When Jalen Elliott committed to Notre Dame last week, it was pretty hard for anyone who hasn't seen him in person to give any kind of thorough analysis as to the kind of safety he projects to be at the college level. He led his high school to a state championship as a quarterback last year and it's obvious he's a very good athlete, but it would be almost impossible to say how good of a defensive back he is right now. Mostly because there is very little film available of him playing the position.
The reviews of his performance playing defensive back at Irish Invasion were positive, but that almost seemed secondary for any Notre Dame fan who follows recruiting. For them, it seemed way more important that Elliott was a high priority target for Virginia Tech. The Hokies always have strong secondary play and they often don't have 4 or 5 star talent playing for them there. The logic seemed to be, "Who care if he's a 3 star? Virginia Tech offered him."
It's actually pretty sound reasoning, when you think about it. College football fans trust the Virginia Tech coaches when it comes to evaluating defensive back recruits because they have a proven track record.
That kind of reasoning is also why most Irish fans are excited about the other recruit who committed during Invasion. Kevin Stepherson is a lower rated receiver prospect that would normally elicit groans from fans if he played another position, but because Brian Kelly and his coaching staff have done fairly well with 3 star recruits at wide receiver (CJ Prosise, Chris Brown, and Corey Robinson), there is a level of trust that these coaches know what they are doing when it comes to identifying talent at receiver.
This all leads to the most recent commitment, Jamir Jones. Jarron's brother is a player who doesn't have a great offer list. He's a 3 star player and I wasn't super impressed with his junior film. I thought he looked like a good football player, but I wasn't sure if he was the kind of athlete that I could picture being a contributor in the long run at Notre Dame. Compared to the other edge players that they had offered this cycle, I didn't see much of a comparison. They are better prospects than he is if you put the film side by side. That's why I thought he would have to blow the Notre Dame coaches away to earn an offer at camp.
He must have because he walked out of the position camp this week with an offer and promptly committed right after. Not only that, but he convinced Brian VanGorder that he can play linebacker if he doesn't blow up too big and end up moving to defensive end.
Having a lower rated prospect earn an offer in person at a camp is the ultimate "trust the coaches" situation. As much as some want to place the blame for the late season defensive collapse on VanGorder and not on the insane injury predicament, the guy obviously knows a little bit about what makes for a good defensive football player. He wouldn't have worked at so many big time college football programs and in the NFL if he didn't. He, Mike Elston, and Keith Gilmore all got to work out Jones and see what he could do. In the end, they deemed he was good enough to play and hopefully play well at Notre Dame.
There is a lot of time for Jones to develop and see what kind of player he will be at Notre Dame. Maybe he is a career backup like safety John Turner, who also earned an offer at camp. Or maybe he can become like Tyler Eifert, a guy who came to camp and ended up earning an offer. Four years later he became a first round draft pick. Only time will tell how his story will play out.
Of course everyone would prefer if the Irish got a commitment from a 5 star defender, but I think it's fair to say that anyone who earns an offer by competing at camp deserves the benefit of the doubt of any Notre Dame fan. The coaching staff deserves the benefit of the doubt as well, which makes it the perfect time to say this: feel free to chill and trust the coaches.
Other recruiting observations
- It's tough to give my thoughts on Elliott completely because of the lack of film and I also didn't get to see him at the Invasion, but I do have some thoughts on Stepherson.
He is a severely underrated player in my opinion. He's a lot closer to a high 3 star with 4 star potential than where he is currently ranked by a lot of the services based on what I saw on film. I love the way he changes speeds to create separation and has solid balance and body control. He's not a great route runner right now, but he is smooth out of his breaks and that makes me think he can become one. There's a reason that LSU and Florida offered him as well. He is a good prospect.
- Another camp offer went out this week to defensive end Adetokunbo Ogundeji. He's a 3 star edge rusher that I would put in the Johnny Williams category in terms of height/speed/length that equal to great potential, but he is a developmental player that more than likely would not be in the mix to play at the college level early in his career. He needs to add quite a bit of weight and get stronger and is pretty raw overall.
He probably wouldn't be getting an offer if Notre Dame had landed someone like Auston Robertson, but it's obvious Ogundeji has a really high ceiling. He's only 16 years old going into his senior year so the physical development should come with time. He showed some great athleticism in the clips I saw from him at camps.
- Guard Parker Boudreaux is announcing his college decision next week and the Irish look like they have a great shot at landing him. He is nasty player and would be a great compliment to Tommy Kraemer and Liam Eichenberg in this offensive line class. It also would be nice to have some one more Notre Dame commitment at the Opening next month. The other main contenders to land him appear to be Clemson and Oklahoma.
- It didn't occur to me until looking for a photo for this post, but I think have pinpointed the reason for the slow start in recruiting. That goatee from BK might have scared off some potential commitments. Now that it's gone, the summer looks a lot brighter than the spring was for recruiting.