Notre Dame National Signing Day 2017: 5 Takeaways from Fighting Irish's Class

Brian Pedersen@realBJPFeatured ColumnistFebruary 1, 2017

Notre Dame National Signing Day 2017: 5 Takeaways from Fighting Irish's Class

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    Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has another strong crop of recruits coming in for 2017.
    Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has another strong crop of recruits coming in for 2017.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Notre Dame is coming off its worst season in nearly a decade—a 4-8 record that kept the Fighting Irish from playing in a bowl game and damaged their national brand. But not so much that they didn't once again put together a notable recruiting class, which the school announced formally on Wednesday during national signing day.

    All told, Notre Dame inked 21 players—including two top-100 players—for a class that Scout.com rated as No. 13 in the country. That's slightly ahead of the 14th-ranked class the Irish signed in 2016, one that included notables such as defensive lineman Daelin Hayes, offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer, cornerback Julian Love, wide receiver Kevin Stepherson and safety Devin Studstill.

    "Our staff did a great job presenting why (recruits) should come to Notre Dame, and that to me is why (this class) stayed together," head coach Brian Kelly said, per Chris Goff of the Journal Gazette.

    According to Pete Sampson of Irish Illustrated, Notre Dame's eight recruiting classes under Kelly have averaged a 10.8 ranking.

    What were the most notable aspects of Notre Dame's 2017 class? Follow along for what we took from how the Irish fared on the recruiting trail.

Building Tight End 'Heaven'

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    Brock Wright /
    Brock Wright /Scout.com

    The tight end position has usually been a productive one for Notre Dame, though last year, tight ends only accounted for 12 receptions. Expect a lot more in 2017 with new offensive coordinator Chip Long, who Kelly said (during an interview on ESPN2) has "a great resume" of using the tight end in his schemes at Arkansas, Memphis and Arizona State.

    That should be music to 4-star signee Brock Wright's ears. The early enrollee is the No. 76 overall prospect and third-best tight end in 2017—a 6'5", 240-pound prospect from Cypress, Texas, who originally committed to Notre Dame in June 2015.

    "It's gonna be tight end heaven," Wright said Long told him, per Sampson.

    Wright was one of two tight ends the Irish signed, along with 6'6", 240-pound Cole Kmet, a 4-star prospect from Illinois. That's in addition to returning players at that position, including senior Durham Smythe (who caught four touchdown passes in 2016), as well as Alize Jones, who had to sit out last season because of academic issues.

    "We're deep at the position," Kelly said on ESPN2. "I've had four guys in the NFL who have played for me at that position."

The Other Tagovailoa

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    It's been seven years since Notre Dame landed a player from Hawaii—defensive lineman Kona Schwenke signed and went on to play in 31 games from 2010-13. The Irish are hoping their latest pickup from the islands will do just as well with them, if not better.

    Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is a 6'4", 270-pound defensive end—a 3-star prospect who is rated as the No. 126 player at his position. He signed on Wednesday after taking his official visit to South Bend a week earlier during a trip to the mainland that also included checking out Navy and Vanderbilt.

    "It was my first time seeing snow up there, so it was kind of a pretty good experience," Tagovailoa-Amosa told Tyler James of the South Bend Tribune.

    If the surname sounds familiar, it's because Myron is the brother of Tua Tagovailoa, a 4-star quarterback who signed with Alabama. Tua played at St. Louis High School in Honolulu, while Myron had 18 sacks and 34 tackles for loss at Kapolei.

    Tagovailoa-Amosa is one of five defensive linemen Notre Dame signed for 2017, the highest-rated being 4-star two-way lineman Darnell Ewell.

First Impressions Are Everything

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    We'll have to wait a little while to see what impact Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah has as a player, but at least we know he's managed to make himself memorable. So it goes when you interrupt your future coach's national signing day press conference.

    Props to Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah for best possible interruption to a press conference...

    (and yes, Coach ordered 🍕)#SCTop10 #IRISHEL17E pic.twitter.com/YtxlYnVtgw

    Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) February 1, 2017

    Kelly was in the middle of discussing one signee's attributes when his cell phone rang, prompting him to answer and walk out of the room. A camera crew followed him out into the hall to hear Kelly get confirmation from Owusu-Koramoah, a 3-star safety from Virginia, that he'd committed and sent in his letter of intent. Kelly then returned to the press conference and announced that addition, not before joking with reporters that the call was for a pizza delivery.

Beefing Up the Offensive Line

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    Robert Hainsey /
    Robert Hainsey /Scout.com

    Notre Dame returns nearly every player who started up front in 2016, including left tackle Mike McGlinchey and left guard Quenton Nelson despite each being a likely high draft pick had he turned pro. The Fighting Irish also have Liam Eichenberg and Kraemer, two of their top signees from 2016.

    And even more accomplished girth is coming to town via the 2017 class, with six of Notre Dame's 21 signees listed by Scout.com as offensive guards or tackles. That includes Ewell and Jonathon MacCollister, both of whom figure to get their shots on the defensive end at the outset.

    The best of the blocking bunch is Robert Hainsey, a 4-star tackle from prospect factory IMG Academy in Florida. He's rated 14th among offensive tackles and, at 6'5" and 270 pounds, has plenty of room to grow but didn't struggle against bigger defenders during the Under Armour All-American Game practices, per SB Nation's Pat Rick.

    "He wasn't as big as some of the other All-American linemen, but he was easily one of the most impressive with how he handled the talented defensive linemen coming at him in drills, more often than not completely stonewalling whatever moves they threw at him," Rick wrote.

    In addition to Hainsey, Notre Dame also signed three other 4-star offensive linemen in guards Aaron Banks and Dillan Gibbons and tackle Josh Lugg.

A Hidden Gem?

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    Avery Davis /
    Avery Davis /Scout.com

    There are few more high-profile positions in college football than quarterback at Notre Dame, and the most recent guy to handle that job—DeShone Kizer—could be the first passer taken in the 2017 NFL draft. Four of the Fighting Irish's seven Heisman Trophy winners were QBs, and since 1993, three Notre Dame signal-callers have been drafted in the first two rounds.

    Could Avery Davis join that illustrious list someday? That might depend on when (or even if) he gets a chance to show his stuff at the college level.

    A 6'0", 192-pound prospect from Texas, Davis is ranked as the No. 11 passer in the country and 189th overall. He joins a depth chart that includes likely 2017 starter Brandon Wimbush, as well as 2016 signee Ian Book. Not to mention that, a year from now, Notre Dame is expected to add 4-star Phil Jurkovec in the 2018 class. That will make for an uphill battle for Davis, but then again, Kizer didn't exactly enter school in 2014 with much fanfare.

    Davis threw for nearly 2,900 yards with 37 touchdowns and ran for another six scores as a senior for Cedar Hill, which reached the Texas 6A Division II state final.

    "He's used to playing in big games," Kelly said, per Angelo Di Carlo of WNDU-TV. "He plays his best in big games."

                       

    All recruiting information courtesy of Scout.com, unless otherwise noted. All statistics provided by CFBStats, unless otherwise noted.