Keith Arnold

Markese Stepp Rivals
BGI / Andrew Ivins / Rivals

Indianapolis 2018 RB Markese Stepp commits to ND

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Notre Dame’s run of landing elite in-state prospects continues. The Irish accepted the commitment of 2018 running back Markese Stepp over the weekend.

The star running back at Indianapolis’ Cathedral High School chose Notre Dame over offers from Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee and a dozen other schools after spending Saturday at the Irish Invasion camp.

Steep took to Twitter to make the news official, posting the following statement:

“Thanking God for all he has done & every coaching staff that has extended me a football scholarship offer. However, today after many prayers & conversations with my family, I have officially decided to conclude my recruiting process & verbally commit to THE UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME. I’m beyond excited to become a part of the legacy in South Bend.”

Stepp is the second member of the 2018 class (he’ll sign his letter-of-intent in roughly 20 months), joining blue-chip quarterback Phil Jurkovec as super-early commitments. The six-foot, 205-pounder hails from the same high school that brought former safety John Turner to South Bend and he’s a teammate of 2017 commit Pete Werner.

Notre Dame’s had their sights on Stepp for a long time, offering back in February, one of their earliest 2018 offers. Already viewed as one of the state’s best running backs, Stepp’s blend of power and speed helped him run for 1,300 yards and 17 touchdowns.

 

Irish land Florida WR Jordan Pouncey

Pouncey BK Rivals
BGI / Rivals, Andrew Ivins
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Notre Dame’s big recruiting weekend continued on Saturday evening when Florida wide receiver Jordan Pouncey joined the 2017 recruiting class. He was on campus for the Irish Invasion and gave his commitment to head coach Brian Kelly, the first receiver commitment in the cycle.

Pouncey is a 6-foot-3, 185-pounder from Winter Park, Florida. While he’s a three-star prospect, he’s a national recruit with offers from Alabama, Florida, and Georgia among his 40 college options.

Autry Denson has been recruiting Pouncey for months, building a relationship with the talented receiver who had ties to Florida—his cousins both starred for the Gators before heading to the NFL. But after a whirlwind tour of college campuses this summer, Pouncey decided Notre Dame was the place for him, ending a recruitment after offering him a scholarship in May.

Multiple outlets caught the moment Pouncey committed to Kelly inside the stadium, with video of the conversation circulating online. Many others saw Pouncey show off some freaky athleticism, finishing off a completion from Irish commitment Avery Davis with a pretty smooth backflip.

Pouncey is commitment No. 12 for the 2017 class.

 

Irish land commitment from DE Jonathon MacCollister

Jonathon MacCollister Rivals
Rivals
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Notre Dame’s big recruiting weekend got off to a quick start. The Irish coaching staff accepted the commitment of Florida defensive end Jonathon MacCollister.

MacCollister, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound defensive end, was a teammate of Parker Boudreaux on the Florida 5A state champs at Bishop Moore. He had offers from Ohio State, Auburn, Oregon, Clemson and UCLA among others.

He made the news official after arriving on campus in South Bend.

Some programs are looking at MacCollister as a tight end. Notre Dame sees him as a potential strong-side defensive end, with Keith Gilmore and Brian VanGorder looking at him as a potential replacement for Isaac Rochell.

But if you’re looking for a good reason to like, MacCollister, he gave the following quote to Matt Freeman of IrishSportsDaily.com.

“It means everything to me,” MacCollister told ISD. “At the end of the day, I am using football. I am not letting football use me. I am using football to get a free education. A degree from Notre Dame is using football to benefit myself. I can’t even lie about that.”

MacCollister is another front seven addition to the 2017 class, joining linebackers David Adams, Drew White and Peter Werner and defensive lineman Kurt Hinish. He is commitment No. 11 in the class.

Irish A-to-Z: Shaun Crawford

Crawford BGI
Blue & Gold / BGI
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Notre Dame’s nickel back never made it to the field in 2015, with freshman Shaun Crawford lost for the season after he tore his ACL in August. It was an unceremonious end to a freshman season with great expectations, with Crawford impressing everybody who saw him compete in his first days on campus.

Crawford’s absence set back the Irish defense, hamstringing the secondary and putting Todd Lyght’s unit into a scenario where they felt their best option to fill his job was Torii Hunter—a converted wide receiver. That so much was hoisted onto the shoulders of Crawford tells you quite a bit about what the Irish staff thinks about the diminutive Ohio native, especially heading into his sophomore season.

With a starting job open opposite Cole Luke, Crawford has the chance to be more than just the team’s nickel back. And after seeing him compete this spring less than eight months after knee surgery, Crawford looks like a key piece to the defensive puzzle.

