A few weeks ago, I broke down how the top wide receiver in the last 16 Notre Dame recruiting classes had fared out of a conversation sprung from the Jordan Johnson debate. It was an interesting look that forced us to rethink a few things, and in doing so, it made me curious about the other position groups.
So here we are... let’s do the cornerbacks. The top cornerback commit from each recruiting class since 2005 according to the 247 Composite rankings.
2005 — NO CORNERBACK COMMITS
It’s just not the quality of cornerback that Notre Dame had a problem recruiting over the years — it was any number of cornerbacks. 247 only lists 6 Notre Dame offers for a CB that year. The lone one of memory was Brandon Harrison from Dayton, Ohio. He eventually chose the Michigan Wolverines.
2006 — 4-Star Darrin Walls
Walls was a much needed addition to the Irish program (especially after 2005). As a freshman, Darrin saw immediate playing time, and in the season opener against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, he covered Calvin Johnson in the second half and held him to 16 yards on two receptions. Walls would go on to start all but one game in 2007, but was forced to take a year off in 2008. When he returned in 2009, he returned to regular play — although he didn’t start in a handful of games. By the time Walls left Notre Dame after the 2010 season, he amassed 104 tackles and 5 interceptions with two of those returned for touchdown.
2007 — 4-Star Gary Gray
Gray arrived in South Bend as part of an assembled trio of top 100 corners with the additions of Walls and Raeshon McNeil the year before. Unfortunately for Gray, he missed the 2007 season after a spring surgery on his shoulder. He returned to Notre Dame in 2008 and in limited action pulled in two interceptions before leaving the team for personal reasons. By the time he entered his 5th year in 2011, he had 20 starts under his belt. It was that 2011 season, however, that will always taint the memory of an otherwise good career. The Michigan game in particular held some of the most infamous cornerback play in Notre Dame history. Gray finished his career with 176 tackles and 6 interceptions.
2008 — 4-Star Robert Blanton
Blanton quickly became a fan favorite for his throwback style and tough play — but also because he played in every game but one during his four year career with 26 starts. As a freshman, he set the tone early and racked up 33 tackles with 2 interceptions with one of the interceptions returned for a touchdown. For his career, Blanton had 194 tackles, 19.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, and 8 interceptions.
2009 — NO CORNERBACK COMMITS
For the second time in five years, Notre Dame signed zero cornerbacks with only 6 offers out there.
2010 — 3-Star Spencer Boyd
Boyd never played a down for the Irish. After spring of 2010, Boyd transferred to the USF Bulls to be closer to home because of some personal issues. Boyd played in just 6 games for the Bulls in 2011 and ended his football career.
2011 4-Star Eilar Hardy
Hardy did not see any action on the field in either 2011 or 2012. In 2013 he played in 10 games with two starts at safety. In 2014 Hardy was under suspension for academic fraud, but managed to play in a couple of games at the end of the season. Hardy transferred to Bowling Green to play in 2015 where he had 82 tackles and 2 interceptions as the starter at safety.
2012 — 4-Star Tee Shepard
After a heated recruiting battle with the USC Trojans, the Irish signed Tee Shepard as an early enrollee with the 2012 class. Shepard was only at Notre Dame a short while that one semester. Shepard bounced to a community college and then found himself with the Ole Miss Rebels for a year. Earlier this year he was arrested for armed robbery while in Miami, Florida.
2013 — 4-Star Cole Luke
Luke played right away as a freshman, but still only saw action in six games and accounted for 15 tackles. As a sophomore, Cole became the starter at cornerback — where he remained for the next 38 games (the rest of his career). Luke left Notre Dame with 152 tackles and 8 interceptions.
2014 — 4-Star Nick Watkins
Watkins saw a nice bit of playing time as a freshman and appeared in 11 games in 2014 — with most of those on special teams. He did much of the same in 2015, but by the time the Fiesta Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes cam around, he was now a starter. Nick missed all of 2016 with a broken arm , but came back in 2017 to play a major role in 12 games. Watkins transferred to Houston for his final year and had 37 tackles and an interception during his time in South Bend.
2015 — 4-Star Shaun Crawford
Crawford arrived at Notre Dame in 2015 and quickly became the best nickel back on the team. Unfortunately, he suffered a major injury in camp that kept him out for the entire season. Crawford was dealt another blow in 2016 during the second game of the year when he suffered yet anther season-ending injury. Crawford got a full season in during the 2017 campaign, but once again fell victim to another season-ending injury before the start of the 2018 season. As a medical miracle, Crawford was able to play in 22 games during his final two season. During the course of 6 years at Notre Dame, Shaun played in just 36 games and accounted for 121 tackles and 4 interceptions.
2016 — 4-Star Troy Pride Jr.
Pride was needed right away in 2016 and played in 8 games with 4 of them being as the starter. As a sophomore he played in 12 games, and then during his final two years he was the certified starter at the field corner for his last 25 games played. During his full four year career, the speedster had 121 tackles and 4 interceptions.
2017 — NO CORNERBACK COMMITS
During the 2017 cycle, the Irish had 30 offers out to cornerbacks across the country. Paulson Adebo and Elijah Hicks were both committed to Notre Dame at one point before they flipped to Stanford and Cal respectively. Thomas Graham was also a big target in this class, but as legend goes... Notre Dame really screwed up the i-home visit and he committed to the Oregon Ducks.
2018 — 4-Star Houston Griffith
Griffith was the highest rated recruit for the Irish in the 2018 cycle and played right away as the starting nickel back. Over the next two season, Griffith was bounced around from corner to safety in an attempt to find the best role for him on the field. Going into his final year at Notre Dame, Griffith has 33 tackles and no interceptions.
2019 — 4-Star K.J. Wallace
Wallace was moved to safety and has seen action in 5 games during his first 2 seasons with 3 tackles to his name.
2020 — 3-Star Caleb Offord
As a freshman, Offord saw action in two games in 2020 but did not post a stat.