Notre Dame has concluded its official visits for the month of June and in many ways things went very, very well for the Fighting Irish staff. Notre Dame added three commitments, including two on defense (Donovan Hinish, Niuafe Tuihalamaka).
The next few weeks will determine just how successful this month was, as a number of prospects are either poised to commit, or they are in position where the Notre Dame staff wants them to commit.
Here's a look at where recruiting stands for the Notre Dame defense as it embarks on this pivotal month.
Notre Dame already has an outstanding defensive line haul, and arguably the best end class in the country. Agu is the "small end" at 6-6 and 225 pounds. It's a long, athletic and talented group of players. Hinish isn't going to wow you with great size or high-end talent, but he has a great motor and will out-play his ranking, much like his brother.
What will determine if this is an elite haul that erases the gap or one that simply stays as is and just takes another step towards closing the gap is whether or not it adds to this group. Notre Dame has a pair of top-level players left on the board in Anthony Lucas and Cyrus Moss.
Notre Dame has a better shot with Lucas than Moss, but both could be tough gets. If it was up to me I would use the opportunity of landing Keon Keeley in the 2023 class to put all my 2022 efforts on closing with Lucas. He's not a gap closer, he's a gap eraser.
Right now Notre Dame has arguably the best linebacker class in the country after landing a pair of Top 100 recruits in Burnham and Tuihalamaka, and then also adding an athletic, high-upside player in Ziegler. It's a a versatile group that complements each other very well.
Should Notre Dame land Jaylen Sneed this would go down as not only the hands down best linebacker class in the country, it would be Notre Dame's best linebacker class in decades. Yes, it would be that good, and the best part is this group can play together.
If Notre Dame adds Sneed - and right now things are certainly trending in a good direction with him - it would give Notre Dame a great opportunity to finish with one of the five best front seven hauls in the country. If it lands Sneed and Lucas there isn't a team out there that will put together a front seven group better than the Notre Dame group.
Now it's about closing.
There is a lot more trickiness with the cornerback group. Jayden Bellamy is expected to announce his decision on Friday, and if he picks Notre Dame it would give the Irish a versatile defender with speed.
Bellamy and Jaden Mickey would be a quality group, with Mickey already ranking as a Top 150 caliber player on my board. Bellamy isn't on that level yet but he has tools to work with.
The key to making this a gap closing cornerback class is then adding one of Benjamin Morrison or Devin Moore. Of course the ideal scenario is that Notre Dame lands both, but at least one is a must if Notre Dame is going to land a second straight gap closing cornerback class.
Morrison is split between Notre Dame and Washington, and the positive vibes Notre Dame built up going into and during his visit seems to have faded. The Irish must attempt a comeback with Morrison, who is very, very talented and grades out as the top pure cornerback left on the board.
Notre Dame is in great shape with Moore, should he decide this summer. The concern for the Irish is if he decides to carry his recruitment into the fall. That would make things far more tenuous.
Remaining Targets: Xavier Nwankpa, Jake Pope
The board at safety is simple, there are two players on it and the Irish would love to land both players.
Xavier Nwankpa is another one of those gap closing type of recruits, if not a gap eraser. Ohio State is still in a very good position, but Notre Dame is battling hard for him. With Moore the longer it goes on the more concerning it is for Notre Dame, but the opposite could be true with Nwankpa. The feeling is the longer this goes the more time it gives Notre Dame to keep hammering home what makes it stand out from the Buckeyes, on and off the field.
Jake Pope is down to a final five of Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, North Carolina and Georgia. Notre Dame is going against the big boys with this one, but right now things are going in a positive direction for the Irish. Pope is slated to make a decision soon, and the Irish need to close out on this one.
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