Notre Dame football recruiting: Irish eyes turning toward 2015 prospects

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

With Notre Dame’s 2014 recruiting class holding steady, the ND coaching staff has started working to get a leg up on the 2015 class.

This month, a handful of verbal offers have been extended to recruits in the talent-heavy states of Florida and Texas.

With the recruiting calendar allowing more contact between junior prospects and college coaches as of Sept. 1, more offers will continue to be sent out by Notre Dame.

The Irish have extended somewhere between 30-40 verbal offers, a small number in comparison to the 100-plus in the 2014 class. Plenty of work awaits the Irish staff, but so does time. February 2015 may seem far away, but college coaching staffs have to keep it in mind with the recruiting process being accelerated on a national level.

A close look at the 247Sports offers database shows the Irish are in the same neighborhood as USC, Michigan, Texas A&M and Georgia in terms of offers extended to the 2015 class. But plenty of programs, especially in the SEC and ACC, have many more offers floating around. The 247Sports database shows Tennessee with 115 offers, Clemson at 100, Florida State with 89 and Miami at 80. Recruiting powers Ohio State (73) and Alabama (56) are also ahead of the Irish in the 2015 offers category. In reality, though, schools can sign a maximum of 25 players in each class, although that number can fluctuate with early enrollments.

The offer numbers can also reflect the recruiting philosophies and challenges a program has. With its academic requirements, Notre Dame’s offering process can require more due diligence than that of other programs. For comparison’s sake, Stanford is listed to have 21 offers in the 2015 class.

Despite more targets waiting to be identified, the Irish have done well with some of their top offered targets. One recruit, offensive lineman Jerry Tillery, has already committed to the program and a number of others have shown high interest.

“They’re in on some really good players in 2015,” Wiltfong said. “They’re going to have a good recruiting class in 2015. They have Jerry Tillery in the boat. They’re in a great spot to get Tristen Hoge, so that’s two of the best offensive linemen in the country that Notre Dame has a chance to land with one already committed.”

Wiltfong also likes where the Irish sit with two defensive prospects: defensive end/outside linebacker Jashon Cornell and linebacker Justin Hilliard. Both prospects rank in the top 50 nationally according to 247Sports and in the top three at their positions.

Hilliard visited Notre Dame for last week’s Michigan State game and Cornell plans to visit for the USC game. Both also visited earlier this year.

Another position Wiltfong has confidence in for Notre Dame is quarterback.

“I think Notre Dame’s going to land a top quarterback in 2015,” Wiltfong said. “They have an offer to Josh Rosen. I’m not sure they’re going to get Rosen, but they’re going to get a great player at the position — maybe a Brady White, a James Morgan. Rosen’s talked about looking at Notre Dame. I think that they’re going to get a really good quarterback in 2015.”

The Irish also have offers to quarterback Jack Beneventi and Torrance Gibson. Beneventi, a junior at Benet Academy in the Chicago area, visited Notre Dame for the Michigan State game. Morgan, an interested prospect from Green Bay, Wis., will visit this weekend.

“Notre Dame’s just getting started on their 2015 recruiting right now evaluating prospects and putting their board together,” Wiltfong said. “I expect them to send out a lot more offers. Over the bye week they’re going to have a chance to go out as a staff and not only go see 2014 targets, but see some potential 2015 targets and extend some more offers.”

Tillery update

Notre Dame’s lone verbal commitment in the 2015 class will see the Irish up close in consecutive weeks.

This weekend, Tillery will travel north from Shreveport, La., for Notre Dame’s game against Oklahoma in South Bend. The trip is an early birthday present from his parents. Tillery turns 17 on Oct. 8.

Tillery will also travel to Arlington, Texas for Notre Dame’s game against Arizona State the following weekend. Just a three-hour trip from Shreveport, it will be Tillery’s first game at AT&T Stadium. The Irish are allowed to give Tillery a ticket for both games, but cannot pay for travel to either of the games as neither is an official visit.

Another trip to Texas for the Texas A&M-Alabama game earlier this month had been considered by Tillery, but he decided against making the unofficial visit.

Tillery’s junior campaign has started strong as Evangel Christian has won its first three games of the season by a combined 59 points. Tillery has spent most of his time playing defensive tackle for Evangel.

“It’s fun,” Tillery said. “It will make me better as an offensive lineman.”

Tillery still plays offensive line in special packages. The 6-foot-6, 315-pound recruit maintains contact with Irish offensive line coach Harry Hiestand on a weekly basis.

2014 class

WR commit Justin Brent

QB commit DeShone Kizer

TE commit Nic Weishar

RB prospect Shaq Vann

OL prospect Logan Plantz

2015 class

OL commit Jerry Tillery

TE target Alize Jones

QB prospect James Morgan

OL prospect Hunter Littlejohn

OL prospect Evan Mallory

OL prospect Matt McCann

RB prospect C.J. McCarter

WR prospect Solomon Smith

OL prospect Mirko Jurkovic Jr.

2016 class

QB prospect Noah Wezensky

WR prospect Austin Mack

ATH prospect Jack Wegher

Tom Lemming’s 2015 Top 20 recruits

1. Jacques Patrick, RB, 6-1, 217, Orlando. Fla. (Timber Creek)

2. Ricky Town, QB, 6-4, 205, Ventura, Calif. (St. Bonaventure)

3. George Campbell, WR, 6-4, 188, Tarpon Springs, Fla. (East Lake)

4. Jashon Cornell, DE, 6-4, 235, St. Paul, Minn. (Cretin-Derham)

5. Shameik Blackshear, DE, 6-5, 235, Bluffton, S.C.

6. Ricky DeBerry, LB, 6-2, 239, Richmond, Va. (St. Christopher)

7. Cece Jefferson, DL, 6-3, 260, Glen St. Mary, Fla. (Baker County)

8. Josh Rosen, QB, 6-4, 210, Bellflower, Calif. (St. John Bosco)

9. Mitch Hyatt, OL, 6-5, 260, Suwanee, Ga. (North Gwinnett)

10. Damien Harris, RB, 5-10, 205, Berea, Ky. (Madison Southern)

11. Mekhi Brown, DE, 6-6, 230, Columbus, Ga. (Carver)

12. Kevin Toliver, DB, 6-2, 185, Jacksonville, Fla. (Trinity)

13. Nicholas Brossette, RB, 6-0, 215, Baton Rouge, La. (University Lab)

14. Tim Settle, DT, 6-2, 305, Manassas, Va. (Stonewall Jackson)

15. SoSo Jamabo, RB, 6-3, 200, Plano, Texas (West)

16. Jayson Lewis, ATH, 6-3, 229, Virginia Beach,Va. (Ocean Lakes)

17. Shy Tuttle, DT, 6-2, 310, Lexington, N.C. (North Davidson)

18. Tristen Hoge, C, 6-4, 290, Pocatello, Idaho (Highland)

19. Jeffrey Holland, LB, 6-2, 230, Jacksonville, Fla. (Trinity)

20. Canton Kaumatule, DE, 6-7, 275, Honalulu, Hawaii (Punahou)

Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly leads his team onto the field before the game between Notre Dame and Michigan State on Saturday, September 21, 2013, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN