The early signing period is exactly that, a period, not a Signing Day. Entering the week, Notre Dame expected to sign only one safety in this 72-hour window, if not the entire cycle. Things changed quickly, as rivals.com four-star safety Khari Gee did not ink his National Letter of Intent with LSU on Wednesday, instead opting to publicly join the Irish on Friday, bringing their current count on the class to 25, though at the moment Notre Dame may as well be operating without a scholarship limit.
Woodward Academy; College Park, Ga.
Measurements: 6’3, 190 lbs.
Accolades: A four-star recruit, per rivals.com, and the No. 28 safety in the class.
Other Notable Offers: Gee committed to LSU in May and seemingly never wavered from that plan until this week, despite also holding offers from Clemson, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Oregon and the list of heavy-hitters goes on.
What changed? Seemingly a few things.
In the span of about a week at the end of October and the beginning of November, LSU gained the commitments of three more safeties, two of which are among the top-five safeties in the 2021 class. What had been Gee’s position in the future was suddenly a bit more in doubt.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame had not yet found a second safety. The first, consensus three-star Justin Walters, had been expecting a running buddy since his commitment in February.
“Coach [Terry] Joseph told me that he’s only taking two safeties in the class, and when two safeties do commit, they’re 100 percent committed to them and won’t recruit any more safeties,” Walters told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “So I thought I might as well jump on that opportunity and take that spot while I can and be done with it.”
Just because that had not happened yet did not mean the Irish were changing their plans. Head coach Brian Kelly said Wednesday he still expected to add a defensive back this week. In fact, Notre Dame already had, as Gee signed on Wednesday but kept it quiet, according to the South Bend Tribune‘s Carter Karels.
“Obviously Notre Dame being successful this year really impacted my decision, but I wouldn’t say that was the biggest,” Gee told the Tribune on Thursday before making the news public. “I’d say the biggest was really all the drama down there at LSU and people transferring, opting out. It was just a sign for me that I needed to go, too.
“It was just too much. I didn’t really want to be included in that environment. So my family and I decided to take a step back and really look at my decision.”
— KG (@KhariGee) December 18, 2020
Projected Position: Unfairly so, the next few safeties with height to commit to Notre Dame will be compared to the current 6-foot-4 star and possible All-American, sophomore Kyle Hamilton. Gee does not arrive with the unfathomable praise Hamilton did, but his frame alone should position him for that duty in the future. However, if his frame fills out, rather than remaining relatively lanky, it is conceivable Gee moves up a level on the defense.
Quick Take: Gee’s ceiling will include some aspect of coverage, as he is comfortable both running downhill in the proper angle on a run fit and dropping back tracking a pass.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Gee will have an opportunity to work as Hamilton’s understudy in 2021, as it is unlikely the future first-round NFL draft pick comes off the field much in his final collegiate season.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Yes, it is that certain Hamilton heads to the NFL after his junior year. Surefire first-round draft picks do not turn that opportunity down, nor should they. Thus, the Irish will need a new playmaking safety along the backline in 2022, and given Hamilton has no clear backup to date, Gee should at least get a chance to start as a sophomore.
SIGNING DAY COVERAGE
— On Signing Day, remember Notre Dame’s surge has hinged on three-stars
— A Signing Day surprise: Four-star safety Khari Gee, flipped from LSU
— A Signing Day surprise: Consensus four-star RB Audric Estime, flipped from Michigan State
— Consensus four-star QB Tyler Buchner
— Trio of four-star WRs in Lorenzo Styles, Deion Colzie and Jayden Thomas
— Five-star offensive tackle Blake Fisher and four-star guard Rocco Spindler
— Consensus four-star LB Prince Kollie, the day’s greatest worry
— Hawaiian LB Kahanu Kia
— Cornerbacks Philip Riley and Ryan Barnes
— Three-star cornerbacks JoJo Johnson and Chance Tucker
— Consensus three-star safety Justin Walters
— Tight ends Cane Berrong and Mitchell Evans
— Consensus four-star defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio
— Pair of California defensive ends, Will Schweitzer and Devin Aupiu
— Three more offensive linemen in Caleb Johnson, Pat Coogan & Joe Alt
— Inexperienced defensive end Jason Onye
— Kicker Joshua Bryan