 

SHAUN CRAWFORD
5’8.5″, 180 lbs.
Sophomore, No. 20, DB

 

RECRUITING PROFILE

Under Armour All-American, top-100 player per Rivals. First-team All-State, Ohio state champion. Offers from Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and plenty other elite schools.

Crawford’s height was the only thing holding him back from a 5-star grade. And he got mighty close even at five-eight (and change).

 

PLAYING CAREER

Freshman Season (2015): Did not play after tearing his ACL in August camp. Medical redshirt saves year of eligibility.

 

WHAT WE SAID LAST YEAR

Crawford was ready for whatever the Irish staff planned to throw at him last year, if only the knee injury didn’t stop him.

Greg Bryant’s reported four-game suspension likely opens a door for Crawford to get a shot at returning punts for the Irish in addition to battling for snaps in nickel and dime coverage packages.

Crawford’s instincts are part of what makes him such a dynamic football player. While physically there’s not much he’s going to be able to do about getting matched up with a 6-4 receiver, Crawford could also be part of the solution at safety, especially if something goes wrong with Plan A and Max Redfield and Elijah Shumate.

Throwing too much on the shoulders of a freshman defensive back is never wise. But it would be smart to give Crawford a specific assignment—like the Irish did with Elijah Shumate during the 2012 title run—and let him go to work.

 

FUTURE POTENTIAL

The sky is the limit. The staff believes Crawford is an immediate impact player. I’m a believer as well—even if our only data point is a spring game where Crawford managed to wreak havoc, even while wearing a non-contact green jersey.

In today’s pass-heavy football, Crawford’s ability to play on the inside and against slot receivers is a key skill. While he’s not going to grow into the lengthy outside cornerback that can matchup all the time with lanky receivers, Crawford can do plenty of other things at an elite level that make him a really, really impressive prospect.

 

CRYSTAL BALL

I think it’s only a matter of time before Crawford is a starter on this defense. I’m confident he’s already one of the team’s best 11 defenders, regardless of if he’s categorized as a starter or nickel back.

The battle to start on the outside opposite Cole Luke will be interesting. Devin Butler’s foot injury likely turns this into a three-horse race, with Nick Watkins having to rehabilitate a broken arm this summer and Nick Coleman still very raw. Crawford’s best spot might not be on the outside, though he could be a compelling boundary cornerback. But he might be too good to pull off the field, especially if Watkins isn’t able to ascend to the starting job.

I’m not going to get wrapped up in what Crawford is called. I think he’ll be a guy that stays on the football field for as many snaps as possible, knowing that his playmaking ability and nose for the football will make him invaluable in Brian VanGorder’s scheme. I expect him to be one of the team’s leaders in filling up the stat sheet, an instantaneous upgrade from Matthias Farley at his best—when he had a quietly productive 2015 season in the slot.

 

2016’s Irish A-to-Z
Josh Adams
Josh Barajas
Alex Bars
Asmar Bilal
Hunter Bivin
Grant Blankenship
Jonathan Bonner
Ian Book
Parker Boudreaux
Miles Boykin
Justin Brent
Devin Butler
Jimmy Byrne
Daniel Cage
Chase Claypool
Nick Coleman
Te’von Coney

 

Big recruiting weekend on campus with Irish Invasion

The Opening - Day 1
AP
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It’s a big weekend at Notre Dame as the annual Irish Invasion camp will take place Saturday night in South Bend. With months of prep work by recruiting coordinator Mike Elston and his off-field staff, Saturday’s turnout will be a national showing, with Notre Dame’s staff getting an in-person look at some of their priority targets in the upcoming recruiting cycles.

Current commits Avery Davis, Cole Kmet and Isaiah Robertson will be on hand. Elite targets like OLB Baron Browning will get their first look at Notre Dame, along with edge rusher and UCLA commit Hunter Echols. The Irish will also host Osiris St. Brown, younger brother to Equanimeous, who was offered the night his brother committed to Brian Kelly.

This camp has been hugely beneficial to the Irish staff in recent years. Te’von Coney was a part of Irish Invasion. So were Kevin Stepherson and Devin Studstill, a first-hand look for the Irish staff that helped explain why Notre Dame’s coaches valued the three-star recruits so highly.

We’ll keep you updated over the weekend if Notre Dame’s recruiting class grows. For some prospects, this is commitment time. For others, it’s the first step onto campus, with an official visit coming during the season.

With plenty of info out there (most behind premium paywalls), there’s no shortage of previews on the talented recruits that’ll be on campus. Notre Dame’s staff won’t just be looking at 2017 recruits, but players in the next two cycles as well.

With a national reach and players coming from coast-to-coast, the Irish staff has made great strides by turning Irish Invasion into a must-attend camp for many elite prospects. We’ll see how quickly that translates into additions in the 2017 recruiting class, with 10 commitments already in hand.