Let the poaching begin.
Just hours after he decommitted from Nebraska, three-star defensive end Will Schweitzer pledged to Notre Dame on Sunday. He’s the first member of the 2021 recruiting class to flip his verbal commitment from one school to the Irish.
Rivals and 247Sports rank their 18-member class at No. 11 nationally.
Schweitzer’s commitment to Notre Dame came as a relative surprise in the recruiting world. He had been on the coaching staff’s radar for more than a year and spent part of his childhood living in Chicago. But Schweitzer never reported an ND scholarship offer. He likely received his offer just before announcing his decision.
Michigan State, Utah, Virginia, TCU and Kansas State were among other schools who offered Schweitzer. He initially pledged to the Cornhuskers on June 11.
At 6-foot-4, 220 pounds, Schweitzer could play multiple positions, but may project best as a weakside defensive end on the Irish. Nebraska recruited him to play as an outside linebacker in its 3-4 scheme. Schweitzer plays tight end and middle linebacker for Los Gatos (Calif.) High.
247Sports ranks Schweitzer as its No. 31 outside linebacker and No. 436 overall player in the class, while Rivals pegs him as its No. 26 weakside defensive end. He recorded 130 tackles, nine tackles for a loss, five sacks, 21 quarterback hurries and three interceptions in 14 games as a junior.
Poaching played a role in why the Irish expanded their recruiting board and pursued Schweitzer. Defensive end recruit David Abiara committed to Notre Dame in March. But the Mansfield (Texas) Legacy product continues to communicate with other schools and seems unlikely to remain pledged to the Irish. Texas and Oklahoma are among schools looking to flip Abiara.
Notre Dame has found success poaching from other recruiting classes under head coach Brian Kelly. Quarterback Ian Book (Washington State), defensive ends Daelin Hayes (USC) and Adetokunbo Ogundeji (Western Michigan), rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (Virginia) and wide receiver Braden Lenzy (Oregon) are among current Irish standouts who flipped their commitments.
Schweitzer marks flip No. 52 under Kelly and the first since linebacker JD Bertrand (Georgia) in November 2019. No. 53 could come this class. Recruiting analysts expect a wave of decommitments this fall.
“We know that there are guys committed to other schools right now who want to continue building relationships with us and other schools,” recruiting/special teams coordinator Brian Polian told the Tribune last month. “There are prospects in the country who were concerned about: what is recruiting going to look like? Should I commit now before places fill up?
“I know that there were universities that were telling guys, ‘Yes, we are in a dead period amid (the coronavirus) pandemic, but we might fill up so you better take your spot right now.’”
The NCAA continues to delay its dead period because of the pandemic. The current mandate, which prohibits recruits from taking official and unofficial campus visits, lasts through Sept. 30 but could be extended again. Polian said last month that Notre Dame is operating under the assumption that the dead period will last through the fall.
With just a handful of scholarship spots remaining in its 2021 class, Notre Dame’s approach going forward will depend on a few factors. Poaching will always be an option, though.
“If at some point visits open back up, there will be a lot of verbally committed prospects wanting to visit other schools. I know that for a fact,” Polian said last month. “And then it’s going to depend on how you approach it. How does the kid and the family feel about it? And how does the university that has received the verbal commitment feel about it?
“But yeah, I believe that there are going to be a lot of verbally committed prospects who will want to take visits if at any point these campuses open back up. But that’s the million-dollar question. And nobody’s got the answer to that.”