Recruiting Week In Review
Written by Joe Bradshaw
On to 2018.
The Class of 2017 has been put to bed with a late flurry and now the revamped Notre Dame coaching staff will take the same level of energy and enthusiasm that led to a surprisingly strong finish for 2017 into 2018 recruiting. The Irish already have six verbal commits for 2018, a great start by Notre Dame standards. And they are already hitting 2018 prospects hard in order to fill some of the holes left by 2017 decommits.
Last week, Irish Sports Daily reported on a 2018 wide receiver recruit and a 2018 commit that is serving as a de facto recruiter. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Sports Daily?
Kevin Austin, Jr., WR, 6-3, 185, North Broward Preparatory School, Coconut Creek, FL has already developed a very good relationship with Notre Dame Running Backs Coach Autry Denson. In all of their conversations, Denson has repeated the same message—visit.
“Right now they are talking about the kids that are coming in the 2017 class, but also getting me up for Junior Day or the Irish Invasion camp in the summer,” he said. “I have been looking at getting up to Notre Dame too. I don’t have a visit set up just yet, though.”
Denson has developed a very good relationship with Austin.
“We talk all the time and he said he is going to come to my school when the NCAA allows it,” Austin said. “I would say we have a pretty great relationship.”
Austin who holds over thirty scholarship offers acknowledges that some schools are pursuing him harder than others right now. Among these are Notre Dame, Duke, Kentucky and Tennessee.
“I am trying to see Duke, Kentucky, Tennessee and Notre Dame,” Austin shared. “I will probably stop to see Miami, Florida and maybe North Carolina, but I am not positive about that trip.”
Austin is using his school visits to learn more about their academics than their football programs. He is considering three very different possible majors.
“Kinesiology, Engineering and Business are the majors I am considering,” Austin said. “My coach and I were talking about how different they were when I told him the other day. Going to North Broward has given me the opportunity to learn and be able to decide on what I would like to do in the future.”
As much as Austin wants to be known as a scholar, football fans are almost certainly going to see him as a difference-maker on the gridiron. As a junior the four-star prospect put up monster numbers and figures to be even better as a senior.
“I totally made a big jump,” he explained. “I almost doubled my touchdowns. I had over 1000 yards receiving, 1700 all-purpose yards, 700 yards rushing and twenty-one touchdowns. I had a lot of yards and stats versus the previous year.”
Austin attributed his increase in production to experience, experience that enabled the game to slow down for him.
“It felt a lot easier to do certain moves in the open field and run away from certain guys,” he explained. “My sophomore year I used a lot of all-out effort to run past someone, but this year felt smoother and slower. I could see what was coming at me and make a move easier.”
Markese Stepp, RB, 6-0, 205, Cathedral High School, Indianapolis, IN committed to play football for Notre Dame last June. Not only has the four-star running back remained firm in his commitment to the Irish, but he has also turned into one of their best recruiters. That was on display when Notre Dame hosted Aeneas Hawkins on an unofficial visit.
“Coach (Mike) Elston actually came in and brought Markese over to me and said, ‘You need to sit with this guy, trust me,’” Hawkins remembered. “We had a conversation the rest of the game, we sat together. He showed me around. He was introducing me to people.”
Hawkins couldn’t help but be impressed with the reaction of Notre Dame students to Stepp.
“He’s already like a celebrity around there and he hasn’t even stepped foot on campus as a student-athlete yet,” Hawkins said. “People love Markese.”
Bookie Radley-Hiles, a top defensive back prospect from California has also become well acquainted with Stepp.
“Every time he brings up ND in our group chat, the other committed guys respond, ‘Uh-oh, here comes the Irish; #41 is in the move again,’” he said.
Ohio defensive linemen, Tyreke Smith and Malik Vann have also heard volumes from Stepp. While they laughed when discussing his persistence they acknowledged that his message is completely serious.
That we can do something special with this class coming in and he wants me to be a part of that,” Smith shared. “Also, that the campus is beautiful.”
Illinois recruits Micah Jones and Houston Griffith, who is currently playing at IMG, also hear regularly from Stepp.
“He talks about how good they will be in the next couple of years,” Jones explained. “They are putting something special together.”
Vann says he also hears from commits to other schools, but none compare to Stepp. In fact, one universal feeling among recruits is that his passion for Notre Dame has improved their view of the university.
Hawkins says that there’s another appeal to Stepp’s message.
“It’s good to hear from a coach, but it’s good to hear it from a guy my age who is that committed to the program,” Hawkins said. “If schools had a bunch of guys like Markese, they would win a lot more national championships, I could say that.”
“Personally, I’m a naturally competitive guy. I’m not 6-5, 300 pounds like some of the d-tackles people are recruiting, so I have to be competitive all of the time and have to always prove it. ‘This guy (Stepp) wants to do something great just like I do.’ If you’re around guys like that, then it makes you want to commit to the school.”
While Hawkins has a while before he will be committing to a school, he already knows what the Irish are getting in Stepp.
“No matter what I do, Notre Dame is getting a good one with Markese.”
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Sports Daily.