Six Prospects Hold The Key To Notre Dame's 2021 Recruiting Class

Bryan Driskell

Notre Dame’s “dreams” of a Top 5 recruiting class in 2021 is all but one, assuming you actually thought head coach Brian Kelly actually meant that January comment. Barring Notre Dame flipping 4-5 top level prospects committed to other programs, the goal right now needs to be to get back into the Top 10, and that is a doable proposition.

It won’t be easy, but there is certainly a pathway to Notre Dame putting together a strong, Top 10 caliber class. It will require the staff land five players it current has at least a strong chance with, and then pulling off one big upset.

OL Rocco Spindler

The Prospect: Spindler is the nation’s No. 48 overall player on the 247Sports composite ranking, and he’s a consensus Top 100 recruit. If he chooses Notre Dame he would slide in as the second best prospect in the class according to the composite ranking, behind only quarterback Tyler Buchner and ahead of Blake Fisher.

The Latest: The Michigan native is slated to make his decision on Saturday, and his final list is down to Notre Dame, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and LSU. In reality, this is a Notre Dame/Michigan battle. Notre Dame has been his leader for months, and while other programs have closed the gap, no one has surpassed the Irish on top. That is why I predict he’ll choose Notre Dame on Saturday, but there are enough confident Michigan folks to still give me pause.

LB Prince Kollie

The Prospect: Kollie is just now starting to get the hype he deserves as a prospect. When Notre Dame first offered he was a consensus three-star player, but now ESPN and 247Sports both have him in the Top 250. Kollie is athletic, instinctive and a high-character young man that would fit in perfectly at Notre Dame. I graded him as a Top 150 caliber prospect for his on-field talents.

The Latest: Kollie was trending towards Louisville for awhile, but according to my sources the Notre Dame staff has put in work to get back on top with the standout linebacker. Of course, the staff was given a big assist by current commits, who have worked hard to build a strong bond with Kollie. Louisville isn’t going to give up, but I like where Notre Dame stands with the talented rover target.

WR Jayden Thomas

The Prospect: Thomas is a strong all-around prospect that isn’t going to blow you away with elite speed, but he’s smart, strong, competitive and he makes a lot of plays on both sides of the ball. Thomas would be a nice complement to 2021 commit Lorenzo Styles Jr. and 2020 signees Jordan Johnson and Xavier Watts. ESPN and Rivals both rank him as a Top 250 player, with Rivals ranking him the highest at No. 131.

The Latest: Thomas is down to Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State, Georgia and Arkansas. For quite some time it seemed Michigan was the biggest threat to Notre Dame, but the Wolverines recently made a push for and landed Andrel Anthony Jr., giving them four wideouts in the class. This says to me that Michigan realized they weren’t going to get Thomas, which is a great sign for Notre Dame. There’s closing to be done, but Notre Dame is in good shape here due in part to their past success producing football players that also thrive on the baseball diamond. Thomas, of course, is also a standout baseball prospect.

S Jaden Slocum

The Prospect: Slocum is just a three-star recruit, but I like his talent and there is certainly a need at the position after Notre Dame struck out at safety in the 2020 class. Slocum is a smooth, rangy and instinctive centerfielder on the back end. He makes up for a lack of top-level speed with loose hips, easy change of direction skills, closing ability and smarts.

The Latest:

ATH Titus Mokiao-Atimalala

The Prospect: There is a lot to like about Mokiao-Atimalala’s game, on both sides of the ball. He could play safety or wide receiver in college, and that is why he’s listed as an athlete. If Notre Dame needed him at wide receiver he could handle himself there, but it’s at safety where his game and demeanor is best suited. He’s a strong all-around third level play due to his ability to cover, play the middle of the field and come down in the alleys and strike. He’s a perfect fit for the rIrish defense.

The Latest: This is a hard recruitment to read. I’ve been told he likes Notre Dame, but he’s not someone who talks to the media much and there isn’t much good info out there about his recruitment. I have sources who say Notre Dame is in great shape, and sources who are unsure. Notre Dame has had great success in Hawai’i, and they need to strike gold in this recruitment.

Landing Slocum and Mokiao-Atimalala to go with Justin Walters would give the Irish quality depth, versatility and playmaking skills at safety. It would also erase the failures of the 2020 haul at the position.


Landing the five players above would give Notre Dame a quality class, one on par with some of the better recent hauls, one that would rank around 12-15 nationally. It would lack ideal depth, but it would make up for it with high upside players and top-level recruits like Buchner, Spindler, Fisher, Styles and tight end Cane Berrong.

To vault into the Top 10 conversation, however, Notre Dame would need to pull off one huge upset.

WR Dont’e Thornton

The Prospect: Thornton is an exceptional talent that has the size, speed, playmaking skills every team covets. He is the nation’s No. 51 overall player and No. 6 wide receiver according to the composite rankings. The scary thing is he’s just scratching the surface of his full potential. There’s so much untapped potential with him, and if he gets good coaching he could explode in college.

The Latest: Thornton was very high on Notre Dame early in the process, and at one point I had sources telling me the Irish would land him. Notre Dame got out-recruited by other programs and fell behind, with Oregon and Joe Moorhead pulling way ahead of everyone else. I have a couple of sources that believe Notre Dame is in better shape than some think, and believes the Irish are capable of regrouping, rallying and ultimately pulling off what I believe would be a huge recruiting upset.

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Comments (5)
No. 1-5

Nice report, Bryan. Sounds to me like we have a 65% shot at getting the first five guys you listed. That's still a nice class.


Bryan I wanted ask, what is the latest on Jaden Slocum. Noticed that was omitted, but great article. Always love reading your work.


Great Stuff - TY!


This is very insightful.

It is super tough for ND to crack the Top 5...but getting inside the Top 10 and keeping and developing all/most of the quality young men should put them in a good competitive position over the next 3-5 years.

ND's churn and burn rate/player attrition tends to be lower than a lot of Top 5- 10 so as things play out over time---things tend to even out. Other Top 5 programs have gotten some super game changers and exceptional QB's and ND has closed that gap somewhat recently.

If we can get all/most of these guys---and we have good shots in most scenarios--that will put the icing on this 2021 recruiting cake. ND's not going to go much above 20 guys from what has been said---so every quality guy matters a lot.

Prince Kollie has a lot of great things said about him and Clark Lea sees a lot of talent and versatility and worked hard for him...a mix of JOK and maybe a little Jaylon Smith mixed in?

Spindler would be a very great win--he's warmed up to ND's culture and family over time...keeping fingers crossed. He can identify with Q Nelson---so that's a nice image to have coming to ND.

The high school ratings and evaluations that decide Top5-10 are not perfect---if ND can consistently get inside the Top 10 and get some sleeper/better than they were rated guys---they can compete with the Elite's...especially with top notch QB/WR/RB talent-game breakers.


When does Kollie announce?