Follow the dream or try something new. Those were the two options Logan Diggs weighed the past couple months.
The three-star running back publicly chose the latter on Wednesday — National Signing Day for the 2021 college football recruiting class — by announcing his signing with Notre Dame over LSU.
As a product of Archbishop Rummel High in Metairie, La., Diggs fantasized about playing for the Tigers throughout childhood. They were the in-state powerhouse that turned former ARHS players like wide receiver Ja’Marr Chase and cornerback Kristian Fulton into stars.
The Irish were such a new concept to Diggs that his head coach, Nick Monica, couldn’t remember another ARHS football player they heavily recruited in his 15 years with the program. In all of Louisiana, Notre Dame has signed only four other players under head coach Brian Kelly: defensive tackle Jerry Tillery, defensive end Bo Wallace and wide receivers Michael Young and Lawrence Keys III.
So when the Irish started pursuing Diggs, he knew they meant business. Those who are close to Diggs believed that no school showed more interest in him than Notre Dame. Former Irish defensive backs coach Terry Joseph initially headed Diggs’ recruitment. He visited ARHS in January 2020 and extended a scholarship offer in May.
In July, Diggs verbally committed to Notre Dame. By making his pledge official, the Irish finish this cycle with 27 signees. Diggs is the second running back to formally join this class, following four-star recruit Audric Estime from Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph Regional.
The 6-foot, 191-pound Diggs turned 138 carries into 913 yards and totaled 13 touchdowns across eight games last season. With the help of his impressive senior campaign, Diggs ascended 10 spots at his position on Rivals and more than 100 spots overall on 247Sports.
Rivals ranks Diggs as its No. 19 running back in the 2021 class, while 247Sports pegs him No. 27 at the position and No. 531 overall. 247Sports and Rivals rank Notre Dame's entire class at No. 10 nationally. Two other classes in the Kelly Era finished top 10 on 247Sports and Rivals: 2011 and 2013.
“He moved himself up to a four-star back having a really good senior year,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “I was really impressed with his senior film. He’s not an overly athletic kid. But he can run, catch and block. He is taught well.”
On Dec. 9, five days after Diggs’ high school football career ended, LSU offered him a scholarship. The Tigers pursued Diggs as a linebacker earlier in his recruitment but evidently liked what they saw from his senior film.
Earlier that month, Diggs seemed to wrap up his recruitment by visiting South Bend for the first time. LSU joining the mix prompted Diggs to defer his signing announcement to February, though.
Adding Estime during the three-day early signing period in December and losing Joseph to Texas last month did not seem to help Notre Dame’s chances. But the Irish coaching staff, particularly run game coordinator Lance Taylor, laid enough groundwork to secure Diggs. And the Tigers offered him too late.
Estime and Diggs will be part of a loaded Notre Dame running back room. Junior Kyren Williams returns with four seasons of eligibility after rushing for 1,125 yards and 13 scores as the starter last season. Sophomore Chris Tyree brings elite speed. Senior C’Bo Flemister is especially effective in short-yardage situations. Junior Kendall Abdur-Rahman helps with depth.
By signing Diggs, the Irish add a running back with a well-rounded skill set.
"He’s got some shiftiness to him that can make you miss,” Monica told the Tribune last summer. “He can be physical and get that extra yard or two when he needs to. He’s great as a receiver.
“To top it all off, one of the best things he does for his age is his pass protection skills. He really takes pride in that, which I find that’s rare.”
Kelly recruiting involvement
Brian Kelly’s recruiting approach became a hot topic again after Tyson Ford, a four-star defensive end from St. Louis, verbally committed to Notre Dame over Oklahoma last month.
Ford told the Athletic he never talked with Kelly before announcing his commitment but spoke with Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley an estimated 10 times. Irish defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman and defensive line coach Mike Elston primarily recruited Ford.
Kelly did not take questions during media availability on Wednesday. He stepped aside while assistant coaches Tommy Rees, Freeman, Elston and Polian fielded questions about mostly recruiting from reporters.
Polian pushed back on the narrative that Kelly has not been involved enough with recruiting. He said Notre Dame’s recruiting operation is decentralized.
“There are no recruiting superstars on this staff,” Polian said. “It’s a collective.”
