Notre Dame Football: Constructing the Perfect Close to the 2015 Recruiting Class
Notre Dame's recruiting efforts have heated up lately, with Brian Kelly and his staff getting on a roll since Memorial Day weekend. A half-dozen recruits have joined the 2015 recruiting class since the last day of May, with Josh Barajas, Brandon Tiassum, Micah Dew-Treadway, Nick Coleman, Elijah Taylor and Shaun Crawford all joining Brian VanGorder's defense.
Even with the defection of Blake Barnett, a recruiting class that many expected to stay relatively small has swelled to 13 commitments—starting the inevitable exercise of figuring out just how many seats are left on the bus.
With an 85-man scholarship limit, Brian Kelly will have to make some tough decisions on fifth-year players after the season. But before that, he'll need to continue recruiting a talented class where the Irish coaching staff are in hot pursuit of a few dozen prospects with only a fraction of those scholarships still available.
The groundwork has been laid for a tremendous recruiting class.
Right now, 247Sports.com has the Irish haul ranked 10th in the country.
And things should only get more interesting with the biggest on-campus weekend of the summer about to start on June 20—the Irish Invasion camp.
But there is still work to be done. With a few critical holes in the current class, here's the perfect close to Brian Kelly's 2015 recruiting cycle.
Land a Quarterback
After Blake Barnett backed away from his commitment to Notre Dame, the Irish coaching staff quickly regrouped and made offers to three elite signal-callers: Travis Waller, Deondre Francois and Jarrett Stidham.
Now the Irish need to land one of them.
Most still feel that man is Waller. His high school, Orange County powerhouse, Servite, is a feeder school to Notre Dame. Servite also just produced former tight end Troy Niklas, who parlayed three years in South Bend into a second-round selection by the Arizona Cardinals.
Francois was one of the recent standouts at the Rivals100 Five-Star Challenge, and while he expressed interest in the Irish, he's expected to make a July decision—likely before he ever steps foot on campus. That's not usually a good sign for Notre Dame.
Stidham is committed to Texas Tech, though the offer from Notre Dame was well received. But again, the Irish are fighting an uphill battle for the Texas native who has yet to see campus.
With all three prospects still a part of the Elite 11 proceedings, there's likely to be some discussion as to what the other is thinking.
But for now, the Irish haven't extended any more offers at the position, so it's a sign that they feel good about turning one of these offers into a commitment.
Ideal Addition: Travis Waller
Pick Up an Edge Rusher (or Two)
Notre Dame's raid on edge players during their last recruiting class wasn't enough. While Andrew Trumbetti, Grant Blankenship, Jonathan Bonner, Kolin Hill and Jhonny Williams all profile as defensive ends, Brian Kelly and Brian VanGorder are looking to add more pass-rushing talent to the roster.
That's evident in their offers. The Irish are chasing some of the elite defensive end talent in the country, and in many cases the interest is mutual.
We've already talked about long-time target Jashon Cornell. While some believe the Irish still trail the weak-side end, Cornell will be on campus this weekend for the Irish Invasion camp. The longer this recruitment goes, the better it'll be for Notre Dame.
The Irish are after other big fish as well, and that includes Byron Cowart—the 5-Star Florida defensive end who Rivals has ranked as the top player in the country. Cowart is on the record saying he'll be in South Bend sometime this summer.
Even if Cowart is a long shot to leave SEC country, the Irish look to be in good position with potential U.S. Army All-American Porter Gustin and 5-Star California-prospect Keisean Lucier-South, who has set a visit to Notre Dame for the Stanford weekend.
The Irish coaching staff will get a good look at some other top defensive end prospects this weekend. Austin Bryant and Kyree Campbell are set to compete this weekend on campus. Georgia commitment Natrez Patrick will visit this summer as well.
Just like they did at defensive tackle, it looks like the Irish will reload in back-to-back classes across the defensive front. With depth still thin at end, it only makes sense.
