For Notre Dame to get back in the College Football Playoff discussion it needs to recruit with the best of them. And that doesn’t always mean pulling elite talent out of Florida, Georgia, Texas and California.
The reasons why Alabama and Ohio State are so dominant go beyond their national recruiting pull. The Crimson Tide and Buckeyes do well in their home states too. Now Notre Dame has a chance to re-establish itself in Indiana after an off-cycle.
The Irish have been strong in-state under Brian Kelly overall and can get back to that norm this cycle and perhaps the next one too considering the offers already out.
The Irish have come a long way from Kelly’s transition class seven years ago when Notre Dame signed local receiver Daniel Smith and lost de-commitment Blake Lueders to Stanford during the staff change.
With Kelly’s recruiting operation in place, Notre Dame locked down Indiana during the next five cycles, offering 17 prospects and signing 12. That group included five-stars Gunner Kiel, Sheldon Day, and Jaylon Smith. It also included two-time captain and second-round pick Nick Martin. The rest of Notre Dame’s in-state haul during that 2011-15 run was made of Tony Springmann, John Turner, Justin Brent, Drue Tranquill, Josh Barajas, Asmar Bilal, Mykelti Williams and Brandon Tiassum.
Of the five misses during that five-year run, the biggest may prove to be linebacker Darrin Kirkland out of Lawrence Central in Indianapolis. He’s started 16 games during his first two seasons at Tennessee, including 10 as a true freshman. Defensive tackle Darius Latham had a verbal offer out of North Central in Indianapolis and signed with Indiana, declaring for the NFL Draft after three years and making the Oakland Raiders roster.
Athlete Austin Roberts signed with UCLA and remains in the receiver/tight end rotation with the Bruins going into his senior year. Running back Remound Wright got a late offer but signed with Stanford, where he served as a back-up. Linebacker David Perkins of South Bend was committed to Notre Dame at one point, flipped to Ohio State, then was dismissed from the Buckeyes before landing at Illinois State.
But after signing Barajas, Bilal, Tiassum and Williams in that 2015 haul the Irish haven’t landed another in-state target.
Losing receiver Austin Mack to Ohio State hurt after the Irish led early for the Bishop Luers (Fort Wayne) standout, who played at the same program as Jaylon Smith. Defensive end Auston Robertson choosing Michigan State looked bad on paper, although off-field issues made that a practical scratch for Notre Dame before that recruitment got started in full.
Last cycle the Irish offered quarterback Hunter Johnson (Clemson), linebacker Pete Werner (Ohio State), defensive back Russ Yeast (Louisville), and wide receiver Mac Hippenhammer (Penn State). Yeast and Hippenhammer visited the Irish in January before sticking with their commitments. Werner flipped on Notre Dame, citing potential coaching instability in South Bend.
After suffering a 4-8 season, losing close recruiting battles wasn’t shocking.
Now Notre Dame appears ready to restart its operation in-state.
Indianapolis Cathedral four-star running back, Markese Stepp committed to the Irish early and has become the face of this recruiting class.
After much speculation, on Tuesday, May 23, Lawrence Central outside linebacker Cameron McGrone was offered by the Irish. After suffering a torn ACL last season, McGrone watched his recruitment slow down.
McGrone is ranked as the No. 1 outside linebacker in Indiana and the ranked 25th at the position overall.
The 6-foot-1, 210-pound backer will attend Irish Invasion.
Considering the situation at cornerback, D.J. Johnson could end up being a very important recruit for the Irish, depending on how their hunt for corners pans out down the road.
Johnson is a four-star recruit, the No. 1 cornerback in the state, and holds offers from Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Syracuse, Cincinnati, Indiana and more.
Although Johnson’s offer list is rather modest, his junior season Hudl highlights show he could develop into a strong contributor at the college level.
Another 2018 recruit from Indiana who could earn an offer, is offensive lineman Emil Ekiyor.
Scout’s fifth-ranked offensive guard prospect is currently committed to Michigan which was one of many strong Power 5 offers on his list.
His other offers include; Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Michigan State, Penn State, Tennessee, Texas A&M, USC and more.
If the Irish were going to offer the Indy Cathedral standout, they likely would have by now.
The 2019 cycle will likely be the most talent-heavy in-state recruiting class the Irish have seen in years.
David Bell is one of the top sophomore wide receivers in the country.
Last season, he caught 68 passes for 1,201 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Irish have already offered and have since made sure to drop by Warren Central to prove they’re serious about landing him.
Robbins told Irish Illustrated that Notre Dame has always been his dream school.
Considering Robbins is known as one of the most promising sophomore defensive ends in the country, the Irish may not have to reach down to the south for pass rushers in 2019. He visited Notre Dame on April 21, the day before the Blue-Gold Game.
This kid is a beast. Plain and simple.
Karlaftis hasn’t been shy about his excitement for the Irish offer he landed on March 31. The Greece-born athlete will attend Irish Invasion on June 10.
Things look promising for Notre Dame as of now. Of course, Karlaftis will see many more offers in the future and his father played at Miami.
At 6-foot-5, 205-pounds, with a long-strong frame and plenty of room to mature and develop, it’s not certain whether Young will remain a wide receiver by the time he graduates high school.
One thing is certain, he’s a raw, yet intriguing athlete who shows promise on film.
Young will also attend Irish Invasion.
Considering the talent coming in-state, both this cycle and next, getting beyond last season’s 4-8 record will be critical for Notre Dame to restart its Indiana recruiting success. Based on past precedent, there’s a good chance many of the prospects listed above will be part of coming Irish rosters.