DOWN THE STRETCH THEY COME
With 15 verbal commitments and holding in the wake of losing key recruits from what was once rated a top 10 class, Notre Dame is now less than a week away from inking the Class of 2017.
The class likely will grow anywhere from one-to-three to four-to-six more. Considering the talent the Irish are in competition for, Brian Kelly and his new staff truly have a chance to produce a pretty darn good class.
History has shown in the seven-year reign of Kelly that reactive trumps proactive in certain years, and that’s not good. Late offers precipitated by defections at receiver, defensive end and in the secondary have put the Irish in scramble mode.
But again, if the Irish can land a decent cross-section of the players still on their board, this class will not be the disaster some doomsayers have predicted. The effort put forth by Kelly’s reconfigured staff has been thorough and valiant. Now we’ll see if the Irish can close strong.
On Wednesday, Irish Illustrated recruiting analysts Jake Brown and Steve Hare offered their predictions one week from signing day. In most instances, their predictions were accompanied by medium-to-low confidence speculation, largely because Notre Dame is swimming upstream with this late push.
Lost in recent days was CB-Tre Norwood, who was believed to be leaning toward Notre Dame, but chose Oklahoma. That means this Irish class likely will be without a cornerback following the de-commitments of Paulson Adebo and Elijah Hicks – two legitimate four-star prospects – unless they land a prospect listed below who also projects as an offensive player.
For the record, here were their predictions of prospects they believe could end up with the Irish, including a low, medium or high likelihood of success:
Brown: WR-Jafar Armstrong (L), ATH-Jordan Genmark-Heath (L), S/OLB-Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (M), DE-Jalen Harris (L), DT-Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa (L), ATH-Russ Yeast (L)
Hare: WR-Jafar Armstrong (M), S-Evan Fields (L), WR-Mac Hippenhammer (M), S/OLB-Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (M), DE-Kofi Wardlow (M), ATH-Russ Yeast (M)
Sign me up for either one of those groupings, although Brown’s list offers a couple more difference-makers in my opinion.
Armstrong is the best bet by far, particularly with the news that Colin Grunhard, the son of former standout Notre Dame offensive lineman Tim Grunhard, will be coming to South Bend as a preferred walk-on. Armstrong goes from medium confidence that he’ll end up with the Irish to high.
The second most probable – and one that really excites me – is Owusu-Koramoah, who has to be one of the most underrated three-star prospects in this recruiting cycle. He’s a four-star prospect in my book all the way, and would be a huge get with versatility if the Irish can win the tussle with Michigan State.
It’s difficult for me to be overly optimistic about Harris, an Arizona legacy and commit, and Tagovailoa-Amosa, a Hawaii product who reportedly favors USC. Both are listed as three-stars, but they clearly have four-star potential.
A more likely catch along the defensive line is Wardlow, a three-star project who is committed to Maryland.
If you saw my film reviews on 11 Notre Dame recruits this past Sunday, you know how much I like Yeast as a skill-position offensive player. The Irish reportedly like him at cornerback, where I’m confident he would excel. I’m less confident that he’ll end up at Notre Dame.
Cal commit Genmark-Heath is a three-star safety prospect who has the size/frame to move closer to the line of scrimmage. Slightly-built Penn State commit Hippenhammer and four-star safety Evan Fields are possibilities for the Irish as well.
In a perfect Notre Dame world, the Irish land Harris, Tagovailoa-Amosa, Yeast, Owusu-Koramoah and Fields with Armstrong a near certainty. That would be a sensational finish.
I’ll offer my less-educated opinion compared to Brown/Hare: Armstrong, Owusu-Koramoah, Wardlow and Hippenhammer.
If there’s a fifth, I’d say Genmark-Heath while holding out for prospects I perceive to be difference-makers (Yeast, Harris, Tagovailoa-Amosa).
Notre Dame’s 71-54 loss Tuesday night at home to Virginia was a disappointing blow for the No. 14-ranked Irish basketball squad. Missed scoring opportunities in the first half led to a Cavalier buzz-saw in the second half as the Irish fell to 6-2 in ACC play.
Coupled with Georgia Tech’s thrashing of Florida State Wednesday, Notre Dame fell into a three-way tie for second with the Cavaliers and Seminoles. More on the Yellow Jackets below.
Virginia head coach Tony Bennett is sensational. What he’s done in Charlottesville is remarkable, particularly on the defensive end of the court where he plays with six guys.
Not really, but it looks that way when the Cavaliers clamp down with a sagging, double-teaming man-to-man defense that simply offers no breathing room for the opposition.
It’s remindful of playing the Navy football team where a slight leads seems like much more because of the style of play.
The key to success against Bennett’s squads is to convert three-point attempts when they present themselves. The Irish failed to do that, hitting just 3-of-18 from three-point range. A team simply has no chance to succeed without hitting from distance against a Bennett-coached squad.
Prior to Bennett’s arrival, the Cavaliers finished 10th and 11th in the ACC. In Bennett’s first two years in Charlottesville, they finished ninth and eighth.
Those days are long gone. Virginia finished fourth in Bennett’s third and fourth years, won the ACC regular season twice, and finished tied for second last year.
In the last four seasons, including this year, Virginia is 105-22 overall and 51-11 in ACC play. Bennett has created a thrashing machine, particularly on the defensive end.
Notre Dame is now 0-5 versus Virginia since joining the ACC with an average margin of defeat of 14 points. Mike Brey is 0-6 against Bennett, including a 61-41 loss to Washington State in the 2008 NCAA tournament.
Brey-coached Notre Dame teams versus Bennett have not scored more than 66 points in a game, including 56 points or less in five out of six games.
Bennett has Brey’s number, but he’s not the lone wolf in the ACC.
YELLOW JACKETS STING
As for Georgia Tech, where the Irish must travel this weekend before a quick turnaround game at home against Duke Monday, the Yellow Jackets have become a dangerous team under first-year head coach Josh Pastner.
You might remember Pastner from his days at Memphis, where he won 70 percent of his games. A Lute Olson (Arizona) disciple, Pastner followed John Calipari to Memphis and won Conference USA titles in his third and fourth seasons.
Georgia Tech is just 4-4 in ACC play, but two of those victories have come at home against North Carolina and now Florida State.
Josh Okogie scored 35 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Seminoles while Ben Lammers – a candidate with Notre Dame’s Matt Farrell for most improved in the ACC – added 18 points.
The Yellow Jackets limited Florida State to 6-of-35 shooting in the first half, including 1-of-11 from three-point range. Florida State finished 20-of-71 from the field (.281) and 6-of-25 from beyond the arc (.240).
Even scarier: Georgia Tech out-rebounded ultra-long/athletic Florida State, 53-39.
The Irish must now visit McCamish Pavilion where North Carolina and Florida State already have fallen.
For the record, Notre Dame’s six conference wins have come against Louisville, Virginia Tech, Syracuse, Miami, Pittsburgh and Clemson, who are a combined 18-26 in ACC play. The two losses have come against Florida State and Virginia, who are a combined 12-4.
We’re about to find out whether the 2016-17 Irish truly are for real.