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2016 Notre Dame Football Recruiting Big Board: Defense

Matt Cashore-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.

Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.901 Eric Cuffee TX 5-11/188 Mild
.980 Kristian Fulton LA 6-0/177 Cold
.933 Damar Hamlin PA 6-1/175 Mild
.952 Lamar Jackson CA 6-3/205 Cold
.978 Trayvon Mullen FL 6-2/175 Cold
.940 Byron Murphy AZ 5-11/160 Cold
.894 Donte Vaughn TN 6-3/192 Warm
.922 JoeJuan Williams TN 6-2/195 Mild

Entering the Field

No new offers to report this cycle.

In Play

Eric Cuffee will be in town this weekend for his official visit; the Texan will also visit Austin two weeks later to see the Horns take on Cal. By all accounts Texas is the main competition for Cuffee, so it'll be interesting to see how he feels coming out of each visit.

Nothing new to report on Kristian Fulton, who is still theoretically open to everyone but is expected to land at LSU. He opened his season in style with a 99-yard interception return. Sigh.

The race for Damar Hamlin is difficult to handicap right now, as evidenced by his own remarks to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Ohio State at one point seemed like the odds-on favorite, but their star dimmed a bit and it now looks like a tight race between the Buckeyes, Notre Dame, Pitt, and Penn State. Official visits loom large here.

Lamar Jackson had intended to visit for the Texas game but, due to a schedule crunch with his high school team, won't make it. He told Scout he "definitely" wants to reschedule and will talk to the staff to figure out a good target. The main competition for him is USC, UCLA, Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Michigan.

Trayvon Mullen has made some waves lately by wearing Florida State cleats for a game, considering an official visit to Georgia, and considering yet another visit to LSU. The Bayou Tigers seem to hold the lead for the talented Floridian, but this has the look of a race that will go the distance.

Arizonan Byron Murphy, who has official visits to Texas A&M and Washington, announced his finalists late last night (before press time, as it were). We don't expect Notre Dame to be on that list.

Donte Vaughn will be in town for the Texas game. He said recently that he wants to announce on his birthday in October, but he might not get out of town this weekend without pledging to the Irish. Then again, he could commit quietly and still announce in several weeks, of course.

We mentioned last time that Vanderbilt had built some momentum with JoeJuan Williams - well, the train's still rolling. We expected him to be an SEC recruit, but not that SEC...

Off the Board

No commitments or eliminations to report this time.

Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.948 Brandon Burton CA 6-2/195 Mild
.988 Brandon Jones TX 5-11/183 Cold
.871 DJ Morgan CA 6-3/205 Mild
.865 Ikenna Okeke TN 6-2/200 Mild
.865 Devin Studstill FL 6-1/180 Mild
.857 Chacho Ulloa CA 6-0/190 Mild
.963 Nigel Warrior GA 6-0/175 Cold

Entering the Field

In Play

Californian Brandon Burton is still on track to visit for the USC game, so no news there, which is good news, but the extra good news is that he'll be accompanied by a very impressive teammate. More on that later.

DJ Morgan will be in town this weekend to see the Irish take on the Longhorns. He may be a Plan B option at this point, but there is some level of mutual interest here.

Ikenna Okeke just scheduled an official visit for the USC game, which as usual is shaping up to be a monster recruiting weekend. He's another guy who could find the boat full, although he's probably higher on the staff's board than Morgan. So maybe not. (This is like predicting the weather.)

The Irish are still in good shape with Devin Studstill, although no decision is imminent and he keeps fairly quiet about his recruitment. The Notre Dame staff believes he is arguably the most underrated prospect in the country.

Nothing has changed with Chacho Ulloa, who still plans to take official visits to Notre Dame, Stanford, and Arizona State. I think if he and best friend Javon McKinley go to school together it won't be at Notre Dame, and I think there's a very good change McKinley will end up at Notre Dame. So...

Georgian Nigel Warrior talked to Rivals about his plans to take an official visit to Notre Dame, among others, as a way to "see the world." He doesn't want to use official visits to schools that are within driving distance of his home, which makes sense. We'll see how sincere his interest is, but getting him on campus at all would be a coup.

Off the Board

Andrew Pryts, the Penn State legacy who at different times seemed to be trending towards Ohio State and Notre Dame, committed to the Nittany Lions.

Brandon Jones released a top six of Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Alabama, LSU, and Oregon.

Vanderbilt wanted Thomas Jones for baseball only, but that didn't deter him from pledging to the Commodores.

Inside Linebacker
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.938 Dontavious Jackson TX 6-2/239 Cold

Entering the Field:

No new offers were extended to inside linebackers since our last update.

In Play:

Dontavious Jackson hasn't officially made any cuts beyond his top twelve, which the Irish made, but the only official visits he has lined up are Florida State, UCLA, and Michigan, per Scout.

