The last commitment of Notre Dame’s class of 2023 is the first of the 24 players to depart the Irish program. In a very literal sense, rivals.com three-star safety Brandyn Hillman hardly joined the program, receiving a release from his National Letter of Intent before even enrolling at Notre Dame.
Hillman announced his departure on Instagram on Sunday evening.
“Due to personal reasons, I have asked for and been granted my release from my NLI with the University of Notre Dame,” he wrote. “I would like to thank Coach [Marcus] Freeman and the Notre Dame staff for their interest.
“I ask you to respect my privacy and my family’s privacy as I explore my options on where to attend school this fall.”
Hillman went from no FBS offers in September of his senior season to a Notre Dame commitment the first week of December. His profile rocketed upward in large part to his spring and early summer showings at recruiting camps. Hillman’s physical abilities were quite clear, further so as he played on both sides of the ball in high school.
Irish defensive coordinator Al Golden expected Hillman to join his depth chart at safety, though a future at Rover was also possible.
“Obviously, he could play safety,” Golden said when Hillman signed his National Letter of Intent in December. “He’s big enough to be a Rover, if you will. What’s not to like about him?
“He’s a team captain. Anytime you can get a quarterback, you’re basically taking a player that his high school coach has already deemed good enough to give him the keys to the car. If that high school coach and their staff careers and success depend a lot on that quarterback, so when you make that guy your leader and make the face of your program, that says a lot about him.
“When you look at the competitive nature of the kid and his makeup and just the type of family background he has, I’m really excited about him.”
Instead, Hillman will head elsewhere. His Instagram story — a social-media feature that disappears in 24 hours — suggested he had already received renewed offers from Michigan, LSU and Wisconsin on Sunday, as well as a handful of other programs.
The Virginia native had also heard from both Virginia and Virginia Tech.
In situations like this, the first instinct is to assume some family worries forced a player to reconsider his location. That is only an assumption, and one less and less accurate as college football rosters churn in the modern era.
Without Hillman, Notre Dame has six safeties on its roster, led by sixth-year DJ Brown and rising senior Xavier Watts (Nos. 2 and 26, above, respectively).
If the quick count of the operating depth chart is accurate, the Irish currently have 92 players expected to be on scholarship this fall. The NCAA allows a maximum of 85, so a decent amount of turnover should be anticipated exiting spring practices, which begin on March 22.
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Notre Dame gets the letter: Brandyn Hillman, athlete who may end up on defense