Notre Dame has a chance to push its recruiting class forward during Blue-Gold Game weekend with more than a dozen visitors scheduled for South Bend.
Here’s what you need to know and whom you need to track.
The Top Targets
Recruiting Recap: Austin won MVP honors at the wide receiver spot at The Opening Regional in Miami, which got him invited to The Finals this summer. He’s been to Notre Dame before and has family in the Midwest. In other words, he knows plenty about the program before this weekend. The goal now is to quickly build a rapport with Del Alexander. If they hit it off, look out. Notre Dame could grab this four-star before he heads back to Florida.
The Intel: “He plans to take his time when attacking the recruiting process, but ND's Autry Denson is certainly pushing all the right buttons and making a significant impression on Austin. The Fighting Irish are sitting in a great spot right now. Austin is a glider that not only utilizes his frame by high-pointing the ball and out-muscling defensive backs, but also does a nice job of navigating after the catch. This is a big body who creates plenty of mismatches with his frame and playmaking ability. Austin shows good field vision and does a great job of making strong cuts without placing his foot on the brake. You just have to love his ability to time his jump and extend out for the football, but he shows some shiftiness to finish off the play as well.” – Florida analyst Corey Bender
Commit Watch: Maybe. Austin went on record with Irish Illustrated that he won’t commit this weekend. And yet, he’ll be here with both parents and should get a ton of attention from the staff and other commits. Be on alert.
Recruiting Recap: Cota took April visits to UCLA and USC while also picking up a recent offer from Georgia. According to his high school coach, Notre Dame has hosted Cota before when he made a national tour of schools with his uncle. While the dad’s connections to Oregon (football alumnus) and UCLA (played for Jim Mora in the NFL) are worth noting, so too is the fact Chad Cota played for the Colts when Bill Polian ran that organization. Brian Polian is now serving as Notre Dame’s lead recruiter here.
The Intel: “He's really been a big pass-catching target for three years but has taken it to another level this spring, mainly with some of the times he's clocked at various camps. He's a 6-foot-4 receiver running legit 4.5's, so he has the speed to go with the size and big catch radius. We've got him No. 3 out West at wide receiver and he's a top 10 wide receiver nationally, on track to be the highest rated wide receiver to ever come out of Oregon. He's a top 50 national guy too.” – national analyst Brandon Huffman
Commit Watch: Low. If this was Cota’s first visit to Notre Dame there would be no chance, but the family knows the Irish program and the staff. Plus, Braden Lenzy will be here. The Oregon athletes aren’t tight, but they know each other.
Recruiting Recap: Gant has been a regular at Notre Dame for the past year, going back to Irish Invasion when he worked out with Mathew Bauer. Now he’s less than a month away from a May 16 commitment date, with Notre Dame, Ohio State and Michigan the primary contenders. The Irish might represent the final visit before that commitment, usually a good sign. Gant would represent a perfect game of sorts for linebackers coach Clark Lea with Bauer and Ovie Oghoufo already on board. Oghoufo will be back in South Bend this weekend. He plans to tag team Gant with cornerback commitment Kalon Gervin.
The Intel: “Dallas is a long, athletic prospect who, physically, is the prototype outside linebacker. He named a top five, which Notre Dame is in. The buzz in Ohio is for the Buckeyes, but there has been talk that that is not a done deal. Notre Dame and Michigan are considered the two schools that can be the biggest threats to the Buckeyes.” – Midwest analyst Allen Trieu
Commit Watch: Low. Unless we’re talking silent commitments, there’s no way Gant makes a decision this weekend considering he has his announcement date set.
Recruiting Recap: The younger brother of Irish center Sam Mustipher has kept a low profile during his recruitment, in part because he has more here-and-now priorities. The heavyweight wrestler won a championship last winter before jumping into spring ball. He also took a visit to Penn State this off-season. Tennessee got a look too. Notre Dame should be considered the slight favorite based on the sibling connection and the fact the Irish have logged multiple visits the past couple seasons.
