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Whom might Notre Dame add to this recruiting class in six days?

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Less than a week from National Signing Day, Notre Dame is in a position of power compared to most schools. The Irish have just one unsigned commit — consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy, Little Rock, Calif.) — and that is a firm pledge by every indication. Instead of worrying about losing committed high schoolers to last-minute impulses, Notre Dame stands to possibly gain a few.

Technically speaking, the Irish can exceed 25 scholarships in this class by counting up to four of the early enrollees toward last year’s signing class. That remains unlikely both from a roster construction standpoint and in considering the streak of possibilities that would need to align in a row for Notre Dame to close on four players in the next six days. Even if there were four players leaning 75 percent toward the Irish, for example, there would be only a 31.64 percent chance of landing all four.

That is clearly an example using a relatively round initial number to make a point. It is not to say there are four distinct recruits leaning that strongly toward Notre Dame, or that weakly if wanting to be critical.

There are eight prospects remaining in play for the Irish coaching staff, albeit to varying degrees. Without attempting to get too far into the minds of 17- and 18-year-olds making life-changing decisions, the eight are listed below in vague order of most- to least-likely to commit to Notre Dame no later than Feb. 7. These rough estimations are intentionally based on facts more than anything else because, again, these are teenagers considering the sales pitches of literal recruiters.

Consensus three-star running back C’Bo Flemister (Pike County High School; Zebulon, Ga.)
Any pledged commit from before Dec. 20 who did not sign during the early signing period is a dubious commitment at best. That is part of why Notre Dame emphasized receiving a National Letter of Intent from each and every one of its then-commitments. That removed all doubt.

Flemister has been committed to Georgia Tech since early December, but he did not seal the deal during that three-day period. Though he remains committed to the Yellow Jackets, the Irish have pursued Flemister diligently since dismissals ravaged their running back depth. Perhaps more notably, Notre Dame has not chased other running backs in a similar fashion, indicating some sense of comfort with Flemister.

He is also considering Tennessee to some degree, visiting both the Vols and the Irish this month.

DJ Brown (rivals.com)

Consensus three-star cornerback DJ Brown (St. John’s College H.S.; Washington, D.C.)
Brown de-committed from Virginia on Tuesday, and then to add insult to injury, he announced a top three not including the Cavaliers. It did include Notre Dame, Cal and Northwestern.

Such a shift should bode well for the Irish, who will continue to take as many cornerbacks as they can after not signing any last year. The Under Armour All-American may create an abundance of options at the position in the short-term, but the depth chart is only a year or two away from needing every piece of this class.

Consensus three-star defensive lineman Derrick Eason (Norview; Norfolk, Va.)
Eason committed to North Carolina State back in late July. Care to guess what he did not do in December? That’s right, Eason did not sign with the Wolfpack. At 6-foot-4 and 240-plus pounds, Eason could yet end up at defensive end or tackle. Either way, adding a fourth defensive lineman to the class would create a sustainable roster distribution for Notre Dame.

Lawrence Keys (rivals.com)

Consensus three-star receiver Lawrence Keys (McDonogh 35; New Orleans)
The first holdover from a December look ahead to this coming Wednesday, the Irish have maintained the recruitment of Keys despite landing three quality receiver prospects in the early signing period. That consistency will be needed if Notre Dame is to keep Keys from heading to Texas.

Consensus five-star offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere (Berkeley Prep; Tampa, Fla.)
There was some consideration to adding a ninth, superfluous name to this list in order to make the No. 5 spot the exact midpoint. Petit-Frere’s possibilities include the Irish, Michigan, Alabama, Florida and Ohio State, and he is unlikely to tip his hand before National Signing Day.

The reason Petit-Frere, pictured above, ends up a slot ahead of the next name is simple: Notre Dame would move roster heaven and earth if it needed to make space for the future stud at offensive tackle, the No. 1 tackle in the class, per rivals.com. From day one, Petit-Frere would change the landscape of the Irish offensive line — even if he did not start as a freshman, the looming days of him doing so would force other Notre Dame linemen to reconsider their best paths to playing time.