Ideal Additions: Jashon Cornell, Porter Gustin
Add One More Playmaker at Wide Receiver
Notre Dame has already received commitments from Jalen Guyton and C.J. Sanders. Guyton will be on campus this weekend. But the Irish are still after some other top prospects to fill out a young depth chart.
Cordell Broadus (son of Snoop Dogg) will be on campus this weekend. Out of Las Vegas' Bishop Gorman, Broadus will be joined by Irish commit and high school teammate Nicco Fertitta. With Ronnie Stanley a Bishop Gorman grad, the pull might be enough to get Broadus off the West Coast.
Most link three other receivers to Notre Dame. Illinois' Miles Boykin has visited campus multiple times and continues to be a perfect fit for the Irish. At 6'4", he's the type of big-bodied receiver that the Irish could use in this class, and almost 60 percent of 247Sports.com's Crystal Ball predictions have him picking Notre Dame.
Servite wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown took a look at campus last week and came away impressed. At 6'5", he's another long receiver, and a combo of St. Brown and Waller in this recruiting class would make just about every Irish fan happy.
The dark horse in this group is Alex Ofodile. While his father played at Missouri and many have him following in his footsteps, the Irish coaching staff continues to push on the 6'3" speedster, and it's going to be a tougher decision than many expect.
This might turn into a timing situation. With limited scholarships available, the first to commit might get the spot.
Ideal Addition: Equanimeous St. Brown (or Miles Boykin)
Solidify the Running Back Position
With Cam McDaniel graduating after this season, the running back position will be a priority in 2015. While Tarean Folston and Greg Bryant form a solid nucleus, the loss of Elijah Hood to North Carolina last recruiting cycle turned the position into a need.
That need is reflected by a quick look at Notre Dame's recruiting board.
According to Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated, Notre Dame has offers out to a dozen different prospects (subscription required). The Irish used the spring evaluation period to cast a wide net, and mutual interest has come back from some top targets.
No name is bigger than Texas' Soso Jamabo. The 4-star prospect is one of the country's top running backs and at 6'3" is a big body that can also run. Jamabo visited campus last week and was impressed by what he saw as well as the time he spent with running backs coach and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford and head coach Brian Kelly.
Helping the Irish cause is the fact that Oklahoma—long thought as the favorite for Jamabo—added 4-star prospect Rodney Anderson last week and likely closed out their running back recruiting. That said, don't expect it to be an easy battle for the Irish. Texas is chasing. So are Baylor, Oregon and Texas A&M.
But it's hardly Jamabo or bust.
Notre Dame will welcome blue-chipper Jacques Patrick to campus this weekend—an elite prospect who at 220 pounds would bring some much-needed power and size to the Irish backfield.
Don't be surprised if the Irish take multiple backs, recruiting different types of players to fill different roles. That could come in handy with a back like South Carolina's Ty'Son Williams—another name that's been connected to the Irish for a long time.
Ideal Additions: Soso Jamabo, Ty'Son Williams
Find a Middle Linebacker
Notre Dame and Ohio State will battle it out for Justin Hilliard. The Cincinnati native has visited both campuses multiple times and will be back in South Bend this weekend for the Irish Invasion camp.
He's a critical recruit for both programs and pits Brian Kelly against Urban Meyer for one of Ohio's top players.
It's impossible to read the tea leaves when it comes to Hilliard. His Twitter feed has supplied more misdirection than anything else, with Iowa, Buckeye and Irish fans reading way too much into every 140 character blast.
But for the Irish defense, Hilliard represents the best opportunity to land an elite linebacker to pair with Nyles Morgan from last recruiting cycle. As we wait and see how Brian VanGorder uses his linebackers, one thing is clear: The depth chart needs a few more impact bodies.
Again, it's not as simple as saying Hilliard or bust.
But Hilliard is clearly one of the Irish's top targets, and in a perfect world Notre Dame would take him and either Coney or Bilal on Signing Day.
Ideal Additions: Justin Hilliard, (and/or Tevon Coney), (and/or Asmar Bilal)