Meet The 2017 Class: Defense

How did Notre Dame land this class? Here’s the recruiting backstory.

Defensive Line

A recruiting coup scored by two assistants no longer with the program, Ewell is the kind of burly defensive tackle the Irish don’t sign often enough. He’s unanimously a four-star prospect across all the major networks and arguably Notre Dame’s best defensive commit. Clemson, Michigan and Ohio State all offered. On top of that, the Irish are historically poor in the Tidewater region of Virginia, which is regularly loaded for SEC and ACC programs.

A bedrock commitment in this class, Hinish was one of Notre Dame’s earliest targets out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic, with Penn State the biggest competition. He’s a consensus three-star prospect across the recruiting landscape and probably a glue guy within this class as both a personality and a likely five-year player. That’s fine considering the youth still around on the defensive line’s interior, even if it doesn’t make for a major National Signing Day story.

One of the wild cards in this class, MacCollister will arrive at Notre Dame this summer probably better known for being a former prep teammate of Parker Boudreaux. Ohio State showed some interest in him as a tight end, but Notre Dame saw a defensive end. The offer list here was solid with UCLA, Tennessee, Miami and Clemson, but MacCollister sort of got lost during his senior year. It’s hard to imagine the Irish not opting for a five-year plan considering the youth already assembled.

While USC offered and probably could have landed this Hawaiian, the Trojans decided they were full at defensive tackle. That opened the door for Notre Dame and Vanderbilt, with the Irish winning out. Washington and Oregon showed interest too late to really get involved. Credit Brian Polian for what amounts to a bonus defensive tackle get because on paper Notre Dame had no business landing this jumbo athlete. Tagovailoa-Amosa did enough during the Polynesian Bowl to raise an eyebrow about his potential.

A developmental prospect that Notre Dame flipped from Maryland on National Signing Day, Wardlow will need a five-year program in South Bend to make an impact. Having played just two years of high school football makes Wardlow sort of the next Ade Ogundeji or Jhonny Williams in terms of raw development. Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech and Michigan State also got involved late. There’s something to like here, it’s just going to take time to pull it out of Wardlow’s frame. Defensive coordinator Mike Elko did make Wardlow one of his first stops in January


Notre Dame scored a commitment from Adams following a Junior Day visit nearly a year ago and the Pittsburgh Central Catholic standout never wavered. He played his senior year with an upper body injury that will require rehab and probably puts him on track for a red-shirt. The Irish aren’t loaded with reserve talent at middle linebacker, but they should be fine shelving Adams for the year. Other offers on the table included Florida, LSU, Michigan, Penn State and Stanford. The program fit for Adams is basically ideal.

When Notre Dame took White’s commitment after that Junior Day last March he was an undersized linebacker who seemed like a question mark. A banner senior season, a state title and a first-team all-state selection later, the Irish look like they bought low on White, even if he lists offers from Ohio State, Michigan and LSU. He’s a Will linebacker in Mike Elko’s scheme, which means learning from Greer Martini and maybe Te’von Coney next season, probably as a deep reserve while adding mass.


A three-star prospect on all four major recruiting services, Genmark-Heath’s offer list included just a handful of Power 5 programs, with Boston College, Cal, Northwestern and Oregon State among them. He committed to Cal in October but re-opened his recruitment after staff changes in Berkeley. The Irish got involved late, but being a prep teammate with Rick Mirer’s son helped as an introduction. The Irish landed this potential Rover less than a week before National Signing Day.

A borderline shock commitment on National Signing Day, the Irish didn’t even get a true weekend official visit from Owusu-Karomoah after getting him to back off his Virginia commitment and overlook Michigan State’s more sustained push. His versatility suits defensive coordinator Mike Elko just fine, where in-the-box safety play is a must. While Owusu-Karomoah is a three-star prospect in the rankings world, it’s easy to see four-star fit within the new Irish scheme.

Notre Dame targeted Robertson from the beginning of the cycle and his connection to freshman cornerback Julian Love on the 7-on-7 circuit helped close this one down last April. The safety is a consensus four-star prospect and early enrollee, with a shot to play early even with Irish youth at safety. Getting in on the ground floor with Mike Elko, who will also be his position coach, could be key. Robertson never got out of he blocks with other offers, with Penn State and Wisconsin the best of his bunch. Top Stories