Notre Dame has dipped into the graduate transfer market to solidify its safety position for 2020, landing former Ohio State safety Isaiah Pryor after his weekend visit to South Bend.
According to ESPN, Pryor was the nation’s No. 45 overall player in the 2017 class, and 247Sports ranked him No. 77. After starting seven games for the Buckeyes in 2018, Pryor decided to transfer early in the 2019 season.
Notre Dame was having issues landing pure safeties in the 2020 class, and 2018 standout safety Derrik Allen left the program early in fall camp. With senior Jalen Elliott out of eligibility, and senior Alohi Gilman also likely to head to the NFL after the season, Notre Dame was in desperate need of safety talent that could make an immediate impact.
Freshman Kyle Hamilton has been a standout for the Irish this season, and sophomore Houston Griffith - the No. 43 overall player in the 2018 class according to Rivals - was moved to safety early this season. With Pryor now in the mix, the Irish have three talented and experienced players expected to be part of the rotation in 2020.
Current sophomore DJ Brown and freshman Litchfield Ajavon will also get their shot during the offseason, but with Griffith moved back to his more natural safety spot and Pryor now in the mix the depth chart looks much, much better.
Notre Dame can also choose to pass on pure safeties in the 2020 class and feel good about doing so. Pryor has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as does Griffith. Hamilton and Brown have three seasons remaining and since Ajavon is taking a redshirt in 2019 he will have freshman eligibility in 2020.
NOTRE DAME FIT
Pryor was listed at 6-2 and 200 pounds on the Ohio State roster. He registered 31 tackles, broke up five passes and intercepted one pass while making seven starts for the Buckeyes during the 2018 season.
His combination of size, strength and tackling ability allow the former Top 100 recruit to be a strong alley player. Pryor can come downhill effectively against the run, he can deliver punishment when he arrives at the football and he has the tools to develop into a quality tackler.
Pryor is long and rangy, but he’s not a top-level cover player. Combine that with his size and potential against the run game, he clearly fits the mold of the type of safety Gilman has been the last two seasons. He can cover tight ends and backs, and his instincts should allow him to effectively jump crossing routes and digs, but using him to attack downhill is a much better plan than asking him to open up and run. If the Irish staff plays to his strengths, the junior safety will have a chance to play a key role in the Irish defense the next two seasons.
With Pryor now in the mix, Notre Dame will have good competition at the position during the offseason. There were no promises made to Pryor in regards to starting, and he knows he will have to compete with Griffith for the starting role.
No matter who starts, if both Pryor and Griffith reach their full potential the Irish will have a strong three-man rotation for next season, with Hamilton and Griffith more than capable of thriving at both safety positions and Pryor being a talented alley defender.
If all three stay healthy and progress as players the Irish will have a much longer, bigger and more physical safety group next season.