The flood of momentum engulfing Notre Dame’s recruiting operation caught a second wave this weekend.
Rocco Spindler committed to the Irish on Saturday, announcing the news from his school at Clarkston (Mich.) High. Notre Dame adding the four-star offensive lineman swelled its 2021 recruiting class to 17 members. LSU, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State were his other top schools.
At 6-foot-5, 315 pounds, Spindler projects as an offensive guard but could play offensive tackle or defensive line if needed. He has started as a two-way player since winning a state championship game as a freshman. He earned first-team all-state honors on both sides of the ball last season.
From a long-term perspective, Notre Dame appeared to consider interior offensive line as one of its biggest position needs. The Irish seemed to value Spindler as their top uncommitted target remaining this cycle.
CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming pegged Spindler with a five-star rating. Rivals ranks Spindler as its No. 3 offensive guard and No. 56 overall player in the class, while 247Sports slates him No. 5 at the position and No. 78 overall.
“He kind of reminds me of (former Notre Dame and current Indianapolis Colts offensive guard) Quenton Nelson,” Lemming said, “because of his toughness, aggressive and mean style of play. The kid is really physical like Quenton was at Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic.”
Spindler’s verbal pledge came a day after the Irish landed their top linebacker target in the class — Prince Kollie from Jonesborough (Tenn.) David Crockett. And before landing Kollie and Spindler, Notre Dame added pledges from five recruits in nine days.
Cornerback Chance Tucker started the commitment spree on July 22. Then running back Logan Diggs (July 29) and tight end Mitchell Evans (July 31) joined Tucker. The Irish also secured pledges from two 2022 recruits: offensive lineman Joey Tanona (July 25) and Jack Nickel (July 27).
247Sports ranked Notre Dame’s 2021 class No. 21 nationally following Tucker’s commitment. Now the class ranks No. 12 on 247Sports and Rivals.
Chicago Marist's Pat Coogan, Avon (Ind.) High's Blake Fisher and Fridley (Minn.) Totino-Grace's Joe Alt are also committed to Notre Dame's 2021 offensive line class.
“It really helped this recruiting class,” Lemming said. “They were suffering for a while without any of the really big name guys coming in they had lost on when they went into big-name battles.
“These are two really big names that they got, which really helps them. You have to give a lot of credit to (defensive coordinator) Clark Lea and (offensive line coach Jeff) Quinn.”
Quinn has recruited Spindler for approximately two years. Spindler took his first visit to campus for Notre Dame’s home game against Stanford on Sept. 29, 2018. He received an Irish scholarship offer the following week. He then returned for Notre Dame’s Oct. 12 home game against USC last season.
Spindler planned to swing by Notre Dame for an unofficial visit in March and an official visit in April. Both trips were canceled once the NCAA extended the recruiting dead period. The current mandate lasts through Aug. 31.
The relationships Quinn and head coach Brian Kelly established with Spindler and his family made a difference. Kelly carved out time to meet with Spindler and his parents, Marc and Rochelle, prior to the Stanford game. He also met with Rocco one-on-one before USC.
“That really resonated with me,” Marc told the Tribune in an interview on Monday. “I know as a former player, you don’t want to be involved in a lot of this (expletive) prior to a game. But he sincerely made time to sit down and talk to myself, my wife and Rocco on that unofficial visit.”
Marc starred as a defensive tackle for the University of Pittsburgh before embarking on a nine-year career in the NFL with the Detroit Lions and New York Jets. USA TODAY Sports named him as its high school player of the year in 1986.
Those NFL bloodlines are one reason to like Rocco’s potential. He’s also garnering comparisons to elite former Notre Dame offensive linemen. While Lemming likened Spindler to Nelson, Allen Trieu, 247Sports’ Midwest recruiting analyst, brought up former Irish left tackle Zack Martin.
In all six seasons as a right guard for the Dallas Cowboys, Martin has been invited to the Pro Bowl and named All-Pro.
“Zack was a guy who was a high school tackle who some schools recruited as a tackle,” Trieu said. “He played some tackle in college and ultimately became a guard. I think that’s what Rocco is. I think he’s a guy who for some schools and in some situations could play some tackle. But he ultimately has his best upside as an inside guy.”
The path to a top 10 recruiting class became more realistic for Notre Dame after this weekend. The Irish will now channel their efforts to just a handful of recruits this cycle and beyond.
“You don’t take the foot off the gas in recruiting. You just keep going,” Lemming said. “This gives them a lot of really great momentum. Rocco is such a big name that that could help them with other kids. Notre Dame is good at taking players who are committed elsewhere. I would imagine they will start that, too.”
Extremely freaking proud of you!! All the way back to OSU freshamn yr man! And here we are headed to ND☘️🤞🏾!!So happy for you and your family brotha and I’m pumped your joining the family! It’s real man and I can’t wait for the next 3-4 yrs! I’m hype bruh frfr!❤️🤞🏾 pic.twitter.com/cAZLfqYG0f— Blake Fisher☘️ (@bfisher54_) August 8, 2020