Andrel Anthony Jr.’s unofficial visit to Michigan State in mid-March may prevent Notre Dame from landing the three-star wide receiver.
Mel Tucker had been one month removed from being hired as MSU’s head football coach after his predecessor, Mark Dantonio, surprisingly resigned. Dantonio announced the news two weeks after reportedly receiving a bonus from the university and amid allegations of NCAA violations.
So Tucker, coming to MSU from the University of Colorado, needed to become acquainted with recruits like Anthony. The trip also came just before all on- and off-campus recruiting visits were canceled in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the NCAA extended the recruiting dead period again to Aug. 31.
As a local product from East Lansing (Mich.) High, Anthony ranks among Tucker’s top priorities. That visit and Tucker’s approach helped Anthony become so interested that MSU should be considered as Notre Dame’s top threat to secure his verbal commitment.
On June 20, Anthony released his top four school list that included MSU, Notre Dame, Michigan and Penn State. He’s expected to announce his decision before football season begins.
“They have done a very, very good job of painting the picture of staying close to home. That’s a variable that not everybody has,” said Bill Feraco, Anthony’s head football coach at East Lansing High. “I don’t think he’s concerned about leaving home. He has very strong family support. He wants to try to find the best fit for him.”
How much Notre Dame pursues Anthony may also help determine his destination. The Irish have not appeared to make him a high priority at times. Feraco said Notre Dame initially expressed interest in Anthony as a cornerback, but he prefers playing receiver.
Of the 27 Division I schools to reportedly offer Antony, a majority project him at receiver. His 54 catches for 954 yards and nine touchdowns in nine games last season helped earn him all-state recognition. 247Sports ranks Anthony as its No. 104 receiver and No. 672 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class, while Rivals pegs him No. 81 at the position.
“He’s primarily at receiver,” Feraco said. “But we get into situations where we are playing teams that have spread (offenses) of quality. We put him out there (at defensive back), and he does a remarkable job. He will continue to play a little bit of defense for us.”
The Irish are open to the idea of Anthony playing receiver but did not consider him as a top target at that position. They would still accept his commitment, however. Notre Dame aims to add at least two receivers to join verbal pledge Lorenzo Styles Jr.
Top receiver target Dont’e Thornton Jr. appears set to commit to Oregon. Deion Colzie seems headed to Georgia after rescinding his commitment from Notre Dame in March. Beyond Anthony, Atlanta Pace Academy’s Jaden Thomas figures to be the only other receiver with a realistic chance of pledging to the Irish.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound Anthony would bring size and speed. He’s reportedly clocked a 40-yard dash time just under 4.5 seconds.
“He’s got great hands, great speed and is explosive,” Feraco said. “Yes, he catches the ball vertically because he has great speed. But there are no problems with him going over the middle. There are no problems with him in the quick game. There are no problems with him running outside. And there are no problems with him decoying every now and again.”
Notre Dame offered Anthony a scholarship (Sept. 19) between his recruiting visits for ND home games against New Mexico (Sept. 14) and Virginia Tech (Nov. 2) last season. MSU (June 15, 2019) reportedly joined Indiana as the second Power Five program to offer Anthony. The Spartans seemed to improve their chances after Anthony’s teammate, three-star offensive tackle Ethan Boyd, committed in April.
The Spartans emerged as the favorite for Anthony despite Dantonio’s abrupt exit and the pandemic keeping Tucker from establishing himself on the recruiting trail. Notre Dame surpassing MSU on Anthony will require a stringent pursuit going forward.
“He’s curious about a couple places,” Feraco said, “and certainly Notre Dame is one of them. The big thing with him is, where do you want to spend the next four or five years of your life? That’s the kind of commitment you have to make here. And you have to understand that maybe where you see yourself walking to class and interacting with people.”
The NCAA’s perpetual extending of the dead period continues to help prompt recruits to commit to schools earlier than expected. The top Notre Dame targets listed below, excluding Anthony, have either narrowed down their recruitment or near a decision:
• WR Dont’e Thornton Jr., 6-5, 192; Baltimore Mount Saint Joseph: Notre Dame made Thornton’s top six school list in May. Thornton told the Tribune he would not announce a commitment until January, but his heavy lean to Oregon may change that timeline.
• TE Brock Bowers, 6-3, 225; Napa (Calif.) High: Irish Illustrated reported that Bowers will take an informal July 10-12 visit to Georgia, the heavy favorite to land him. Bowers included Notre Dame in his top eight school list in April.
• TE Erik Olsen, 6-5, 230; Littleton (Colo.) Heritage: While Bowers and Thomas Fidone Jr. appear to be headed elsewhere, the Irish have a chance to land their other tight end target in Olsen. He named Notre Dame as a top six school earlier this month.
• OL Joe Alt, 6-7, 257; Fridley (Minn.) Totino-Grace: Alt told the Tribune this week that he’s nearing a commitment. Notre Dame, Minnesota and Iowa are his unofficial top three schools. Iowa appears to be the favorite, but Notre Dame will push hard to pull off the upset for its top offensive tackle target.
• LB Prince Kollie, 6-1, 200; Jonesborough (Tenn.) David Crockett: Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Louisville, Georgia and LSU appeared in the top five school list Kollie posted on Wednesday. He’s Notre Dame’s top linebacker target.
• S Kaleb Edwards, 6-0, 195; Dacula (Ga.) High: The Irish seemed like the favorite to earn a commitment from Edwards a few weeks ago. Georgia Tech emerged in the last two weeks as the heavy favorite, however. He set his commitment date for July 1.
• CB Devonta Smith, 6-0, 185; Cincinnati La Salle: Smith may not be nearing a decision, but his decommitment from Ohio State on Thursday should be considered notable for Notre Dame. New cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens started his relationship with Smith when recruiting him for the University of Cincinnati. Look for Mickens to be involved again.
Defensive end recruiting
Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas’ Dallas Turner will announce his commitment on July 1, approximately one month after garnering his Notre Dame offer.
A majority of recruiting analysts forecast Turner to commit to Alabama. Turner pledging to the Crimson Tide would require the Irish to offer more defensive ends if they want to land another commitment. Tiffin (Iowa) Clear Creek Amana’s TJ Bollers pledged to Wisconsin earlier this month.
Notre Dame offered the two defensive ends amid rumors that David Abiara may flip his commitment from Notre Dame to Oklahoma. The Mansfield (Texas) Legacy product remains pledged to the Irish but could still change his mind.
Abiara’s status and whether Notre Dame offers more players at his position will be worth monitoring. The Irish initially stopped recruiting other defensive linemen after landing commitments from defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio and defensive ends Jason Onye and Abiara.
Notre Dame news
Notre Dame outlined more coronavirus protocols for its students, faculty and staff on Friday.
Students who reside outside of St. Joseph County or live in residence halls will be required to undergo COVID-19 testing, the university announced. An on-site testing center will be at Gate D of Notre Dame Stadium. Testing at that location will be free for all Notre Dame students, faculty teaching or researching on campus and staff working on campus.
All faculty, staff and students must also complete a daily health check. Face coverings remain as a requirement for all when on campus.