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Early Signing Day: What’s Next for Notre Dame on the Recruiting Trail?

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Looking ahead to 2021.

The new paradigm of Notre Dame recruiting is to have the class wrapped up by the early signing period. With today’s surprise(wink, wink) signing of Ramon Henderson bringing the class to 18, that likely wraps up 2020 class. Is it possible that the Irish could still yet add some pieces before National Signing Day? I mean sure, we’ve just about seen it all when it comes to recruiting at this point but the smart money is that the 2020 is complete. The staff’s focus has been squarely on the 2021 class for a good while now, the last commit before Henderson was Xavier Watts all the way back on July 5th. So allow me to grab my crystal ball, toss on some prop jewelry and let’s take gaze into what the future holds for Notre Dame Fighting Irish recruiting. (I’ll be using 247 composite for all my recruiting rankings.)

Who’s in?

Already the 2021 is shaping up to be one of the best of Brian Kelly era. A quick glance at the early rankings show the Irish holding down the number one spot.
Number one.
Overall.
Spot.
Five of the seven verbal commits rank in the top 100, only the 2011 class had more top 100 kids signed and that was just one more. Headlining the class is Tyler Buchner, a highly touted quarterback from California that is re-writing the high school record books.

Gunner Kiel has been Brian Kelly’s only five star QB recruit but Buchner is already shooting up the recruiting rankings and may change that. Tied in with Buchner is an interesting subplot pertaining to a Chicago-suburb 5-star QB recruit named J.J. McCarthy, who has visited Notre Dame multiple times. The Irish staff preferred Buchner and left McCarthy’s love of the Irish unrequited. The career arcs of McCarthy(now committed to Michigan) and Buchner is going to be an intriguing story years from now. One of the areas that has made Buchner the jewel of this class is his ability to recruit players to follow him to South Bend. Here he is greasing the wheels of, 5 star all-purpose back and 21st ranked overall, Will Shipley:

Already he’s got a trio of skilled pass-catchers that have verbally committed: Deion Colzie WR from Athen’s Georgia is the highest ranked player in the class, fellow Georgian and number 1 Tight End in the class Cane Berrong and Ohio State legacy Lorenzo Styles Jr from just outside Columbus brings legit 4.4 speed.

247 Sports.

Joining them is an offensive line haul that continues Notre Dame’s dominance in recruiting that position. Already they have verbals from Blake Fisher, top recruit in Indiana, and Greg Crippin from the IMG Academy in Florida. Most experts are projecting it’s more of a matter of when not if for OT Garrett Dellinger, top 100 recruit from Michigan, to verbal to the Irish. Presently, they don’t seem to lead for either Rocco Spindler or Landon Tengwell but if Twitter posts were an inclination, it might not be far fetched to see the Irish in on them as well.

Concerns

If I were to pose a concern with the 2021 class, it goes back to my concern with the 2020 class as well, and that is the lack of elite top end defensive talent. Gabriel Rubio is the lone defensive verbal to this point, 97th ranked overall and a top 10 defensive tackle. Since 2015 Notre Dame has only signed five total top 100 defensive recruits. This trend is becoming alarmingly Weis-ian and one the staff certainly has to address. Even with the addition of Kyle Hamilton last year and grad-transfer Isaiah Pryor(he’ll have two years of eligibility) I believe it is paramount that the Irish sign another top flight safety. The 2020 class ended up with a lot of depth in the secondary but no true safety. Notre Dame is very much in the mix for the #35 player in the class, safety prospect from outside Pittsburgh, Derrick Davis Jr. He’s the top safety on Notre Dame’s board and a kid that has five star potential and the ability to make an immediate impact. The other area of importance for the Irish this cycle is to sign a linebacker. Even a single linebacker signee would be more than they signed in the 2020 class.(Jordan Botelho will be playing drop-end) Curiously, they have only extended six offers to linebackers to this point and only one of which plays inside. The most recent offer was to a top 50 kid in Branden Jennings, a linebacker from Florida, who received his offer during his official visit when Southern Cal was in town. Bringing in a handful of impact linebackers needs to be an absolute priority, as there will be only seven linebackers on the roster in 2021 barring a fifth-year return for Drew White and Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah.

How will the class finish?

The momentum for the 2021 class is soaring in an upward direction. Will Shipley is expected to make a decision in the next few months and it’s thought to be between Notre Dame and North Carolina State (he lives just outside Charlotte, NC). His addition would give the Irish a sixth top 100 verbal, and the discussion of greatest offensive class ever signed by Notre Dame would be on the table. With the 2020 class being smaller, it should allow the staff to sign 21-24 in the 2021 cycle. Given start the class has gotten off to, the way the crystal balls are bouncing with uncommitted players and the volume allotted, this class finishing outside the top five would be a surprise. If those of us on the outside feel good about the way 2021 is trending...just imagine how Brian Kelly and staff feel.