Story Poster
Photo by Rick Kimball/ISD
Notre Dame Football

6 Thoughts on a Thursday

May 2, 2024
11,098

There are many reasons why Marist Liufau and Cam Hart being taken in last week’s NFL Draft is significant. From a Notre Dame perspective, one of those reasons was that both players were composite 3-star prospects.

Even with some dips here and there with recruiting, it’s not a surprise that blue-chips (4 and 5-star prospects) have been drafted more frequently than 3-stars (or lower) from Notre Dame. People may be surprised by just how frequent that’s been, though.

Out of the players originally signed by Notre Dame out of high school, 85.1% of the players who ended up being selected by NFL teams were ranked as blue-chips as recruits. Liufau and Hart are two of only 10 who were ranked as 3-stars. The others were Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Tyler Eifert, Julian Love, Bennett Jackson, Tommy Tremble, Ian Book, Nick Martin, and Ade Ogundeji.

(Notre Dame has had three transfers drafted and two of them, Alohi Gilman and Ben Skowronek, weren’t blue-chips. Javontae Jean-Baptiste was when he signed with Ohio State)

All of those lower ranked recruits were different, but what they all have in common is that they all had something about them that was elite.

Gilman had great instincts and that physical edge to his game. JOK also had that edge and combined with elite athleticism, it made for a special player. Eifert had a different level of athleticism at tight end and his ball skills were special. I can keep going listing stuff for all of them, but it became obvious later on that each of these players had specific traits that were elite.

We know more NFL Draft picks on a roster means a better chance at winning a national championship. We also know the players most likely to develop into NFL players, at Notre Dame and in general, are blue-chips. That’s why signing more of them matters and having a high blue-chip ratio is critically important.

With all of that being said, we only need to look at those lower ranked recruits that Notre Dame did develop into NFL players to realize that having an elite trait or two can lead to great things. We can see it with Notre Dame’s current team as well where three of the top draft-eligible prospects were composite 3-stars.

How good would the 2024 Fighting Irish be without Xavier Watts, Mitchell Evans, or Riley Leonard? Definitely nowhere close to a College Football Playoff contender. (Note: Evans and Watts were composite 3-stars, but I had them both ranked as 4-stars. 247Sports somehow changed Watt’s composite ranking in February of this year, which seems…both convenient and highly questionable.)

It’s going to happen because it happens all of the time: at least one of the 3-stars Notre Dame signed in 2024 is going to end up being one of the best players they signed. No one wants to have a roster full of them, but the personnel and scouting staff should always be looking for the next JOK, Eifert, or Love.

2. Liufau’s special trait was versatility. Or as the Dallas Cowboys VP of player personnel Will McClay called it, multiplicity.

“He’s a linebacker that can rush, that can play stacked, that can play on (special) teams. He has 34-inch arms. Adding that multiplicity into our defense and what (Mike Zimmer) wanted from that specific position. You see those things from the guy and he does it at Notre Dame. … He plays all over the field and can drop in coverage. The multiplicity and the number of things he can do at a high level was attractive.”

That was what made Liufau so valuable to Notre Dame’s defense last season. They really didn’t have anyone else who had that multiplicity.

This year should be different.

Jaylen Sneed was a sub-package pass rusher last season, but couldn’t do other things at a high enough level. After seeing him this spring, it looks like he can. Other linebackers look like they can be multiple as well. Jaiden Ausberry and Kyngstonn Viliamu-Asa are two prime candidates. There’s a chance we could include Kahanu Kia in here as well and that multiplicity is what also makes his brother, 2025 commit Ko'o Kia‍, underrated as a prospect in my opinion.

It’s something that made Dom Hulak‍ an intriguing addition to the 2025 class as well. Another 2025 target, Madden Faraimo‍, has a lot of qualities that are similar to Liufau.

We can look to the secondary where they have 2025 commitments from athletes like Dallas Golden‍, Ivan Taylor‍, and Cree Thomas‍ who could potentially fill multiple roles too.

Multiplicity isn’t the only special trait for most of these players, but it’s a big one and having more players who can do more than just one job at a high level is a great thing for Notre Dame’s defense.

3. With another NFL Draft officially in the books, I’m able to look back and see how I’ve done with the ISD Fab 50 in terms of hit rate. It’s always good to go back and look at what I got right, what I got wrong, and how it compares to everyone else.

Looking at only NFL Draft results isn’t the best way to assess how recruits were ranked, but it is the easiest. If a player ends his college career and is selected in the draft, then it’s a simple way to call that a hit. If a player doesn’t get drafted, but was an All-American or an all-conference player at a Power 5 program, that’s also a hit in my mind.

