If there’s a familiar complaint amongst Irish fans, it’s that once a recruit commits to Notre Dame, his ever-important “star-ranking” seems to drop. Whether its true or not isn’t important (and really, who cares after they sign on the dotted line), but one thing is for certain — that’s not the case this year.
After a slew of all-star games that throughout the holiday season, Rivals put together a Top 10 list of All-Star game surprises, that included no less that three Notre Dame commitments: Ishaq Williams (No. 10), Aaron Lynch (No. 3), and outside linebacker Ben Councell, who ranked as the top surprise on their list.
Here’s what Rivals had to say about the trio of Irish commits:
There was some question as to how Williams would fare against top-tier talent after playing his high school career in talent-deprived Brooklyn, but those questions were answered early in the Army Bowl week. Listed at 6-foot-6 and 230 pounds, Williams looked thicker than expected. He had no strength issues going against offensive tackles, and his speed off the edge was too much for them to handle. What gives Williams that additional boost is that he is relentless in his pursuit of the football and he was the most consistent of the defensive ends in stringing out the run at the Army Bowl as well. He is athletic enough to stand up and play linebacker but also strong enough to play with his hand down.
Lynch isn’t as fast off the ball as top-rated prospect Jadeveon Clowney (who is?) and he doesn’t play the run as well, but the big rush end is very quick and was one of the biggest difference-makers at the Army Bowl. Lynch is tough and fearless and, although he sometimes overruns plays, his intensity was unmatched on the East team. His first step was the best throughout the week and his outside move couldn’t be stopped even when everyone knew it was coming.
Councell entered the Shrine Bowl of the Carolinas as a guy rumored to be underrated as a mid-level three-star guy. He left it as one of the top prospects in the nation. Playing outside linebacker in the 3-4 set required of the defenses at the game, Councell flourished and likely should have been named the Defensive MVP for his team with 13 tackles. He’s more instinctive than he is athletic and more of a hustler than he is a speedster, but regardless Councell knows where he needs to be and is always in the right position to make a play. That made him the surprise of surprises.
While I haven’t committed that much recruiting coverage to a guy like Councell, all reports had him absolutely dominating play at the Shrine Bowl and he’s a perfect fit in Bob Diaco’s 3-4 defense. He’s also a perfect example of a guy that’d have walked into South Bend as an unheralded recruit and immediately push for playing time if he didn’t have the opportunity to play in one of these all-star games, giving the recruiting services the chance to revise their original opinion on him.
It’s not a coincidence that Councell is also a long and lean defender that needs to add a little weight but shows elite athleticism. If you’re following along from home, that’s exactly the type of player that Kelly and his staff are targeting for this defense, and have been since they got to South Bend.