Off the Board:

Florida State legacy Devin Bush announced a top three of Florida State, Michigan, and Georgia. While his teammate Devin Gil did commit to Michigan, it would be shocking to see Bush end up anywhere but Tallahassee.

Brendan Ferns is pretty firmly down to a final two of Penn State and West Virginia, with the lead seemingly changing with each report.

Jonathan Smith committed to North Carolina.

Outside Linebacker
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.988 Ben Davis AL 6-4/230 Cold
.871 Aaron Hansford DC 6-2/210 Cold
.989 Caleb Kelly CA 6-3/215 Cold

Entering the Field:

No new offers to report.

In Play:

Five-star Alabama legacy Ben Davis has been very quiet lately, no doubt preparing his season. He has always spoken highly of the Irish but it's never gotten beyond that.

Aaron Hansford has set his five official visits - in addition to Notre Dame, he'll visit Florida, Ohio State, Oregon, and UCLA. Hansford's father, as we've noted here before, is a huge Notre Dame fan who at first didn't believe that Aaron got an offer from the Irish. Um, thanks, Dad...

Fresnoan (Fresnoite?) Caleb Kelly scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame for the football banquet. After scratching two planned unofficial visits, it wouldn't be terribly surprising if Kelly never makes it to campus. On the other hand, he has been adamant about wanting to visit and there have been some rumblings that he hasn't quite gotten the local support you might expect regarding an unofficial visit to Notre Dame. So maybe he really is that interested, and the banquet will be our big chance to make an impression. As always with the Fresno kids, stay tuned.

Off the Board:

Jaleel Laguins committed to Georgia, as expected.

Defensive Tackle
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.999 Rashan Gary NJ 6-4/290 Cold
.977 Antwuan Jackson GA 6-2/285 Cold
.990 Dexter Lawrence NC 6-5/310 Cold

New On The Scene:

No new offers on the inside.

In Play:

Rashan Gary never made it to Notre Dame over the summer, despite many rumors and the reported wishes of his mother. Color us skeptical that he'll make it for an official either. Still, he hasn't eliminated anyone officially yet, so we're still on the fringes of this race.

Antwuan Jackson, long viewed as leaning towards Auburn, will take an official visit to Ohio State. He may well still end up at Auburn, where good friend and teammate LB Elysee Mbem-Bosse committed.

Dexter Lawrence just made it to Clemson after several failed attempts ($) - he's their Caleb Kelly, apparently - and is still wide open and very quiet in his recruitment. The Irish aren't really on the map here, though.

Off the Board:

No commitments to report on the inside.

Defensive End
Score Player State Ht/Wt. Temperature 1* 2* 3* 4* 5*
.992 Oluwole Betiku CA 6-3.5/240 Cold
.871 Antonneous Clayton GA 6-4/218 Cold
.946 Daelin Hayes MI 6-4/250 Mild
.896 Carlo Kemp CO 6-3/255 Warm
.952 Justin Madubuike TX 6-3/255 Cold

New On The Scene:

UCLA commit Oluwole Betiku is the teammate of Brandon Burton to whom we alluded earlier. He just scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game as well, along with Burton. He had very complimentary things to say about the Irish at The Opening and seemed to be genuinely interested; if the Irish roll into that game undefeated, who knows what might happen.

USC commit Daelin Hayes, who the staff is recruiting as a rush end, has recently semi-opened his recruitment and scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame for the USC game. He was at the 2014 edition of Irish Invasion and reportedly almost committed to the Irish then, so it was always a little surprising that he popped immediately for USC on his first visit there. He has long described Notre Dame, and recently reinforced it, as his childhood dream. If Hayes makes it to campus on his own before the SC game, Katie bar the door.

In Play:

Georgian Antonneous Clayton has yet to announce his promised top ten, but it's kind of academic anyway. As he told Scout, Auburn and Florida are in great shape for his services.

Carlo Kemp, avowed lifelong Notre Dame fan and nephew of Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, continues to trend towards Michigan. Hmm. He'll take official visits to Ann Arbor, South Bend, Westwood, and Boulder, per Rivals ($).

Nothing new to report on Justin Madubuike, who still talks about wanting to visit Notre Dame but hasn't scheduled anything yet.

Off the Board:

Patrick Bethel gave a top ten list recently and Notre Dame didn't make the cut for the Canes legacy.

Amani Bledsoe tweeted a top six of Kansas, Missouri, North Carolina State, Oklahoma, Oregon, and UCLA.

Brian Burns scheduled official visits to his top schools - Georgia, Florida, Florida State, and LSU. Georgia is the heavy favorite.

Kyree Campbell committed to North Carolina.