Notre Dame’s regular season is complete. But the recruiting schedule is heating up, with Brian Kelly and his assistant coaches criss-crossing the country as they work to finalize the 2016 recruiting class.
Coming off of a 10-win regular season and likely accepting a very impressive bowl bid this weekend, Kelly and his assistants have plenty to sell as they look to finishing strong on some of their top targets. With a few holes that need to be filled and some very big fish still considering Notre Dame, let’s take a look at the current commitments, some final targets and the overall scholarship picture heading into 2016.
Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class sits at 18 members.
Ian Book, QB
Parker Boudreaux, OL
Chase Claypool, WR/DB
Liam Eichenberg, OL
Jalen Elliott, DB
Jamir Jones, LB/DE
Tony Jones, RB
Khalid Kareem, DE
Tommy Kraemer, OL
Julian Love, DB
Deon McIntosh, RB
D.J. Morgan, DB
Adetokunbo Ogundeji, DE
Julian Okwara, DE
Spencer Perry, DB
John Shannon, LS
Kevin Stepherson, WR
Donte Vaughn, DB
For those looking for a quick breakdown, the class consists of:
QB: 1 (Book)
RBs: 2 (Jones, McIntosh)
WRs: 2 (Claypool, Stepherson)
DE: 3-4 (Kareem, Ogundeji, Okwara and maybe Jones)
OL: 3 (Boudreaux, Eichenberg, Kraemer)
DB: 5-6 (Elliott, Love, Morgan, Perry, Vaughn maybe Claypool)
Specialist: 1 (Shannon, long snapper)
As Notre Dame’s staff takes their in-home visits, multiple reports help us cobble together a priority list of who the Irish still covet. (There are better places for this info, but I’ll do my best.) Here’s a far-from complete list of recruits still on board, some better shots to come to Notre Dame than others.
Daelin Hayes, OLB — The Irish appear to be in great shape for the 5-star linebacker, who reportedly will announce his intentions on December 10 and early enroll. Brian Kelly, Urban Meyer and Mark Dantonio are all still chasing the Michigan product, who projects to be a difference-maker at the next level. Hayes isn’t without some risk, injuries have limited his actual playing time as a high school football star, making this more of a developmental project than most would suspect. Still, it sounds like the Irish covet Hayes and appear to have as good a shot as anybody.
Devin Studstill, DB — The Florida native entertained Brian Kelly and area recruiter Autry Denson yesterday. Hailing from Te’von Coney’s high school, Studstill has been to Notre Dame multiple times, and was an early target of this staff as they identified top defensive back prospects. Studstill’s star-ranking doesn’t match up with the Irish staff’s interest in him. It’s tough to traditionally pull a player like this out of Florida. But the Irish are trying, including an in-home visit last night.
Caleb Kelly, LB — Stop me if you’ve heard this one, but Notre Dame is chasing one of Fresno’s top high school football players. Once again, they’ll be doing battle with Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma pipeline that’s found its way to the Central Valley, but the Army All-American and 5-star prospect will be on campus for the end of the year awards show. Mike Denbrock is on the case for the Irish.
Ben Davis, LB — You might not have seen it coming, but the Alabama native is heading to Notre Dame for one of his final visits. He’s an Alabama legacy, he’s being chased by the SEC’s finest, but credit Autry Denson for getting Davis to take a look. Seems like a long shot, but worth the effort.
Damian Alloway, WR — Alloway is a diminutive speedster from Southern California who could add some big-play ability at slot receiver. Notre Dame is locked in a battle with UCLA for him, though if his decision pushes close to Signing Day, you’ve got to wonder if there’ll be room on the bus for him.
Javon McKinley, WR — Brian Kelly and Mike Sanford stayed in California after the Stanford game and visited McKinley, a receiver they’ve been after since jumpstreet. A big, explosive and physical talent, McKinley still feels like he’s Notre Dame’s to lose—though he hasn’t pulled the trigger yet and the Pac-12’s finest are chasing him, including hometown USC.
Damar Hamlin, CB — Notre Dame appears to be closing the gap on Hamlin, a key cornerback target for Todd Lyght and Brian VanGorder. The Pittsburgh-area coverman seems to be receptive of the Irish recruiting pitch, as Irish247’s Tom Loy recently switched his Crystal Ball pick to Notre Dame. It’s clear that the Irish staff is going all in on rebuilding the Irish secondary. Hamlin would be a great piece.
Jeffrey McCulloch, LB — One of the biggest athletic freaks at The Opening this summer, McCulloch showed up on the Irish radar then and visited Notre Dame for an official visit. The Dallas native entertained Brian Kelly and Mike Elston at home earlier this week. McCulloch is a speedy, explosive linebacker with a readymade 230-pound frame. It’ll be a battle for McCulloch with some top programs, but the Irish are in good position.
Demetris Robertson, ATH — An elite athlete from the state of Georgia, the departure of Marc Richt can’t hurt Notre Dame’s changes with a player who projects at multiple positions. Notre Dame has been after Robertson for a long time. He visited South Bend in September and will entertain Brian Kelly in-home before making a decision. An elite SEC talent who can go anywhere from Alabama to Stanford.
Oluwole Betiku, DE — A white whale of sorts, finding a way to get Betiku out of Serra high school, a USC breeding ground, would be a Manti Te’o-like upset. But Betiku has kept the Irish in his plans after he decommitted from UCLA in October and while the Trojans feel like the team to beat (Texas A&M is also in the mix) there’s still a puncher’s chance for Mike Denbrock, Brian VanGorder and Brian Kelly. Especially if Betiku looks at the depth chart.
HOW MANY CAN THEY TAKE?
As Notre Dame’s roster once again does the 85 scholarship dance, it’s worth taking a class-by-class look at the team Kelly has assembled. With 18 current commitments—and the Irish staff clearly hunting for more—it’ll be another fun offseason of seeing if the Irish can finally find a way to stay at the 85-man limit, something harder than expected, especially the last few years.
Let’s do some math!
ND Roster Makeup for 2016
Rising Sophomore Class: 23
Rising Junior Class: 20
Rising Senior Class: 20 (make it 19 until Jaylon Smith says otherwise)
18 current commitments
Fifth (and sixth)-year candidates (with early predictions):
Chase Hounshell (unexpected)
Avery Sebastian (recruiting dependent)
Jarrett Grace (still pending with NCAA)
Nicky Baratti (unexpected)
Scott Daly (expected)
Mark Harrell (unexpected)
Jarron Jones (expected)
C.J. Prosise (expected)
KeiVarae Russell (unexpected)
Ronnie Stanley (unexpected)
John Turner (unexpected)
Last year, Notre Dame went into spring practice over 85 scholarships, knowing that every year for 30+ seasons they’ve had at least one transfer out of the program. So while this certainly won’t quell any of the worry, consider this a reminder that once again a player (or two) will transfer and the Irish staff will do their best to be ready for that by having one or two players more than the limit on scholarship.