Rivals.com three-star offensive tackle Jarrett Patterson (Mission Viejo; Calif.)
The Irish may want another lineman in the class, and Patterson would fill that distinction nicely, but that would require convincing a Los Angeles product to walk away from UCLA.

Consensus four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu (Mater Dei; Santa Ana, Calif.)
Similarly, landing Tuliaupupu as the fifth linebacker in the class would mean talking him out of joining two high school classmates at USC. Could it happen? Sure, but it does not seem probable.

Consensus four-star cornerback Noah Boykin (H.D. Woodson; Washington, D.C.)
Boykin ended his commitment to Maryland shortly after visiting Florida. Those tea leaves point to him becoming a Gator.

Notre Dame makes Terry Joseph hire as safeties coach official

Associated Press
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Notre Dame (finally) announced the long-reported hire of Terry Joseph as safeties coach Tuesday. Most recently the defensive backs coach at North Carolina, Joseph fills the remaining hole left by former Irish defensive coordinator/safeties coach Mike Elko’s departure for Texas A&M. Linebackers coach Clark Lea was previously promoted to defensive coordinator.

“There are a lot of great programs in the nation, but there is only one Notre Dame,” Joseph said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to working with [head coach Brian] Kelly, the rest of the staff and embracing the opportunity to compete on a national stage in pursuit of this program’s mission: To graduate all of its players and win a national championship.”

Prior to North Carolina, Joseph spent time at Texas A&M, Nebraska, Tennessee and Louisiana Tech. With the Irish, his work will be cut out for him. Notre Dame lacks an established safety and could see two new starters at the position in 2018.

“Terry has an excellent reputation as a quality teacher and coach, as well as a committed recruiter,” Kelly said. “He has developed all-conference caliber players at each of his earlier stops. … Our players will certainly benefit from Terry’s teaching in terms of football, but I’m probably more excited to see our players benefit from his leadership skills away from football.”

Along with the announcement, Notre Dame released a video with some words from Joseph in which he makes quite a bold guarantee right from the top.

Note: The Irish safeties recorded zero interceptions in 2017.

RELATED READING: Reports: Notre Dame taps North Carolina’s Terry Joseph as safeties coach
Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame needs Terry Joseph to develop DBs … and recruit them (Jan. 22)

“What are the odds of additional coaching changes after National Signing Day?” — irishwilliamsport

The instinct is to say there is no chance, but that would be foolish. It is very unlikely. One of the side effects of December’s early signing period seems to be it moved the coaching carousel’s peak movement up by a few weeks. That showed itself in the assistant coaching staff turnover across the country shortly after Christmas.

The counter to that expedited timeline has been the addition of a 10th assistant coach to each staff. That created 129 new jobs. Some of those were already designated, such as Notre Dame with Tom Rees officially serving as a graduate assistant last season knowing he would be slotted into that 10th assistant spot as soon as it was legal. That “promotion” was so presumed and resulted in so little change, there was never even an official press release. The first people to notice it were probably 2019 quarterback commit Cade McNamara (Damonte Ranch High School; Reno, Nev.) and his parents; once officially an assistant coach, Rees could recruit off campus.

Many of those 10th assistants have trickled upward throughout the Football Bowl Subdivision. It has led to an increase in assistant salary pools and added another layer to the usual coaching carousel.

Obviously, the effects of the early signing period as they pertain to coaching changes will be seen every year. This assistant coaching influx, though, is a one-time occurrence.

Nonetheless, the Irish coaching staff has seen enough turnover in the last 14 months to think it is set for at least the next 10.

“He’s completely changed our culture.”

Notre Dame also released a video highlighting the contributions from strength and conditioning coordinator Matt Balis on Tuesday. This is a hype video and little else, but when noted straight-shooter Mike McGlinchey offers the above bolded quote, it stands out. The two-time captain has not paid anyone lip service in the last two years. McGlinchey giving that type of credit to one individual stands out as praise of a particularly honest brand.

The Irish undeniably faded over the regular season’s final third, but wholly rectifying the mistakes in the team’s strength and conditioning likely needed more than eight months of an offseason.

Further mailbag questions are welcome at insidetheirish@gmail.com.

