Recruiting: Where Things Stand With Top 2021 Cornerback Targets

Brian Smith

Notre Dame hired its next cornerbacks coach with Mike Mickens set to join the Irish coaching staff. The former Cincinnati Bearcats’ cornerbacks coach will be presented with a unique recruiting challenge.

Can he find the cornerback - or athlete that moves to cornerback - that helps place Notre Dame into the truly elite programs of college football? Moreover, can he also make that happen within the Class of 2021?

Mickens did very well with underrated prospects signed by Cincinnati. His goal should still remain the same. Mickens needs to land cornerbacks with impact potential. Below is a list of players currently on the radar that Mickens should immediately make a priority.

Prospects listed in alphabetical order.

PROPHET BROWN, 5-11, 180, Sacramento (Calif.) Monterey Trail

Film Analysis: Runs with a low pad level when carrying the football; explosive as he turns the corner. Primarily played wide receiver, running back, and kick returner this past season. Athleticism and speed apparent, but lack of defensive film makes him somewhat unknown as a cornerback recruit.

Where Things Stand: Notre Dame sits in a similar position as many schools, a program that’s offered. Brown’s recruitment blew up after his junior year concluded. He has yet to visit Notre Dame, but the Irish are definitely in the mix. Cal, Oklahoma Oregon (childhood favorite), Nebraska, USC and Utah are also involved. Of anyone on this cornerback list, Brown might be the most difficult to calculate at this point because his recruitment is fairly new.

DAYLAN CARNELL, 6-1, 195, Indianapolis (Ind.) Ben Davis

Film Analysis: A big cornerback that could cover in a multitude of ways, including boundary cornerback, nickel, and even free safety. Carnell moves with a fluidity that’s not normal for a cornerback his size. His length and height would be a welcome addition to multiple positions for Notre Dame.

Where Things Stand: Recently took unofficial visits to Purdue (Jan. 24), West Virginia (Jan. 25) and Indiana (Jan. 26). He will be taking the SAT this spring, and he’ll need to score well to take the next step with the Irish. If Notre Dame is not the leader, it’s certainly near the top of Carnell’s list.

COREY COLEY, 6-1, 175, Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian Academy

Film/In-Person Analysis: Saw Coley live last season during the playoffs. He can match up athletically with any player on the gridiron, and possesses the raw athleticism to make a game-changing play at any given time. Coley could play cornerback or free safety. Coley’s frame is somewhat reminiscent of former Notre Dame cornerback and safety Jeff Burris (1990-1993). Possesses some of the longest arms of any cornerback in the land; adept at playing man coverage or zone. Most importantly, he finds the football and makes plays. Coley is the type of player that could impact a program as a freshman.

Where Things Stand: Notre Dame has been interested in Coley since before last season. Coley already committed and decommitted from LSU. This is the type of recruit where Notre Dame simply must get on campus and allow things to play out. In addition to Notre Dame, Coley could end up at a number of schools including Florida, Florida State, Georgia Tech or any other top southern program.

DEUCE HARMON, 5-9, Denton (Texas) Guyer

Film Analysis: Great drive on the football from off-man coverage; big hitter. Explosive return man. Arm length helps to make up for lack of height. Adept at rerouting wide receivers near line of scrimmage. Could play field cornerback or boundary cornerback.

Where Things Stand: Harman did not yet set any official visits, but did take an unofficial visit to Texas A&M for its Super Bowl junior day event. Notre Dame offered Jan. 25, and will be competing with the Aggies and several SEC and Big 12 programs for Harmon’s services.

DYSON McCUTCHEON, 5-10, 170, Claremont (Calif.) Bishop Amat

Film Analysis: Excellent lateral quickness and very good vertical speed. A natural athlete like his father, Daylon, who played at USC from 1995-1998. McCutcheon could be a running back, wide receiver or cornerback at the college level. Played primarily running back this past season. He’s very shifty and quick in tight quarters, and he’s capable of delivering a blow despite his size.

Where Things Stand: Notre Dame will be one of his official visits, per Daylon. The Irish will battle several Pac 12 programs, plus Wisconsin, BYU and Duke are involved as well. Obviously USC will be the key team to watch considering family history and the recent hire of Donte Williams.

DEVONTA SMITH, 5-11, 170, Cincinnati (Ohio) La Salle

Film Analysis: Defends deep passes very well, and he’s capable of coming off his man and making a play on the football thrown to a different wide receiver because of his speed and athleticism. Really good in zone coverage. Type of athlete that could play cornerback, wide receiver or running back.

Where Things Stand: Recently visited Tennessee for an unofficial visit. Notre Dame offered Jan. 29, and the Irish were the first school to host him for a visit two years ago. Penn State should be a factor, but watch out for Ohio State if the Buckeyes extend an offer.

CEYAIR WRIGHT, 6-1, 175, Los Angeles (Calif.) Loyola

Film Analysis: Does well with press coverage or off-man coverage. Best attribute would be lateral quickness, a staple of cornerback play. Wright’s long arms also help to dislodge passes from the arms of wide receivers. Type of rangy athlete that provides the frame to fill out while keeping his speed.

Where Things Stand: Notre Dame hosted Wright for the Echoes weekend this past Dec. 13. The Irish appear to be one of his favorites, and the unofficial visit is a good sign. Look for Wright to utilize one of his official visits with Notre Dame. Oregon, Washington, USC, Nebraska, and several other prominent programs are also in the running.