Matt Cashore /

Can Irish sign 18 in ’18?

With six commitments on board and a potential uptick in fifth-year seniors coming, Notre Dame could be tight next recruiting cycle. Here’s a first look at Irish Illustrated’s Scholarship Chart for 2018.

Brian Kelly already set recruiting expectations for next cycle. And Notre Dame’s head coach has the numbers to back up his forecast, including some he didn’t even use on National Signing Day.

Because despite having his new coaching staff in place for a full year and what could be a strong season at his back, how the Irish finish in the team rankings next February probably won’t look that different than it did last week.

“Since I've been here, if you look at the average rankings, we're anywhere from 5 to 15,” Kelly said. “We're going to fall somewhere in that range because there's a line there we can't get over based upon what our distinctions are here. That line is going to keep us between 5 and 15.

“We know where we're going to fall.”

When it comes to the rankings, Kelly is right. His best class – it included Jaylon Smith, Will Fuller, Max Redfield, Isaac Rochell and Greg Bryant – topped out at No. 5. His worst class was his transitional one. It ranked No. 19 back on signing day in 2010. Kelly’s middle ground classes ranked No. 6 (’14 and ’15), No. 8 (’11), No. 13 (’17), No. 14 (’16) and No. 16 (’12).

And while it might sound strange, mirroring the haul that preceded the BCS National Championship Game season might offer a blueprint. While that was Kelly’s lowest-rated class it was also his smallest at 17 signees, a group that included Ronnie Stanley, KeiVarae Russell and Sheldon Day.

Quantity was an issue that year. Quality was not.

That needs to be the case again.

The Irish already have six commitments in the junior class in quarterback Phil Jurkovec, running back Markese Stepp, linebackers Bo Bauer and Ovie Oghoufo, defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola and defensive end Justin Ademilola. That fills Notre Dame’s needs at quarterback, linebacker and potentially running back.

However, the Irish still need three receivers, four defensive backs and four offensive linemen to go with a couple more defensive linemen, a tight end and potentially another running back. If Notre Dame got everything it wanted, that would put the Irish at a 21-man class. And it’s hard to see how Notre Dame can make room for all that based on Irish Illustrated’s first Scholarship Chart for 2018 (see below).

Notre Dame could easily have eight fifth-year seniors for 2018 in Nic Weishar, Alex Bars, Sam Mustipher, Jonathan Bonner, Jay Hayes, Drue Tranquill, Nick Watkins and Tyler Newsome. The number would swell to nine if Quenton Nelson made a shock decision to return.

The Irish had just three fifth-year seniors last season in Jarron Jones, Avery Sebastian and Mark Harrell (Sebastian was actually a sixth-year senior). While none of the eight listed above would be at Jones’ level, they’d all be more critical components than Sebastian or Harrell. It’s hard to see the Irish staff turning that kind of experience away.

In other words, if Notre Dame’s six commitments stick, those eight fifth-year seniors return and the Irish go a year without a transfer, medical or expulsion (an unlikely trifecta), just five slots remain in next year’s recruiting class.

So could the Irish really sign an 11-man class? Of course not. That’s not how college football roster turnover works. There will be some unexpected roster departures in the coming year. Still, there’s no question Notre Dame will feel the 85-man scholarship limit next cycle in a different way.

Here’s a look at the Scholarship Chart for 2018. It’s clear the Irish need help at offensive line and cornerback, but the status of safety, linebacker, defensive line, quarterback and running back might be better than you think.

Scholarship Chart 2018


QB Avery Davis*
Phil Jurkovec
Ian Book* Brandon Wimbush*  
RB Markese Stepp C.J. Holmes
Tony Jones Jr.*
  Josh Adams
Dexter Williams
WR Jafar Armstrong*
Michael Young*
Deon McIntosh* Miles Boykin*
Chase Claypool
Chris Finke*
Javon McKinley
Kevin Stepherson
C.J. Sanders
Equanimeous St. Brown
TE Cole Kmet* Brock Wright Alize Jones* Nic Weishar*
OT Aaron Banks*
Josh Lugg*

Liam Eichenberg*
Tommy Kraemer*

  Alex Bars*
OG Dillan Gibbons*
Robert Hainsey*
Parker Boudreaux* Trevor Ruhland*  
C     Tristen Hoge* Sam Mustipher*
DE Justin Ademilola
Jonathan MacCollister*
Kofi Wardlow*
Ade Ogundeji* Daelin Hayes
Khalid Kareem
Julian Okwara
Jonathan Bonner*
Jay Hayes*
DT Jayson Ademilola
Kurt Hinish*
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa*
Darnell Ewell Micah Dew-Treadway*
Elijah Taylor*
Brandon Tiassum*
Jerry Tillery
LB Bo Bauer
David Adams*
Ovie Oghoufo
Drew White*
Jonathan Jones* Josh Barajas*
Asmar Bilal*
Jamir Jones
Te’von Coney

Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah*

Spencer Perry* Drue Tranquill#
CB   Shaun Crawford## Julian Love
Troy Pride Jr.
Donte Vaughn
Nick Watkins*
S Jordan Genmark-Heath* D.J. Morgan*
Isaiah Robertson
Jalen Elliott
Devin Studstill
Ashton White*
Nick Coleman
Nicco Fertitta
ST   Jonathan Doerer
John Shannon*
  Tyler Newsome*
Justin Yoon
Total 22/85 39/85 63/85 80/85

*Took a red-shirt season to preserve a season of eligibility

# Took a medical red-shirt season
## Took two medical red-shirt seasons.

Updated: 2/7/17 Top Stories