A refresher of Notre Dame’s early signing period success

rivals.com
38 Comments

Eight days from now, Notre Dame will finish off its recruiting class, likely signing three more prospects to reach 25 in the class of 2018. Before looking ahead at those possibilities, it seems pertinent to offer a refresher of December’s early signing period. The first of its kind, the Irish coaching staff put the three-day stretch to better use than nearly any other program in the country.

Notre Dame expected 20 commits to sign the week before Christmas, and all delivered on that pledge. Consensus four-star receiver Braden Lenzy finished off the early period with a last-minute signing, announced via an essay on The Players’ Tribune. Lenzy joined two other four-star receivers in Kevin Austin and Micah Jones, creating perhaps the strongest position group in the class, rivaled by the linebackers.

Three of the four linebackers enrolled early — Jack Lamb, Bo Bauer and Ovie Oghoufo — the core of seven early enrollees.

RELATED READING: Seven early enrollees set a new Notre Dame high, but will they make an impact?

Though he did not enroll early, consensus four-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec remains the most hyped and discussed recruit in the class thus far. The chances of him starting as a freshman may be unlikely, though, as they are for any freshman quarterback.

That hurdle will not be as high for consensus four-star safety Derrik Allen. One of five defensive backs, Allen and consensus four-star Houston Griffith will have an early chance to contribute at safety, given that position’s struggles of late. Griffith will likely spend most of his career at cornerback, even if not beginning there, where he and two others in the class, Joe Wilkins Jr. and Tariq Bracy, help salve the error of not recruiting any cornerbacks a year ago. Local product Paul Moala will add further depth to the sub-par safety situation.

A similar, though less extreme, issue may be developing at running back and defensive end, with only one of each in this class at the moment. Typically, consensus three-star running back Jahmir Smith would be enough to fill that need for a year, but with the dismissals of sophomore running back Deon McIntosh and freshman running back C.J. Holmes in the interim since the early signing period, the roster desperately needs depth at the position.

RELATED READING: Stepherson may get the headlines, but loss of two RBs will cost Notre Dame most

Notre Dame does not desperately need depth at defensive end, but adding a couple to the depth chart each cycle creates better odds of finding success at arguably the most necessary and volatile position in college football aside from quarterback. As of now, only consensus three-star defensive end Justin Ademilola fits that billing of the 21 signed commits. His twin brother, consensus four-star defensive tackle Jayson Ademilola, joins at defensive tackle, along with consensus three-star defensive tackle Ja’Mion Franklin.

Per usual, there are no concerns at either tight end or offensive line. The Irish signed two tights and two offensive linemen, with another tackle, consensus three-star Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.) committing shortly after the early signing period, still needing to put finger to cell phone screen next Wednesday, Feb. 7.

RELATED READING: Notre Dame’s eight offensive signees — Brian Kelly’s take
Notre Dame’s 12 defensive signees — Brian Kelly’s take
Friday at 4: Context shows Notre Dame succeeded in the early signing period (Dec. 22)

With Jones bringing the class total to 22, Notre Dame’s focus the last the last six weeks has been on defensive linemen and defensive backs, adding running backs to that fray when McIntosh and Holmes were removed from the program. Of course, those three positions are not the end-all, be-all. There are exceptions in which the Irish coaching staff will take the best players it can get.

“Which true freshmen could you see making significant contributions this upcoming season?” — popelovesnd

Let’s first issue the necessary disclaimer: This answer could and likely will change based on how the seven early enrollees fare in spring practice, what remaining roster turnover will occur between now and August, and who Notre Dame signs with those three remaining spots in the class of 2018.

The obvious answer is Allen. The Irish need someone to step forward at safety, and there has been little-to-no indication that will be either of the current sophomores, Jalen Elliott or Devin Studstill. Notre Dame made Allen a recruiting priority because he just might be up to that task from the outset.

Sticking with defense, Lamb and Bauer will have a chance this spring to earn a starting spot, or at least a spot in the linebacker rotation. That would be quite a leap for someone who would normally be a high school senior, but it is a possibility, nonetheless.

If neither does offer that surprise, it will increase the odds of current senior Drue Tranquill moving from rover to inside linebacker. At that point, consensus four-star linebacker Shayne Simon enters this contribution conversation at rover.

