Irish Invasion officially starts tomorrow. Some guys have already made it to South Bend, while others are currently on route and set to arrive today or tomorrow. Today, we're taking a look at the defensive prospects that should be in attendance. Remember, this list is liable to change.
Let's get to it.
Pete Werner is making his second visit since committing shortly after the March Junior Day. The 4-star linebacker's recruitment seems to have slowed down tremendously since his commitment, aside from the visits to Notre Dame. This looks like a commitment that will stick.
Isaiah Robertson has technically been recruited as an athlete by the staff and could play either receiver or safety. I'm assuming the staff signs enough wide receivers in this class for Isaiah to start out on the defensive side of the ball. I like him there better, anyway.
Top 100 linebacker Justin Foster is making his first visit to South Bend. He's already a big dude at 6'4" and almost 260 pounds, so I'm guessing the staff is pursuing him for his ability potential to play on the defensive line. If all goes well with him this weekend, Notre Dame could make a big move.
Three-star Georgia defensive end Cortez Alston is also making his first visit to South Bend. Notre Dame is at or very near the top of his list right now. He's not a guy that you should expect to commit this weekend, but his recruitment is one to watch moving forward.
Probably the biggest news of the weekend will be Robert Beal's first return to Notre Dame since decommitting earlier this year. For those of you who don't know, he decommitted after hearing that his sister wouldn't be admitted into Notre Dame. Now it's decided that he'll make his own decision without being influenced by family pressures. The staff has some ground to make up, some relationships need to be patched up a bit, but his willingness to reach out to the staff and schedule a visit is very promising.
Three-star CB Latavious Brini will be really tough to pull out of Florida, but the staff will sure as hell try. He's got just about every major southeastern school pushing hard for him, so he's probably not a realistic option at this point. But we could be surprised.
Some interesting scuttlebutt has been making the rounds on social media concerning 5-star LB/DE Baron Browning lately. Apparently, his older brother could be joining the ND staff in the near future. Take those rumors however you want. Anyway, it's his first visit to ND this weekend, so the staff will definitely look to make a move for him.
Three-star safety Amari Carter is a guy pretty similar to current ND freshman Devin Studstill. They both play safety, they're both widely regarded as underrated by the recruiting services, and they are both products of Palm Beach Gardens High School in Florida. Oh, and the general consensus seems to be that ND is in the driver's seat for Amari as well, similar to Devin at this time last year.
Four-star defensive end Hunter Echols is currently committed to UCLA, but that could change in the future. He's still looking around and Notre Dame is one of the schools that he is heavily considering. Things have to go well this weekend if ND has any chance to make the flapjacks, though.
Four-star CB Elijah Gates is visiting at just the right time. If his visit were to be put off any longer, the Irishs would be at risk of fading for him. But he is expected on campus this weekend and Notre Dame should remain a legitimate threat to land the talented Californian.
If anybody's on commit-watch this weekend, it's 3-star defensive end Jonathon MacCollister. Ohio State is the biggest competition for him right now, but they offered him as a tight end. If he's comfortable playing DE, he should be expected to choose the Irish. He has said that his decision will be made by the end of the month.
Drew Jordan will be making his first visit to South Bend in the hopes of earning an offer. The 3-star Georgian defensive end recently released a Top 6 of Indiana, Michigan State, Arkansas, Duke, Cal, and Georgia Tech. We'll see what happens with him this weekend.
Three-star Illinois DE Joshua Maize will also be camping to earn an offer this weekend. He's got a really good frame at 6'5" and 230 pounds, but not a great offer list at the moment. He's a project, but if he impresses this weekend, the staff may pull the trigger.
Local 3-star safety Cedric Mitchell has been recruited by Notre Dame for a while, but no offer has come his way yet. This weekend is an excellent opportunity for the Concord HS product to showcase his skills. His offer list isn't great right now, but I actually really like his film and I would not be opposed to him receiving an offer this weekend if he performs well.
Indianapolis Ben Davis 3-star defensive end Esezi Otomoweo is another project with an impressive 6'6" frame. He'll be camping out with the hopes of earning an offer this weekend, and it's possible that one comes his way.
Forgive me for saying this again, but 3-star Illinois defensive end Jackson Perkins is another project with a great 6'6"/225-pound frame. He's been recruited by the staff for a while and he's made it into South Bend before. We'll see if his camp performance this weekend will earn him an offer.
