Notre Dame picked up a monster commitment today when it landed Mentor (Ohio) High School five-star defensive end Brenan Vernon. Ohio State is incredibly hard to beat for the top in-state players, but Notre Dame was able to get the job done by picking up the 6-5, 250-pound end.
Let's break down how the commitment of Vernon impacts the Notre Dame recruiting class and depth chart.
NOTRE DAME CLASS IMPACT
Vernon is the second player to commit to Notre Dame in the 2023 class, and both are defensive ends. Vernon pledged to the Irish just a day after Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep edge defender Keon Keeley committed to Notre Dame.
Keeley is a four-star recruit that should end up as a Top 100 caliber recruit, but Vernon is already there. He is the No. 9 prospect in the country according to Rivals and he's a five-star recruit and the No. 18 prospect according to 247Sports.
Kicking the class off with two very highly ranked and talented prospects at end is certainly a tremendous way for Notre Dame to start the class. It also allows Notre Dame to shut down defensive end recruiting, should it choose to do so. The Irish could look for a third end in the class, and the commitments of Vernon and Keeley allows the staff to be picky about anyone else to add in the 2023 end class.
NOTRE DAME FIT
Vernon and Keeley are ideal complements to each other at end. Keeley is a long, explosive edge player that best fits at the Vyper position in the Irish defense. Vernon is a 6-5, 250-pound power player that is a great fit for the big end position in the Irish defense.
Vernon has elite length already, and you can see that on film and I saw it this spring at the Under Armour Camp in Ohio. He shows an advanced feel for using that length to keep blockers off his body. This allows Vernon to already grade out as a strong edge defender against the run, and with some more technical work it should help him develop into a highly effective power rusher in the pass game.
On top of having excellent length, Vernon also possesses very powerful hands and impressive strength for such a young defender. He has yet to play beyond his sophomore season, but Vernon already makes plays with his length and power, and the latter aspect of his game is only going to get better over the next two years.
Vernon is still growing into his massive body, and he has a bit of a herky-jerky running style. As he gets older and his coordination catches up even more to his size and length his athletic profile is only going to get better and better.
What Vernon already shows is a good initial burst off the line, one that allows him to quickly beat blockers off the ball. His side-to-side change of direction in drills stands out to me, and that's another part of his game that will continue to get better as he grows into his body.
Vernon plays the game much like former Irish standout Khalid Kareem played, but at the same age Vernon is bigger, more explosive and even stronger.
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