Even with the exciting season barely under way for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, when it comes to recruiting, it's always time to look ahead towards next year. Below is a look-ahead at the scholarship chart for next season, and (gasp!) Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton are not on it. That is unnerving for all Irish fans, to say the least.
|Notre Dame Scholarship Chart & Eligibility (2015-2016)
That said, there appears to be some star power on the roster for the future. Zach Auguste has taken a huge leap forward already this season, continuing an underrated tradition in Irish head coach Mike Brey's program of big men developing later in their careers. Demetrius Jackson already looks like a star playing understudy to Grant this season.
I have already predicted big things from freshman Bonzie Colson and recent signee Matt Ryan, as well, so put me on record for each of them being go-to guys for future Irish squads. Add in V.J. Beachem, who looks to be able to take over in a primary scoring role, super athletic Rex Pflueger with plenty of potential, and steady, do-everything guard Steve Vasturia, and it is still easy to see plenty of success for this team in the future.
The roster is also pretty well-balanced, which hasn't always been the case for Brey. Next year's lineup in particular looks like a great mix of guards who can play the 1 or 2, wing players with enough length for the 3 or 4 spot, and bigs that can play a stretch 4 or in the post. This bodes well for the post-Grant and Connaughton
apocalypse succession plan.
That said, after next season, Auguste and fellow forward Austin Burgett graduate, leaving some gaping holes in frontcourt depth for the Irish. Mike Brey is making it very clear early on that his primary goal is to fill those gaps with his 2016 recruiting class. Most of the targets listed below are listed as power forwards or centers, and without many proven commodities in the paint for the 2016-2017 Irish, there could very well be some enticing opportunities for these targets in South Bend
|16 to watch for '16
|C Barret Benson
|SG Vijay Blackmon
|C Marques Bolden
|PF AJ Brodeur*
|C Joey Brunk
|PF Zach Collins*
|PF Tyler Cook
|C Austin Davis
|PG Eron Gordon*
|PF Dewan Huell
|PF Jay Huff
|PF Sacha Killeya-Jones*
|PF Chris Lewis*
|PF Javin Montgomery-DeLaurier
|PF Nick Rakocevic
|PG Howard Washington*
*Players with asterisks reportedly have an offer from Notre Dame
Of all these targets for Notre Dame, the recruitment of Georgia forward Chris Lewis looks to have picked up the most steam in recent months. After receiving his Notre Dame offer in mid-September, Lewis made the trip up to South Bend just two weeks later. Mike Brey is recruiting him heavily himself, including a visit to his high school this past week. Notre Dame does not often sign players from the Southeast, but they seem to have a legitimate shot against more local contenders like Auburn and Georgia Tech.
Massachusetts forward AJ Brodeur received his Notre Dame offer in the past week when Brey made his way up to view one of Brodeur's high school games. He has a lot of regional offers, with Notre Dame being the first offer outside of New England, which might help put him on the map for more schools nationally. Notre Dame often has success when they get in early on players like that. Brodeur, likely a stretch 4 for Brey, also plays for the same AAU program as Irish forward Pat Connaughton.
In addition to seeing Lewis and Brodeur, Mike Brey and his staff have seen a few other 2016 targets with the recent lull in the schedule during finals week. Members of the staff visited forwards Jay Huff and Javin Montgomery-DeLaurier out east, with these recruitments just taking off. Both are likely to earn ACC offers soon.
The staff has also visited more local prospects in forwards (seeing a pattern here?) Joey Brunk from Indianapolis and Austin Davis from Michigan. Notre Dame is playing things a bit slow with Brunk, who has plenty of high-major offers, including Indiana and Purdue, and despite Brunk having visited campus multiple times already. Davis has not earned the high-profiled offers that Brunk has yet, but the Irish can expect to compete with plenty of Big Ten schools for him as well.
Though most of their efforts seem to be geared towards forwards, and for obvious reasons, there are a few guards on the board as well, indicating the staff is interested in the right fit. Point guard Howard Washington from New York, according to most services, has his Irish offer already and appears to be a program fit. Brey has had plenty of success in that state, so it would not surprise if Notre Dame becomes a major factor in his recruitment.
Fort Wayne guard Vijay Blackmon, younger brother of Indiana freshman James Blackmon, Jr., does not have an offer yet but appears to have some interest in becoming a successor to Demetrius Jackson. Blackmon has visited Notre Dame already.
Finally, Indianapolis guard Eron Gordon has an offer according to a couple services. He has national interest at this point, but Indiana appears to be the favorite, which may have implications for Blackmon's recruitment as well.
Las Vegas forward Zach Collins is teammates with 2015 target Stephen Zimmerman and has an Irish offer. He is another national recruit that, much like Zimmerman, looks to always be a longshot for Notre Dame.
Illinois center Barret Benson has visited campus before. He has plenty of Big Ten and Big XII offers already, so the Irish may need to throw their hat in the ring soon if they want a shot at the local big man.
Notre Dame is, however, in with an offer on Sacha Killeya-Jones. The Irish will likely have to compete with the likes of Duke, Virginia, and especially North Carolina for the athletic forward who hails from Chapel Hill.
Not much info out there about the efforts for forwards Marques Bolden, Tyler Cook, Dewan Huell, and Nick Rakocevic, all of whom have heard from the Irish but without much apparent traction yet between the parties. Each of these players look to be trending elsewhere, so if Notre Dame gets involved with any of them, it likely means they believe they have a decent shot.
It's probably a terrible idea to even make a prediction this far in advance, especially with so little information out there about most of these prospects at this stage in the game. I do think that Notre Dame will again make some attempts at adding a transfer this offseason, and this past year notwithstanding, generally have success in doing so. That means I have them at two scholarships available for the 2016 class. If they add a transfer big, then expect them to go hard after some guard prospects, but for now I will peg Brodeur and Lewis as the two players that I think Notre Dame has the best chance of signing.
My way too early prediction for the 2016 class: AJ Brodeur, Chris Lewis