The Intel: “Notre Dame is always among the top teams in the discussion because his brother, Sam, plays there. He made a recent visit to Tennessee, and was at Ohio State at the beginning of the month. He also made a March visit to Michigan State, but Notre Dame, Ohio State and Tennessee are the schools to watch. Also, do not be surprised if Mustipher becomes involved with Alabama. As a player, he is very intriguing. He has a lot of offensive lineman skills, and would be a tremendous guard, but he loves defensive tackle and schools are recruiting him to play there. He possesses very good body control and can be an effective run stopper. Mustipher is explosive. – East Coast analyst Brian Dohn
Commit Watch: Decent. Notre Dame has done the legwork here and Mustipher has all the information he needs to make a decision. If the Irish off-season sells as well in recruiting as it has during spring ball, maybe Mustipher crosses the finish line.
Recruiting Recap: Peoples committed to Virginia Tech in February after picking up an offer from the Hokies earlier that month. That’s a quick recruitment, which probably sets up nicely for Notre Dame. Virginia Tech, even though Peoples called it a “dream school,” hasn’t had a lot of time to build a relationship with this cornerback. Notre Dame has already offered, so there shouldn’t be an interest gap between player and program. Again, the Irish need cornerback help.
The Intel: “Peoples is committed to Virginia Tech, but shortly after the decision received an offer from Notre Dame and set up a visit. The Irish are a realistic flip option, and it could take place sooner rather than later. In college, Peoples could play safety or cornerback. He will have to show his has the hip fluidity and speed to play cornerback, but the versatility he provides is intriguing. He drives to the ball well, but he needs to work on his change of direction. He is a good tackler, and active in coverage.” – Dohn
Commit Watch: Medium. This would be a quick flip, although Notre Dame has targeted former Virginia Tech commitments before. Could the Irish do it again?
Recruiting Recap: Smith revealed plans to attend the Blue-Gold Game during a stop at The Opening Regional outside Cleveland. The Irish were the only school mentioned in addition to Ohio State and Kentucky. Smith was in Columbus for the Buckeyes’ spring game last weekend. He also has a former prep teammate at Kentucky, which has created some interest in the Wildcats. Like most Ohio prospects that Ohio State wants, the Buckeyes will be tough to beat. However, the Irish will show off their corps of jumbo receivers on Saturday. Smith would be another one of those.
The Intel: “There has been a lot of controversy on Twitter with him calling out those who say he’s a tight end. In his early days, I think that thought was that he may grow into one, but now I think it is pretty clear he is a big wide receiver. Kentucky and Ohio State were considered two of primary schools in this race, but he has always spoken highly of Notre Dame and I think the Irish can climb in this race.” – Trieu
Commit Watch: None. Smith is record that he’ll commit in September. On top of that, he said he’ll take his official visits after that decision.
The three-star cornerback from Georgia has been up front with Irish Illustrated that he’s not just hoping for an offer this weekend, he’s expecting one. Considering the Irish would be his first Power 5 offer, that’s a reach on paper. Still, the Irish need cornerbacks in this class. But the more likely scenario has this weekend as an introduction between prospect and program, with an invite to return for the Irish Invasion put on the table.
Scout analyst John Garcia is a believer in this two-star cornerback who’s way under the radar. “He is small and doesn’t camp. He is one you’ve got to see in person,” Garcia said. “Love him. Small but feisty and a legit track athlete as well.” Campbell told Irish Illustrated that a Notre Dame offer could reshape his recruitment. But like Birdsong, no Power 5 offers are on the table yet. Would he return for Irish Invasion to work out?
Scout analyst Blair Angulo called Hampton a “late bloomer” entering the spring evaluation period, but now he’s got Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado on his offer list. Size at 6-foo-2 is a real plus for the Irish, even if Hampton is raw as a cornerback. In terms of the cornerbacks coming to the Blue-Gold Game without offers, Hampton has the biggest profile, by far. The fact he’s coming from Arizona is worth noting. Getting him out of state will take some work.
A former high school teammate of Brock Wright, this Texas cornerback is light on offers but showed well at The Opening Regional in Louisiana this spring. Nevada and Washington State have already offered. Interest from Yale is worth noting. Like Birdsong and Campbell, it’s probably going to take an Irish Invasion workout to move Notre Dame into the offer column. Hallett seems open to that kind of investment. If Hallett was a bigger corner it might help his cause considering what Notre Dame needs.
