Notre Dame is not done with its 2021 class, and the Irish coaching staff is now making a hard run at Highland Springs (Va.) High School star defensive end Kelvin Gilliam.
The 6-3, 250-pound Oklahoma commit was drawn to the Sooners by the opportunity for immediate playing time, and to continue playing with his teammate and fellow OU commit, cornerback Damond Harmon.
The pair has been recruited heavily by Oklahoma tight ends and H-Backs coach Shane Beamer. Beamer, of course, is familiar with the Virginia area after playing football for his dad, long-time Virginia Tech head coach, Frank Beamer.
The younger Beamer had been heavily involved in Harmon's recruitment, and Gilliam's head coach, Loren Johnson, played with Shane on those Virginia Tech teams of the late 1990s.
Despite the commitment to Oklahoma, Notre Dame has applied the full-court press in hopes of swaying Gilliam. In a recent conversation, Gilliam noted that he's frequently texting with head coach Brian Kelly, and often hears from defensive line coach Mike Elston and defensive coordinator Clark Lea.
Earlier this week, Gilliam met with the coaching staff via Zoom to get a virtual tour of the campus.
Gilliam clearly holds the Oklahoma program in high regard, but Notre Dame is just different.
“Notre Dame provides an excellent education and the ability to play on a national stage,” explained Gilliam when asked about his interest in the Irish program. “My family is focused on education, and I also want to make a difference in my community after football. A Notre Dame degree offers that opportunity.”
Still, Gilliam is focused on playing for a national program - seeking the exposure and development needed to play at the next level.
"When I talked with the [Notre Dame] coaching staff, they mentioned that Notre Dame offers the ability to play on a national stage and that if I play well, the NFL will find me,” noted Gilliam.
Kelvin is currently ranked as the No. 79 player in the country according to Rivals. The Virginia standout could join a list of former Irish defensive ends presently in the NFL, a list that includes Stephon Tuitt of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Julian and Romeo Okwara of the Detroit Lions, Sheldon Day of the Indianapolis Colts, Jerry Tillery and Isaac Rochell of the Los Angeles Chargers, and Khalid Kareem (Cincinnati Bengals).
As a true freshman, Gilliam could compete for playing time as this year's defensive ends, Daelin Hayes and Adetokunbo Ogundeji, are fifth-year seniors. If he commits to Notre Dame and performs well in the offseason, don't be surprised to see him playing meaningful snaps wherever he goes.
Kelvin is mentally prepared for the big stage.
"I'm excited to move on to the next level,” said Gilliam, who didn’t play his senior season due to Virginia not allowing high school football in 2020. “In high school, you have sold out games and large crowds, but playing in primetime at the next level is what I'm looking forward to."
After Notre Dame's upset of No. 1 Clemson finished with a total audience of 10.2 million viewers, making it the most-watched college football game of the 2020 season, South Bend would certainly seem like a legitimate option for him to do that.
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