As the calendar turns to July, the structure of Notre Dame’s 2015 recruiting class is beginning to take shape.
Wednesday provided Notre Dame with both good news and bad news as the flurry of verbal commitments during the NCAA-mandated “dead period” in the recruiting calendar continued.
Wide receiver Miles Boykin, a 4-star recruit from New Lenox, Illinois, gave the Irish their third commitment in as many days and 17th overall when he chose Notre Dame over Florida, Illinois, Michigan, Michigan State and Missouri.
The addition of Boykin comes on the heels of commitments from Warrington, Pennsylvania, running back Josh Adams on Monday and District Heights, Maryland, cornerback Ashton White on Tuesday.
The day wasn’t all positive for Notre Dame, as two consensus top 100 targets from pipeline schools committed to Ohio State. Minnesota defensive end Jashon Cornell chose not to join fellow Cretin-Derham Hall (St. Paul, Minnesota) products Michael Floyd and James Onwualu and attend Notre Dame. Cincinnati linebacker Justin Hilliard’s high school, St. Xavier, is among the most represented high schools at Notre Dame. Like Cornell, however, Hilliard will also attend Ohio State.
Notre Dame has 10 seniors entering their final season this fall, while 14 others are seniors academically but are eligible for a fifth year in 2015. Among the junior class, only defensive tackle Sheldon Day and cornerback KeiVarae Russell are realistic possibilities to enter the NFL draft after this season. The Irish are likely to enter the fall with 82 or 83 scholarship players.
Simple math and projections of fifth-year returnees show that the Irish can probably sign 20-23 players in this class and stay at or under the 85-scholarship limit. With 17 commits already received, Notre Dame will be very selective going forward with who will fill out the remaining spots in the class, currently ranked No. 7 in 247Sports’ composite rankings.
After Anaheim, California, quarterback Travis Waller committed to Oregon on Tuesday, the likelihood of the Irish passing on a quarterback in this class increased. While some interest remains in Texas Tech commit Jarrett Stidham, the Irish may wait until 2016 to sign another quarterback with Everett Golson, Malik Zaire and DeShone Kizer all eligible to return in 2015.
Tight end also is not a need after signing four in two years, but the Irish would like to land two more offensive skill-position players after not signing a running back and taking just two wide receivers in 2014. Adams and wide receivers Boykin, C.J. Sanders and Jalen Guyton are presently the only skill-position commits.
Offensive line is likely complete with Tristen Hoge, Trevor Ruhland and Jerry Tillery. A fourth defensive lineman, preferably an end, is sufficient given the five signed in the 2014 class, and the Irish probably need just one more linebacker to join Josh Barajas in the 2015 contingent.
White became the third cornerback in the class, joining 4-star Shaun Crawford and 3-star Nick Coleman. Two safeties, Nicco Fertitta and Prentice McKinney, round out a solid secondary group.
With anywhere from three to six spots still available, Notre Dame will be looking for two skill-position players, one defensive lineman and one linebacker. After that, any other spots will likely be reserved for premium targets without any stipulations on position.
Missing on Cornell and Hilliard is not without significance, but going head-to-head in recruiting battles with Urban Meyer are more often than not going to be losing propositions, even for prospects with built-in connections to Notre Dame.
As always, recruiting is fluid. Will all 17 current commits sign with the Irish on Feb. 4’s national signing day? History would suggest no. But working with the current state of affairs, Notre Dame is in a strong position entering the home stretch in compiling its 2015 signing class.
Filling remaining needs, avoiding any last-minute flips (that never happens to Notre Dame, right?) and landing one or two blue chips are the goals for Brian Kelly and his staff over the next seven months. Now it’s time to buckle up and enjoy the wild and mostly bumpy ride that is the final stage of the college football recruiting cycle.