Rees discussed topics related to quarterback recruiting, including 2021 signee Tyler Buchner. Freeman offered a glimpse at his recruiting philosophy and what his new scheme will look like. Elston broke down all four of his incoming freshmen defensive linemen.
Polian’s conversation focused more on Notre Dame’s recruiting system. First, Irish assistant coaches and support staff are assigned geographic areas to recruit. The geographic recruiter will evaluate and gather information on prospects in their area. If they like a particular recruit outside their position, they will let the position coach or coordinator know.
Once a geographic recruiter, positions coach, coordinator and even Kelly collectively like a recruit, they will extend a scholarship offer and continue to build their relationship with him.
“We are going to put our heads together and decide when we think it’s advantageous to get coach Kelly involved in the process,” Polian said. “It’s impossible for him to cover this entire country in the same way that it’s impossible for any one assistant to know who everyone in the country is.
“So we are going to go to coach and ask him, ‘Hey, this is the point where we are in the process. Here are the things that we’d like you to touch upon. Here’s where we feel like you can positively impact the recruitment of this prospect.’”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began last March, college football programs needed to navigate a world without campus visits, recruiting camps and off-campus evaluations. Notre Dame heavily relied on communicating with recruits virtually, particularly on Zoom.
Polian said Kelly “killed it” with how he pursued the 2021 class amid those circumstances.
“I truly believe it’s not fair,” Polian said. “If there’s ever a time that he wasn’t involved enough and that statement was made, it goes back to the decision by the position, the coordinator, the recruiting coach and myself. If we waited too long to get him involved strategically, then that’s back on us.
“But all I can tell you as the recruiting coordinator is, every time I’ve gone to coach Kelly and said, ‘This is where we are in the process. Here’s what we are asking from you in order to get this thing over the top and keep us moving forward.’ He has always been there. He’s always energetic and enthusiastic about it.
“The national recruiting, it’s unfair to think that as we begin to vet our board, that coach Kelly is going to text every recruit on our board six times. It’s just not reasonable, not with the amount of ground that we have to cover.
“When you compare other places where you are going to build their roster out of two states, and they aren’t vetting the way that we are, I just think it’s a little bit different.”
Abiara to Texas
Former Notre Dame verbal commit David Abiara signed with Texas on Wednesday.
Abiara, a three-star defensive end from Mansfield (Texas) Legacy, pledged to the Irish last March. But Notre Dame and Abiara eventually parted ways. Abiara announced his decommitment in November.
The Irish would not have taken Abiara in this class anyway. They were concerned about how he considered going elsewhere in the months that followed his commitment. He continued to communicate with other schools, including Texas, Oklahoma and SMU. The Longhorns offered him on May 25.
An off-the-field incident that occurred on Sept. 27 seemingly sealed Abiara’s fate with Notre Dame. In October, he was arrested and charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in Southlake, Texas. His next court date is scheduled for Feb. 19, according to records obtained by the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s in the past,” Abiara told the Dallas Morning News about his arrest. “This is a brand new day. I’m looking forward to the University of Texas.”
Mansfield Legacy star defensive lineman David Abiara signs with Texas.— Greg Riddle (@DMNGregRiddle) February 3, 2021
He decommitted from Notre Dame in November.#txhsfb @SportsDayHS @mansfieldisd @MISDathletics @TexasFootball @247Sports @Rivals @Dtx_Davidd @legacybroncofb @ihss_dfw @SportsDayDFW @MaxPreps pic.twitter.com/RbVVMSBWGg
Other 2021 defensive end recruits heard from the Irish coaching staff beginning last summer. Notre Dame courted three defensive ends who were committed to other schools: Kelvin Gilliam (Oklahoma), Will Schweitzer (Nebraska) and Devin Aupiu (UCLA).
Gilliam held firm with the Sooners, but Schweitzer and Aupiu flipped to the Irish. Defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio and defensive end Jason Onye also signed with Notre Dame.
“It’s going to be fun to have those guys in the room this spring,” Elston said. “We have Will, Devin and Gabriel on campus. Jason will join us in the summer. They are going to be great additions. The guys have already taken them under their wings. It’s going to be an awesome group."