Five early-enrollees set for spring semester


Notre Dame’s recruiting class will get a jump start as five early enrollees will be on campus and beginning classes when school returns in mid-January. Offensive linemen Aaron Banks and Robert Hainsey, running back C.J. Holmes, defensive back Isaiah Robertson and tight end Brock Wright have all signed paperwork and are officially cleared to be the first to join the 2017 recruiting class.

The five early-enrollees match last year’s total and are the high-water mark for Notre Dame, who began early admission for recruits back in 2006. All five will take part in spring practice, each hoping to get a jump start on a 2017 football team that’ll likely go through a hard reset of sorts with a reshuffled coaching staff and new leaders on both sides of the football.

Banks and Hainsey enter an offensive line room that may welcome back five starters, but needs to infuse depth. Holmes will step in and challenge a talented group of runners, but at a position group that was stuck in neutral in 2016. He also has the ability to play receiver. Wright is a highly sought-after talent at tight end, a position that’ll welcome their entire depth chart back, and also Alizé Jones, who missed last season after academic issues.

Robertson is a multi-dimensional player with some positional flexibility, though he’s believed to start his career at safety. With Drue Tranquill entering his final season of eligibility and Devin Studstill having an up and down freshman season, there’s room for someone to come in and compete for a job, especially with new coordinator Mike Elko.

The connection between early enrollment and early success isn’t necessarily there. Some, like Tommy Rees, TJ Jones and Steve Elmer, have seen the benefits. Others have not. Still, as Brian Kelly looks to turn around his program after a massively disappointing 2016 season, getting five freshman on campus before National Signing Day is a boost.

Irish land IMG Academy OL Robert Hainsey

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Notre Dame landed their second commitment at The Opening, with IMG Academy’s Robert Hainsey picking the Irish. The offensive lineman chose the Irish over national offers from Michigan, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Penn State and plenty of others, with Harry Hiestand once again landing one of his priority targets, snapping up a player who profiles as a Top 100 prospect.

Hainsey announced on Sunday evening from Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon and also on social media.

“I have been extremely blessed throughout this process,” Hainsey said in a statement. “I truly appreciate all of the coaches who have believed in me and offered me a scholarship. However, I believe I have made the best decision for my future, and I want to thank the staff at this University for this opportunity to better myself. That being said, I will be committing to the University of Notre Dame. Go Irish.”

Hainsey profiles as an interior lineman, though he impressed those in attendance at The Opening by playing up to his listed size at 6-foot-4.5 and 275 pounds while looking athletic. That gives him a chance to stay outside if the Irish need him at tackle. Hainsey is the left tackle for one of the nation’s most talented teams at IMG Academy, where he transferred before his junior season from Pittsburgh.

Reloading the offensive line is a priority in this recruiting cycle and the Irish are on pace. They’ve added Hainsey to Josh Lugg and Dilan Gibbons. Hiestand has also stayed in pursuit of five-star tackle Foster Sarell, who played up to his grade in Oregon.

Hainsey is the 15th commitment in the 2017 class.