What Notre Dame needs to get done during this pivotal recruiting month

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What Notre Dame needs to get done during this pivotal recruiting month

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame’s first batch of official visitors exited the bus by the Gug on Friday morning, basically the kickoff to a pivotal month for Marcus Freeman’s recruiting operation.

With 17 commitments on board, much of the heavy lifting for this class has already been done. In fact, most of the official visitors scheduled to be in South Bend this summer will be of the preaching-to-the-choir variety, checking out Notre Dame to confirm a decision rather than make one. And that’s fine for a class that’s ranked No. 3 nationally, behind No. 1 Georgia and No. 2 Michigan. No program has more than Notre Dame’s 17 commitments, and Friday’s pledge from three-star defensive lineman Sean Sevillano Jr. jumped the Irish over Ohio State in the 247 Sports Team Rankings.

For Notre Dame to hold its place — the Irish have signed just one top 5 class in the previous 10 cycles and tumbled to 12th from first at this time last summer — what happens in June will matter.

Here’s what Notre Dame need to get figured out this month for the promise of Freeman’s recruiting acumen to deliver in December.

How much defensive line talent is enough?

How Al Washington handles the defensive line board this month should offer insight into how comfortable the Irish are with their class and how confident the staff is with their commitments.

Notre Dame has had a newsy few weeks at the position, adding four-star defensive end Loghan Thomas and Sevillano at tackle, while also losing four-star defensive tackle Owen Wafle, who appears leaning toward Michigan. Thomas is the top-rated defensive prospect in the class, behind only five-star receiver Cam Williams and four-star quarterback CJ Carr. Sevillano, who chose Notre Dame over finalists Ohio State, Auburn and Miami, is actually the lowest-rated commitment in the Irish haul. His 247Sports player rating of .8644 makes him the No. 64 ranked defensive lineman Notre Dame has landed since 2000, between Chase Hounshell and Jonathan Bonner.

Notre Dame Class of 2024 commitments

Player

  

Pos

  

Stars

  

Rank

  

State

  

Cam Williams

WR

5

28

IL

CJ Carr

QB

4

42

MI

Loghan Thomas

Edge

4

177

TX

Aneyas Williams

RB

4

232

MO

Peter Jones

OL

4

257

PA

Micah Gilbert

WR

4

276

NC

Isiah Canion

WR

4

284

GA

Jack Larsen

TE

4

316

NC

Leonard Moore

CB

4

350

TX

Bryce Young

DL

4

352

NC

Anthonie Knapp

OT

4

388

GA

Bodie Kahoun

LB

3

453

VA

Karson Hobbs

CB

3

532

OH

Cole Mullins

Edge

3

624

GA

Kenny Urlacher

S

3

629

AZ

Teddy Rezac

ATH

3

812

NE

Sean Sevillano Jr.

DL

3

920

FL

After signing four defensive linemen last cycle, the Irish again have four committed in Thomas, Sevillano, three-star defensive end Cole Mullins and and four-star defensive end Bryce Young.

In theory, that should give Notre Dame ample numbers a year from now with at least 15 defensive linemen on the roster, although more than half would be freshmen and sophomores, which would suggest Notre Dame taking another high level Power 5 transfer like Javontae Jean-Baptiste. However, could the Irish get even younger on the defensive line by design? If it’s the right talent, absolutely.

Much of that comes down to five-star defensive end Elijah Rushing and five-star defensive tackle Justin Scott. Rushing is scheduled to officially visit Notre Dame next weekend. The Arizona prospect has also scheduled officials to Arizona, Oregon, Tennessee and UCLA. On paper, those programs are more different from Notre Dame than they are similar, both in terms of location and name, image and likeness perspective. However, Rushing could potentially be a day one contributor at Notre Dame, he’s already visited South Bend, he attends Salpointe Catholic and his 6-foot-6, 235-pound frame is unique, even for a five-star. After missing on Keon Keeley last year, Rushing could be a comparable replacement.

Notre Dame may be all or nothing on Rushing at defensive end, with four-star defensive end Mylachi Williams’ official visit for mid-June reportedly uncertain. Perhaps the Irish pass on Williams, but clearly they won’t on Rushing or Thomas. That’s a good place to be, essentially adding talent only if it’s of the difference-making variety.

Stay in the Justin Scott sweepstakes

Not to get too far ahead, but some perspective on Scott.

Here’s the full list of Notre Dame commitments that the Chicago colossus would trail in Rivals/247Sports era with his .9940 player rating: Jimmy Clausen, Jaylon Smith, Manti Te’o, Sam Young, Aaron Lynch.

