Notre Dame gets the letter: Luke Jones, consensus three-star offensive tackle

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Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.

Measurements: 6’4”, 290 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus three-star; No. 45 offensive tackle in the class per rivals.com and No. 4 prospect in Arkansas.

Other Notable Offers: Jones was committed to Arkansas heading into the early signing period, but used Bret Bielema’s firing as a valid reason to avoid the dotted line. He then committed to Notre Dame within a week of the December period and did not flinch from that pledge despite the Razorbacks hiring Chad Morris from SMU while the Irish saw offensive line coach Harry Hiestand head to the NFL and replaced him with Jeff Quinn.

Projected Position: Offensive tackle.

Quick Take: Jones’ length makes him a valid tackle possibility down the line. Adding a third offensive lineman to the class also creates needed depth. Without Jones (or any additional offensive line commitments today), Notre Dame had only 11 offensive linemen rostered.

Short-Term Roster Outlook: Jones will be one of seven (and possibly counting) freshmen or sophomores among the 12 (or more) offensive linemen. If he excels, some time in the two-deep could be immediately available, but given the success of current freshman Robert Hainsey in 2017 and the expected rise of Hainsey’s classmates Josh Lugg and Dillan Gibbons, it is more likely Jones spends 2018 on the sidelines.

Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Current sophomores Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg have not excelled at tackle. That issue led to Hainsey playing throughout his freshman season as much as Hainsey’s solid practice performances did. Such a leap is unlikely to be repeated a second time in two seasons, but it could lead to an opportunity in a year or two for Jones.

Notre Dame gets the letter: DJ Brown, consensus three-star cornerback



St. John’s College High; Washington, D.C.

Measurements: 6’1”, 180 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus three-star; No. 67 cornerback in the class per rivals.com and No. 8 recruit in the nation’s capital; Under Armour All-American.

Other Notable Offers: Brown de-committed from Virginia at the end of January, quickly declaring a final three schools under consideration of Notre Dame, Cal and Northwestern. He also held offers from Clemson, Ohio State and South Carolina.

Projected Position: Cornerback.

Quick Take: Brown may be a genuinely prototypical cornerback, at his best in pass coverage and able to locate the ball in the air. By no means does he not need development, but given the stockpile of talent at the position two years ahead of him, Brown should have time to progress and be ready to contribute in a season or two.

Short-Term Roster Outlook: Brown is the fourth cornerback in this class — although consensus four-star Houston Griffith could also see some time at safety — compensating for the lack of cornerbacks in last year’s recruiting class. With three current sophomores at the position, as well as a junior and a senior with starting experience, Brown should not be readily needed in 2018. Perhaps he will make some special teams contributions, but that should be about it.

Long-View Depth Chart Impact: The recruiting failure of a year ago will be quite the boon for Brown’s career. Once the likes of current sophomore Julian Love, junior Shaun Crawford and senior Nick Watkins matriculate, there will be a scramble at the position. Only sophomores Troy Pride and Donte Vaughn will have experience, and at least two other cornerbacks will see regular action. That means Brown could be, perhaps should be, in position to contribute right away in 2019, if not start.

Notre Dame gets the letter: C’Bo Flemister, consensus three-star running back

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Pike County High School; Zebulon, Ga.

Measurements: 5’11”; 195 lbs.

Accolades: Consensus three-star prospect

Other Notable Offers: Flemister never publicly de-committed from Georgia Tech until this morning, although his recruitment had clearly been open for some time now. Flemister also considered Tennessee.

Projected Position: Running back.

Quick Take: Notre Dame was content with signing only Jahmir Smith in this class until removing current sophomore Deon McIntosh and freshman C.J. Holmes from the roster created a desperate need for running back depth. At that point, running backs coach Autry Denson quickly focused on Flemister and only on Flemister.

Short-Term Roster Outlook: Flemister is the fourth running back on Notre Dame’s depth chart. In 2017, the fourth running back saw plenty of action, albeit due to injury. That is the nature of the position, and Flemister can expect to be readied for a similar role if need should arise.

Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Smith has an advantage over Flemister at the outset, having enrolled early, but whichever of the two can gain a step on the other in games will be in prime position to see a lot of carries in 2019. At that point, current junior Dexter Williams will be gone and the Irish will need someone — or multiple someones — to complement sophomore Tony Jones. Offensive coordinator Chip Long enjoys utilizing two running back formations, but feels comfortable doing so only when both running backs involved can run, block and catch. Flemister will need to show a comfort level with the latter two, particularly the receiving, to be featured alongside the multi-tooled Jones.

It’s a different National Signing Day

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It’s National Signing Day. Longtime “Inside the Irish” readers are expecting post after post after post this morning announcing the arrivals of faxes. Not today, and not just because National Letters of Intent have not been sent in as literal faxes for years.

Notre Dame signed 21 recruits during December’s early signing period. That means today, what used to be a college football national holiday, will be far quieter. The Irish are expecting somewhere between four and six signees today. Only one of those has already committed, consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.).

The rest of the targets have announcements scheduled throughout the day.

Thus, it is distinctly possible the only “The Letter Is In” moment before the East Coast morning commute is that of Jones. Those few hundred words are, indeed, drafted within the cobwebs of the internet.

The two perks for the fans of this revamped system are the day is far less stressful, and each signee is considered a notable victory. The Notre Dame coaching staff’s success during the early signing period turned National Signing Day into a day filled with much upside and nearly no downside.

Anyway, with that refresher out of the way, here is a bevy of information on today’s possibilities and December’s signees, considering the decent chance that moment evaded some entirely. After all, it was the week immediately prior to Christmas.

Whom might Notre Dame add to this recruiting class?
The pros, cons and math of Notre Dame signing more than 25 recruits
As a National Signing Day primer, some mailbag questions

A refresher of Notre Dame’s early signing period success
Seven early enrollees set a new Notre Dame high, but will they make an impact?
Notre Dame’s eight offensive signees — Brian Kelly’s take
Notre Dame’s 12 defensive signees — Brian Kelly’s take
Context shows Notre Dame succeeded in the early period

Notre Dame signs consensus four-star WR Braden Lenzy
Kevin Austin and Micah Jones, four-star receivers
Phil Jurkovec, consensus four-star quarterback
Jahmir Smith, consensus three-star running back
George Takacs, four-star tight end
Tommy Tremble, consensus three-star tight end
John Dirksen and Cole Mabry, consensus three-star offensive linemen
Jack Lamb, consensus four-star linebacker
Bo Bauer, four-star linebacker
Shayne Simon, consensus four-star linebacker
Ovie Oghoufo, consensus three-star linebacker
Derrik Allen, consensus four-star safety
Houston Griffith, consensus four-star safety
Tariq Bracy, three-star cornerback
Joe Wilkins, consensus three-star defensive back
Paul Moala, local safety
Jayson and Justin Ademilola, twin defensive linemen
Ja’Mion Franklin, consensus three-star defensive tackle

As a National Signing Day primer, some mailbag questions

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Notre Dame knows its figurative floor for the class of 2018. Thanks to December’s early signing period, and the success the Irish had in that three-day span, adding a mere three commitments to the class tomorrow would make National Signing Day a success. With eight possibilities remaining on the board to varying degrees, reaching that mark seems rather likely.

Anything further would make it a banner week and the cycle as a whole a strong one for Notre Dame’s coaching staff. Pulling that off is even more notable when considering seven of the 10 assistant coaches were not yet with the Irish when the scholarship offers began flowing to the class of 2018.

In many regards, the early signing period rendered this February stretch relatively anticlimactic. While that may not be the case in each and every year to come, this first rendition sets a precedent.

With that in mind and few updates (read: none) to offer in the 24- to 48-hour window preceding the close to the recruiting cycle, let’s knock out a few broad recruiting questions.

RELATED READING: Whom might Notre Dame add to this recruiting class?
The pros, cons and math of Notre Dame signing more than 25 recruits

“Can you identify five-year transfers available for the Irish to sign? Any QBs?” — Kevin from Pasadena

“Regarding grad transfers, are we in the mix for Calvin Anderson and are we recruiting Tre Watson at all?” — The Dude

With just three commits signing along with consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.) tomorrow, Notre Dame would reach 87 rostered players slated for the fall. Losing more than two to transfer, career-ending injury or dismissal is realistic, but expecting four or five begins to stretch the norms. Yet, the Irish may need exactly that to occur if Wednesday sees five new commitments.

Thus, do not expect any graduate transfers to arrive this summer. This is not like last year, when Notre Dame already knew its offensive line reserves may be in flux after spring practices and some roster spots could open up. This is, in fact, a first for the Irish. If being honest, it is a welcome first. It is also a nationwide norm.

“You just look at the culture of college athletics in general right now, people are transferring at a much higher rate than they did 10 years ago,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian said in December. “… Let’s go under the assumption that there is going to be a little bit of turnover this year, and sometimes you don’t know who they are. Guys come in and surprise you.”

That absence of a graduate transfer at quarterback may seem like the abandonment of a possible bandage, but that would ignore two facts. First of all, there are not a plethora of bona fide quarterbacks looking to parachute in for one season. Secondly, the Irish do not lack quarterbacks. There are options — four, to be exact.

The same could largely be said of Anderson, a Rice tackle with transfer plans. While Notre Dame did touch base with him, he was not an inherent need and he has narrowed his focus to Michigan and Texas, with Auburn, Oklahoma and TCU on the fringe of his considerations.

Watson, a Cal running back, declared a want to transfer only two weeks ago. If he had been in the market the first week of January, perhaps the Irish would have chased him to fill the void in the depth chart left by the dismissals of sophomore Deon McIntosh and freshman C.J. Holmes, but since then Notre Dame has aggressively pursued Georgia Tech commit C’Bo Flemister. Presuming Flemister flips to the Irish tomorrow, that would salve those issues well enough.

“What’s the story with Daniel Cage? Last I remember hearing, Kelly was going to reassess this January. Is he just done?” — NDIrishCO

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Cage’s return was always doubtful. If a concussion forces you to take off a season, then the long-term decision has somewhat been made for you.

Notre Dame’s hopes of North Carolina State-commit Derrick Eason finding his way to landing with the Irish is a symptom of that conclusion. If Cage had found unexpected health in September yet still spent 2017 on the sidelines, then he may have been a piece of the puzzle in 2018. Instead, finding another body like Eason’s to plug into the defensive line can provide some depth.

Admittedly, the return of current junior defensive tackle Jerry Tillery already bolstered that depth to rather excellent levels. A healthy Cage at his best would have struggled to find much playing time amid Tillery, current senior Jonathan Bonner and freshman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, not to mention the latter’s two classmates, Kurt Hinish and Darnell Ewell.

“How come Notre Dame automatically does not get the best players in Indiana every year? There’s always only a handful of elite talent every year and you would think the flagship school in the state will automatically get them.” — ND16

Simply enough, you answered your own question. There are only so many players in Indiana that the Irish should be outright pursuing in the first place. In looking at both the current cycle and the class of 2017, only four players each year exceeded the average of Notre Dame’s signed players if measuring by ratings on rivals.com.

Last year, those four landed at Clemson, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Louisville. The last of those was cornerback Russ Yeast, and the Irish very much would have liked to reel him in, but he actually chose a school 50 miles closer to him.

This year, those four players have committed to Alabama, Michigan, Iowa and USC, not exactly shoddy football programs.

Even if bothered by the inclusion of Cincinnati and Iowa in those two lists, the sample size invalidates the argument. To point to one recruit’s decision each year as an indictment on Notre Dame’s recruiting is to completely disregard the natures of recruiting in general.

Further questions are always welcome at insidetheirish@gmail.com