Todd Lyght recruited a prime class of cornerbacks during his first full cycle. Julian Love, who went on to become a Freshman All-American, was the lowest ranked of the three high-potential talents signed that year, which included Donte Vaughn and Troy Pride Jr.
The Irish defense looks to be in good shape with that trio forming a base for the next few years. The challenge will be filling out the depth chart behind them at both boundary and field cornerback after missing entirely at the position last February.
Detroit Cass-Tech man coverage specialist Kalon Gervin gives the Irish a polished, competent athlete who has shown the speed (4.41 40 at The Opening Regional in Chicago) and athleticism to compete for reps immediately. His strengths strongly suggest he will play the boundary cornerback position.
Being April, it's far too early to be concerned, but the Irish have yet to land the long, physical cornerback they crave to meet their need at the field corner spot. Nick Watkins is entering his senior year and although he hasn't shown much on the field yet, the long, physical defensive back out of Bishop Dunne could depart after the season.
Because Vaughn played last year the Irish must add at least one tall, rangy cornerback in this class. Given their overall numbers at the position going forward, they need to add bodies regardless of which side of the field they fit best, so who is on their board?
Let’s start with athletes ticketed for this weekend’s Blue-Gold Game.
Arizona three-star recruit Dominique Hampton will be at the spring game along with cornerbacks Justin Birdsong of Georgia and Erick Hallett II of Texas. All three are slightly under the radar recruits but certainly talented. They will each make long treks to South Bend on their own dime.
Whether any of them will walk away with an offer is questionable but all have intriguing traits.
According to Hampton, he’s a true 6-foot-2, 185 pounds and has impressive film. Other than that, he is fairly unknown, as is Notre Dame's interest. Birdsong may be the most likely to receive an offer of the three. He played free safety last year, but played it well with 81 tackles, eight passes defended, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Hallett won the DB MVP at The Opening New Orleans Regional.
Aside from these three, things are a little less clear.
Houston Griffith is certainly the most talked about defensive back with an Irish offer in hand. The Chicago native plays for D1 factory IMG Academy and has one of the more impressive offer lists (34 in total) of all the recruits on the board.
The top 100 athlete from the Midwest has been to Notre Dame on several occasions and will return on April 26. He also stopped by Florida State in February and more recently, Ohio State and Penn State. On top of that, his father is a Big 10 analyst and an Illinois alumnus, a school the four-star visited on February 15.
All things considered, Griffith is far from a lock to Notre Dame, and even if he was, some say he will play safety at the college level. Based on film, Griffith would be more than ideal at the field corner spot and Notre Dame picked up two safeties last cycle (Jordan Genmark-Heath and Isaiah Robertson), plus current commit Derrik Allen will likely start at free safety early.
All three are talented but there is little intel on their interest in Notre Dame at this point. They all have lengthy offer lists but they haven’t scheduled visits to Notre Dame.
Then there are the two cornerbacks from the state of Washington.
Tre'Shaun Harrison hasn’t shown much interest in Notre Dame. To further complicate matters, he could end up on the offensive side of the ball in college. Kyler Gordon, however, has expressed interest and has been in more regular contact with the staff. The Irish will continue to work on getting him on campus. Whether that comes before or during the season remains to be seen.
The Irish would love to take four corners in this class but their scholarship numbers suggest they will likely have to stop at three. If one of their top targets pulls the trigger and commits to Notre Dame soon, the staff could exhale and methodically approach the remaining targets while balancing the roster number.
Considering the Irish already have Allen and Gervin on board in the secondary, attracting two more capable cornerbacks should be a goal the Irish can accomplish.