Notre Dame football recruiting: Irish pluck DE out of Texas

South Bend Tribune

The recruiting focus for Notre Dame’s defense has been clear since Brian Kelly took over as head coach.

A strong front seven helped carry the Irish to last year’s national championship game and the coaching staff continues to stress those positions on the recruiting trail.

On Friday, the Irish added another future front-seven player to their 2014 verbal commitment list. Defensive end Grant Blankenship from The Colony (Texas) High School pledged his allegiance to Notre Dame on Friday.

The Colony head coach Rudy Rangel confirmed the commitment after news started to spread Friday evening following a tweet from Irish cornerbacks coach Kerry Cooks.

Cooks, who leads Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in Texas, wrote, “And the boat keeps filling up ... stay tuned.”

What landed in the boat was a 6-foot-5, 235-pound, three-star prospect to join linebacker Greer Martini, defensive end/linebacker Jonathan Bonner, and defensive linemen Jay Hayes and Andrew Trumbetti as future members of the Irish front seven. Blankenship’s national rankings on and might not reflect the importance of the catch.

“He's another guy that fits what Notre Dame's looking for as a defensive lineman: another 6-foot-5, 235-pound guy coming off the edge,” said 247Sports national recruiting writer Steve Wiltfong. “Notre Dame went into Texas, led by Kerry Cooks, to beat out Oklahoma for one of the state's better players. It's a phenomenal get all the way around.”

CBS Sports Network national recruiting analyst Tom Lemming also praised the addition of Blankenship. Lemming noted Blankenship’s athleticism, feet, agility and body control as his strong points.

“He’s a very good ballplayer,” Lemming said. “He’s the kind of guy they like because he’s an athlete and plays well. It’s another big catch for them.”

247Sports slates Blankenship as the No. 23 strongside defensive end in the 2014 class. ranks him 26th.

Blankenship is the 14th member to join Notre Dame’s class, roughly a year after linebacker Greer Martini became the first to commit verbally.

The latest commitment shows that Notre Dame can continue to reach into Texas for recruits. Blankenship reportedly didn’t hold offers from Texas and Texas A&M, but Oklahoma had recently made a push for the prospect following an unofficial visit this summer. Blankenship also had reported offers from Oklahoma State, Oregon, Arkansas and Ole Miss, among others.

Lemming said the Irish haven’t excelled in Texas with big-time recruits lately, but being able to build a pipeline to compete against Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and LSU for prospects from the Longhorn State is important.

The Irish signed three prospects from Texas in 2013 – tight end Durham Smythe and wide receivers Corey Robinson and Torii Hunter Jr. – after signing just three combined in the previous three recruiting cycles. In the 2014 class, the Irish also have made strong pushes for defensive end Solomon Thomas of Coppell, Texas, and cornerback Nick Watkins of Dallas. Making splashes in Texas like they have in Florida and California would make for quite the trio for the Irish.

“It's key for Notre Dame to sustain it like they have in Florida and California,” Lemming said. “Because the Midwest is down this year – and next year it looks like it too – you really have to hit those three states if you want to stay as an elite team.”

Notre Dame defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks helped seal a verbal commitment from 2014 defensive end Grant Blankenship. Cooks heads the Irish recruiting efforts in Texas.