The Insider Report has an interview with Mayfield below, but this might be the most likely of all the offers this weekend. The Irish need to expand their offensive line board, Mayfield has a connection to Brian Kelly and he’s a pure tackle. Michigan recently offered, which led to a de-commitment from Minnesota. In terms of athletic tackles, Mayfield fits the bill. It would be a surprise if Notre Dame didn’t offer based on the profile.
Have Irish Found Their Next O-Line Target?
Jalen Mayfield has never visited Notre Dame. Still, the four-star offensive tackle from Catholic Central in Grand Rapids, Mich., has a connection to the Irish program.
Mayfield’s head coach there is Todd Kolster, a former offensive coordinator at Grand Valley State under Chuck Martin and staffer under Brian Kelly. So while the Irish will start building a rapport with the 6-foot-5, 260-pound athlete when he visits for the Blue-Gold Game this weekend, they already know plenty about Mayfield’s fit.
“I don’t know any people who have played down there,” Mayfield said. “But I know coach (Brian) Kelly knows my coach here and they’ve been friends for a while. So it’s pretty cool to have that connection.”
The Irish haven’t offered Mayfield but it’s easy to see that happening considering the four-star prospect’s skill set and Notre Dame’s needs. Mayfield is a pure tackle prospect with room to grow. He was a one-time commitment to Minnesota but backed off that pledge after Michigan offered.
Now Notre Dame, which wants to sign at least two pure tackles in this class, could be next. The Irish wanted to get Mayfield on campus during spring practice but couldn’t match schedules. Mayfield attended the Michigan spring game last weekend.
“I have really big interest,” Mayfield said. “That’s one of the best programs in the country year-in and year-out. That really interests me, all the history there. And they also really do well with their offensive linemen recently.
“That part means a lot. It’s not just about playing at the next level, but just developing guys in college. You see the success they have doing that. That’s a big priority for me. If you don’t have the goal to play in the NFL, you’re not going to get very far. Developing NFL players, that’s a big part of what I want to see.”
Mayfield, who will make the visit with his father, also wants to dig deeper into Notre Dame’s off-the-field opportunities.
“When I visit places I want to mostly see academics,” Mayfield said. “I could see anything with facilities anywhere. You don’t get to see the academic side on TV. I want to study business management and I know Notre Dame is one of the best academic schools in the country.”
Mayfield will arrive in South Bend with 14 total offers, a list that includes Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Arizona, Minnesota and Cincinnati. He said that in addition to Notre Dame, recent interest has come from Ohio State and Penn State.
Indiana Rush End Could Key Irish In ‘19
The biggest underclassman headed to Blue-Gold Game weekend won’t be at the actual Blue-Gold Game. On Friday, sophomore defensive end Beau Robbins will make the drive up US-31 to Notre Dame as the 6-foot-5, 230-pounder pushes a recruitment forward that probably won’t need help getting started.
The product of Carmel, Ind., already holds an offer from Indiana. Michigan and Minnesota visited this week to start the spring evaluation period. Ohio State and Northwestern already got visits. Now Notre Dame is up next.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets 15 offers in the next month just based on feedback that I’m getting,” said Carmel head coach John Hebert. “It’s gonna be a tidal wave here pretty soon.”
Notre Dame can’t look in-state for pass rush help most cycles, at least not for athletes who fit profile for the program and University. Robbins won’t have that issue, with Stanford showing early interest too.
The buzz about Robbins comes from the second half of his sophomore season when Hebert moved him from outside linebacker to defensive end.
“It was just one highlight play after another,” Hebert said. “It just so happened that’s when we went from a 4-4 team to state champion. Having Beau in really any situation, in a running situations he’s just an un-blockable player and as a pass rusher even more so.
“I think I knew he’d officially be a national recruit when our other FBS guys who were seniors couldn’t really block him last year in practice. And they’re good players. I don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface with Beau.”
Robbins finished the season with approximately 10 sacks, according to Hebert.
The Irish should be a player here moving forward.
“I know he’s always liked Notre Dame,” Hebert said. “Beau is the kind of kid, I can really see him at one of the Midwest powers. Somewhere close, he’s a family-oriented guy.”