Darnell Jefferies (© Michael Clark/Scout)

Irish may have a dark horse D-tackle target

Notre Dame wants another strong defensive tackle class. Hitting that mark might require finding a few new targets. Turns out there’s a four-star from Georgia looking harder at Notre Dame than many believed.

Outside of Ja’mion Franklin and P.J. Mustipher, Notre Dame has struggled to gain traction with most of its defensive tackle board.

That could be changing.

When Notre Dame offered 6-foot-4, 280-pound Darnell Jefferies back on March 2, it looked like a recruitment that might not advance beyond casual interest. With 24 FBS offers, including Alabama, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia, LSU, Ohio State, Tennessee, Miami and Ole Miss, Jefferies will have his pick of programs.

Notre Dame sits as a serious contender among that group, according to Newton High School assistant Joshua Skelton, who aids in the recruitments of the program’s players.

“He likes the education standpoint and the tradition of people they’ve had when you talk about the (defensive) linemen they’ve put out,” Skelton said. “Stephon Tuitt, he’s been to the school before. One of our coaches coached the Monroe-area and that’s the school that (Tuitt) went to. He’s been by before and talked about Notre Dame a little bit.”

Although Jefferies has the attention of most of the top programs in the south, Notre Dame still sticks out.

“The main thing, Notre Dame is in the conversation,” Skelton said. “Clemson is too. Georgia is in the conversation and maybe South Carolina a little bit as well. Those are the four that we’ve talked about. He’ll be releasing a Top 10 soon. Those four schools stick out. Notre Dame is a little further (behind) right now, but the education standpoint sticks out.”

Skelton gushed about his disruptive lineman and what he brings to the Newton defense.

“Darnell Jefferies is an outstanding player,” Skelton said. “He has a lot of athletic ability. I think he’d change any program and be good for any program at this point. I know Alabama came by yesterday, at the school. They inquired about him a lot. Of course, he has an Alabama offer, but he hasn’t talked about them a lot.

“He’s extremely athletic. He’s played middle linebacker, he’s played tight end, he’s played (defensive) end, he’s played inside, so we’re talking about a very athletic guy who’s already at 275-280-pounds.”

It appears Jeffries could be an academic match for Notre Dame.

“He’s already qualified (academically),” Skelton said. “He’ll continue to take the tests just to get his scores as high as he can so he can qualify to go to whatever school he wants to go to. He’s doing a 3.0, GPA-wise. Academics is a strong point for him. That’s major in his decision.”

The next step for Notre Dame is to score a visit. The Irish are making quiet headway there.

 “A decision is in the works (to visit) Notre Dame,” Skelton said. “We talked about the summertime to try to get up there. As far as a final decision, sometimes he wants to commit before the season gets going. Other times, it’s before October. I just think the school that makes him feel more comfortable will definitely get honored with a commitment.”


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