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Big recruiting weekend for the Irish

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Offseason recruiting is a tricky business. Even if the visits don’t result in a commitment, getting a recruit on campus over the summer — before an official visit — is critical to a team’s overall success in landing an elite player. Over the past few seasons, Brian Kelly and his staff have had great success with a number of different tactics.

Large Junior Days, where top flight prospects come in droves, was an early technique. Smaller select groups, like the ones used early last recruiting cycle, were a smashing success last spring. And the traditional summer camp is still a staple, where elite prospects get a look at campus and a workout with the staff, while mid-level prospects come to earn an offer from a program they like.

Count the next few days as a big ones for the Irish. With the coaching staff holding camps and hosting visitors, some of the biggest names on the Notre Dame recruiting board will be on campus getting a closer look at what the Irish program has to offer.

Here’s a quick rundown of commitment recruits and potential prospects that will be on campus this weekend for what the Irish staff is calling their “Future Stars Camp.”

THE COMMITS

Alex Bars, OT
Jimmy Byrne, OG
Quenton Nelson, OT
Sam Mustipher, OG
Elijah Hood, RB
DeShone Kizer, QB
Greer Martini, LB
Nic Weishar, TE

The Skinny: It’s always important to have a group of committed prospects on campus with a group of targets, if only to have some positive reinforcements surrounding the other elite targets. As we saw last year, having a few elite recruits like Jaylon Smith selling Notre Dame was just as important as having top-flight recruiters like Tony Alford and Chuck Martin selling the school. Those roles could quickly be filled by guys like Elijah Hood and DeShone Kizer, personable kids with a lot of stars next to their names.

THE TARGETS

Lorenzo Carter, DE
Matt Elam, DT
Thomas Holley, DT
Corey Holmes, WR
Jaylen Johnson, DE
Kevin Mouhon, LB
Cameron Sims, WR
Donte Thomas-Williams, RB
Trevion Thompson, WR

The Skinny: There are no bigger fish in the recruiting ocean than Carter, who has the reputation of a Jevon Kearse type player. Carter is a long and lean defensive end type that could flex out and play outside linebacker. Traveling with Carter is his high school teammate Kevin Mouhon, a linebacker that’s deserving of his own kudos. Mouhon projects to be an inside linebacker type for the Irish, a position of need in this recruiting cycle.

Interior targets Thomas Holley and Matt Elam are two important recruits for the Irish. Notre Dame has been on Holley for some time, but their offer to Elam came recently. Depending on the recruiting service, Elam is either a very good player or one of the nation’s elite. Alabama seems to think the latter.

Skill wise, the Irish have three very good wide receivers they’re looking at. Corey Holmes has seen a lot of Notre Dame. He’s been on campus multiple times, and the St. Thomas Aquinas product could follow guys like Ben Turk and Sam Young to South Bend. Thompson is a guy that has offers from Alabama and Ohio State, with Clemson also at the top of a board where the Irish need to make a move. His high school teammate, Donte Thomas-Williams, is a power back in the mold of Elijah Hood, so it’ll be interesting to see if the Irish let Thomas-Williams pull the trigger on the North Carolina native. If you’re looking for a big-bodied, elite prospect, look no further than Cameron Sims, who at 6-foot-4 gives the Irish another outside receiving prospect and big-bodied possession guy, and already holds an Alabama offer.

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The work the staff is doing this week is hardly just with 2014 offers, but there are plenty of targets without scholarships in place in the 2014 class as well as some elite 2015 prospects already on campus.

Two Fort Wayne products, safety/linebacker Drue Tranquill and cornerback Donovan Clark are on campus hoping to earn offers, while a slew of 2015 prospects, guys like OL Anthony Herbert, LB Justin Hilliard, OL Jerry Tillery and OLB Garrett Williams will be trying to impress staff as well.

Five Irish players sign UFA contracts

Matthias Farley
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Notre Dame had seven players selected in the 2016 NFL Draft, trailing only Ohio State, Clemson and UCLA on the weekend tally. But after the draft finished, the Irish had five more players get their shot at playing on Sundays.

Chris Brown signed with the Dallas Cowboys. Romeo Okwara will begin his career with the New York Giants. Matthias Farley and Amir Carlisle signed contracts with the Arizona Cardinal. Elijah Shumate agreed to a contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

After missing two seasons, Ishaq Williams will be at Giants rookie camp next weekend as well, working as a tryout player. Expect Jarrett Grace to receive similar opportunities.

