Notre Dame needs to add significant talent at cornerback during the next few cycles.
On Friday, the Irish made a move on one of the top corners in the country by offering Chris Steele. The 6-foot-1, 186-pound junior from Bellflower, Calif., is rated the No. 1 corner in the West, No. 3 at the position nationally and No. 29 overall in the ’19 class, just outside of five-star status.
Steele plays at St. John Bosco, one of the top prep programs in California.
The Irish swayed from their typical recruiting process when offering.
“One of my coaches had me call coach Brian Polian,” Steele said. “He had let me know that him and the defensive coordinator and the defensive back coach had all sat down and broke down my film. They said I was one of the best corners in the 2019 class. He said they usually take things a little bit slower but he had decided to pull the trigger and really start recruiting me very hard.”
Steele has a close connection with a current Notre Dame defensive back.
“Me and (D.J. Morgan) have a pretty good relationship,” Steele said. “I’ve know him since I was really young. Me and him have a really tight relationship. I haven’t talked to him since I got the offer but I think I’m going to call him today just to let him know. He congratulated me but we haven’t gotten a chance to talk about it.
“He let me know it’s a really great program and he loves it. He just let me know that it’s definitely a place that I want to consider. He’s kind of like me. He’s big on athletics but he’s big on academics as well. He just let me know that I really get the best of both worlds and that was really huge to me.”
Strong academics and a family connection led to Steele’s commitment to UCLA back on Jan. 30.
“One of my uncles who passed away, he went to UCLA, so I was always around the coaching staff when I was younger so that played a big role in it as well.”
Steele’s top offers include Alabama, Arizona State, Cal, LSU, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Stanford, USC, Utah and Vanderbilt.
Two California schools have been coming on strong in recruiting the quality defensive back.
“The main school out of all the schools (showing interest) would have to be Stanford,” Steele said. “USC, they really just hopped on board and they’re coming on full speed.”
In the spring, Steele told Irish Illustrated that he had been considering attending Irish Invasion with another Notre Dame target, Amon-Ra St. Brown, a close friend of his.
But the pair of top Cali prospects had to curb those plans in order to attend the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Indianapolis, which fell on the same weekend.
“I had mentioned possibly visiting because I know (Amon-Ra St. Brown) is taking one of his officials down there,” Steele said. “Next year, I guess they set it up so 2019 kids can take officials. When he takes his official, I might take my official possibly the same weekend so I could go down there with him and possibly see what he’s going to do.”
Steele understands that keeping his options open going forward in his final two years of high school football is important.
Notre Dame will be in consideration going forward due to the strong combination of academics and football. Steele aspires to become a city planner in the future and likes what Notre Dame could provide him in the classroom.
Another positive for Notre Dame is Steele’s Midwest family connection.
“I have a lot of family (in the Midwest),” Steele said. “My dad’s youngest brother lives in Indianapolis and I have a lot of family in Ohio. I’ve been out in the Midwest a lot of times.”
Steele put together a strong sophomore season of 82 tackles, one tackle for loss, one interception, seven pass breakups and a fumble recovery.
Expect the Irish to make Steele a priority going forward.