A player doesn’t fit that criteria? We can call it a miss for someone who is ranked in the top-50. (It’s obviously not this simple for every recruit. Te’von Coney went undrafted, but was an elite inside linebacker at Notre Dame. Anyone who would call ranking him a 4-star as a miss is…not smart)

Pretty much all of the top-50 recruits from the 2018 and 2019 classes have moved on from college football. There’s still around a dozen or so top-50 recruits from the 2020 class who are still playing and about 60% of the top-50 from 2021 didn’t declare early for the draft.

The story isn’t exactly done with these rankings yet, but if we just look at the players drafted from ‘18 and ‘19, it breaks down like this.

247Sports

57 total hits

38 selected on day one or day two of the NFL Draft (rounds one to three)

ISD Fab 50

54 total hits

34 selected on day one or day two

Rivals

51 total hits

32 selected on day one or day two

ESPN

53 total hits

30 selected on day one or day two

The Fab 50 is second behind 247Sports. When the incomplete careers of the ‘20 and ‘21 classes are added in, this is how it adds up.

247Sports

100 hits

72 selected on day one or day two

Fab 50

94 hits

62 day one or day two picks

Rivals

88 hits

59 day one or day two picks

ESPN

85 hits

51 day one or day picks

Tip of the cap to the team at 247. Largely based off of the tremendous job that the Barton Simmons led scouting group did with the ‘19 class (24 in the first three rounds!), they have had the best results. They’ve changed some staff there and promoted some people in the last few years, but they still have a bunch of smart people working together to compile their rankings. 

They’ve had a lot of changes at Rivals too, so I don’t believe anyone should be overly harsh with their results in relation to how they rank players now. I’m not exactly sure how many people work to put together ESPN’s rankings from Scouts Inc./The UC Report, but the numbers are the numbers here. They’ve performed the worst out of the main industry websites.

I guess I should feel good about ISD finishing second here as it’s just me,  with plenty of assistance from my guy Matt Freeman, putting the Fab 50 together against sites that have a team of analysts who get to attend every camp, all-star game, and games while not having to cover a college football team. But no one who is competitive wants to be second.

Fortunately, I have access to a lot more testing, film, and information now than I had when I started doing this for ISD. I’ll take a look at where things stand next year and keep grinding.

(Stay tuned for the initial ISD Fab 50 for 2025 next week)

4. Now that we know all the names who have entered the spring transfer portal, we can officially say the pickings are slim for any program who is looking for significant help.

There was no Jordan Addison or Keon Coleman this year. There isn’t a single player available who I would classify as a game wrecker for a College Football Playoff contender.

Right now it’s mostly about middle of the pack teams who are desperately trying to add bodies or stronger programs looking for depth. Notre Dame fits into the latter category and right now they are targeting cornerback depth after Clarence Lewis (and to a lesser extent, Micah Bell) decided to leave the program.

Their latest offer is to former Kent State and West Virginia corner Montre Miller. He only played one game in his lone season at WVU because of injury and just went in the portal a few days ago with Notre Dame offering right away.

He’s a seventh year player, which should give everyone a pretty good idea that he isn’t an NFL prospect. In other words, this isn’t a player who I would expect to legitimately have a shot to start over the corners Notre Dame already have on their roster. But as a Lewis replacement, he’s the type of player I would have expected the staff to hone in on.

I have to dive into some of his film from Kent State, but he did play against Texas A&M, Maryland, Georgia, Washington, and Oklahoma in his two seasons as a starter. Based on that, I’d say Notre Dame has seen enough from him against Power 5 competition to know he is capable of competing as a fourth corner.

He had six interceptions total and averaged 12 havoc plays (interceptions, pass breakups, forced fumbles, and tackles for loss) per season in his two years as a starter. He also ran a verified 4.55 40, a 4.13 short shuttle, and recorded 34.3 inch vertical in high school, so he has the type of athletic profile to play at this level.

ISD’s Christian McCollum has reported that Miller is expected to visit Notre Dame soon and we’ll see where it goes from there. The one good thing about this spring window for the Irish is that the one position that has seen the most players with starting experience enter the portal this spring is corner. It’s not a bad time to be looking to add depth at that spot.

5. The question of whether or not you can build a College Football Playoff caliber team through the portal has been answered. One program, Florida State, has proven it can be done.

