Secondary recruiting at Notre Dame has been a wildly up-and-down affair for much of head coach Brian Kelly's tenure. That needs to change, and landing an outstanding secondary haul in the 2022 class is a must. There is a gap closing secondary class to be hand, but the staff will need a strong finish to make it happen.
The great news for Notre Dame is that every player that it needs to land in order to make that happens will be on campus for a visit over the next two weekends.
Notre Dame coaches Marcus Freeman, Mike Mickens and Chris O'Leary have done a great job putting together the kind of board of prospects needed to land that kind of top class, and now the focus is on closing on those players.
CORNERBACK CLASS COULD BE SPECIAL
Cornerback recruiting has been incredibly inconsistent over the last decade, but the first class for Mickens was outstanding. Despite not being able to host any visits during the 2021 recruiting cycle Mickens was able to land a talented and diverse 2022 class.
Notre Dame has had a couple of strong corner classes like that in the past, and the 2016 haul (Julian Love, Troy Pride Jr., Donte Vaughn) is the most recent example. All three of those corner signees are now in the NFL.
An issue for Notre Dame has been an inability to string strong classes together.
Mickens has a chance to fix that in this cycle, and he even has a chance to land a group that is even better than the first one.
Notre Dame has already landed Corona (Calif.) Centennial corner Jaden Mickey, who can play the field corner spot or the nickel in this defense.
This weekend the Fighting Irish host Naples (Fla.) High School corner Devin Moore and Phoenix (Ariz.) Brophy Prep standout Benjamin Morrison. These two players are 1A/1B on the cornerback board among uncommitted players.
A class of Mickey, Morrison and Moore would give Notre Dame a corner class even stronger than last year's group. Even better, that trio fits very well together, with Mickey capable of playing the field and slot positions, Morrison being capable of playing either outside spot and Moore being capable of playing both outside spots or even moving to safety.
Notre Dame is in a strong position with both players, but closing out on them is a must.
SAFETY IS A QUESTION MARK
I feel quite good about Notre Dame landing a top-notch cornerback class, but the safety position is a bit shakier. There are talented players on the board, but closing out on those top players will take a bit more work.
Notre Dame welcomes Buford (Ga.) High School athlete Jake Pope this weekend. A rangy and athletic defender, Pope is a talented prospect that would certainly be a quality pickup. He visited North Carolina last weekend and has visits scheduled for Ohio State and Alabama.
Notre Dame needs to crush it will Pope this weekend if its going to have a chance to land him in the end.
Next weekend the Irish host Pleasant Hill (Iowa) Southeast Polk safety Xavier Nwankpa, who is one of the most talented - and important - recruits in the class. Nwankpa has traits that remind me a lot of current Notre Dame All-American Kyle Hamilton.
Nwankpa is considered a heavy Ohio State lean and landing him will be tough for Notre Dame, but the Irish will give it their best shot next weekend. Pulling off an upset and landing Nwankpa would be a significant coup for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame will also host New Jersey defensive back Jayden Bellamy next weekend. Bellamy is being recruited as a cornerback that could easily shift to safety.
The Irish will host Maryland safety KJ Winston the following week. The 6-2, 190-pound athlete is raw but he's physical and rangy downhill.
FINISHING IS THE KEY
We saw against Clemson in 2018, Clemson in the ACC title game this past year and against Alabama that Notre Dame is not quite where it needs to be when it comes to overall secondary talent and depth.
Of course there have been stars, and current safety Kyle Hamilton is certainly that kind of player. What Notre Dame must do now is build up the depth chart and ensure that its future secondaries can go toe-to-toe with the top offenses.
Landing Mickey, Morrison and Moore would certainly do that at cornerback. Landing Nwankpa would obviously be that at safety. It will be extremely challenging to land all those players, but Notre Dame will get its shot to make it happen over the next two weeks.
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