Recruiting: Breaking Down 2021 Rover Targets
Notre Dame has a long and rich history of taking athletes and turning them into highly productive linebackers, and that is especially true in the current 4-2-5 defense.
There are a number of players from the 2021 class that are current safeties, but should they choose Notre Dame they would project much better to the rover position.
Players listed in alphabetical order.
Caden Fordham, 6-2, 200, Jacksonville (Fla.) The Bolles School
I saw Fordham play in the Florida Junior All-Star game. He led all players in tacklers. Fordham made plays sideline to sideline. Despite his size, he played middle linebacker in the contest, displaying his physicalness time after time.
Long term, Fordham could end up playing middle linebacker or weak side linebacker. One never knows. For now, he’s definitely a Rover candidate as it better suits his 200-pound frame.
According to Fordham, amongst the many programs that he is considering for summer camp would be Wisconsin and Notre Dame. He is also planning some unofficial visits.
“Going to go to North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Duke, then following week Miami and Florida State,” Fordham said of his March unofficial visits plans.
North Carolina State, Wake Forest, Miami, West Virginia, Colorado and Maryland are some of the colleges and universities that extended scholarship offers to Fordham.
Xamarion Gordon, 6-2, 190, Downey (Calif.) Warren
Gordon’s recruitment continues to escalate. UCLA (Feb. 20) joined the fray along with USC, Notre Dame, Oregon, Arizona and many others. In short, he’s one of the best players out West, and he's already visited Notre Dame.
From this list of three possible rover candidates, Gordon comes the closest to Denman in terms of style of play. Denman would absolutely destroy a ball carrier, and Gordon will do the same. Their frames are almost identical at the same stage. Only question, which position(s) will this young man play in college?
He’s so talented it could be a situation that he moves around in different personnel packages. Gordon definitely deserves to be called a really good all-around football player. His highlights are a blast to watch.
Krew Jackson, 6-5, 200, Queen Creek (Ariz.) High School
One of the tallest safety recruits in the country, Jackson plays a physical brand of football. More importantly, he can cover like a traditional 6-1 safety. Many times longer safeties struggle to break on the football or change direction. Jackson does both.
Jackson’s length makes him intriguing. If he can stay at free safety, goodness, what a defensive weapon versus deep passes. Then again, he could transition to rover and still be effective in coverage while also utilizing his physical prowess near the line of scrimmage.
According to Jackson, defensive analyst Chris O’Leary recruits him for the Irish. Will Notre Dame pull the trigger and offer? Along with his athleticism, Jackson provides a 3.9 GPA. That certainly helps.
Jackson already earned offers from Arizona, Arizona State, Pittsburgh, Virginia, BYU, Iowa State, and Boston College among others. Here’s a look at Jackson’s film:
Donovan McMillon, 6-2, 185, Canonsburg (Pa.) Peters Township
McMillon recently earned a scholarship offer from Notre Dame (Feb. 7). The competition stiffened since the Irish extended that offer. Additional offers in the past two weeks include Louisville, Northwestern, Virginia, Harvard and Virginia Tech for starters, but that’s not all. As a Pennsylvania prospect, a Penn State (Feb. 15) offer means quite a bit, and that’s what happened. Additionally, Oklahoma (Feb. 19) offered. McMillon’s recruitment took off.
Notre Dame remains a prime contender, but it’s going to be a battle. McMillon’s academic and athletic combination make him a big-time target for numerous programs. As for where he plays, that’s debatable.
McMillon is a big-time wrestler (184-pound weight class). Once he reaches college, he will easily gain the weight necessary to play rover. Not only could he end up being a rover, it’s quite possible he could play at 220- or 225-pounds and move to the weak side linebacker position.
Benjamin Perry, 6-2, 180, Chicago (Ill.) Mount Carmel
Perhaps the player with the most upside would be Perry, but he’s not quite as big as McMillon or Gordon. Notre Dame did not yet offer the talented prospect from the Land of Lincoln, but he’s definitely a prospect to watch. Perry visited Notre Dame for its Junior Day (Feb. 1).
Indiana, Kansas State, Purdue, Northwestern, Bowling Green, Boston College, Georgia Tech, Louisville and even Yale extended Perry an offer. Will the Irish pull the trigger? Perhaps the answer to that question will be answered soon, or maybe the Irish coaching staff wants to evaluate Perry further to gain a better perspective if he can move to rover.
Perry’s frame looks to be suited for strong safety, maybe rover in time. He would need another 20-30 pounds (from his listed weight) to make that happen. As former Irish players showed, that’s quite possible.
Then again, Perry is not quite as thick as say McMillon. There’s an argument to take Perry as a safety. If nothing else, for specialty packages, he can be a nickel and dime linebacker in today’s spread-happy college football landscape. Perry is a ball-hawk; if he can keep the quickness and transition to rover he would be a huge asset to any college team because it’s truly hard to find linebackers that can cover in the slot. Do not be surprised if the Irish extend an offer to this young man.
These players are much like former Irish recruits. Highly athletic young men with room to grow. It’s fun to watch the transformation for college players. Any one of these three could end up playing rover or linebacker for Notre Dame.
Additional Names to Know
One of the players that caught early traction with Notre Dame would be Bryce Steele, a safety/rover that without question possesses the frame to be a college rover or even inside linebacker.
He’s already 6-1, 195-pounds. As an added bonus for Notre Dame, he attends the same high school as current Irish safety Litchfield Ajavon. Although he’s from Raleigh (N.C.), Steele attends Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal.
From an opposite perspective, Notre Dame recently offered Kendall Daniels, a rangy 6-4, 190-pound safety. It’s rare for the Irish to land top talent from Oklahoma, but the Irish (Jan. 25) are now one of many offers for the top-notch prospect from Beggs (Okla.).
Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, TCU, Texas A&M, Oregon, Colorado, and Arkansas represent some of his offers. Look for that list to continue to grow.
When all is said and done, do not be surprised if Notre Dame lands two or even three rover/linebackers for the class of 2021. Their current position, however, could be any number of positions.