Stop me if you've heard this one: Notre Dame would very much like to add one more running back and one more safety. With the recent commitment of elite tight end Alize Jones bringing the 2015 class to 23 players, there are likely a max of three spots left in this class assuming no attrition. We'll take a look at this weekend's visitors first, and then at how those last spots might shake out.
Players who have already committed to ND are in italics; rankings are 247 Composite overall/position.
Dexter Williams, RB, #86/#11
Elijah Taylor, #312/#22
Ke'Shawn Vaughn, RB, #393/#33
Mykelti Williams, S, #454/#27
Jalen Julius, CB, #558/#52
Nathan Meadors, S, #816/#65 (ranked as a dual-threat QB)
Notre Dame has done an excellent job of filling most of its needs in this class - almost every position is filled either by an instant contributor or a high-upside project. The two significant exceptions are safety and running back, which hurt doubly because beyond the normal class need the current depth chart is dangerously thin at each position. Not surprisingly, then, the official visit list for the next two weekends will feature running backs and safeties prominently as the Irish staff scrambles to secure one more commitment for each position.
Long-time Irish target Dexter Williams will finally make it to campus after a couple of false starts. He's a similar level talent to Ronald Jones - maybe not quite as shifty, but just as fast and perhaps a bit stronger; securing a commitment from Williams would be a no-doubt home run for the staff. There was speculation that he had some work to do academically before his offer became committable; there was also speculation that he decommitted from Miami immediately after a phone call with Tony Alford in which he scheduled his official visit. Notre Dame has a real shot here, but Louisville is making a push as well despite having six running backs/athletes committed already and Texas A&M has just entered the fray as well.
Dexter's teammate Jalen Julius is an absolute burner, but nowhere near as highly regarded. They would like to play together at the next level, but there may not be a school that Williams likes that would take Julius. With numbers tight for Notre Dame, it seems the only way he could fit in is if the Irish strike out on all remaining safety targets and decide to move Ashton White to safety, opening up a spot for another cornerback. Not impossible, but not likely (more on that later). In fact, there are even conflicting reports on whether Julius has any kind of offer or will be making a visit this weekend. It's something to keep an eye on.
Tennessee's Gatorade Player of the Year, running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, has seen his stock rise considerably once the calendar turned to 2015. A standout senior season has enabled the previously unheralded prospect to burst onto the national scene in the last couple of weeks, with Notre Dame and West Virginia extending offers over that time frame. The general assumption was that Notre Dame would overtake Purdue as the favorite to land the underrated Vaughn, but West Virginia is a serious threat and may prove hard to beat if he isn't blown away this weekend. He has an official visit to Morgantown scheduled next weekend.
California safety Nathan Meadors is a bit of a surprise visitor - UCLA is considered to have a huge lead, and nobody would've blamed him for not listening when the Irish staff had cooled on him but circled back after Ben Edwards committed to Stanford. It would very much be an upset for Meadors to pick Notre Dame at this point; he would have to get the Thunderbolt, as Mario Puzo wrote, when he stepped on campus. If he does get that feeling and wants to commit, though, the staff would happily close out safety recruiting with this natural free safety with speed to spare.
How Will The Class Finish?
This is an interesting season in that most of the class is pretty well wrapped up already, so Notre Dame is really just gunning for those two positions of need rather than five or six guys. Some thoughts on how things will shake out:
- WR Equanimeous St. Brown has long been rumored a silent commit to Notre Dame, although publicly he has never wavered from his intention to announce on signing day. At this point, I'm 99% sure he'll sign with the Irish.
- RB Soso Jamabo is a tough read, but it seems like the Irish trail and are unlikely to make up ground. This may be similar to the Ronald Jones situation - Jamabo likes Notre Dame, but may not be able to see himself there.
- Whither the running back situation, then? The staff would gladly accept whoever wants to commit first between Dexter Williams, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, and Jordan Cronkrite, and call it a day. Cronkrite showed up to the Army All-American check-in with Notre Dame socks, but he'll take an official visit to Louisville this weekend (how many backs do they need?) and hometown Florida is making a late push that he may not be able to ignore. West Virginia is also in the picture here. Complicating matters even further is the fact that if Mike Weber flips from Ohio State to Michigan, the Buckeyes may make a run at Vaughn. There are just too many dominoes in play to get a clear picture of how this will play out, but it should be an interesting ride.
- It's worth pointing out that there are three safeties in this class - Nicco Fertitta, who will probably be a special teams ace/nickel back, Mykelti Williams, and Prentice McKinney. There are persistent rumors that McKinney will not clear admissions, although McKinney himself and his coach insist that they're under the impression everything is fine and McKinney just canceled a scheduled official visit to UCLA. Is the Irish push for another safety indicative of their belief to the contrary? Or are they simply looking to fill out a woefully thin depth chart - literally Shumate, Redfield, and nobody? Another situation that bears watching.
- Whatever the situation with McKinney, there is definitely only one spot max left for another safety. At this point, it's whoever wants to jump on first among Nathan Meadors, Justin Reid, or Arrington Farrar. Reid is the younger brother of 49ers Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid and values academics very highly, while Farrar is a recent decommit from Stanford. Reid is visiting Stanford this weekend; they have Ben Edwards in the fold and are a virtual lock to add Frank Buncom, but they seem willing to take three safeties. Farrar is visiting North Carolina now. Both Farrar and Reid will visit Notre Dame next weekend, and if the spot is still available Farrar may not leave campus without committing.