Lastly, Lenzy very well could have a freshman season a la Kevin Stepherson in 2016. Comparisons to Stepherson may feel off-putting, but this is in discussing on-field performance only. Lenzy has outstanding speed, the type that can force its way up the depth chart regardless of age, immaturity or positional competition.

So, if a betting man were offered worthwhile odds, Allen and Lenzy seem the smartest wagers.

Further mailbag questions are welcome at insidetheirish@gmail.com.

Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame lands a 2019 CB; Auburn hires an Irish AD

rivals.com
19 Comments

Sanity is a commodity worth preserving. Thus, this space generally keeps any Notre Dame recruiting updates limited to the current recruiting class. Otherwise, two-thirds of these words would revolve around various offers, commitments, subsequent de-commitments, 16-year-old’s decisions and the other endless minutiae of the internet’s third-favorite niche industry.

In other words, discussing high school juniors today is 10 days earlier than usually allowed. Consider this an exception not setting a precedent, but rather granted because of a commitment so closely following this question submitted Sunday morning:

“Big junior day this weekend. Do you think any in attendance may be on commit watch? It seems last year the class of 2018 was already mostly in place, but there are only two commits thus far. Will that change soon?”

— William from Cypress, Texas.

Indeed, William, at least one junior at Notre Dame on Saturday was ready to commit shortly thereafter, with rivals.com three-star cornerback K.J. Wallace (Lovett High School; Atlanta) making that decision Sunday afternoon. Wallace chose the Irish over offers from Auburn, Penn State and Stanford, among many others.

“Honestly, I expected to commit at the beginning of [his senior] season, but I know this is the place for me,” Wallace told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “… I loved everything about the campus and the coaches. We met a few players and I like their strength and conditioning program, too. I couldn’t find much wrong about it.”

Securing a cornerback’s commitment so early in the class continues Notre Dame’s recovery from not getting any cornerbacks in the class of 2017, with three signed this cycle and another yet possible before next Wednesday.

William’s memory of a year ago is a bit inaccurate. Of the 21 players who signed with the Irish during December’s early signing period, only five had committed by this point a year ago. Broadly speaking, there tend to be a few key periods for recruits to commit. The earliest do so before their junior football season. Then there is typically a lull until the winter. For the majority of high school juniors, that silence lasts until after National Signing Day, at which point schools finally make the juniors a priority.

For example, Notre Dame secured three commitments the two weeks following National Signing Day 2017. December’s early signing period may have skewed that rush forward a few weeks, leading to decisions like Wallace’s, but it is too soon to gauge that effect of the new recruiting timetables. Either way, a handful of commitments coming to the surface in February would be logical.

— Bet you weren’t expecting to think about Auburn basketball this morning.

With a 25-point win over LSU on Saturday, the No. 19 Tigers won their third straight and 17th of their last 18. The winning streak coincides with the hiring of former Notre Dame baseball star Allen Greene as athletic director. Obviously, the hiring has nothing to do with the winning streak except the spot at the top of the SEC standings underscores the biggest challenge Greene will immediately face at Auburn.

Tigers head basketball coach Bruce Pearl appears to be more than tangentially-involved with the FBI investigation into basketball recruiting tactics, meaning Greene may soon face the unenviable prospect of pondering a coach’s future even as he wins the SEC and gets a high seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Greene is one of 10 Irish graduates serving as athletic directors somewhere in the Division I realm. Two others just made changes with head football coaches, neither necessarily voluntarily, but the Pearl dilemma will likely be a whole other type of ordeal.

Those other nine:
Gene Smith at Ohio State.
Stan Wilcox at Florida State.
Jack Swarbrick at Notre Dame.
Bubba Cunningham at North Carolina.
Mike Bobinski at Purdue.
Tom Bowen at Memphis.
Danny White at Central Florida.
Bill Scholl at Marquette.
Boo Corrigan at Army.

