Notre Dame football recruiting: Big game brings in big talent

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s biggest recruiting weekend of the fall will unfold around Saturday night’s game against USC. Thirty or more prospects will make their way to Notre Dame Stadium for the game, with the big focus on 2014 recruiting targets on official visits.

The Tribune caught up with CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming and 247Sports national recruiting writer Steve Wiltfong to break down the list of 2014 targets expected in South Bend for official visits.

WR ERIK BROWN | 6-1, 170 | Summit – Fontana, Calif.

Rivals ranking: 4-star, No. 20 WR | 247Sports ranking: 4-star, No. 41 WR | Highlights

Tom Lemming: "He was one of the premier wide receivers in California this year. He committed to Washington. He has average size for a wide receiver, but he has good speed and can catch the ball with his hands. He's a very good talent. He's a guy you take right away."

Steve Wiltfong: "Erik Brown and Notre Dame assistant coach Mike Denbrock have had a relationship for quite some time. Brown, a Washington commit and one of the top players in California, is a guy that's definitely on the board for Notre Dame in 2014. I think the Irish have a chance to make up some ground with Brown this weekend."

DT MATT ELAM | 6-6, 340 | John Hardin – Elizabethtown, Ky.

247Sports: 5-star, No. 2 DT | Rivals: 4-star, No. 18 DT | Highlights

Lemming: "So far they haven't really done well at defensive tackle. He's the No. 1 guy that they still have left. He's a very tall, athletic guy. I think he has NFL potential as an offensive tackle and possible potential as a defensive tackle. He prefers defense so he's perfect for Notre Dame."

Wiltfong: "One of Notre Dame's best shots at the defensive tackle position. A guy that (ND assistant) Bob Elliott's done a nice job with. I believe Notre Dame's in the top three coming into this visit. They may trail Alabama and Kentucky, but we'll see how things shake out. He's not in a rush to make a decision."

S PAYTON HENDRIX | 6-3, 190 | Bishop Dunne – Dallas

247Sports: 3-star, No. 76 S | Rivals: 3-star | Junior highlights

Lemming: "Another good-sized safety. Good range. Good all-around ball player. Probably a three-star player. He's coming on strong and had a very good first half of his senior year and that's what is getting Notre Dame excited."

Wiltfong: "I think Notre Dame's got a really good shot at landing Payton Hendrix and his teammate Nick Watkins. This will be Payton's first time in South Bend. Coach Kerry Cooks has done a fantastic job explaining to him what the Notre Dame program is all about. Brian Kelly went to see Payton and Nick play the other weekend in Dallas. Notre Dame's competing with Arkansas and Stanford for Payton. With a great weekend, I could see Payton being part of this class."

WR ALLEN LAZARD | 6-5, 205 | Urbandale, Iowa

247Sports: 4-star, No. 6 WR | Rivals: 4-star, No. 5 WR | Highlights

Lemming: "A superstar. He's Michael Floyd. That's who he is. If he goes to Notre Dame he'll be as good as Michael Floyd was. He's big, has great hands, great body control and balance because he's a superior basketball player too. The only thing he's lacking is that second-gear, super speed, but he has workable speed. He would be an instant starter for Notre Dame.”

Wiltfong: "At this point you look at Notre Dame as Allen Lazard's plan B. He's committed to Iowa State. His brother plays at Iowa State. His father played at Iowa State. He grew up rooting for the Cyclones. If something were to happen with that coaching staff at Iowa State, I think Notre Dame's a program that's right there. Depending on what happens down the road, Lazard's a viable option."

TE TYLER LUATUA | 6-3, 230 | La Mirada, Calif.

247Sports: 4-star, No. 7 TE | Rivals: 4-star, No. 4 TE | Junior highlights

Lemming: "I love him. I always thought he was the best big athlete in California when I saw him. He's an all-American at tight end, defensive end and outside linebacker. He prefers tight end. He's very soft-spoken when you talk to him, but when you watch him play he's very physical, completely opposite of the way he is off the field. A perfect Notre Dame type of guy. He has super strong hands and is very athletic after catching the ball."

Wiltfong: "I think Notre Dame leads and could land him this weekend. Notre Dame's been one of two programs along with Alabama, where his older brother plays, that's been at the top of the board for the entire recruiting process. Mike Denbrock, one of the nation's best recruiters, has been working on Luatua. He's a guy that can play tight end or outside linebacker for Notre Dame, similar to Troy Niklas."

OL DAMIEN MAMA | 6-4, 370 | St. John Bosco – Bellflower, Calif.

247Sports: 4-star, No. 2 OG | Rivals: 4-star, No. 2 OG | Highlights

Lemming: "He's a five-star player. I think he's one of the two or three best guards in the country. Every time you watch him play, he's plays smash-mouth football. He goes right at people. He's a road-grater. I think if he comes to Notre Dame he'll be an All-American. He has that kind of ability."

Wiltfong: "Damien Mama's a Notre Dame type of kid. He's a really nice kid and a tremendous player. Another guy that Mike Denbrock's building a rapport with. Notre Dame's competing with USC and UCLA for Mama. I don't think Notre Dame's quite as high on Mama's board as those two schools, but they're definitely in the picture with a chance to move up this weekend."

LB NYLES MORGAN | 6-2, 225 | Crete-Monee – Crete, Ill.

247Sports: 4-star, No. 4 ILB | Rivals: 4-star, No. 5 ILB | Highlights

Lemming: "One of the more physical linebackers in the country. He's as good or better as Clifton Garrett in the Chicago area. He has a mean, tough and aggressive style of play. When you watch him, he can dominate the middle. I thought he was the best player on Crete-Monee last year, better than Laquon Treadwell (now at Ole Miss)."