Count me among those that thought both Brown and Okwara would hear their names called. Brown’s senior season, not to mention his intriguing measureables, had some projecting him as early as the fifth round.

Okwara, still 20 years old and fresh off leading Notre Dame in sacks in back-to-back seasons, intrigued a lot of teams with his ability to play both defensive end and outside linebacker. He’ll get a chance to make the Giants—the team didn’t draft a defensive end after selecting just one last year, and they’re in desperate need of pass rushers.

Both Shumate and Farley feel like contenders to earn a spot on rosters, both because of their versatility and special teams skills. Shumate played nickel back as a freshman and improved greatly at safety during 2015. Farley bounced around everywhere and was Notre Dame’s special teams captain.

Carlisle might fit a similar mold. He played running back, receiver and returned kicks and punts throughout his college career. With a 4.4 during Notre Dame’s Pro Day, he likely showed the Cardinals enough to take a shot, and now he’ll join an offense with Michael Floyd and Troy Niklas.

 

Robertson picks Cal over Notre Dame, UGA

Demetris Robertson
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Demetris Robertson‘s decision wasn’t trending in Notre Dame’s direction. But those that expected the Savannah star athlete to pick the in-state Bulldogs were in for a surprise when Robertson chose Cal on Sunday afternoon.

Notre Dame’s pursuit of the five-star athlete, recruited to play outside receiver and hopefully replace Will Fuller, likely ended Sunday afternoon with Robertson making the surprise decision to take his substantial talents to Berkeley. And give credit to Robertson for doing what he said all along—picking a school that’ll give him the chance to earn an exceptional education and likely contribute from Day One.

“I am excited to take my talents to the University of California, Berkeley. The first reason is that the education was a big part of my decision. I wanted to keep that foundation,” Robertson said, per CFT. “When I went there, it felt like home. Me and the coaching staff have a great relationship. That’s where I felt were the best of all things for me.”

Adding one final twist in all of this is that Robertson has no letter-of-intent to sign. Because he’s blown three months through Signing Day, Robertson merely enrolls at a college when the time comes. That means until then, Kirby Smart and the Georgia staff will continue to sell Robertson on staying home and helping the Dawgs rebuild. Smart visited with Robertson Saturday night and had multiple assistant coaches at his track meet this weekend.

Summer school begins in June for Notre Dame. Their freshman receiving class looks complete with early enrollee Kevin Stepherson and soon-to-arrive pass-catchers Javon McKinley and Chase Claypool.

Sheldon Day drafted in 4th round by Jaguars

North Carolina v Notre Dame
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Former Notre Dame captain Sheldon Day didn’t have to wait long on Saturday to hear his name called. The Indianapolis native, All-American, and the Irish’s two-time defensive lineman of the year was pick number 103, the fourth pick of the fourth round on Saturday afternoon.

Day was the seventh Irish player drafted, following first rounders Ronnie Stanley and Will Fuller, second round selections Jaylon Smith and Nick Martin, and third rounders KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise.

Day has a chance to contribute as he joins the 24th-ranked defense in the league. Joining a draft class heavy on defensive players—Jalen Ramsey, Myles Jack and Yannick Ngakoue already picked ahead of him—the front seven will also include last year’s No. 3 overall pick Dante Fowler, who missed the entire season with a knee injury.

Scouted by the Jaguars at the Senior Bowl, Day doesn’t necessarily have the size to be a traditional defensive tackle. But under Gus Bradley’s attacking system (Bradley coordinated the Seahawks defense for four seasons), Day will find a niche and a role in a young defense that’s seen a heavy investment the past two years.

Smith, Martin, Russell and Prosise all drafted Friday night

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 13: William Fuller #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and Nick Martin #72 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrate a touchdown during the game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 13, 2014 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Jaylon Smith, Nick Martin, KeiVarae Russell and C.J. Prosise were all selected on Friday, with four Irish teammates taken on the second night of the NFL Draft. As mentioned, Smith came off the board at pick 34, with the Cowboys gambling on the injured knee of the Butkus Award winner. Nick Martin was selected at pick 50, joining former teammate Will Fuller in Houston.

The third round saw Russell and Prosise come off the board, with Kansas City jumping on the confident cornerback and the Seahawks taking Notre Dame’s breakout running back. It capped off a huge night for the Irish with Sheldon Day, one of the more productive football players in college football, still on the board for teams to pick.

Here’s a smattering of instant reactions from the immediate aftermath.