Color me surprised that 4-star Alabama DE LaBryan Ray is actually scheduled to be on campus this weekend. It's always ridiculously hard to pull elite talent out of the state of Alabama, so I wouldn't expect anything groundbreaking to come out of this visit. But at least he'll be on campus.
Another Ben Davis product will be on campus this weekend hoping to earn an offer. Three-star defensive tackle LeShaun Minor. If he doesn't end up earning an offer from Notre Dame, Indiana should be the best bet to land him.
Unranked Texas safety Ben Mathiasmeier hasn't earned any offers yet. He may be a good candidate to join the Irish as a preferred walk-on.
Now here's something you don't see every day. A recruit from Rhode Island will be on campus this weekend in search of an offer. Three-star defensive end and Boston College commit Kwity Paye is making his first trip into South Bend. He's drawn some comparisons to former Notre Dame LB/DE Prince Shembo (for his play on the field, not for any kind of character problems).
Unranked Ohio linebacker Dan Bolden is making the visit over from Cincinnati. I wouldn't expect the staff to offer him at this point, but maybe in the future.
Linebacker Hugh Davis, teammate of Irish commit Pete Werner and target Markese Stepp, will be on campus with both of those teammates. His recruitment hasn't quite picked up yet, but he's got an offer from Indiana already and is getting interest from Michigan State. He could potentially earn an offer in the future.
Top 50 linebacker Dallas Gant is a pretty safe bet to earn an offer this weekend. It might be pretty tough pulling him out of Ohio, but the staff is sure gonna give it a shot.
Illinois defensive back Houston Griffith has already had plenty of interaction with Notre Dame. He earned his offer a few months ago. Ohio State could end up posing a threat for the Top 100 player, but you have to like where the Irish stand with him at this point.
Brendan Radley-Hiles just earned an offer from USC, and it could be a game-changer for the Top 100 DB. Notre Dame is still in a pretty good spot to land him, but things just got a whole lot tougher.
Top 25 Ohio DL Leonard Taylor is currently committed to Michigan, but he's still looking around. Ohio State is probably the bigger threat to flip him than Notre Dame is, but we'll have to see how he enjoys his visit to be sure of that.
A familiar name will make a very short drive into campus for Irish Invasion. Mishawaka Penn High School's Anthony Torres is the step-brother of current ND Hoops player Austin Torres. The 6'6"/235-pound athlete could play either tight end or defensive end, and it's not yet clear which position Notre Dame is currently recruiting him at.
Malik Vann is returning to Notre Dame after earning an offer at the Blue-Gold game. Notre Dame is in a very good spot for him, but Michigan State has been posing some pretty tough competition here.
South Carolina 4-star linebacker Jake Venables will be making his first visit to ND this weekend and he could be in line for an offer. You may have heard of his father, Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables.
Tampa TE/DE Judge Culpepper just earned his offer from Notre Dame last weekend and this will be his first visit to South Bend. His father is former Florida Gator and 1991 All-American Brad Culpepper. Though he may have been a Gator, Judge's father is pro-ND as well. It'll be interesting to see how this develops.
Ohio 4-star linebacker and Michigan commit Antwuan Johnson could receive an offer this weekend. He is committed to Michigan, but they're also the only real major program to have offered him. He appears to be looking around, so we'll see how things go from here.
Georgia safety Bryson Richardson is making the long trip up to South Bend this weekend. He holds early offers from Tennesse, NC State, and Louisville. That list is sure to expand in the coming months.
Pennsylvania 4-star linebacker Matt Bauer is another guy who could see an offer coming his way this weekend. He holds early offers from Penn State, Syracuse, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Louisville defensive end Stephen Herron Jr. already holds offers from Tennessee and Louisville. He's a kid to keep an eye on in the future.
Kentucky defensive tackle Jacob Lacey has a pretty impressive offer list for a kid just wrapping up his freshman year of high school. Kentucky, Louisville, Cincinnati, and Tennessee have already offered. Notre Dame could be next.
Ohio defensive tackle Isaiah Gibson holds early offers from Kentucky, Bowling Green, and Rutgers. Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan State, and many others are already showing interest.
Tennessee athlete Jashon Watkins could play receiver or defensive back. Kentucky and Tennessee have already offered the lengthy 6'4" prospect.
And that's all, folks. Be sure to stay tuned this weekend for any commitments that might pop up.