The day after National Signing Day for the Class of 2013, Irish Sports Daily released a comprehensive preview of the 2014 recruiting cycle, which you can check out here. Nearly two months later, it’s time to take another quick glance at the 2014 recruiting board and which prospects Notre Dame has a great chance at landing.
This is not an exhaustive list of every prospect that has interest in the Irish, just a quick update with some of the players who either have or could end up developing a serious interest in Notre Dame. The list is broken down by position. We’ll start with offense with defense coming tomorrow. Any relevant recent updates will be linked at the bottom of each section.
Notre Dame was actually leaning toward passing at quarterback in 2014 until Gunner Kiel decided to transfer. Depending on whether or not Andrew Hendrix comes back for a fifth season, the Irish could be left with Everett Golson and Malik Zaire as the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster beyond this season, so they’ll have to bring in a signal-caller in this class.
California’s Brandon Dawkins remains the only 2014 quarterback with a Notre Dame offer and the Irish are still among his favorites. He says Notre Dame will definitely receive one of his official visits, but the Irish need to expand their focus with the increased need at the position.
Michael O’Connor, from IMG Academy in Florida by way of Ottawa, was in for a visit this past week and was impressed. Offensive coordinator Chuck Martin told O’Connor the Irish will be down to evaluate him in May and the process could pick up then. It’s worth noting O’Connor gave Michigan State a slight lead over the field, but that was before the Spartans received a pledge from Ohio quarterback Chris Durkin.
Look for more names to pop up as the Irish go through extensive evaluations of signal-callers in the coming weeks.
Notre Dame probably expected to have a pledge from one of its top backs by this point, Irish Sports Daily certainly did. Elijah Hood was thinking about how to publicly announce a commitment to Notre Dame in the days leading up to an unofficial visit to North Carolina, but that Chapel Hill trip changed everything. Instead of committing to the Irish, Hood announced he was stepping back from the recruiting process to look at schools closer to home. When he cancelled a return trip to South Bend for Notre Dame’s spring game, it was clear the Irish had lost their grip as the frontrunner. Notre Dame still has time to make up some ground and show Hood why the Irish were his favorite in the first place, but it’s going to be difficult.
With Hood no longer the lock he appeared to be a month ago, the recruitment of Nathan Starks becomes even more important. Notre Dame probably would have pushed hard with the Las Vegas back even with Hood, but without him, Starks becomes even more vital. Starks will make his first trip to South Bend in a couple weeks when he joins his coach at Notre Dame’s Coaches Clinic. The former teammate of Irish lineman Ronnie Stanley, has the Irish among his favorites and it wouldn’t be a shock to see him ultimately come on board.
Sony Michel still has the Irish in his top five, but there are some indications that the Florida back will stay in state and attend either Miami, Florida or Florida State with the Hurricanes as the perceived team to beat. Notre Dame is going to fight hard pull Bo Scarbrough and Leonard Fournette out of SEC country and the Irish might end up being closer than some believe, but both are still longshots. Scarbrough is already committed to Alabama, his hometown school, while the Crimson Tide and LSU are more likely landing spots for Louisiana’s Fournette.
One name to keep an eye on is Donte Thomas-Williams out of North Carolina. The 6-foot-1, 217-pounder has had an offer from the Irish for about a year and has stayed in regular contact with Mike Elston. Thomas-Williams is expected to visit for a camp this summer. Derrell Scott is another North Carolina target with legit interest in the Irish, who would like to visit soon.
While Notre Dame’s recruiting focus at quarterback shifted with the transfer of Kiel, the same will be done with the recent departures of two receivers – Davonte’ Neal and Justin Ferguson. The Irish were said to be looking to bring in two, maybe three receivers, but the transfers mean that number is probably three and maybe four now.
With Justin Brent already on board, that leaves two or three more spots at wideout this cycle.
Corey Holmes will be making his third trip to South Bend next weekend and the Florida wideout fully expects to make a fourth for an official visit in the fall. Holmes is impressed with the total package at Notre Dame and has been in regular contact with Tony Alford for several months. The Irish will be in the race with Holmes until the end.
Notre Dame will be hosting another top wideout target next month when Arizona’s Mark Andrews visits for the Blue-Gold Game April 20th. Andrews has been tabbed as a ‘jumbo receiver’ because of his 6-foot-6. 230-pound frame and wideout skills. He doesn’t want to be a tight end, but is intrigued by the idea of being used in a similar role of Tyler Eifert. Oklahoma will be tough to beat, but Notre Dame could pull it off.
Another wideout went back on the board when Michigan’s Drake Harris announced his decommitment from Michigan State. Harris will be on campus with his coach for the coaches clinic as well, but no program seems to have more traction here than Michigan at this point.
Other names to keep an eye on include North Carolina targets Trevion Thompson and Johnathan Lloyd. Thompson is teammates with Thomas-Williams and is also planning a summer visit while Lloyd is hoping to visit in the coming months as well.
Daniel Helm doesn’t have an offer from Notre Dame at this point, but his visit to South Bend for last weekend’s Junior Day did provide a look at how the Irish feel about recruiting tight ends in 2014.
Notre Dame currently has offers out to five tight ends – Tyler Luatua, Jeb Blazevich, Nic Weishar, Ian Bunting and Dalton Schultz. The Irish told Helm they need to find out where they stand with those guys before moving down the list to him.
Blazevich was also at Notre Dame’s Junior Day and while he was certainly impressed and appreciated the tradition of the school, our feeling is that he’ll stay down South. Luatua has Notre Dame in his top five and has said he definitely plans to take an official to South Bend, but it’s hard to say the Irish lead. Notre Dame is in similar positions with the other three targets – Weishar, Bunting and Schultz – the Irish have a legitimate shot at all three, but aren’t the clear frontrunner for any.
As long as they don’t wait too long, the Irish are likely to be in a similar spot with Helm if they offer. Helm has said Michigan may have a slight edge right now, but we could see Notre Dame making up that ground very fast if it decides to move.
Kc McDermott’s period as a perceived Notre Dame lean was nowhere near as long as Elijah Hood’s, in fact, it was very, very brief, but it did exist. During an unofficial visit to South Bend this week, all indications were that it was going very, very well and upon his departure, the common belief within Notre Dame circles was that the Irish were going to be able to land him. That all changed on Thursday with an unconfirmed report of his commitment to Miami. The only thing the McDermott camp confirmed was an announcement coming this Tuesday, although ISD has its own report linked below.
Notre Dame figures to be looking for four offensive linemen this cycle, meaning the Irish will still be hunting for three more to go with current commit Jimmy Byrne.
The Irish made a great impression with Kansas offensive lineman Braden Smith, who made his first trip last weekend and put the Irish up on his list of leaders along with TCU and Texas A&M. Smith is a definite take for Notre Dame and a top-of-the-board type prospect.
Notre Dame will also have the opportunity to host Sam Mustipher again next week. The Maryland offensive lineman (pictured) was blown away by his first visit to South Bend in January and there’s a very good chance it’ll come down to the Irish and Ohio State.
Alex Bars was at Notre Dame’s Junior Day last week and by all indications was impressed with his father’s alma mater, but he doesn’t appear to be in a rush to make a decision. The family connection could end up putting the Irish over the top, but Bars has been keeping things tight so far.
Other offered prospects include Jamarco Jones, Damien Mama and Donnell Stanley. Notre Dame is on each’s list, but doesn’t lead for any. If the Irish decide to expand their list, they should have plenty of fine options, including Corey Martinez, Quenton Nelson and Frank Ragnow.