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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

What Comes Next?

December 21, 2017

As Brian Kelly said during his press conference to introduce the 20 prospects who signed with Notre Dame on Wednesday, the Irish remain “open for business” as it relates to the early signing period, which will remain open until Friday.

Kelly mentioned expectations of a couple more things to come before the end of the early period.

The Notre Dame head coach was clearly referring to Washington cornerback Kyler Gordon‍ and Oregon receiver Braden Lenzy‍ (pictured above).

Gordon will make his announcement at 7 p.m. (PST) tonight between Washington and Notre Dame. The Irish felt really good about their chances with Gordon following an unofficial visit to South Bend at the beginning of the month, after an official visit way back in September. Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght followed up with an encouraging in-home visit, but momentum swung back to the Huskies when he took an official visit there this past weekend.

Things appear far more promising with Lenzy, who committed to Notre Dame only to flip to Oregon, but after decommitting from the Ducks in the wake of Willie Taggart’s exit, the Irish are poised to welcome him back in the fold. Lenzy will make at 3 p.m. (PST) on Friday. His finalists are Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA, but there aren’t many people picking against the Irish here, certainly not us.

After Friday, Notre Dame and just about every college football program will be in a mad scramble to cap their classes – or in the cases of even some high-major programs, truly land the nucleus of their groups.

The Irish may not be in strong pushes with every target they’ll chase in the final month and a half, but they’re off to a much stronger start than many of their peers based on Wednesday.

The biggest needs for Notre Dame come at offensive line, in the secondary and at receiver.

Nick Petit-Frere

The Irish came close to adding an offensive lineman on Wednesday after a late pitch to Colorado commit Frank Fillip‍, but he elected to stay with his pledge to the Buffaloes even after an official to South Bend last weekend.

Notre Dame remains in the race for Arkansas commit Luke Jones, who has decided not to sign during the early session. But after the Irish seemed ready to pluck Jones from the Razorbacks following Bret Bielema’s dismissal, Chad Morris’ arrival in Fayetteville has put Arkansas back in the driver’s seat. Sources in both Arkansas and Indiana give the Razorbacks the current edge.

Florida’s Nick Petit-Frere remains on the board and is probably the Irish’s best bet at a true home run down the stretch, but with Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Michigan and Ohio State all in hot pursuit, the odds aren’t exactly in their favor.

There’s little doubt we’ll see new names pop up on the radar at offensive line between now and February’s signing date.

Julius Irvin (far right) with Dad, Brother and Tim Brown

Regardless of what’s happens with Gordon tonight, Notre Dame will surely have its chance to bolster the class in the secondary with California defensive back Julius Irvin and Washington, D.C. cornerback Noah Boykin still on the board.

Irvin was set to announce his decision and sign this week before a legitimate family emergency caused him to push back his signing until February. Most expected Irvin to choose the Irish, but now it’ll be a true fight until the end, likely between the Irish and USC. Will the delay give the Trojans a better chance? Given where they were heading into the week, probably, but by no means does that mean his current situation at home is anything but serious.

Boykin too at one point, appeared poised to sign with the Irish, but remains committed to Maryland as of now. This past weekend, took an official visit to the school he committed to this past summer, but still decided to hold off on a decision. Last week, a source close to the situation told us he was pretty sure Boykin was leaning heavily toward the Irish. Now that was before the official visit to Maryland, but was still telling.

Tommy Bush with Chip Long and Del Alexander

At receiver, Amon-ra St. Brown remains out there as a tantalizing possibility for Notre Dame fans. Equanimeous St. Brown’s younger brother would give the Irish their highest-ranked player in the class, even higher than five-star quarterback Phil Jurkovec, who signed yesterday. It’s likely a USC-Notre Dame race, which provides some hope, but we still see the Trojans as the overwhelming favorite.

The Irish have definitely made some late strides with Texas wideout Tommy Bush over the past several weeks. He hasn’t locked in an official visit to South Bend yet, but we think he will at some point, given the serious interest level on Notre Dame’s side of things. He’s already taken officials to Michigan State, Nebraska and Georgia, so he’ll have a pair of visits to use next month. The only schools he’s seriously considering right now are Notre Dame, Florida and Ole Miss. The Rebels actually flipped wide receiver Elijah Moore from the Bulldogs yesterday with speculation that Moore’s switch had at least something to do with Georgia’s pursuit of Bush.

Louisiana wideout Lawrence Keys III is another serious option at the position. The four-star prospect could challenge Paul Moala and John Dirksen for the most lowkey recruitment pretty soon. Keys does talk, but at times, it almost seems like the New Orleans native doesn’t care much about the recruiting process. Things will heat up shortly though as he will be at LSU for an official visit when the dead period ends on January 12th and then will head to South Bend for an official January 19th. Keys was supposed to take an official visit to Houston in December, but his flight was canceled and he has yet to reschedule. Texas extended an offer late Wednesday night, so that could be something to monitor, but even with the LSU offer, Notre Dame has a chance at Keys if it continues pushing.

Malik Langham

Initially, it seemed like an additional defensive line was more of a luxury than a necessity and maybe it still is, but after last night’s offer to Texas defensive tackle Tito Ogbinno, it’s clear that the Irish want another even if they don’t need one. Ogbinno has tentative plans to get to South Bend for an official visit the weekend of Jan. 19th. He’s already taken official visits to Texas Tech and UCLA. He’s also looking at officials to Ole Miss and UCLA.

Alabama defensive end Malik Langham remains on the board as well after taking an official to Notre Dame for the banquet weekend earlier this month. The Irish will have to fend off the Crimson Tide, Tennessee, Florida and Ole Miss down the stretch, which could be difficult.

It wouldn’t be a shock to see more defensive linemen land on the radar soon.

After inking four linebackers on Wednesday, the Irish certainly don’t need another, but California’s Solomon Tuliaupupu is the kind of talent that would provide a huge boost to the class even at a position of luxury. Many always assumed Tuliaupupu would end up at USC, and apparently the Trojans may have assumed that too. Now, the Irish, Ohio State and Oklahoma are trying to take advantage.

Notre Dame has talked about taking many as 25 or 26 prospects in this class, which leaves room for five or six more. If they land Lenzy, but miss on Gordon, which seems like a good guess at this point, the Irish would be looking to fill about four or five spots. But as we've seen, more spots can open up at any time.

The bulk of the class may have been locked in on Wednesday, but the early signing period won’t steal the drama and excitement that January always holds.

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