Former Tulsa cornerback Akayleb Evans has finally made his decision, choosing Missouri over Notre Dame. With his decision now in the rearview mirror I have some thoughts on his recruitment and some insight to share.
WHY PURSUE EVANS?
Ultimately there are two reasons to pursue a transfer if you are Notre Dame, one is to overcome a weakness on the depth chart and the other is because a player is simply too good to pass up. Notre Dame added Cain Madden primarily out of depth concerns and a desire to add to the depth chart, but that was not the case with Evans.
From the moment Notre Dame entered the mix for Evans my sources all said the same thing, he was simply too good to pass up. When I asked about the concerns on the current depth chart the pushback was immediate. Notre Dame didn't have issues with the current cornerback depth chart, and according to my sources the confidence in the current group of players gave the staff pause in regards to even going after Evans.
A strong spring from Cam Hart, the steady play of Clarence Lewis and confidence in young players like Ramon Henderson, Ryan Barnes and Philip Riley Jr. among others has the staff feeling good about the future of the position. Pursuing Evans, from what I'm told, was more about his combination of talent, experience and scheme fit.
It seems as though pursuing Evans was a no-lose situation for the staff. If you land him you've added a talented and experienced player to an already deep and talented - but inexperienced - cornerback room. If you don't land him the staff is more than confident in the group it returns.
FUTURE OF THE POSITION
All nine of Notre Dame's current cornerbacks has eligibility beyond 2021, and eight of those players have eligibility beyond 2022. Not all are guaranteed to be part of the depth chart, and the staff continues to recruit players that are equal or greater in talent, but there are a lot of players on the roster the staff likes.
Hart and the freshman Barnes are great fits for the boundary position, although Barnes has tools to play outside on both sides, as does Henderson. Riley could play both corner spots, he could thrive in the nickel and his range and tackling ability projects to a starting caliber safety as well.
We'll soon get our first crack at seeing Chance Tucker and JoJo Johnson in the near future. Both project more as field/nickel players, as does Lewis, who started at the field position during part of his true freshman season in 2020.
2022 CLASS IS KEY
Notre Dame has good depth at cornerback, but a boost in both numbers and high-end talent is certainly needed. That is where the 2022 class comes in, and landing another deep and talented cornerback class in a must. The 2021 class was strong, but the 2022 class has a chance to be even better, and that's exactly what Notre Dame needs in order to get its perimeter on the same level as its from four, at least from a talent standpoint.
Notre Dame already has a commitment from Jaden Mickey, a player I graded out as a Top 150 caliber prospect. This weekend the Irish are hosting Benjamin Morrison and Devin Moore, the two top targets left on the board.
Moore is a high school version of Evans; long, athletic, instinctive. Morrison is a technical work in progress but his physical skills are outstanding. He has good size, top-notch length and is very athletic.
The "dream class" at Notre Dame at cornerback right now is for all three of those players to jump on board. If Notre Dame follows up the strong 2021 class with that group of three it would make the cornerback depth chart as deep, athletic and healthy as its been in well over a decade, if not two.
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