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Notre Dame Football Recruiting

National Recruiting Report | Clemson Widening the Talent Gap

March 8, 2019

Yahoo!’s Pete Thamel interviewed Brian Kelly for a piece that ran earlier this week (more thoughts on it here) and a general theme behind it was that Kelly is trying to get Notre Dame over the hump and catch Alabama and Clemson.

That’s Kelly’s mindset and it’s the same way every other program is thinking. Alabama was the bar and now, if it wasn’t official a couple of years ago, Clemson has joined them.

Saying it’s not going to be easy to close the gap is a massive understatement. Clemson isn’t going away any time soon and it’s not just because they have Trevor Lawrence, Justyn Ross, and Xavier Thomas for two more years. It has everything to do with the way they continue to assemble blue-chip athletes on their roster like the MCU adds movie stars named Chris.

Two elite skill positions players are joining them this season. Joseph Ngata‍ (12) and Frank Ladson‍ (45) both cracked the 2019 ISD Fab 50. This cycle they’re in the process of putting together a special class to add even more studs to the fold.

This could be the best class that Dabo Swinney has ever signed. They currently have seven commitments, each of them 4-star prospects. It’s led by defensive tackle Demonte Capehart‍ (21 in the 2020 Fab 50), defensive tackle Tre Williams‍, and linebacker Kevin Swint‍. Those are pretty fantastic building blocks on that side of the ball.

Imagine stacking these next players on top of that great start?

They are considered the current favorites to land defensive tackle Bryan Bresee‍, quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei‍, defensive lineman Jordan Burch‍, and cornerback Fred Davis‍. Those would be the first, second, seventeenth, and nineteenth ranked players out of my top-50 players in the country.

Uh, yikes. Yikes not just for Notre Dame, but for everyone trying to catch up to that level of talent if they bat 1.000 with those prospects.

Swinney has already built something special at Clemson. With the class they are putting together currently, they won’t be in any danger of taking a step back any time soon.

(Clemson is scheduled to play at Notre Dame in 2020 and in 2022)

On to more stray thoughts on national recruiting…

- D.J. Uiagalelei‍ is ranked second behind Bresee for me right now, but it was by the slimmest of margins. They could easily flip spots on in the process.

Uiagalelei is right up there for me with Lawrence and Justin Fields as the top quarterback prospects over the last five years. He really took his game to another level as a junior in terms of working through progressions and knowing when to put more touch on the football.

And that arm...yowza.

- He’s the top prospect from California this cycle and he’s one of nine who made my top-50. It’s a loaded year in terms of top tier talent from the state.

What a perfect time for everyone else trying to raid California with Chip Kelly and UCLA looking out of sorts with their recruiting operation and USC looking like the college football version of the (old) Cleveland Browns! 

Oregon was the program who really took advantage of those schools not getting it together in the last cycle. It’s going to be interesting to watch how many of those elite players end up signing with the Bruins or the Trojans.

- One of my favorite recruits in this class is Oklahoma commit Drew Sanders‍. I have him as a 5-star prospect and think the 6’5” 210 athlete could either grow into an outstanding edge defender or project as a long Leighton Vander Esch type at inside linebacker.

- Another favorite of mine isn’t an Oklahoma commit, but he’s from the state. I currently have Myles Slusher‍ ranked as the top safety in the class. He’s a violent wrap tackler with the range and instincts to excel playing deep. (He holds a Notre Dame offer)

- Haynes King‍ is the current number three quarterback for me in this class (43 in the Fab 50). He has 20 offers, already earned an Elite 11 invite, and his film is impressive.

I had to scratch my head when I saw that Rivals does not have him ranked with their top quarterbacks and has him as a low to mid 3-star. I don’t really get that.

He has offers from programs like LSU, Auburn, and just added ones from Miami and Oregon this week.

- Eight running backs made my top-50 and I have 11 in my top-70.

- The under the radar prospect of the week is Ioholani Raass‍ out of Lehi, Utah. Recently picked as one of the Final 5 at The Opening Los Angeles camp, I watched his film after and I believe he should have more programs coming after him.

Currently he only has two offers (Colorado and Utah State), but I just don’t see any way that doesn’t climb up to double digits before the summer ends.

He’s 6’3” 220 and has the frame to put on a lot more weight than that. More importantly, he has a great understanding as a pass rusher when it comes to working an edge and wrapping around the corner to finish at the quarterback.

He put up 16.5 sacks and 22 tackles for loss during his junior season. I’m excited to see if he blows up because I really like what I saw from him as a pass rusher.

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