Recruiting: Notre Dame Needs A Strong Finish To The Offensive Line

Brian Smith

Notre Dame needs to land at least four offensive linemen in the Class of 2021. Here’s an overview of where Notre Dame offensive line recruiting stands.

The following list of prospects will be represented within alphabetical order, as well as prospects that will likely visit Notre Dame in the future. This list simply signifies prospects that Notre Dame continues to pursue, as well as how likely Notre Dame will be to land that prospect. A few notes before moving to the overview of each prospect.

Timing is everything with recruiting. Considering COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc upon society, it makes recruiting all the more difficult for Notre Dame, other college programs, and the prospects themselves.

When unofficial visits begin, when the NCAA allows official visits, and when will be the start of the college football season all impact recruiting. In short, the traditional domino effect of recruits falling in line, one-by-one, cannot take place as usual.

Thus, there could be a scramble for Notre Dame to assemble unofficial and official visits this summer and into fall before the competition does the same. Keep that in mind. Here’s a podcast to provide further substance regarding offensive line recruiting.

Committed

Blake Fisher, 6-6, 340, Avon (Ind.) High School

Rivals: No. 20
247: No. 82
ESPN: No. 113
National composite: No. 58

Fisher might be Notre Dame’s best recruiter. Seriously, ever seen a prospect more active when it comes to attracting top prospects to come play with him? There should be no doubts about Fisher’s loyalty to Notre Dame.

While Fisher continues to be set to attend Notre Dame, he’s truly an integral cog with several other offensive line recruits. The Irish coaching staff certainly applauds Fisher’s recruiting efforts.

Prospects

Rayshaun Benny, OL, 6-5, 275, Detroit (Mich.) Oak Park

Rivals: Four-star — No. 83
247: Four-star — No. 187
ESPN: Three-star
National composite: Four-star — No. 126

Forecast: Notre Dame extended an offer to Benny (March 26) after many other programs went after him. Will that impact his impression of Notre Dame? Michigan, Michigan State, Kentucky and Penn State earned official visits already, and Benny did not yet visit South Bend.

For the Irish to be successful, the best scenario would be Benny to visit unofficially and officially. With Michigan State under NCAA scrutiny and Michigan missing on local prospects more than usual, perhaps the Irish will push to the forefront. Wildcard: watch out for Penn State. The Nittany Lions hit Michigan hard this year.

Pat Coogan, G/C, 6-5, 290, Chicago (Ill.) Marist

247: Three-star
Rivals: Three-star
ESPN: Three-star
National composite: Three-star — No. 445

Forecast: Notre Dame holds the upper hand to land Coogan, and he could be the next prospect to join the Irish fold. But hold on, who’s the biggest competition? With recent offers from Ohio State (March 30), Oklahoma (April 1), LSU (April 1) and Texas A&M (April 3), Coogan quickly became a hot commodity.

Prior offers from Duke and Stanford displayed Coogan’s academic prowess, and that’s usually a good sign for Notre Dame. Still, That’s an impressive list of offers from blueblood programs. It will be interesting to see if Notre Dame lands Coogan, and if it does land Coogan, when?

Coogan’s decision timeframe impacts several other Irish prospects. That should be something to consider moving forward. Coogan’s versatility to play guard or center helps, and it’s not out of the question that he plays tackle.

Caleb Johnson, OT, 6-7, 290, Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic

247: Four-star — No. 215
ESPN: Four-star, Unranked
Rivals: Three-star
National composite: No. 337

Forecast: Johnson represents a player that could end up at a slew of different programs. Alabama, Tennessee, Penn State, LSU, Florida State, Notre Dame, Auburn, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Kentucky represent some of his offers.

Johnson possesses the talent to play tackle or guard, and he’s a developing player. High upside offensive tackles will usually earn high demand, and Johnson falls into that category. He’s also originally from Fort Wayne (Ind.), so he’s familiar with Notre Dame. Could be the most interesting recruitment of the offensive line recruits the Irish continue to covet because Johnson does not appear to be close to deciding.

Nolan Rucci, OT, 6-8, 280, Lititz (Pa.) Warwick

247: Four-star — No. 14
Rivals: Four-star — No. 34
ESPN: Four-star — No. 34
National composite: Five-star — No. 12

Forecast: Notre Dame appears to be barely holding on to hope. Clemson, Penn State and Wisconsin appear to be in better position to sign Rucci, as of today. Rucci already sojourned to South Bend, but can the Irish get him back for unofficial and official visits? It may need to do just that.

Barring something unforeseen, Notre Dame appears to be on the outside looking in. The Irish signing Rucci would shock many people.

Rocco Spindler, OL, 6-5, 290, Clarkston (Mich.) High School

Rivals: Four-star — No. 55
247: Four-star — No. 63
ESPN: Four-star - No. 76
National composite: Four-star — No. 49

Forecast: Depending on one’s perspective, Spindler will land at Penn State, Michigan or Notre Dame. Most believe the Irish to be the team to beat, but do not discount the in-state Wolverines or surging Nittany Lions.

Ohio State, Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama and many others continue to pursue Spindler as well. The Irish need to land Spindler. He’s a versatile offensive line prospect with the potential to play early. That’s exactly what Notre Dame needs with this offensive line class, players that provide the potential to play as a sophomore, if need be. Spindler fits the bill.

Wildcard: Notre Dame could add more offers, continue to recruit prospects committed elsewhere, and even look at prospects that will make the transition from tight end to offensive tackle (think of Andy Heck switching from tight end to tackle for the 1988 national championship Notre Dame team).

Here’s an example of a player that could earn Notre Dame interest, or that of many other programs because he’s moving to offensive line after playing tight end and defensive end. He’s from the same school as formerly committed Notre Dame prospect Deion Colzie.

Hugh Laughlin, OT, 6-6, 285, Athens (Ga.) Athens Academy

247: Three-star
Rivals: Three-star
National composite: Three-star — No. 716

Forecast: This is the type of wait and see prospect that could blow up just like Coogan. Coaches simply need to see Laughlin play this fall before making a final decision about offering. Whether it is Laughlin or someone else, Notre Dame will probably find a few late bloomers it can pursue, if it so chooses. That’s the nature of offensive line recruiting.

Many of these young men develop later. Iowa and Wisconsin make a living off these types of players. Here’s a look at Laughlin’s film.

Here’s a podcast to provide further substance regarding offensive line recruiting.

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Comments (1)
No. 1-1
KMoore-24
KMoore-24

Being honest. I am a little worried about OL recruiting at the moment. One month ago there was a chance we could bring in the best O Line class in the country but we missed out on a couple of kids I thought we would land. Missing the opportunity to bring those guys to Notre Dame on a visit really hurt us. We do have Fisher and he is a great player to build your O Line class around. I think he is a 5 star talent on and off the field.

We are at a point where we HAVE to land Rocco Spindler. You can probably add Coogan's name to that must land list as well. I know the players seem to really like Quinn but I continue to be on the fence with him. When Harry was here the position basically recruited itself but that really hasn't been the case for Quinn.


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