Notre Dame is still looking to add two more offensive linemen to the 2022 class, and the Irish have found a raw but talented in-state player who could ultimately end up in the class.
This weekend the Irish host Lawrenceburg (Ind.) High School standout Ashton Craig, and the 6-5 280-pound blocker is set to officially visit South Bend this weekend after picking up an offer earlier this week.
A tackle for the Tigers, Craig is versatile enough to play any position along the offensive line at the next level.
“Well, the first thing I think that makes him special is his athleticism, he is an athlete,” said Lawrenceburg head coach Ryan Knigga. “I think that’s what makes him valuable not only at our level, but it will make him more valuable at the next level. I feel that he can play any one of the five spots on the offensive line.
“As a sophomore, he played guard for us," continued Knigga. "He can run and he can move. I think he understands leverage, he’s also a guy that plays defense for us. He does not come off the field. That shows what type of conditioning level he has and his athleticism. You see his tenacity not only on the offensive line finishing blocks, getting downfield and making blocks. But, all of a sudden in the next clip at defensive end you see him coming off the edge putting pressure on the quarterback and making plays as well.”
The Irish currently have another in-state blocker Joey Tanona and Massachusetts tackle Ty Chan committed in the class. Notre Dame has slowly faded with many of their top early prospects, but the emergence of Craig is what the staff needs to recover and land an underrated, talented young prospect.
“His athleticism pops off the screen," explained Knigga. "I think his knowledge of the game, of the game plan and the details of what you are trying to accomplish. He’s a smart kid, so he processes things really fast. His tenacity is he gets after from the time the ball is snapped right until the whistle. He loves to hit people, and I think that’s one of those things at the next level, you have to have a chip on your shoulder and bring it everyday. He does that here as well, not only on the field but in the classroom and the community.”
Notre Dame doesn't just want talented players on the field, it looks for student-athletes that thrive away from it as well. That is yet another area where Knigga believes his young pupil stands out.
“He’s done everything that we’ve asked of him, he does it the right way,” noted Knigga. “He’s a great leader in our locker room, the kids look up to him. His level of play is pretty high and he turns it on and gets going whether it’s Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. Then on Friday night he’s a creature, he gets after it and loves to block, he’s looking to finish strong. He’s an exciting player with a huge upside.”
Craig camped at Notre Dame this summer and impressed the Irish coaches, notably offensive line coach Jeff Quinn. After returning home he picked up an offer mid-week and is now set for his official visit this coming weekend.
This has been a strange year from a recruiting standpoint, with schools unable to get on the road to visit prospects during the fall of 2020. Prospects also weren't allow on college campuses, which made it easier for some prospects to get overlooked. That seems to be what happened with Craig, but college coaches - including Notre Dame - finally saw his talent.
“With everything that happened with COVID, no camps and other things, people had to rely on junior film," stated Knigga. "They had to rely on getting certain things in their hand that they needed to see. We had been in contact with Notre Dame throughout the season, sending them film, sending them stuff on Ashton. Then, it’s just the recruiting process. It’s a game, it’s a business, and everything sort of falls into place.
“Every school has a list of guys they need to get a hold of, and finally that time came for Ashton with Notre Dame,” continued Knigga. “As far as them being in contact and recruiting him, that timeframe has been very small. I would say three weeks now of them being in contact with him daily, talking to me, and then getting him up to campus for a workout. I think once they got him on campus and saw his athleticism, saw him run and bend, I think they knew they had a special kid. A kid that could play at Notre Dame.”
Now Craig is headed back to Notre Dame for yet another June visit, this time for an official visit. It could also be his last trip to Notre Dame as an uncommitted prospect.
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