End of list.

That makes Scott the most important Notre Dame prospect who’s not actually visiting Notre Dame this month. He’ll see Georgia this weekend, then visit Michigan, Miami and Ohio State during three consecutive weekends. Scott will almost certainly make it back to Notre Dame at some point, and he’s talking about an official visit to South Bend down the road. It wouldn’t be a shock to see him at the Ohio State or USC games this fall.

But getting to that point means staying within touching distance with a prospect who nearly committed last winter to Notre Dame before backing off that timeline. Official visits are supposed to turn top prospects’ heads, and Scott’s may be turned in multiple ways. Georgia, Michigan and Ohio State can play a big NFL Draft card with their recent success, something Notre Dame is trying to achieve under Freeman and Washington. Miami has a complex web of NIL opportunities in play.

As for Notre Dame, the Irish need to keep up with Scott, who has a chance to be one of a kind in South Bend while also working toward the kind of education that finds St. Ignatius students in college. There’s nothing the Irish can do about Scott’s other visits this month, other than make sure the defensive tackle doesn’t make any rash decisions.

Close out the offensive line

New offensive line coach Joe Rudolph is recruiting at a higher level than at any point in his coaching career if for no reason other than his employer has changed. Rudolph developed plenty of NFL talent at Wisconsin, able to identify raw material and mold it in Madison. The formula can be a little different at Notre Dame because Rudolph should be able to take bigger swings on the recruiting trail, leaning into both his reputation and that of the program he’s selling.

Notre Dame landed four-star Peter Jones (Malvern, Pa.) last season when former O-line coach Harry Hiestand made his push. Rudolph’s only take since has been four-star Anthonie Knapp, whose ranking jumped after his commitment to Notre Dame. The product of Roswell, Ga., ranked No. 388 overall in the country, making him a blue-chip prospect in his own right. But in context of Notre Dame? If Jones and Knapp joined the roster this season, Knapp would be the 14th-highest rated offensive line prospect on the roster, ahead of Sam Pendleton, Pat Coogan, Chris Terek, Ashton Craig and … Joe Alt. That’s good company.

Notre Dame can maintain that level of recruiting under Rudolph based on the two prospects officially visiting this weekend, with the Irish in strong position to land both. Four-star Guerby Lambert of Catholic Memorial in West Roxbury, Mass., has been a Notre Dame lead since the Irish offered more than a year ago. He’s the prep teammate of incoming freshman Boubacar Traore. Lambert, who would trail only Williams and Carr in Notre Dame’s class per the 247Sports Composite, will also visit Ohio State and Penn State this month.

Three-star Styles Prescod is the second offensive line official visitor this weekend. While his ranking doesn’t scream automatic take, the offer list of the 6-6, 280-pound athlete does. Alabama, Michigan and Penn State also appear, but the product of Indianapolis is focused more on Notre Dame, Colorado and Minnesota.

Make a move (or hold steady) at safety

For the recruiting struggles of last cycle — four-star commitment Peyton Bowen flipped to Oklahoma after flipping to Oregon on National Signing Day and Brandyn Hillman was denied admission after the Irish found a potential steal — Irish safeties coach Chris O’Leary has his board in healthy shape entering June.

Three-star Kennedy Urlacher is in the commitment column as Notre Dame closed down his recruitment after a spring visit. That take was a solid first step in a class that would love to finish with three commitments. With six safeties scheduled to visit this month, the Irish appear to be in position to hit that mark.

Four-star Paul Mencke Jr. (Schertz, Texas) is scheduled to visit this weekend, with four-star Brauntae Johnson (Fort Wayne, Ind.) on the schedule for next week. Mencke has a very Notre Dame offer list, with Duke and Stanford near the top of his board. Johnson was a standout at Irish Invasion last summer, but it hasn’t always been clear if Notre Dame could pursue in full. Now it seems like the Irish can go after the 6-3, 170-pound athlete, who’s also getting looks at receiver.

Davis Andrews (American Fork, Utah) visited for the spring game and connected with former Irish All-American Kyle Hamilton. He’s already officially visited UCLA and has Utah scheduled in early June. Andrews, who got a visit from Freeman in the winter contact period, also lists an offer from Stanford, typically a good sign for Notre Dame.

Other potential safety visitors this month include four-star Marquis Gallegos (West Hills, Calif.), three-star Oliver Miles (El Campo, Texas) and four-star Jaylen McClain (West Orange, N.J.). Notre Dame doesn’t need to wrap up safety recruiting before preseason camp, but this month should give O’Leary a clear idea of where Notre Dame stands.

(Photo: Robin Alam / Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)