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2015 Football Recruiting Hits The Home Stretch

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Rarely have the Irish been down to just one or two positions of need at the end of the recruiting season, and rarely have there been so many alternatives and so much uncertainty about those positions so close to signing day. How will all the drama unfold?

"How the heck should I know?"
"How the heck should I know?"
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

There are only a couple of question marks left in Notre Dame's 2015 recruiting class. There will be some official visitors between now and signing day, February 3rd, including two this weekend, but we're going to handle this a bit differently than our usual visitor posts. This will be a quick summary of who's visiting this weekend, a review of the two key positions left to fill, and a gut feeling on where some of the top uncommitted prospects that the Irish have been chasing will end up.

Players who have already committed to ND are in italics; rankings are 247 Composite overall/position.

Official Visitors - Jan 23rd

Justin Reid, S, #367/#22

Nick Robinson, pro-style QB, #1051/#40 (preferred walk-on candidate)

Notes:

Louisiana prospect Justin Reid just took an official visit to Stanford last weekend, but left the Farm without committing. His brother is a Pro Bowler for the 49ers and academics are very important to him, which led many to assume he was a near-lock to Stanford. Significantly, Reid will be accompanied on his visit by his father, who has hit it off with Kerry Cooks. Reid seems to be the staff's #1 priority at safety down the stretch.

Nick Robinson is what I would call an elite walk-on. He's much closer to Joe Schmidt than Rudy; although his offer list doesn't match Schmidt's, the fact is he's good enough to have FBS offers. He projects as a program guy who could do a plus job running the scout team and offer potential emergency depth for the varsity.

Running Back and Safety

When we last looked at the running back situation, before last weekend's official visitors came in, it was very much in flux with three candidates on the board - Dexter Williams, Jordan Cronkrite, and Ke'Shawn Vaughn - and a lot of dominoes yet to fall, some interrelated, that could affect where each lands. Developments in the short time since then seem to indicate that the Irish have found their man, and he is Dexter Williams. Williams is playing coy and maintaining that he'll announce on signing day, but sources around Vaughn and Soso Jamabo have indicated that the Irish have cut communication with those prospects and a flurry of former Notre Dame players - Louis Nix, Cierre Wood, and Jerome Bettis - welcomed Dexter to the family on Twitter. Nix and Wood deleted their tweets, but Bettis just made his, ahem, anonymous and left it up:

The new Florida staff has pushed hard for Cronkrite and will likely land him; while Notre Dame probably could've had Vaughn if they had pushed harder, he just gave a final three of West Virginia, Purdue, and Illinois and is most likely to end up at West Virginia. If Mike Weber flips from Ohio State to Michigan, the Buckeyes could come after and would likely get Vaughn. A week ago the Irish staff may have been watching the Weber situation intently, but it seems like they no longer have the motivation to do so.

While the class now looks healthy at running back, the safety position is still very much unsettled. With the recent flip of Prentice McKinney to North Carolina, Mykelti Williams and Nicco Fertitta are the only two safeties in the class, to go with just two scholarship safeties on the roster now in Elijah Shumate and Max Redfield. Complicating matters further is that Fertitta clearly projects as a special teams ace and potential nickel back, not a full-time safety. Practically speaking, Williams is the only safety currently in the class; he's a good one, but he'll need a partner in crime.

The Irish are working hard on three excellent safety prospects in the hopes of landing one before or on signing day to be that partner for Williams:

  • Justin Reid, as mentioned above, will visit this weekend. Stanford is very much in the picture here and may in fact lead, and he has an official visit to hometown LSU scheduled for next weekend. Oklahoma was an early favorite but seems to have faded recently. My gut says this is an ND-Stanford battle that could go either way.
  • California speedster Nathan Meadors visited last weekend and has been considered a UCLA lean for a long time. He says the Irish have pulled even after his official visit, but he will take an official to UCLA next weekend. He considered taking an official to Oregon this weekend but that seems unlikely to materialize. Notre Dame has a real shot here, but I still think he'll end up at UCLA.
  • Erstwhile Stanford commit Arrington Farrar would like to schedule an official to Notre Dame either next week or weekend; the staff, obviously, would prefer the weekend. He took a mid-week visit to North Carolina and visits Wisconsin this weekend, with Penn State in the same situation as Notre Dame next week. If he makes it to South Bend before Reid or Meadors decide for the Irish, I like our chances.

Other Uncommitted Prospects

  • WR Equanimeous St. Brown still is expected to announce on signing day and sign with the Irish.
  • RB Soso Jamabo has been drifting steadily away from Notre Dame after having them as his favorite back in October. Nothing the staff did wrong here, just other places clicked more, and now apparently the staff has moved on. Despite a late visit to Texas and possibly Texas A&M, I think he'll end up at UCLA.
  • CB Iman Marshall, a consensus top 10 prospect, visited Notre Dame for the football banquet but the Irish didn't seem to gain serious traction. He has also taken official visits to Florida State and Michigan, and will take his last two to LSU and Oregon. Notre Dame coaches will probably visit him in-home next week, although nothing is public at this point. Despite all that, he's widely considered a USC lock and I agree, it's hard to see him ending up anywhere else.
  • DE Mekhi Brown has been committed to Alabama since April 2013, but he never really stopped looking. After attending Irish Invasion and taking an official visit for the Stanford game Brown made it clear that Notre Dame made a huge impression, but he stayed committed to Alabama; even so, he tweeted this week that Irish coaches were in his home, which raised some eyebrows. With an official visit to Tuscaloosa scheduled for this weekend, it seems unlikely Notre Dame could secure a late flip - but this bears watching. At worst, the staff is laying the groundwork to continue recruiting Brown's area going forward; this is the blueprint Cooks and Booker have followed to build inroads into areas that have not historically been generous to the Irish.
  • OT Chidi Valentine-Odeke recently reclassified from 2016 to 2015 and the Irish were interested, but with Ronnie Stanley's decision to return they've backed off. Look for the Georgia prospect to stay in the SEC.
  • DE Prince Tega Wanogho Jr. is another 2016-to-2015 reclassification; he suffered a gruesome broken leg in a high school basketball game Wednesday night, but is expected to recover before the fall. He seems to have made a connection with Muschamp and will probably end up at Auburn.
  • S Frank Buncom IV will likely eschew automatic entry into the Finer Things Club (so granted due to the IV) for Stanford. He's an exceptionally bright kid who wants to be a neurosurgeon and has connected with that department in Palo Alto.
  • CB Chris Williamson has been tutored by Ray Buchanan and has seen his recruitment explode since the end of his senior season. The Irish were interested in him as a safety but he's set on playing corner; in any case, it seems more likely he'll stay south, likely with Florida, Georgia or North Carolina.
  • Gary Jennings is one of the most physically gifted athletes in the 2015 class, but is unlikely to fit into Notre Dame's 2015 recruiting plan. He loved his official visit for the banquet and probably would commit if the Irish pushed harder, even though his first preference is to play offense. The staff feels they're full at the receiver spot, though, and they're looking for more physicality at safety. If everything else at safety falls through, the Irish could turn to Jennings - but would he still be receptive? His lead recruiter at Wisconsin, who he had a good relationship with, just took a position at hometown Virginia; that pull may prove to strong for Jennings to go elsewhere.