Wiltfong: "Nyles was very high on Notre Dame early in the process. Notre Dame was even maybe the leader at one point before his stock went through the roof. Ole Miss and Vanderbilt have really made Morgan a priority and moved to the forefront. He took an official to Ole Miss last weekend. Notre Dame has always been in the picture and they have a chance to regain some momentum this weekend."

WR MICHIAH QUICK | 5-11, 176 | Central East – Fresno, Calif.

247Sports: 4-star, No. 7 ATH | Rivals: 4-star, No. 4 ATH | Junior highlights

Lemming: "He's another great athlete that Notre Dame sorely needs at corner or wide receiver. He has blazing speed and tremendous reactions. I thought him and Adoree Jackson were without a doubt, the two best quick-twitch athletic skill position guys in the state of California and on the west coast."

Wiltfong: "In the summer I thought Notre Dame was the leader for Quick. It's definitely still in the top two. Oklahoma was able to show Quick a lot when he visited there earlier this month. Notre Dame has a chance to remind Quick of why he liked the Irish so much. He got a chance to visit this spring."

RB BO SCARBROUGH | 6-2, 225 | IMG Academy – Bradenton, Fla.

247Sports: 4-star, No. 5 ATH | Rivals: 4-star, No. 2 ATH | Junior highlights

Lemming: "He is the real deal as far as a big back. He's as good as Elijah Hood. He's a power back. He runs an 11.1 in the 100 meters. He can come in and start as a freshman at almost any school in the country except Alabama where he's committed because they're so loaded. He could play linebacker too. He's a five-star athlete."

Wiltfong: "Bo's been committed to Alabama for a long time now. Alabama, you know what they are. Bo's kept in touch with Tony Alford from Notre Dame for a few months now. This visit has been in the works for a while, so obviously there's some intrigue with Notre Dame. The opportunity to maybe come in and be a featured back right away at Notre Dame is something that's exciting to Bo. Still a long way to go here."

ATH JOHN "JUJU" SMITH | 6-1, 207 | Long Beach (Calif.) Poly

247Sports: 5-star, No. 3 ATH | Rivals: 4-star, No. 2 S | Highlights

Lemming: "Great talent. He's an All-American at corner, safety or wide receiver. He's one of the best players in the country. I'm really impressed with him. He's one of the nation's premier players on offense and defense. He's a physical receiver with great hands and great speed, and he's a physical and aggressive quick-to-the-ball defender too."

Wiltfong: "The big important about JuJu's visit is his parents are coming with him. Notre Dame's al-ways done well with the parents. JuJu's a five-star that's looking at several schools. I think Notre Dame could be the team to beat for JuJu when it's all said and done. I think he's going to have a really good weekend and fit in well at Notre Dame."

LB/S DRUE TRANQUILL (unofficial) | 6-2, 210 | Carroll – Fort Wayne, Ind.

247Sports: 3-star, No. 31 S | Rivals: 3-star, No. 34 S | Highlights

Lemming: “I like him a lot be-cause he’s an athlete. Whenever you get a real good athlete, you can play him at safety or linebacker if he grows a little bit more. If he’s from Indiana you have to go after him. I was surprised Notre Dame didn’t offer him until Purdue did. I think Drue Tranquill is a big-time guy because he can run. He reminds me of Harrison Smith.”

Wiltfong: "I've thought since he got the offer he was going to flip from his Purdue commitment. It's been a tough decision. He loves Purdue. He loves Notre Dame. It's been a blessing for Drue but also a challenge to him and his family to make the decision that they think is best for them. He's coming back to Notre Dame again and is scheduled to visit Purdue next weekend. I still think Notre Dame ultimately lands Drue, but it's not a matter of fact. He could stick with the Boilers."

CB NICK WATKINS | 6-1, 180 | Bishop Dunne – Dallas

247Sports: 4-star, No. 21 CB | Rivals: 4-star, No. 11 CB | Junior highlights

Lemming: "He's got long arms, quick feet and is a very athletic corner. He's not a blazer, but he's always in good position. He's decent as a physical corner and good in pass defense. He's a good, solid player just like his teammate Payton Hendrix."

Wiltfong: "I think Notre Dame leads. Coach Kerry Cooks has done a great job building a relationship with Nick and his family. Notre Dame's starting to build some inroads at that school. This will be Nick's second trip to South Bend and his second time seeing them play this fall because he went to the Arizona State game. Right now, if Notre Dame didn't land Watkins, I would view it as an upset for somebody else."

OTHER EXPECTED VISITORS

2014 commits
OL Alex Bars
DE/OLB Jonathan Bonner
WR Justin Brent
DE Jay Hayes
WR Corey Holmes (OV)
QB DeShone Kizer
LB Greer Martini
OL Quenton Nelson (OV)
TE Nic Weishar
DE/OLB Richard Yeargin III (OV)
2015 targets
DE/OLB Jashon Cornell
OL Tristen Hoge
2015 prospects 
QB Blake Barnett
WR Cameron Green
RB Andre Robinson
ATH Justin Tranquill
2016 prospects
WR Austin Mack
OL Thiyo Lukusa
 

A pair of recruits who visited Notre Dame in the spring are returning for official visits on Saturday. Cornerback Nick Watkins, left, and wide receiver Michiah Quick are two of the top remaining targets for the Irish in the 2014 recruiting class.