Notre Dame hosted its first primetime football camp experience Friday night, with a slew of national recruits taking part in a two-hour camp dubbed the Irish Invasion. While I wasn’t there to watch the prospects take part, I’ve spent a dozen hours on the internet reading about the camp, so let’s walk through what happened.
Did Anybody Commit?
Let’s just get the big question out of the way. No, Notre Dame didn’t land any verbal commitments from campers, but that isn’t necessarily the point of events like this.
After the last few weeks’ flurry of activity, the Irish coaching staff likely feels very good about where they stand in the process, and will likely keep working on some elite prospects while being fairly strategic with their last half-dozen (or so) spots.
The biggest goal of a camp like this is to get top prospects on campus during the summer months, then locking in an official visitor for the season. That was accomplished with guys like Jacques Patrick, the five-star running back who was seen hanging with Greg Bryant and Tarean Folston. They also laid tracks with top 2016 quarterback Malik Henry.
Georgia defensive end Austin Bryant also got to kick the tires on life at Notre Dame, putting the Irish in the lead group before he heads off to The Opening.
Did Anybody Earn a Scholarship Offer?
So glad that you asked!
Michigan 2016 linebacker Daelin Hayes earned an offer after being one of the more impressive junior visitors on campus. Hayes is a 6-foot-3, 225-pounder from Orchard Lake, and the Irish joined Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Penn State chasing down one of the better linebacking prospects for next recruiting cycle.
The South Bend Tribune’s Tyler James caught up with Hayes, who was very excited about the offer.
At the conclusion of the camp, Hayes was given an opportunity to follow in Smith’s footsteps when the Irish coaching staff extended him an offer. The news came shortly after a celebration of the last rep of one-on-ones.
“We knocked it down and I just see Jaylon’s big ole self jumping in the air, so I jumped with him,” Hayes said. “Coach (Bob) Elliott was jumping up and down. Coach (Brian) VanGorder was jumping up and down. Everybody was going crazy. We were doing all that, and they said we can’t let you leave here. We want to coach you. You have an offer from us. I went over to coach (Brian) Kelly and he told me the same thing.”
Hayes, on his third visit to Notre Dame, responded with elation.
“I was speechless,” Hayes said. “When they told me, I was very excited. I was at a loss for words. It was a great feeling. Notre Dame’s always been one of my favorite schools.”
After losing quarterback commit Blake Barnett to Alabama, Notre Dame is after Crimson Tide commitment Mekhi Brown. The lanky defensive end prospect earned an offer over the weekend and was very impressed with things in South Bend.
One of the top prospects in the country (he’s a consensus Top 50 talent), Brown has been committed to Alabama for over a year. But after his trip to South Bend, Notre Dame is now No. 2 for the Georgia prospect.
“Notre Dame was easily my favorite place of the trip,” Brown told 247Sports.com’s Ryan Bartow. “Just how they sold the school. The education there is so valuable. Its like getting an Ivy League degree. Plus the history aspect of the football program.”
So Who Looked Good?
From all reports, Notre Dame landed a dynamic defender in Ohio cornerback Shaun Crawford. Crawford isn’t the biggest guy in the world, but his athleticism is tough to ignore. He was a lock down cornerback and impressed just about everybody on campus — reporters, coaches, and players.
Our friends over at Irish Illustrated put together this video breakdown of what they saw, and it’s worth a few minutes of your time. You’ll see why Crawford is such an exciting prospect.
Any update on linebackers?
Highly-touted Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard was on campus again, taunting fans all around college football with his Twitter feed as he continues to make his college decision a mystery. The five-star prospect caught up with 247Sports.com’s Director of Scouting Steve Wiltfong and basically said everything you want from a recruit who seems 50-50 on Notre Dame and Ohio State.
“They’re two totally different schools. Notre Dame is more of a structured kind of school like the one I’m coming from,” Hilliard told Wiltfong. “Very academic, prestigious. They both have really good business schools. Ohio State is a big public school. Exciting, a lot of energy on the campus. The players are really awesome. I felt comfortable at both schools.”
Hilliard was spotted riding in a golf cart with Brian Kelly before taking off and heading to Columbus the next day.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame impressed another top linebacker, Florida’s Tevon Coney, who got a closer look at campus and the Irish coaching staff this weekend. In case you wondered if Notre Dame was only taking Hilliard or Coney, that doesn’t seem to be the case, per Coney himself, who got into the Twitter game.
Let’s talk about the youngsters… and another battle with Urban Meyer (and Brady Hoke).
Another top 2016 prospect left South Bend with Notre Dame at the top of his board. Cleveland offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg became the most recent offensive tackle to really connect with Harry Hiestand, naming Notre Dame his leader after leaving campus.
Many expected the St. Ignatius standout to be Urban Meyer’s, though Notre Dame made quite an impression on Eichenberg and his family.
“Coach Hiestand is very particular with his coaching technique,” Eichenberg told 247Sports’ Tom Loy. “He’s just different. I love it. His coaching style is great. We were breaking down my film in the film room and I learned so much from what he was telling me.”
Eichenberg also told Loy that his dad left campus with a Notre Dame hat, something that surprised him. It’ll be a race with Ohio State and Michigan to the end for incoming freshman Jimmy Byrne’s old teammate. And it’s going to be hard to beat Hiestand, Notre Dame’s not-so-secret recruiting weapon.
Just because the Irish Invasion is over doesn’t mean top prospects are done visiting
Rivals’ No. 1 player in the country is on campus right now, with defensive end Byron Cowart visiting campus. That’s got to have Irish fans very, very happy.
Cowart is a freak athlete who also takes a very methodical approach to football. As Pete Sampson at Irish Illustrated pointed out after the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, Cowart prepared for the camp by watching recruiting film of the offensive linemen he was set to go up against. That’s intense.
Also heading to campus is five-star 2016 quarterback Jacob Eason. As Notre Dame’s QB plans for the 2015 class continue to be up in the air with Travis Waller delaying his decision date after Oregon offered him a scholarship, Eason and Malik Henry appear to be the two quarterbacks in the crosshairs for the Irish in next recruiting cycle.