Michigan State game. He’s raved about those trips. But with two visits down, its unlikely Banks makes it back to campus while other contenders make a push. Eventually, Banks is likely bound to stay on the West Coast.

That’s not exactly a rosy outlook. That said, Hiestand has a way of resonating with prospects and it’s not out of the question one of those falls his way eventually. From this vantage point, it’s just hard to see who it’ll be.

Thomas Graham goes Irish?: Trending up

Let’s inject a little positivity into the mix.

It’s not a long list of observers that think Notre Dame can actually land the four-star cornerback. But that’s not to say it isn’t a real possibility. Graham returned to campus for the Michigan State game with both parents and the trip made serious impact.

Even better news: Brian VanGorder’s firing won’t have a negative impact. Certainly, if Graham decides he’s comfortable enough to leave the West Coast it’ll be for South Bend.

Arizona and UCLA present the biggest competition for Graham, a one-time USC pledge.

Notre Dame signs a full 25-man class: Trending down

Let’s be clear: Even in the best seasons, this really doesn’t happen. Struggling out of the gate isn’t going to make it any easier.

Notre Dame is sitting on 18 verbal commitments heading into October with the recent addition of four-star defensive end Donovan Jeter, who pledged after the Michigan State game. That means adding seven more prospects between now and National Signing Day, while losing zero to de-commitments, to nail 25.

How likely does that seem right now?

Check both Master Lists and it’s difficult to come up with seven distinct possibilities unless there’s a new wave of scholarship offers to come. So, yeah, don’t hold your breath on this one.

Notre Dame signs three receivers: Trending even

Notre Dame has commitments from a pair of three-star receivers Jordan Jordan Pouncey and Michael Young.

The Irish would like to land another and their best options include Jamire Calvin, Tarik Black, Oliver Martin and Hezekiah Jones.

We believe Black and Jones are trending down. Michigan has the momentum for Black after an August visit. Jones remains committed to Texas A&M and it’ll be difficult to make that change down the road. But Calvin and Oliver are very much still in the mix.

Calvin’s decision in January is likely to come down to Nebraska and Notre Dame. He’s already taken an official visit to Nebraska but has yet to schedule a firm trip to Notre Dame. That visit could come following the season, giving the Irish an upper hand.

Martin took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame last weekend for the Duke game. He’s also considering in-state Iowa and Michigan.

That doesn’t get to Notre Dame’s ability to keep its two receiver commits, which might be a challenge.

Keldrick Carper flips from Texas A&M: Trending even

Following the four-star athlete’s official visit to Notre Dame for the Michigan State game, momentum shifted to the Irish in a notable way. Notre Dame’s recruiting pitch exceeded Carper’s expectations in terms of overall package as a college destination.

When Irish Illustrated spoke with Carper last Sunday afternoon, he expressed disappointment that VanGorder had been fired.

Whether that plays a role in Carper’s recruitment moving forward is unknown. It’s possible the staff, including area and position recruiter Todd Lyght, can work to negate the loss of the former Irish defensive coordinator.

Pass rush help: Trending down

Earlier this cycle Notre Dame generated a fair share of legitimate interest from top pass rushing talent. The issue, though, is the interest not only stalled but also waned.  

Four-star prospect Robert Beal, now committed to Georgia, gave Notre Dame an early pledge. Joshua Kaindoh, another four-star, took a long look at things in South Bend before Maryland nabbed a commitment.

Otherwise, traction has been minimal at best.

No weak-side defensive ends have visited campus through three home games. And none are currently scheduled to visit in the future. Hard to sign them if they don’t visit.

Sizing up Oliver Martin

Four-star wide receiver Oliver Martin made another appearance at Notre Dame for the Duke game, seemingly a good sign as the Irish work their way into the mix after offering in late summer.

There’s been some “dream school” talk, but let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. Michigan and Michigan State have been involved a little longer. Martin visits Michigan this weekend.

Iowa is also a factor for the in-state target.

“The race is a tight one,” said Allen Trieu, Midwest recruiting manager for Scout. “He doesn't comment much on recruiting, but I think a few things are clear. I think he's going to stay in the Midwest. There's always a chance he will visit Oregon and be blown away, but I think he will stick closer. Close, like Iowa close? Maybe, but I think Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State have the best shots despite how close he is to the Hawkeyes.

“I think Michigan has a chance this weekend to make an impression. He played with their quarterback commit Dylan McCaffrey at The Opening Finals along with some of their other commits and I think that is going to be a big factor, how well he gets along with those guys.”

It’s certainly not out of the question for Notre Dame to win out eventually. It’s just worth a little more caution at this point.

Whatever program gets Martin’s pledge will land a seemingly underrated playmaker. Martin showed well at The Opening Finals last summer against national competition, a far cry from the prospects he sees on a weekly basis back home in Iowa.

That’s something worth remembering when it comes to his talent level.

“I think Martin can play for any team in America,” Trieu said. “He runs great routes, catches the ball well, is just a good all-around athlete and I think the way he works in the slot, he can contribute for anyone. That doesn't mean there aren't certain teams he might fit better with, but drop him on any roster and I'd bet he would find a way to get open, catch balls and be productive. He proved that at The Opening the way he performed against elite competition.”

News and notes

  • Five-star offensive tackle target Foster Sarell is scheduled for a Friday unofficial visit to Washington, which is about an hour from home. Washington hosts Stanford in a matchup of programs currently ranked in the top 10. 
  • Five-star offensive tackle Trey Smith plans to announce his commitment Dec. 6. Ole Miss gets the first official visit this weekend.
  • Set the DVR: Notre Dame linebacker commitment Drew White and his Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas teammates are headed to Las Vegas this week for a matchup of nationally ranked teams. Aquinas plays Bishop Gorman at 10 p.m. ET tonight on ESPNU. Top Stories