Not being able to officially get players on campus has combined with Notre Dame's class being relatively full to make this a quieter than normal recruiting period for the Irish. The Notre Dame staff is still working hard to expand the 2021 class and continue building for 2022.
Here are some nuggets the Irish Breakdown crew has been able to put together over the last week:
Keep An Eye Out For A New Cornerback Target
According to sources very close to the situation, Notre Dame has been in contact with Merrillville (Ind.) High School athlete JoJo Johnson, a member of the 2021 class.
No offer has been extended, but this appears to be more than just preliminary discussions.
Johnson has camped to Notre Dame in the past and has visited campus on multiple occasions prior to the recent COVID-19 restrictions, so he's quite familiar with the Irish program. He was once committed to Cincinnati but back off that commitment last month.
The 5-11, 170-pound athlete has hauled in 40 catches for 765 yards and nine touchdowns as a senior. He picked off six passes as a junior. When he camped at Notre Dame he worked out at wide receiver, but the Irish interest now is in him playing cornerback.
Despite being listed as a three-star recruit, Johnson has the kind of athleticism, attitude and versatility that tends to thrive at Notre Dame. Should an offer be extended the Irish would have a great chance at adding Johnson to the class.
Irish Not Done With Secondary Recruiting
Johnson isn't the only secondary player the Notre Dame staff is still pursuing for the 2021 class.
Despite his decommitment from Notre Dame and eventual commitment to USC, Notre Dame has continued to stay involved with Valrico (Fla.) Bloomingdale cornerback Philip Riley.
From what I know about Riley from a character, academics, background I was a bit surprised with his decommitment, and even more puzzled by his decision to flip to USC. He's one of those players that screams "Notre Dame fit," and I have a feeling that, combined with his talent and positional need, is a big reason the staff has stayed engaged with Riley, as have many Notre Dame commits.
Notre Dame is also still actively recruiting Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola four-star cornerback Ceyair Wright.
According to a source, Wright is still in constant contact with the Irish staff and could be in the area soon. Of course, he cannot meet with any Notre Dame coaches or players, but if he does in fact come into the area it would show that he has sincere interest in the Irish program and wants to learn more about the area, the campus and the community.
In the end I will be surprised if Wright leaves the West Coast, but Notre Dame continuing to push him as hard as they have is worth noting and praising.
Irish Pushing For Top 100 Defensive Lineman
Notre Dame is making a run at Highland Springs (Va.) High School standout Kelvin Gilliam Jr., who Rivals ranks as the No. 79 player in the entire country. The Virginia standout is currently committed to Oklahoma, and there is a connection between his high school coach and a coach at Oklahoma, but Gilliam has remained in contact with the Irish staff.
According to Nathan Atkins, Gilliam has been in touch with defensive line coach Mike Elston and defensive coordinator Clark Lea. He also said that head coach Brian Kelly has reached out via text on multiple occasions. It's clear the staff is putting the full court press on Gilliam.
Atkins also informed me that in speaking with Gilliam and his family it is obvious that academics are of extreme importance to them, which was the initial reason for his interest in Notre Dame. Of course, the recent success on the field and with the defense doesn't hurt, but academics were at the heart of the initial interest.
Notre Dame will have its work cut out for it in regards to flipping Gilliam, especially considering the travels restrictions, but the staff is certainly putting in the work.
Gilliam is listed as a defensive tackle by Rivals and as a defensive end by ESPN and 247Sports. Notre Dame is recruiting him as a defensive end.
Stay locked into Irish Breakdown for the full article from Atkins following his conversation with Gilliam.
Notre Dame Still Recruiting 2021 Offensive Linemen
We were asked to keep the names off the record, but Irish Breakdown has confirmed Notre Dame's staff is still talking to 2021 offensive linemen. If we get to the point where those conversations go further and there is a chance at a flip we'll likely be able to put names out there.
Any Post Clemson Bump?
The big question many have is will Notre Dame get a bump from beating Clemson? Well, that's not really an easy answer. The simple answer is yes, they will, but how much of one will it be remains to be seen.
A win like that will help with the 2022 class more than the 2021 group, at least from a widespread standpoint. But, if the Irish keep building on this momentum it could help the staff close on some top 2021 players, or allow them to climb up the ladder with others.
Could it be the thing that helps push Gilliam into the Irish class, or Wright, or perhaps allow the Irish to rise up the list with a player like Top 100 running back Donovan Edwards, who lists Notre Dame among his top six schools? The Irish staff has stayed engaged with a number of 2021 prospects, some that are public and many that aren't. This kind of win could help the staff ultimately get a flip or two.
The key, however, is the part about building on this momentum. That means winning the games they are supposed to and either beating Clemson again on Dec. 19, or at least having that game finish in similar fashion as the last game, which means no matter who wins it is obvious that both teams are on equal footing.
Do that and the staff could use the Nov. 7 win over the Tigers to boost its recruiting efforts.
One thing to keep an eye on is Notre Dame making moves with recruits who are committed to currently struggling programs. Could Notre Dame get back involved with a guy like defensive end Kechaun Bennett, who is committed to Michigan, or a Landon Tengwall at Penn State? Should make for an interesting next month heading into the December early signing period.
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