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Notre Dame Football

A Big Year for Notre Dame's 2018 Recruiting Class

April 6, 2020
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Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class wasn’t one that was highly celebrated at the time. It finished 15th in the composite rankings and was one of the rare classes for the Irish that had more 3-star prospects than 4 or 5-stars.

Looking back at it four years later, it’s viewed a lot differently.

Max Olson from The Athletic did a piece revisiting the 2016 recruiting cycle and had that class as a top-four group behind only Clemson, Alabama, and Florida. One player from it was already drafted in the NFL, Julian Love, and there could be as many as five more taken in the upcoming NFL Draft. That doesn’t include the five who are starters on this year’s Notre Dame team either, each of whom has a good chance to be drafted.

That recruiting class is the perfect example of not only development of the players, but retainment. Out of the 10 4 and 5-star prospects, none of them transferred. That’s extremely uncommon in today’s college football and is an underrated part of building a program.

Heading into the 2018 season, the third year for those players, no one would have said it was headed to the point they were.

Liam Eichenberg had not started a game yet. Chase Claypool was still developing his game. Troy Pride had only started a few games in his career. Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara were not starters yet. Tony Jones had been a third option at best at running back. Jalen Elliott had started, but struggled the previous season at safety. Ian Book came in as the backup to Brandon Wimbush.

Two years later and that flipped in a big way for all of those players and that’s not even including Jamir Jones or Ade Ogundeji with their contributions. The expectation was there for all of those players to step forward, but the way they all did is a reminder to not judge a recruiting class too early.

That 2016 class ended up producing 10 multi-year starters, one All-American, three guys who are projected to go in the top-50 picks in the NFL Draft, and could have 11 players selected by next year’s draft.

Notre Dame’s 2018 class is in the exact same spot that that 2016 class was a couple of years ago. They are loaded with potential impact players headed into their third year, but not many of them have made a significant contribution as of yet.

There are players like Jayson Ademilola, Shayne Simon, Jack Lamb, and TaRiq Bracy who were key reserves last season. They could be far more than that in 2020.

There’s Braden Lenzy who produced big plays in limited touches last fall. He appears poised to do more of that with more opportunities.

There’s Houston Griffith and Kevin Austin, two of the highest rated recruits in the class, who haven’t emerged as starters for different reasons. They could be two of the most valuable players on the team and have the potential to be high draft picks.

Tommy Tremble may be the next star at “Tight End U”. Ovie Oghoufo and Justin Ademilola are ready to be regulars in the defensive line rotation. Jarrett Patterson could be on his way to being a four-year starter at center. And there’s a handful of others who could emerge as quality starters either this fall or the next.

The class as a whole could end up being the core of the team the next two years and has the potential to be another one that looks underrated when revisited a couple of years from now. This upcoming season will be big in determining whether or not that happens, but the odds look pretty good based on what we’ve seen from these players leading up to this point.

The 2018 class is 23-3 as members of Notre Dame’s football team. Up to right now it’s hard to predict how many of them will be drafted by NFL teams by the time they leave Notre Dame. One thing we do know, though, is that they could very well produce double digit multi-year starters like the 2016 class did and the ceiling for the top players is just as high.

Right now they are mostly potential with little production. Two years from now, it could be viewed a lot differently.

 
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