Caleb Offord’s friends hounded him for weeks with questions regarding Notre Dame.
How does a school like Notre Dame find out about a Mississippi kid? How does it compare to other schools? Where even is South Bend?
The three-star cornerback once had the same curiosity. But Offord now feels those questions have been answered. The Southaven (Miss.) product verbally committed to Notre Dame on Thursday, announcing the news via Twitter.
“Everybody was very surprised since I was just a kid from Mississippi,” Offord said of the reaction from his interest in the Irish. “When you grow up in Mississippi, you usually don’t get that kind of opportunity to go to a place like Notre Dame.”
Offord would be the first Mississippi product to sign with the Irish under head coach Brian Kelly. Learning about the school's enrollment of fewer than 10,000 students most intrigued him.
“When you get offered to a special place like that, you really can’t pass up on it,” Offord said. “Just being a student-athlete at that school, you are set up for life.”
The 6-foot-1, 175-pounder possesses solid length with an estimated 76-inch wingspan. Offord expects to begin his Notre Dame career at boundary cornerback. The Irish might move him to safety depending on need and how his body develops, Offord said. He ran a 4.61 40-yard dash in May.
247Sports and Rivals both evaluated Offord as a cornerback. The former recruiting site pegs him as its No. 43 cornerback and No. 530 overall player in the 2020 recruiting class. Rivals ranks him No. 61 at the position. 247Sports and Rivals both tag Notre Dame's class No. nationally.
“He’s a good athlete but needs to be coached up a bit,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network.
Irish defensive backs coach Terry Joseph and cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght might have a head start with Offord, who hopes to enroll early in January. Work remains to be done for Offord to be able to seize that opportunity.
Notre Dame first contacted Offord in May. Joseph visited Southaven during the evaluation period to observe Offord workout. Offord reported an Irish offer on the following day, May 23.
Before Notre Dame entered the picture, Offord favored Kansas and also considered Duke. His lean to the Jayhawks changed after his first trip to South Bend via a June 8-9 unofficial visit. Offord silently committed during his June 21-23 official visit to Notre Dame.
“I did quite a bit of research after they came down and saw me,” Offord said. “I felt like if they showing a lot of interest in me, then I should return the favor. We have a great relationship. They treat me like I’m already a player up there. I feel like I have learned a lot from them.”
By adding Offord, the Irish continued their streak of entering uncharted territory this recruiting cycle. Only two pairs of commits — cornerback Clarence Lewis and tight end Kevin Bauman with New Jersey, and cornerback Landen Bartleson and tight end Michael Mayer with Kentucky — live in the same state.
The other 12 hail from Germany, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Hawaii, Colorado, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona, Illinois, Missouri and Washington D.C. Omaha (Neb.) Burke product Xavier Watts should add to that list soon. He would mark Kelly's first Nebraska recruit at Notre Dame.
With just a handful of spots remaining in this class, Notre Dame hopes to add a couple more defensive backs. Offord joins Bartleson and Lewis — both of whom are also three-star recruits. Notre Dame’s top safety target, Lathan Ransom, narrowed his top three schools to Notre Dame, Texas and Ohio State. He plans to announce his commitment on July 16, his 17th birthday.
For Offord, making his decision public on a day when fireworks illuminate the sky felt like the most appropriate option.
“It made sense to commit on the special occasion,” Offord said. “Everybody celebrating July 4th, they can have my commitment to celebrate now too.”