We don’t know how FSU would have fared in the CFP with a healthy Jordan Travis last year, but we do know that they were good enough to be invited to the dance. They had the talent to hang with any program and the NFL Draft was proof of that. They had six players selected in the top-100 picks and finished with 10 total drafted.

It’s simply incredible that nine of those 10 picks were players who transferred into FSU.

Mike Norvell inherited a difficult situation and built up his roster with transfers. It hasn’t worked out as well anywhere else, but it worked out for him.

The one thing that hasn’t been proven is whether or not that is a sustainable way to maintain a program. FSU has brought in double digit transfers every year since 2020. They brought in another 15 (so far) this year. In terms of their recruiting classes, they’ve generally hovered around the top-20 before signing the 10th ranked class in the 2024 cycle.

On paper, they don’t look like they will be at the same level as they were last season, but if they have the same kind of hit rate with transfers that they had previously, then they could be the best team Notre Dame will face this fall.

Maybe FSU has the right formula to make the portal continue to work as well as it has for them. It could be that they are doing a better job evaluating and acquiring players than most other programs. Whatever the case is, it’s going to be interesting when they visit South Bend this November when two blue-blood programs with rosters who have been built a lot differently face off on the field.

6. Anything with “way-too-early” in the title should be a sign to not click on the article.

But we can’t help ourselves. They publish them for a reason. People want rankings before they mean anything and people want mock drafts right after we get done with the previous draft.

So even though there have been “way-too-early” mock drafts with Corey Robinson and Ishaq Williams as first round picks (this actually happened), people still want to see where Notre Dame players are slotted by some in the media for next year’s draft.

There’s so much time before it will all work itself out, but for those that care, I’ve unsurprisingly seen a few places put Benjamin Morrison as a top-10 pick in 2025. PFF has him, Mitchell Evans, Howard Cross, and Xavier Watts in their early top-50 prospects. Nate Tice at Yahoo! has Riley Leonard in his early top-25. All of that means nothing other than those players are all considered very good returning players for Notre Dame, which everyone who follows the Irish is well aware of already.

I’m not sure if everyone is aware of some of the game wreckers Notre Dame will be going up against this season, but these mock drafts featured most of them. PFF has Texas A&M edge Nic Scourton (a Purdue transfer) ranked with their top players and he is pretty much a consensus first round pick. PFF also has Louisville edge Ashton Gillotte, who was a real problem for Notre Dame to block last season, ranked in their top-30.

The Athletic’s Dane Brugler had Texas A&M’s Shemar Turner, who recently moved inside to defensive tackle, as a first round pick. He also included FSU edge Patrick Payton as a first rounder and Tice did as well.

I didn’t see any other players from Notre Dame’s 2024 opponents who are considered to be potential first round picks, which doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it seems likely that the Irish won’t have to play against many elite draft-eligible prospects this fall. There isn’t a looming match up with a Marvin Harrison Jr., Drake Maye, or Caleb Williams.

I suppose that’s the good news.

The bad news is that Notre Dame’s inexperienced offensive tackles will block at least three edge rushers who are considered amongst the best in college football. If they had Joe Alt and Blake Fisher on the roster, then those matchups would be considered must-watch events. This will make those matchups must-watch for a different reason.

Having to block Scourton, Turner, and Texas A&M’s other edge rushers is going to be something Notre Dame’s offense as a whole will have to be something they overcome. It could be that the Irish tackles hold their own to the point that the expectation level for the O-line will rise up significantly for the rest of the season.

A month later they’ll be tested against Gillotte and Louisville and then again in November against Payton. Passing or failing those tests will tell us a lot about what this 2024 Notre Dame offense is capable of. 

Men's Columbia Navy Notre Dame Fighting Irish Super Slack Tide Omni-Shade Button-Up Shirt

A Special Thanks to VSR Media...

Founded by Notre Dame Football Pre-Game Host and Emmy Award Winning Anchor, Vahid Sadrzadeh, VSR Media provides professional and cinematic video and photo. Whether you’re looking for a collegiate or pro-level highlight reel, have a personal story to tell or are aiming to diversify and grow your business, VSR Media specializes in short and long-form video storytelling, social media management, and website design. VSR Media also captures professional headshots, senior and sports photos.

Contact us at vsrmediacompany.com and mention “Irish Sports Daily” to receive 20% off your first project. Visit us online or give us a call at 574-800-9106.

VSR Media is a proud sponsor of Irish Sports Daily and supporter of Notre Dame Football. Go Irish!

 
×
subscribe Verify your student status
See Subscription Benefits
Trial only available to users who have never subscribed or participated in a previous trial.