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Notre Dame Football Recruiting Big Board: Defense

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

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Welcome back to the One Foot Down recruiting Big Board for Fighting Irish football. Many prospects have come off the board recently as recruiting season has heated up around the country, so we're switching to doing sides of the ball instead of position groups.

Inside Linebacker is left out below intentionally - everyone the staff was pursuing, to differing degrees, is now off the board. I don't know if it's connection or coincidence, but it seems like Brian VanGorder's defense is less concerned with recruiting pre-designated inside linebackers and more concerned with recruiting plus athletes who play linebacker. That's probably why were chasing many more outside linebackers than inside throughout this cycle.

Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.940 Jordan Fuller NJ 6-2/190 Mild
.933 Damar Hamlin PA 6-1/175 Mild
.952 Lamar Jackson CA 6-3/205 Cold
.855 Troy Pride SC 6-0/175 Mild
.922 JoeJuan Williams TN 6-2/195 Cold

In Play

Jordan Fuller is, according to Rivals, working with the Irish staff to set up an official visit for December, which one might reasonably assume will be for the football banquet. Getting Fuller back on campus would be huge and would be a good sign that he's seriously considering Notre Dame.

Are you into parsing media shared on Twitter? Yes? Awesome. Damar Hamlin seems to be sporting an interesting underlayer, per Rivals reporter Steve Hare:

Lamar Jackson recently trekked to Nebraska from sunny Southern California for an official visit with the Huskers. Why? Excellent question. That's his fourth official visits - the others went to Arizona, Oklahoma, and Michigan - and he still hasn't rescheduled his visit to Notre Dame. All momentum here is heading away from the Irish.

Troy Pride announced his decommitment from Virginia Tech official shortly after Frank Beamer's retirement was announced. He visited Notre Dame for the USC game and reportedly loved it, but with the decommitment done he has started to talk about other schools too. We'll have to watch this race very closely.

JoeJuan Williams just headed to North Carolina for an official visit and came away very impressed. This is a tough one to handicap - Tennessee, Vandy, Penn State, and now North Carolina seem to be firmly in the picture. You get the feeling this could go for a while; not necessarily to signing day, but some unknown amount of time past the end of the regular season.

Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.948 Brandon Burton CA 6-2/195 Mild
.865 Ikenna Okeke TN 6-2/200 Warm
.865 Devin Studstill FL 6-1/180 Warm
.963 Nigel Warrior GA 6-0/175 Cold

In Play

We noted last time that Brandon Burton loved his USC game visit, but it seems the Irish have faded since then and are no longer in his top group. Worth keeping an eye on.

Ikenna Okeke just visited Texas A&M, who is now trending very strongly for his services. He has had legitimate interest in the Irish for a long time, but... When a guy says everything about the school is fantastic and just what he's looking for, and still can't pull the trigger, most likely it doesn't quite have everything he's looking for. That's not to say that Okeke (or others in a similar situation) will never pick the Irish, just that delays have reasons and not every reason has a resolution.

Nigel Warrior will be in Columbus this weekend to see the Buckeyes take on Michigan State, and has also confirmed his intent to take official visits to Alabama and LSU. Notably absent? Tennessee, where his father played, and Georgia, where he lives. He did tell 247 recently, though, that they're on his mind (free). We're not taking him off yet thanks to that "not 100 percent concrete" thing, but we're not holding our breath either.

"It is not 100 percent concrete, but in my mind my top five are LSU, Ohio State, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee," Warrior said.

Outside Linebacker
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.988 Ben Davis AL 6-4/230 Cold
.895 Aaron Hansford DC 6-2/210 Warm
.876 Jonathan Jones FL 6-0/225 Mild
.989 Caleb Kelly CA 6-3/215 Cold
.959 Jeffrey McCulloch TX 6-2/230 Mild

In Play:

Tide legacy Ben Davis just trekked to LSU for an official visit and is headed to Ole Miss this weekend, according to He'll also take an official to Auburn at some point as well as, of course, Alabama, and has already taken an official to Georgia. For the math-challenged among you - you know who you are - that's five official visits with nary an Irish sighting, which means for all intents and purposes that he's not coming. But, he hasn't officially named finalists either, so hey, you never know. As we've been saying here for months, despite all the visits, it'd be shocking if he picks anyone other than Alabama.

Nothing much to report on Aaron Hansford; he still favors Notre Dame after his campus visit. The staff would love to add the uber-athletic linebacker, who is being recruited by UCLA as a receiver and who makes a habit of running back kicks for scores. Linebacker. Just saying.

Jonathan Jones is probably going to prove too difficult to pry away from Michigan, but he did tweet something during the Temple game that we can all identify with:

Caleb Kelly is still on track to take his official visit to Notre Dame for the football banquet in December. USA Today just did a profile on him; there's nothing in there about a potential destination, but there was an interesting academic note at the end. He wants to pursue a broadcasting degree - quick, someone tell him about the COTH program!

So, about high-academic prospect Jeffrey McCulloch, who visited for the USC game...

Well. That's... interesting. As always, it might mean nothing, and follow the visits and communication. But Notre Dame got McCulloch's attention on his visit, and it looks like McCulloch will at least seriously consider it.

Defensive Tackle
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.999 Rashan Gary NJ 6-4/290 Cold
.990 Dexter Lawrence NC 6-5/310 Cold

In Play:

Nothing new on #1 overall prospect Rashan Gary, who still has us in Missouri mode regarding any discussed trip to Notre Dame. Show me, buddy. Michigan obviously likes their chances but I have a hunch he'll ultimately head south.

Off the Board:

Dexter Lawrence, who in all honesty probably isn't that far behind Gary, recently told 247 that his top six schools are Alabama, Clemson, Florida, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Ohio State.

Defensive End
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.992 Oluwole Betiku CA 6-3.5/240 Cold
.946 Daelin Hayes MI 6-4/250 Mild

In Play:

Oluwole Betiku had a fantastic visit for the Wake Forest game, especially since he was the sole defensive official visitor and got plenty of one-on-one time with the coaches. The Irish staff has done everything they can possibly can to get him seriously thinking, and it may just have been enough. I'm not sold that he needs to take a second visit to pick Notre Dame, but if he does do that, things will get very interesting indeed.

Daelin Hayes...  His story is why we shouldn't spend too much time following this stuff. He has waffled all over the place over the course of his recruitment, often favoring whoever he visited last. That seems to be the case now with Michigan State possibly gaining some momentum, and likely to be pushing harder than we expected after one sure and a couple of rumored academic casualties in their 2016 defensive line class. Let me be clear on where I stand on this: IT'S COMPLETELY HIS RIGHT TO WAFFLE. He's literally making a life-impacting decision, he can flop around as much as he wants while he thinks about it. Just makes it a little more stressful on the rest of us, who shouldn't be invested that much in it anyway.

So, right now, we're not really sure where he'll end up. The Irish are very much in it, though, so keep watching.

Off the Board:

Carlo Kemp, self-professed lifelong Notre Dame fan, committed to Michigan. Those two phrases seem diametrically opposed, so I'm going to resolve the dissonance by saying he must not have been a real Notre Dame fan.


(Sort of.)

Apparently I missed that Justin Madubuike committed to Texas A&M a while ago, so he's off the board.