Making sense of the cornerback board

The Irish missed at cornerback last cycle and now have a board full of question marks. Irish Illustrated investigated Notre Dame’s nationwide corner hunt, focusing on some next level targets.

Cornerback rates among Notre Dame’s most talented positions on the current roster. It also rates among the youngest. Because in Julian Love, Donte Vaughn, Troy Pride and Shaun Crawford, the Irish have four cornerbacks with starting experience and three remaining years of eligibility.

But it’s what comes after that group which slots among Notre Dame’s biggest recruiting concerns.

Notre Dame whiffed at the position last cycle and lost four-star Kalon Gervin to a de-commitment earlier this month.

Where do the Irish go from here?

It appears Notre Dame is targeting plenty of regional prospects rated as three-star athletes, although national prospects Houston Griffith and Kyler Gordon remain in play.

Who are these recruits and what do they bring to the table?

Let’s start with three recent offers followed by some other talent worth knowing.

Donte Burton appears to be the most complete prospect of the recent offers. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound junior shows that he can run with any of the talented receivers from Georgia’s talent-rich 7A division. He shows sound technique and impressive athleticism.

This kid has legit man coverage skills. His offer list proves that college recruiters agree.

Colorado, Louisville, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia and Wisconsin are among his top offers.

Burton, who boasts a 3.7 GPA, put Notre Dame on the top of his list.

As far as cornerbacks who offer strong run support, this three-star corner may be most talented.

Plummer racked up 42 tackles, two tackles for loss and 10 pass breakups last season. His junior film shows he’s efficient in defending the run. He takes effective angles to the football and arrives aggressively, delivering great contact and wraps well.

Unfortunately, there is very little footage of him in coverage.

Regardless, Todd Lyght watched him work out recently and liked what he saw enough to offer.

Two-way North Fort Meyers star Joseph Wilkins is another prospect difficult to assess via film.

His junior season film consists of offensive highlights. He shows good athleticism and ball skills as a wide receiver but there just isn’t enough footage of him in pass coverage to make a good read on what he brings to the table as a defensive back.

The Irish have assessed Wilkins in person and like his traits and how they relate to the cornerback position.

The Irish have also dipped into the state of Alabama to find answers at cornerback.

This Birmingham, Alabama defensive back shows plenty of impressive traits on film. The second-ranked cornerback in Alabama is a smooth athlete with good speed and instincts. He’s a playmaker on offense and in the return game.

Thomas suffered a major setback in the second round of the playoffs when he tore his right ACL, which led to surgery. Scout intel has told us that if Thomas bounces back to full form, his stock could rise significantly.

Thomas told Irish Illustrated that he may attend Irish Invasion.

Avery Young has been hearing from Notre Dame for months and after watching his film, we understand why.

Young shows impressive natural athleticism and a knack for making big plays on both sides of the ball. He looks to be the type of prospect who could help the Irish after a redshirt year to develop more physically and hone his coverage skills.

Young will be in South Bend for the Irish Invasion event, where he hopes to earn an offer.

Christian Jackson plays in the same defensive backfield as current Irish, Derrik Allen at Lassiter in Marietta, Ga.

Lassiter defensive backs coach Ced Dickerson told Irish Illustrated that we’d be hard-pressed to find a more athletic cornerback in the country than Jackson.

Although Jackson is committed to Michigan State, the Irish will give him a good, hard look during Lassiter’s spring game on Friday, May 19. Don’t be surprised if an offer comes down.

The Irish have shown interest in three-star defensive back Justin Birdsong, which led to his visit during the Blue-Gold Game weekend.

Making the trip from Stone Mountain, Ga., to South Bend likely awarded him bonus points with the staff. But Birdsong left without an offer and now Notre Dame has moved on to offer two three-star cornerbacks from the Peach State, in Donte Burton and Telly Plummer.

Birdsong plays free safety for his program and racked up over 80 tackles during his junior season. Unfortunately for him, while he’s racking up MAC offers, the Irish seemed to have passed.

Peoria, Arizona three-star recruit Dominique Hampton also made a long trip to South Bend for the Blue-Gold Game.

At 6-foot-2, 185-pounds with intriguing athleticism, Hampton’s film is also limited in terms of coverage due to his play on the offensive side of the ball. Hampton told Irish Illustrated that Todd Lyght plans to visit Centennial High School to watch him work out.

Hampton may need to show more ability in his senior film to earn an offer. He currently boasts five strong Pac-12 offers and hopes to add Notre Dame to his list.

Former teammate of Notre Dame freshman tight end Brock Wright, Erick Hallett was among the trio of under-the-radar cornerbacks that attended the Blue-Gold Game.

Hallett won the DB MVP at The Opening Regional in New Orleans and shows sound technique on film. The three-star corner could earn an offer in the future with more physical maturity and a strong senior season.

The Irish coaching staff visited him during the spring evaluation period but left Cypress without adding Hallett to their offer board.

Germantown, Tennessee two-way star Jaylin Williams may not necessarily be recognized as an under-the-radar recruit much longer.

Irish Illustrated has spoken with his coaching staff, which has been hearing from several SEC schools and hosting visitors like Auburn, Ole Miss, and Notre Dame during the evaluation period.

Williams ran a 4.53 40-yard dash at The Opening Regionals in Atlanta after competing in several events in a track meet less than 24-hours prior. In the following weeks, he earned offers from Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Indiana, Washington State and others.

Williams told Irish Illustrated that he may attend Irish Invasion.

Curry Benn is currently unranked in Scout’s database.

So far in his recruitment, Benn has collected six offers. The top two on his list are from Pac-12 programs, Arizona and Colorado State.

Benn needs to mature more physically before he would be considered for an offer from Notre Dame.

He plays at 2016 Louisiana 5A State Champion Landry-Walker High School, the same school as Irish four-star wide receiver recruit Devonta Jason.

Benn told Irish Illustrated that he will attend Irish Invasion.

Three-star recruit Tywan Davis plays in the same defensive backfield as Curry Benn.

Other than playing some safety as well as cornerback, Francis is the same level of athlete that Benn is.

These two could earn an offer from the Irish during their Irish Invasion visit but they very likely need to work more in the weight room and on their overall game.

Reese Taylor of Ben Davis in Indianapolis an interesting prospect.

Like Joseph Wilkins, he is hard to assess on film as he is best known for his play at quarterback.

He shows good speed and impressive athleticism but he will have a lot to prove at Irish Invasion as a defensive back. It’s unclear how interested Notre Dame is right now, at least before getting Taylor into a workout this summer.

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