After a disappointing 2016 season and with several key players departing, Notre Dame needs a strong 2017 recruiting class to reestablish itself among the college football elite.
The program is already well on its way.
As of Jan 20, the Fighting Irish rank 17th in the nation for recruiting classes according to Rivals.com. That’s right around the average ranking for Brian Kelly’s eight recruiting classes since he took the job in 2010.
The Irish have 15 total commits thus far, including five student-athletes who have enrolled early for the spring semester. Though they lack any five-star commitments, the team has eight four-stars and seven three-stars.
Notre Dame’s premier recruit is early enrollee Brock Wright from Cypress, TX, ranked by Rivals as the No. 2 tight end in the country. Wright stands 6-foot-5 and weighs 245 pounds. His biggest strength is his physical run-blocking ability, and he’s a weapon in the passing game as well.
Wright will look to continue the legacy of “Tight End U” left behind by Notre Dame graduates such as Anthony Fasano, John Carlson, Kyle Rudolph and Tyler Eifert.
In addition to Wright, Notre Dame’s four other early enrollees are all four-star players as well.
Robert Hainsey is an athletic offensive lineman from Bradenton, Fla. with the ability to play both guard and tackle. He’s joined on the offensive line by physical tackle Aaron Banks from El Cerrito, Calif., a mauler who stands a towering 6-foot-7 and weighs 310 pounds.
The Irish’s other two early enrollees come at skill positions. C.J. Holmes is an athlete from Cheshire, Conn. with the ability to play multiple positions. He has the speed and strength to play running back and wide receiver on offense, as well as safety and linebacker on defense. He currently stands 6 feet tall and weighs 200 pounds.
It will be interesting to see how and where Brian Kelly utilizes Holmes. C.J. Prosise was another versatile C.J. that Kelly used to great effect, as Prosise was recruited at safety before moving to receiver and eventually having a breakout junior season at running back.
Finally, Isaiah Robertson is the school’s fifth early enrollee. Robertson is an athlete with great instincts from Naperville, Ill. who played both safety and receiver in high school.
There are several exciting prospects among Notre Dame’s remaining ten commits.
Foremost among these is Cole Kmet, another tight end who is ranked third at the position by Rivals. He’s a versatile pass catcher who will team with Wright to provide a formidable two-headed tight end attack in the coming years.
The Irish currently have one quarterback recruit in three-star player Avery Davis, a dual threat weapon from Cedar Hill, Texas. Davis runs an excellent 4.63 40-yard dash, and he has great elusiveness and burst as a runner. He also has exceptional arm strength and is an accurate passer.
Davis is just six feet and 192 pounds, but he has a great track record of success in high-level Texas high school football. Davis could compete for the Notre Dame starting quarterback position in years to come.
Another highlight is David Adams, a three-star inside linebacker from Pittsburgh, Pa. He ranks 18th at his position and is an explosive player with excellent blitzing ability and instincts.
Further fortifying the line of scrimmage for the Irish are Joshua Lugg, a four-star offensive tackle from Wexford, Pa., and Darnell Ewell, a four-star defensive tackle from Norfolk, Va..
Notre Dame’s five remaining commits are all three-star prospects. They include Dillan Gibbons, an offensive tackle from Clearwater, Fla., Michael Young, a shifty receiver from Destrehan, Lou., Kurt Hinish, a defensive tackle from Pittsburgh, Pa., Jonathon MacCollister, a defensive end from Orlando, Fla. and Drew White, an inside linebacker from Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Though their contributions won’t be immediate, these recruits will be tasked with helping Notre Dame survive the departures of several key players.
Notre Dame’s biggest losses to the NFL Draft this year will be quarterback DeShone Kizer and running back Tarean Folston. Other players who could still declare for the draft include cornerback Cole Luke, defensive end Isaac Rochell, defensive tackle Jarron Jones, linebacker Nyles Morgan and left guard Quenton Nelson.
Most of these recruits won’t see the field in 2017, and many won’t take on major roles until 2018 and beyond. But with his work so far this recruiting season, Coach Kelly has once again positioned Notre Dame for future success.