— Let’s turn to another reader question … “I miss the days when ND was Tight End U. Any chance of rekindling that? — nmmargie

An undeniable return to being considered “Tight End U” in 2018 will likely hinge on current Notre Dame junior Alizé Mack. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Yes, there is a chance. Notre Dame will have six tight ends around in 2018, and based off last season, Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long does genuinely prefer to include tight ends as often as possible. If current junior Alizé Mack can finally realize some of his physical potential, then he should certainly join the four Notre Dame products at tight end already in the NFL.

That number should even rise to five this spring. Durham Smythe caught three passes for 48 yards and a touchdown in this weekend’s Senior Bowl, and would appear to be trending upward as far as NFL draft thoughts may go.

That is not to say Smythe will be drafted, but, at the very least, he will get his shot in an NFL training camp of some variety.

Smythe and Mack combined to lead an under-the-radar productive season for Irish tight ends in 2017. The position group may have been inconsistent, but so was every other aspect of the passing game. The tight ends as a whole caught 45 passes for 476 yards and four touchdowns. They were certainly a part of the offense, even if not featured as expected entering the season.

Admittedly, nmmargie’s point holds merit. Notre Dame essentially abandoned the position in 2015 and 2016, much to Smythe’s detriment. However, the stretch of Ben KoyackTroy NiklasTyler Eifert – Kyle Rudolph – John Carlson – Anthony Fasano does stretch from 2014 back to 2003. Two years of relying on Will Fuller and Equanimeous St. Brown does not ruin that reputation by any means.

— Get ready for a Brian VanGorder defense in 2019.

The former Irish defensive coordinator landed that position at Louisville over the weekend. Notre Dame opens the 2019 season at Louisville on Labor Day.

— Need Tuesday night plans? The St. Brown Master Plan:

— Further mailbag questions are welcome at insidetheirish@gmail.com.

A call for mailbag questions; words from Jeff Quinn; links to read

Associated Press
25 Comments

Of the many pertinent effects of the early signing period back in December, lowest on the list would be it created more of a January lull when discussing college football.

Yes, Notre Dame has three spots left in this recruiting class and hopes to fill them yet with the likes of consensus four-star linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu (Mater Dei High School; Anaheim, Calif.), consensus three-star receiver Lawrence Keys (McDonogh 35; New Orleans) and rivals.com four-star/247sports.com five-star offensive tackle Nick Petit-Frere (Berkley Prep; Tampa, Fla.), but speculating about three scholarship spots requires far less bandwidth than pondering two dozen does. A recap of where the Irish may or may not stand with those and other prospects will certainly populate these parts before Feb. 7’s National Signing Day.

RELATED READING: With four spots remaining, what recruits is Notre Dame still chasing?

Note: In saying Notre Dame is pursuing three more recruits, that includes consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.) with the 21 signed commits. Jones will need to sign in February, as well, and could theoretically defect from the class, although that seems exceedingly unlikely.

Aside from those bits, there are still a number of weeks until spring practice commences in mid-March. Previewing it now would be rather preemptive.

Let’s turn to the cheapest of internet content, the form where the readers provide the creative spark. That’s right, a mailbag.

Questions? Ramblings unrelated to any recent article that may spark another story idea? Mere commentary seeking affirmation or rebuttal? Send them to insidetheirish@gmail.com. Of course, you can enter them in the comments below, but those get both lost and discussed long before a mailbag comes to be a reality.

Thanks in advance.

“Through one set of eyes”

Remember the name A.J. Dillon
If forgotten, then expect this space to mention it frequently over the next 22 months. The Boston College running back will be a junior when the Eagles visit Notre Dame in November of 2019.

INSIDE THE IRISH READING
Monday’s Leftovers: Notre Dame needs Terry Joseph to develop DBs … and recruit them
Brian Kelly promotes Jeff Quinn to Notre Dame offensive line coach
Brian Kelly knows what Notre Dame gets with Jeff Quinn as OL coach — more Brian Kelly
Friday at 4: Returning 9 fifth-years brings Notre Dame unteachable luxuries

OUTSIDE READING
Michigan State secrets extend far beyond Larry Nassar case
Jeff Samardzija honors his Notre Dame football coach, Tyrone Willingham
How long will Saban coach? Ready for Clemson-Alabama 4? And other offseason storylines