Notre Dame has six players committed prospects on defense in the 2022 class. The Irish staff is off to a great start, but the difference between a strong defensive haul and an elite one is how they finish.
This is the first installment of what will be a bi-weekly update of where things stand with defense recruiting for Notre Dame.
Prospects will be broken into five different categories (categories will be explained below), and we'll talk about what direction the Irish are trending with each prospect in those categories.
NOTRE DAME COMMITS
DE Tyson Ford - 6-5, 250, St. Louis (Mo.) Burroughs
DE Aiden Gobaira - 6-6, 230, Chantilly (Va.) High School
DE Darren Agu - 6-6, 230, Rabun Gap (Ga.) Nacoochee
LB Nolan Ziegler - 6-4, 205, Grand Rapids (Mich.) Catholic Central
LB Josh Burnham - 6-4, 215, Traverse City (Mich.) Central
CB Jaden Mickey - 5-11, 175, Corona (Calif.) Centennial
Notre Dame is in a very unique situation at linebacker in that they have two spots and three players that a strong, strong case could be made that they lead for. Notre Dame has a pecking order, but timing is also going to be an important part of this. With how close all three are to making a decision the staff can use that to figure out who truly wants to be in the class, and then close.
Jaylen Sneed, Linebacker — Sneed has a final five of Notre Dame, Oregon, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas A&M. Notre Dame got involved with Sneed almost immediately after Marcus Freeman was hired, and the Irish immediately charged up his list of favorites. Freeman has put in great work with Sneed and right now Notre Dame is clearly sitting in pole position ahead of his June 14 visit. I'm extremely confident with where Notre Dame stands as of today. Trending: Way Up
Niuafe Tuihalamaka, Linebacker — Tuihalamaka is another player that Notre Dame offered almost immediately after Freeman was hired, and like Sneed the Irish quickly became his top school. Texas has made a hard run at Tuihalamaka, but Notre Dame has remained in great position and thus far has been able to fend off other pursuers. Right now his June 11-13 visit to Notre Dame is his only one scheduled, which says a lot. Trending: Way Up
Sebastian Cheeks, Linebacker — Notre Dame's recruitment of Cheeks has been a bit of a roller coaster, but the staff has done well to get in position to be considered the team that could land him if it fails to get one of the other two top targets at the position. Trending: Up
Devin Moore, Cornerback — Notre Dame offered Moore over a year ago, but it was only within the last couple of months that the staff truly turned the heat up on him. He's a versatile defender that could play cornerback and safety, and he's become a top secondary priority for the staff. Florida and Alabama are also making a charge at Moore, but my sources tell me Notre Dame is his leader ahead of his June 11-13 visit to South Bend. Notre Dame must close, but right now they have put themselves in great position. Trending: Way Up
Benjamin Morrison, Cornerback — I'm not as sold on Morrison being in the class as I am the other players, and Notre Dame's standing with Morrison has been a bit up-and-down. Michigan is heavily in the mix despite losing his primary recruiter, and Oklahoma, Washington and Oregon are also schools that give me pause when projecting Morrison to Notre Dame. I do, however, believe Notre Dame has slowly climbed up to the top of his list, and a strong visit (June 11-13) could wrap things up. I don't believe Morrison has visits set up anywhere else at this time, but I'm still checking into that. Trending: Up
Anthony Lucas, Defensive Tackle — Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston and DC Marcus Freeman have done excellent work with Lucas. Alabama, Texas, Miami and others are tight enough in this race that I still have a bit more pause when it comes to the Irish ultimately ending up with Lucas. His June 11-13 visit will be the key, and if the Irish can knock it out of the park I'll think long and hard about moving him up a category. Trending: Up
Donovan Hinish, Defensive Tackle — I'm not quite sure what to think about this recruitment. I haven't got a straight answer about where things stand with Hinish. By all accounts the staff is in fact pushing for Hinish, but the fact he hasn't jumped in the class gives me pause. Trending: Stagnant
