It’s National Signing Day. Longtime “Inside the Irish” readers are expecting post after post after post this morning announcing the arrivals of faxes. Not today, and not just because National Letters of Intent have not been sent in as literal faxes for years.
Notre Dame signed 21 recruits during December’s early signing period. That means today, what used to be a college football national holiday, will be far quieter. The Irish are expecting somewhere between four and six signees today. Only one of those has already committed, consensus three-star offensive tackle Luke Jones (Pulaski Academy; Little Rock, Ark.).
The rest of the targets have announcements scheduled throughout the day.
Thus, it is distinctly possible the only “The Letter Is In” moment before the East Coast morning commute is that of Jones. Those few hundred words are, indeed, drafted within the cobwebs of the internet.
The two perks for the fans of this revamped system are the day is far less stressful, and each signee is considered a notable victory. The Notre Dame coaching staff’s success during the early signing period turned National Signing Day into a day filled with much upside and nearly no downside.
Anyway, with that refresher out of the way, here is a bevy of information on today’s possibilities and December’s signees, considering the decent chance that moment evaded some entirely. After all, it was the week immediately prior to Christmas.
WHY? It is a pretty simple argument: This will be the last chance to see these incoming freshmen in any form of competition until September, with the exception of Takacs. The Naples, Fla., product will enroll this month and should be involved in the Blue-Gold Game to conclude spring practices. Otherwise, the five, perhaps seven, will be behind a figurative curtain until any action seen in the fall.
Of the committed five, at least three of them and possibly four are likely to play for the Irish in 2018, with Takacs ironically the exception.
Ademilola’s and Simon’s chances of seeing consistent defensive snaps will rise significantly if current juniors defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and linebacker Te’von Coney opt to head to the NFL rather than return for their final seasons of collegiate eligibility. Coney’s decision notwithstanding, Simon seems primed for special teams duties.
Allen may well become a starter, as has been detailed concerning the situation at safety. He told ND Insider’s Tyler James he strives to prove he is ready for that possible opportunity.
“Just show people I can move,” Allen said of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. “I’m fast. I can play safety at the next level. Show people I can do it.”
Similarly to Allen at safety, Jurkovec’s potential impact at quarterback speaks as much to the dearth of confidence there currently as it does to his talent.
ALLEN’S RESPONSE TO ELKO’S DEPARTURE He may be only a high school senior, but Allen’s reaction to Notre Dame defensive coordinator departing for the same gig at Texas A&M was more mature than most fans’ or even current players’.
HOW COME JURKOVEC ISN’T ENROLLING EARLY? Any debate about enrolling early seems unnecessary and inconceivable for those through college or irrationally cheering for a particular football team. But do not forget the subject of the debate is still a high schooler, looking to appropriately conclude what has been nearly two decades with friends. The cliché example of that nostalgic concept is prom. There are other reasons at hand, though.
Jurkovec has not only excelled on the gridiron at Pine-Richland High School, Gibsonia, Pa., but also on the hardwood.
“I’ve been playing [basketball] my whole life, so I wanted to play [this year],” Jurkovec told James while in San Antonio. “It helps me, too. For me, it shows I’m not really tapped out with football, because I don’t play football year-round. Playing basketball has really helped me develop athletically.”
BY HOW MUCH? Just kidding. It would take a real degenerate to know of a betting spread on a high school exhibition game.
WHO ELSE? Consensus four-star defensive back Houston Griffith and consensus four-star linebacker Jack Lamb partook tin the Under Armour All-American Game earlier this week.
ANOTHER OUTGOING NOTRE DAME TRANSFER Freshman defensive end Jonathon MacCollister announced on Twitter on Friday he will head to Central Florida … as a tight end. Originally from Florida, MacCollister spent this season on the sideline, as he will be required to again in 2018 due to transfer restrictions.
“I would like to thank the University of Notre Dame and Coach [Brian] Kelly and his coaching staff for giving me an amazing opportunity to be part of one of the best institutions in the country,” MacCollister wrote. “I would also like to thank my teammates for accepting me into their family and treating me like their brother from day one, and to me they will always be my brothers.”
One of two defensive ends in his class, along with Kofi Wardlow, the likelihood of MacCollister seeing imminent playing time decreased with the rapid development of sophomore Khalid Kareem and the presumed return of senior Jay Hayes after a productive season from the veteran. Additionally, sophomore Daelin Hayes (no relation) continued strong progression and MacCollister had a future of competing with sophomores Julian Okwara and Ade Ogundeji for any remaining playing time.
At tight end, MacCollister never would have seen the light of day with the Irish.
Accolades: Rivals.com four-star; No. 15 tight end in the class and No. 49 prospect in Florida; U.S. Army All-American.
Other Notable Offers: Committing this past June, Takacs racked up quite an offer list during his recruitment, including pitches from Auburn, Florida, Florida State, Georgia and Oregon.
Projected Position: Tight end.
Quick Take: The target Takacs presents to his quarterback makes him an intriguing possibility all on its own. With reach to match his 6-foot-6 frame, Takacs can get to nearly any ball in his vicinity, making up for a lack of top-end speed.
Short-Term Roster Outlook: Notre Dame has tight ends, but it also needs them. As long as Irish offensive coordinator Chip Long prefers multiple tight end sets, then at least four need to be ready for action at a given time. Three will be in the rotation, making the fourth the top backup. At the moment, Takacs appears to be No. 5, meaning he has just a short path between him and meaningful time as a freshman.
Long-View Depth Chart Impact: Even if Takacs spends 2018 preserving eligibility, he may be as high as tight end No. 3 exiting the season. Current senior Nic Weishar will be finished with his fifth year and junior Alizé Mack could jump to the NFL with a strong season.
It may seem Takacs is a luxury in the tight end room, but the bodies are needed in all of reality.
This young man knows what ND stands for and wants to be part of the special tradition of ND Football.
A Wednesday night visit from Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly, offensive coordinator Chip Long and running backs coach Autry Denson may have played a part in tipping the scales, though Tremble told Blue & Gold Illustrated he had been leaning toward the Irish since his official visit in October.
“There’s not many tight ends in the country that can do the kind of things that I can do,” Tremble said, then referencing Long’s view of the position in his system. “[Long] said with that in this type of offensive scheme it could be explosive.
“I’m going to be the hardest working at the entire college at anything. At everything too, not just football. I’m just going to make it work.”
In his first season at Notre Dame, Long showed his predilection for using multiple tight ends at a time, often pairing fifth-year senior Durham Smythe with junior Alizé Mack. Smythe would act as an additional offensive lineman who could slip out for a route while Mack’s duties were more akin to a receiver’s as often as not. Smythe finished his best collegiate season with 13 catches for 234 yards and a touchdown while Mack added 19 catches for 166 yards and a score. Current senior and returning fifth-year Nic Weishar chipped in seven catches for 39 yards and two touchdowns.
Hours after Notre Dame lost the commitment of a speedy receiver Wednesday afternoon, the Irish gained the verbal pledge of consensus four-star tight end George Takacs (Gulf Coast High School; Naples, Fla.).
The subtraction of consensus four-star receiver Braden Lenzy (Tigard H.S.; Portland, Ore.) and subsequent — though, it should be specifically noted, unrelated — addition of Takacs keeps the Notre Dame class of 2018 at 12 commitments currently, with Takacs the first tight end.
The No. 10 tight end in his class, per rivals.com — the No. 48 prospect in Florida and the No. 234 in the country — Takacs will join a depth chart in flux at tight end. Current fifth-year senior Durham Smythe will be gone come 2018. That much is certain. Senior Nic Weishar will have another year of eligibility after 2017 should the Irish coaches offer him a fifth year, and junior Alizé Mack will have a possible decision to make regarding early entry into the NFL Draft.
Early-enrolled freshman Brock Wright and incoming classmate Cole Kmet, both consensus four-stars themselves, will welcome Takacs, with or without Weishar and Mack.
That tight end depth may have played a part in Takacs’ commitment. Notre Dame’s offense is expected to feature tight ends, often in two tight end sets, under the direction of offensive coordinator Chip Long. Those theories obviously necessitate both quality and quantity at the position in order to become realities.
“Coach Long is a big tight end guy, so talking to him about the offense has been fun,” Takacs told Blue & Gold Illustrated. “The fact that he’s the offensive coordinator and the tight ends coach really excites me.”
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Takacs chose Long and the Irish over the likes of Wisconsin, Florida and Georgia.
LENZY TO OREGON
In switching his commitment to his homestate Ducks, Lenzy left the Notre Dame class of 2018 with only one receiver currently, rivals.com four-star Micah Jones (Warren Township H.S.; Gurnee, Ill.).
Taking Lenzy’s track intentions at face value, and he has certainly shown the speed for a possible future in the pursuit, Oregon makes sense as a landing spot. Eugene, Ore., is known as TrackTown, U.S.A., for a reason.
In many respects, Wednesday may be the epitome of the recruiting aspects Irish coach Brian Kelly referenced on National Signing Day (Feb. 1) when discussing the pros and cons of an early signing day this December.
“Our mindset is we’re going into it business as usual,” Kelly said. “We’re all going to have to fight until February.”