October 4th, 2014 was a great day to be a Notre Dame football fan.
Everett Golson led a 4th quarterback comeback and threw a touchdown pass on the final drive to beat Stanford, the Irish remained undefeated, and the 2016 recruiting class got off to a great start with a commitment from 5 star offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer. Everything was coming up Milhouse.
Even though the minute comeback felt awesome, the commitment from Kraemer might have been the best thing to happen for the program overall. If you're going to start a recruiting class, starting it with a 5 star from the midwest is as good as it gets for Notre Dame.
At that point, I can recall a lot of of big talk about how great the 2016 class was going to be. With so much elite talent in the midwest region, some predicted that it could possibly contend to be the top class in the nation or at the very least be in the top five. A strong start on the field, including a near upset of top ranked Florida State, and everything appeared on track for that to happen.
I don't need to describe how the season started to unravel in 2014, but it's necessary to mention that it did. While all of that was going on, Ohio State was busy winning the national championship with their third quarterback, Michigan's nightmare of a season ended with them hiring their dream coach in Jim Harbaugh, and Michigan State went to and won another New Year's Day bowl game.
All of that leads us up to where we are now. Notre Dame has six commitments right now. Included in that is 4 star edge rusher Julian Okwara (Romeo's brother), 4 star running back Tony Jones Jr., and also stud offensive tackle Liam Eichenberg. Those three along with Kraemer and versatile defensive back Julian Love is not a bad start overall. The problem is that no one knows who the next addition to the class is or when that addition will come. As it stands right now, it's looking doubtful that the next commitment is going to come from any of the elite talent in the midwest.
Notre Dame just lost out on a commitment for safety Kenney Lyke to Michigan State and have a very good chance of getting shutout for some other top midwest prospects that are going to decide in June. Defensive end Auston Robertson and wide receiver Austin Mack have been considered high priority recruits for a long time. As of right now, it doesn't look like either of the prospects from Fort Wayne, Indiana will be announcing for Notre Dame with Mack favoring the Buckeyes and Robertson most likely favoring the Spartans. Michigan State also appears the be the heavy favorite to land another top Irish target, defensive end Josh King.
I didn't expect Notre Dame to land all of those players, but I also didn't expect for them to land none of them.
The only current top player from the region that could choose Notre Dame is offensive lineman Ben Bredeson. Adding him to Kraemer and Eichenberg would be fantastic, but it's not a sure thing with Wisconsin and Michigan both candidates to land him as well.
National recruiting is a must to compete for national championships, but the players who live close enough to South Bend to visit without having to hop on a plane are usually the foundation for a recruiting class. As it stands right now, many of the top players on Notre Dame's board that are uncommitted have not even had a chance to visit campus yet. Slice it however you want, but that's pretty concerning.
June is going to be a huge month when it comes to unofficial visits and the highlight is going to be Irish Invasion on June 19th when several important recruits are scheduled to be to be in town. It looks like it could end up being a much bigger event than the first one last year and let's hope it is. Notre Dame needs to regain some momentum in recruiting and if they have to wait until the fall to regain it, it's going to be tough to land the kind of talent they are going to need to compete at the highest level.
Other recruiting observations:
- It's at least encouraging that the coaching staff took full advantage of the May evaluation period. They have sent out a ton of offers recently, which is exactly what they should be doing. With plenty of recruits who have them on their final list, but not exactly at the top of their list, they need to throw out as many offers as they can.
I'm a fan of many of the kids they are targeting as well. There are some really good edge rusher prospects that they've targeted like Andre Anthony and Antonneus Clayton and some talented defensive backs like cornerback David Long and safety Lamar Jackson. Now let's hope that they follow it up with convincing several of these new offers to visit this summer.
- Dillon Sterling-Cole's name has been tossed around as the next possible offer at quarterback, but there hasn't been anything to update on that front. He actually just named a top 8 and with no offer, the Irish weren't in it. Considering that Notre Dame wasn't very shy in the last couple of weeks with sending out offers, it seems like they are either going to pass on a quarterback this cycle and go all in for 2017 (hello, Hunter Johnson) or they may be playing the waiting game.
A new offer could emerge from camp this month or they could wait on some senior film for some prospects that they are on the fence about. Then there is always the possibility that de-commitments and the inevitable late season coaching changes at other programs that could put previous targets back into play. Remember, both Everett Golson and Brandon Wimbush were not on the radar until their senior seasons when they took visits to Notre Dame and both ended up filling a need at quarterback. I wouldn't be surprised to see some unexpected names to emerge later on.
- Can they bring these guys back for Irish Invasion? I'm sure it wouldn't hurt their cause to have them hanging around.
- Somebody needs to add this statement somewhere to where recruits can see it when they visit. Manti knows how to sell Notre Dame.
"In the NFL we joke, you went to a state school, you went to a national school, but ND is a global school. Everyone knows us." -Manti Te'o— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) June 4, 2015
- If anyone is looking for a more in-depth look at some Notre Dame recruiting targets on defense, I have been doing evaluations of prospects for IrishSportsDaily.com. There are a number of them you can check out, here's a link to my break down of defensive end Xavier Kelly ($). He is scheduled to visit South Bend next week and is a phenomenal athlete with a really high ceiling.