WORK TO DO
Cyrus Moss, Defensive End — Moss is down to a final five of Clemson, Florida, Oregon, Arizona State and Notre Dame. The Irish are battling for Moss, but having three defensive ends already in the class is making that a bit of a challenge. The good news is that Elston can sell Moss on the fact that the last time Notre Dame landed four ends all four ended up getting drafted (2016). Moss likes a lot about Notre Dame, and if his June 18-20 visit goes well the Irish could pull off this upset. Trending: Up
Ernest “RJ” Cooper, Defensive End — Notre Dame likes Cooper and is recruiting Cooper, but right now there are other priorities. Cooper is more of a big end/defensive tackle, which means he's behind Lucas on the priority list. If Notre Dame continues to feel good about where it stands with Lucas then we'll see Cooper end up somewhere else. If things start to fade with Lucas in the coming weeks the staff could turn up the heat on Cooper, and at that point the Irish could give Stanford everything it can handle. Trending: Stagnant
Xavier Nwankpa, Safety — Ohio State is the clear leader for Nwankpa, but the Notre Dame staff continues to put its best foot forward. The Buckeyes will get Nwankpa on campus first (June 4-6), which means the Notre Dame staff has to work HARD to make sure he doesn't commit that weekend. Ohio State is going to do everything possible to make sure he doesn't take anymore visits, and if the Irish staff can't do enough to get him to wait a few weeks to decide this could be over before he visits. If Notre Dame can in fact convince Nwankpa not to commit to Ohio State before he visits they'll have a puncher's chance. Trending: Slightly Up
Sherrod Covil, Safety — Notre Dame's board has been clear at most positions for awhile, but that wasn't the case as safety. The staff has been slow to put its board together after Nwankpa, and it has created a bit of a roller coaster with Covil. Notre Dame was in strong position very early, but it has faded in recent weeks. Covil had an outstanding junior season, and Notre Dame is one of many teams that have made him more of a priority. If Notre Dame can get him on campus this summer the staff will have a chance to move up his list. Trending: Up
Jape Pope, Safety — This is a recruitment I've had a hard time getting a read on. I know that Notre Dame is high on Pope but I don't know how high Pope is on Notre Dame. We'll continue to do more digging on this one, so the stagnant trend is more about just not knowing where things stand. Trending: Stagnant
KJ Winston, Safety — Winston will be on campus the last weekend of June. He'll visit Michigan State (June 4-6), Penn State (June 11-13) and Maryland (June 18-20) prior to that visit. I think Penn State and Maryland will be harder to beat than some believe, but Notre Dame getting his last visit, which could be a plus. Trending: Stagnant
Jayden Bellamy, Safety/Cornerback — This is another recruitment that is a bit hard to get a read on, and part of it is how well the Irish staff is recruiting. Notre Dame is treating almost everyone on this board like a priority, which is exactly how a good recruiting staff is supposed to operate. Bellamy is a guy the staff has been on pretty hard, but there are other players a bit higher on the board right now. Should the staff miss out on Moore or Morrison they could easily push harder for Bellamy, or they could look at him as more of a safety. Trending: Up
Jyaire Brown, Cornerback — Notre Dame is still pushing for Brown but there isn't a lot of momentum right now, and flipping him from Ohio State will be incredibly challenging. Trending: Slightly Down
NEXT IN LINE
Nikai Martinez, Cornerback
Jaeden Gould, Cornerback
Ephesian Prysock, Cornerback
Jaden Mangham, Safety
Hot - Prospects that Notre Dame is trending in a strong direction with, and prospects the Irish appear to be in best position with.
Growing Confidence - There is still work to be done, but Notre Dame is certainly moving in the right direction.
Work To Do - Prospects that are either a long way away from making a decision or prospects that Notre Dame is behind other programs.
Next In Line - Prospects that Notre Dame is recruiting, but these prospects are not necessarily top of the line players at this point.
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