Lee County High School; Sanford, N.C.
Measurements: 6’0”, 199 lbs.
Accolades: Consensus three-star; No. 16 prospect in North Carolina per rivals.com and the No. 20 running back in the class.
Other Notable Offers: Smith’s lengthy offer list included considerations from North Carolina, USC and Wisconsin.
Projected Position: Running Back.
Quick Take: Smith breaks tackles rather than avoiding them. A low center of gravity and eagerness for contact will knock defenders backward more often than not, in many respects offering a skillset currently lacking from Notre Dame’s backfield.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: The Irish have capable running backs floating around aplenty, but as 2017 showed, there can never be enough of those. Smith might as well expect to see some action his freshman season, especially if current junior Josh Adams heads to the NFL as is expected and logical.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Smith’s long-term viability in offensive coordinator Chip Long’s system will depend on skills other than the ability to run over opponents. Long requires a back be able to pass catch and pass block to be featured in the offense. If presenting those abilities, Smith will likely rocket up the depth chart given his physical running style already at hand.
Harrison High School; Farmington, Mich.
Measurements: 6’2”, 207 lbs.
Accolades: Consensus three-star; No. 9 prospect in Michigan per rivals.com and No. 36 at outside linebacker.
Other Notable Offers: Both Michigan and Michigan State pursued the in-state product, as did Boston College and Iowa State.
Projected Position: Outside linebacker.
Quick Take: Oghoufo may be the best coverage linebacker Notre Dame has in this class. Some time in a collegiate strength and conditioning program will help develop him into more of an all-around defender, improving his physicality and tackling in the running game.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Having a specific niche of a skillset can help set a freshman apart, such as excelling as a coverage linebacker. Oghoufo applies what he gleaned from playing offense in high school to the other side of the ball. This may not be enough to get him playing time right away, but it is the type of dynamic that could lend itself to a breakthrough sooner than expected.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Notre Dame defensive coordinator lucked into an ideal rover candidate in current senior Drue Tranquill, who will man the position again next year. Such ready-made athletes to fill Elko’s preferred defensive wrinkle will not always be available, but it is worth considering whether a lean linebacker with strong coverage skills will fit into that positional grouping more than among traditional linebackers.
If Oghoufo fills out, however, a move inside could be within the realm of possibility.
JOE WILKINS, Jr.
North Fort Myers High School; Fla.
Measurements: 6’2”, 175 lbs.
Accolades: Consensus three-star.
Other Notable Offers: Wilkins’ recruitment was slow-developing but seemingly long-focused on Notre Dame. South Carolina, South Florida and Louisville lead a number of southeastern offers, while Washington State, Arizona and Michigan State provided other non-regional options.
Projected Position: Cornerback.
Quick Take: Notre Dame desperately needs defensive backs. By no means is that the only reasons Wilkins was sought, but it explains why a quiet recruitment results with a November commitment. That need was an exact part of his commitment, then telling Blue & Gold Illustrated, “They don’t have any freshman corners right now. I’m definitely going to get a chance to play early and to compete for a spot.”
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Even if Wilkins does not initially break into the rotation as a freshman, the Irish have only five cornerbacks at the moment, often needing as many as four frequently in one game. If one (such as current sophomore Julian Love) were to move to safety, suddenly an incoming freshman could be one play away from notable playing time.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Current senior Nick Watkins will be in his final season of eligibility in 2018. Love will have two remaining — as will his classmates Troy Pride and Donte Vaughn and junior Shaun Crawford — but another starring season could prompt NFL talk. The chances will be there for Wilkins, as he suggested. Last year’s recruiting failure is very much Wilkins’ gain.
North Caroline High School; Ridgely, Md.
Measurements: 6’2”, 300 lbs.
Accolades: Consensus three-star; No. 11 prospect in Maryland per rivals.com and No. 34 defensive tackle in the class.
Other Notable Offers: More than half the ACC offered Franklin, including Boston College, Pittsburgh and Virginia, as well as Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s previous home, Wake Forest.
Projected Position: Defensive tackle.
Quick Take: Franklin’s abilities may shine through more in stopping the run than in pursuing the quarterback. His frame carries his 300 pounds without trouble, a prototypical mound in the middle.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Franklin will provide depth at a position very recently lacking any and all such options. If current junior Jerry Tillery heads to the NFL, then that need will increase exponentially. Either way, Franklin could be in line for some action in 2018, but a Tillery departure would all but assure some situation-specific duties.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Along with freshman Darnell Ewell, Franklin is one of few true defensive tackles on the Irish roster. That is not the case just because he breaks 300 pounds. Rather, Franklin’s ability to consume blocks is only rivaled by his hands’ ability to shed individual offensive linemen. Before long, that is likely to move him up the depth chart to a consistent role.
MATTHEW ‘BO’ BAUER
Cathedral Prep; Erie, Pa.
Measurements: 6’3”, 220 lbs.
Accolades: Rivals.com four-star; No. 5 inside linebacker per rivals.com, No. 5 prospect in Pennsylvania and No. 142 in the country.
Other Notable Offers: Bauer committed to Notre Dame the August before his junior year, stymying any version of an elaborate recruitment. Michigan State, Penn State and Vanderbilt also offered.
Projected Position: Inside linebacker.
Quick Take: Bauer already has much of the physicality necessary for the collegiate level, though he may not be as readily-athletic as fellow commit Shayne Simon, for example. Simon, however, will line up at rover where that speed and agility will be more necessary. Bauer will be counted on to fill holes and routinely embrace opposing offensive guards.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: If current sophomores Jonathan Jones and Jamir Jones (no relation) do not prove themselves worthy of an influx of playing time, Bauer could quickly establish himself as a second-stringer seeing competitive action. That cause will only be immediately furthered if junior Te’von Coney jumps to the NFL.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko made sure to fill up on linebackers in this class, and highly-touted ones, at that. Reading between the lines, that does not speak well of current freshmen David White and Drew Adams. With that in mind, Bauer should move his way steadily up the depth chart in the first half of his career before breaking through in 2019 or 2020.