Notre Dame Football: Analyzing Irish's Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

Mike MonacoContributor IMay 25, 2014

Notre Dame Football: Analyzing Irish's Top 5 2015 Recruiting Targets

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    Justin Hilliard with Brian Kelly
    Justin Hilliard with Brian KellyCredit: 247Sports

    The summer recruiting circuit is set to heat up, and Notre Dame football will look to add to its eight-member class.

    At the end of last week, we chatted with 247Sports’ director of recruiting, Steve Wiltfong, to predict where Notre Dames class of 2015 is headed. Wiltfong highlighted roughly a dozen targets near the top of the Irishs board.

    We’ll analyze five of those top targets here. In deciding on this quintet, we’re considering Notre Dame’s needs at these positions, the national rankings of these prospects and their reported levels of interest. In other words, elite players who would fill needs and have shown some interest in Notre Dame reach the top of our target list.

    Let’s get to it.

5. Soso Jamabo

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    Soso Jamabo
    Soso JamaboCredit: 247Sports

    As we’ve discussed a few times in recent weeks, running back is certainly a position of need for the Irish despite the current three-pronged attack of Greg Bryant, Tarean Folston and Cam McDaniel.

    Soso Jamabo is rated the third-best running back and the No. 55 overall player in the nation. Wiltfong reported Thursday that Irish offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock was set to stop in Plano, Texas, to visit Jamabo.

    The key will be getting Jamabo on campus for a visit. He’s a 6’3”, 210-pound back and would solidify a position that is thin after the aforementioned trio. Notre Dame didn’t land a running back in the class of 2014.

4. Jacques Patrick

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    Jacques Patrick
    Jacques PatrickCredit: 247Sports

    Yes, another running back. Wiltfong made it clear that Notre Dame “would love to land a big-time running back.”

    Jacques Patrick fits the bill, and Wiltfong tabbed him as a “huge target.”

    The 6’1.5”, 220-pounder is the No. 2 running back in the nation and the 44th-best player overall. In January, Patrick named his top 10 schools, and Notre Dame made the cut. While that certainly bodes well for the Irish, Wiltfong said he thinks it will be “tough” to pull the Orlando, Florida, native away from Florida State.

    Of the 10 schools in Patrick’s top 10, four are Florida programs and three more are SEC teams. Still, Patrick’s elite ranking warrants his top-target status.

3. Shaun Crawford

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    Shaun Crawford
    Shaun CrawfordCredit: 247Sports

    We’ve broken down why cornerback is a position of need for Notre Dame in the class of 2015, as the Irish only took one cornerback (Nick Watkins) in the last cycle, and the position is stocked with upperclassmen.

    While Shaun Crawford may not be ranked as highly as Jamabo and Patrick, the combination of need at cornerback and Crawford’s reported interest in the Irish slot the Lakewood, Ohio, product at No. 3. Plus, Crawford is a top prospect himself, checking in as the No. 9 cornerback in the country and the 100th-best player overall.

    Blue and Gold Illustrated’s Tom Loy reported Friday that Crawford decommitted from Michigan. The 5’9.5”, 170-pounder visited Notre Dame last weekend and Ohio State this past weekend.

    #Breaking #Bolt: Four-star CB Shaun Crawford decommits from #Michigan. Story: http://t.co/bCfIkOLmHf via @BGInews

    — Tom Loy (@TomLoy247) May 24, 2014

    Following Crawford’s decommitment, Loy wrote that he liked Notre Dame’s chances: “We believe Notre Dame is the favorite to land the 4-star recruit and a commitment could occur within the next two weeks.”

2. Jashon Cornell

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    Jashon Cornell
    Jashon CornellCredit: 247Sports

    There hasn’t been a ton of Notre Dame-related movement on Jashon Cornell recently, but the elite defensive end checks in at No. 2 nonetheless.

    The defensive line is still an area of need for the Irish, who don’t have any defensive linemen committed in the class of 2015 yet.

    Moreover, Cornell is ranked as the third-best weak-side defensive end in the country and the No. 36 player overall.

    Notre Dame’s interactions with Cornell date back two summers ago to June 2012, when the Saint Paul, Minnesota, native attended an Irish camp. Cornell took an unofficial visit for Notre Dame’s 2012 Shamrock Series game in Chicago against Miami and later visited in the spring. Roughly two weeks after that spring visit, the Irish offered Cornell a scholarship.

    Since receiving that offer, Cornell has visited Notre Dame two more times. The Irish were in on Cornell early, and he is likely one of the top few targets on their board.

1. Justin Hilliard

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    Justin Hilliard with Brian VanGorder
    Justin Hilliard with Brian VanGorderCredit: 247Sports

    You could make an argument for Cornell as the top target, but we’ll go with Justin Hilliard, who’s slotted 16 spots higher in the overall rankings than Cornell.

    Hilliard, at No. 20 overall, is a 5-star outside linebacker and No. 2 at his position. The Irish haven’t garnered commitments from any linebackers in the class of 2015, and Hilliard would be a home run.

    Hilliard released his five finalists Friday morning, and Notre Dame made the cut, along with Alabama, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio State. Hilliard took unofficial visits to Alabama and Notre Dame in April and checked out Ohio State last weekend.

    TOP 5 pic.twitter.com/wsBgxa8DUM

    — Justin Hilliard (@JHilliard47) May 23, 2014

    As they were with Cornell, the Irish have been involved with Hilliard early and often throughout his recruitment. Inking the 5-star linebacker would be a major boost to Notre Dame’s class.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all recruiting stats and information courtesy of 247Sports.com, and all quotes obtained firsthand. Star ratings reflect 247Sports composite rankings.

    Mike Monaco is a lead Notre Dame writer for Bleacher Report. Follow @MikeMonaco_ on Twitter.