Notre Dame football lands DT recruit Mokwuah, loses LB commit Yeargin

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

The college football recruiting cycle has officially shifted into hyperdrive, and all the twists that come with it.

With less than two weeks until the Feb. 5 national signing day, the increased activity produced positive and negative outcomes for Notre Dame on Friday.

First, the Irish added a verbal commitment from defensive tackle Pete Mokwuah. Then the Irish lost a verbal commitment from outside linebacker Richard Yeargin III.

After Friday, the Irish hold 22 verbal commitments in the 2014 class.

The good news came at the end of a trip to Staten Island, N.Y., for ND head coach Brian Kelly and defensive line coach Mike Elston. The two met with Mokwuah, a 6-foot-4, 313-pound prospect from St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School and extended him an offer.

Mokwuah has yet to visit ND’s campus, but said he knew he couldn't pass on the offer.

"I was pretty much sold after talking to them," Mokwuah said. "That pretty much sealed the deal."

In order to join the Irish recruiting class, Mokwuah had to ditch his commitment to Rutgers. Mokwuah plans to visit Notre Dame next weekend, just days before signing day.

"I've been committed to them (Rutgers) since May of last year,” Mokwuah said of the decision. “It was tough, but it wasn't a hard decision because of the benefits of Notre Dame."

The Catholic connection at Notre Dame helped influence his decision, Mokwuah said. He takes a 45-minute bus ride to receive a Catholic education at St. Joseph-by-the-Sea.

The Irish have spent the last two weeks searching for defensive tackles after San Mateo, Calif., prospect Matt Dickerson switched his commitment from Notre Dame to UCLA. Adding Mokwuah marks the first tangible positive news at the position in that time period.

“He’s a big, powerful kid that’s explosive off the snap,” 247Sports national recruiting writer Steve Wiltfong said. “He’s definitely a guy that had a real good senior year and a guy that you want to roll the dice on with his size, athleticism and burst. It could be a really good late find by Notre Dame.”

Both 247Sports and Rivals rate Mokwuah as a three-star prospect. 247Sports slates him as the No. 52 defensive tackle and the No. 8 prospect in New York. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 prospect in the state.

The Irish first expressed interest in Mokwuah less than two weeks ago. After learning that Mokwuah might be interested, new Irish defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder visited his school last week. Kelly and Elston closed the deal a week later.

“They knew,” Mokwuah said. “I didn't even have to say the actual words … I’m going there.”

(Watch Mokwuah's highlights.)

The bad news came from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Yeargin decided to end his nearly six-month commitment with the Irish.

“That’s something that’s kind of been in the works for a while,” Wiltfong said. “Notre Dame battled to keep him in the fold. They wanted to sign Yeargin, there’s no question about that.”

Blue and Gold Illustrated, a member of the 247Sports network, first reported the 6-4, 225-pound Yeargin’s decommitment.

“I’m very thankful for the opportunity to have been selected by Notre Dame as one of their special kids that they decided to offer a scholarship to, but at this time I’ve decided to head in a different direction with my recruitment," Yeargin told the site. “I really do love Notre Dame, and this wasn’t an easy decision, but it’s solely based on the best decision for me.”

Clemson appears to be the eventual landing spot for the outside linebacker. The senior from University School visited Clemson, where former teammate Adrian Baker is a freshman cornerback, on Nov. 15, more than three months after he first committed to Notre Dame.

Irish running backs coach Tony Alford recruited Yeargin, but Bob Diaco’s departure as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach played a role in the breakup.

“Yeargin and Notre Dame’s split ended on good terms with Tony Alford,” Wiltfong said. “He and Yeargin will continue to have a relationship. Alford’s not the type of recruiter that will turn his back on you.”

247Sports slates Yeargin as a four-star prospect and the No. 21 outside linebacker in the 2014 class. Rivals rates Yeargin as a three-star prospect and the No. 24 outside linebacker.

TJames1@SBTinfo.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly leads his team into Notre Dame Stadium before an NCAA college football game against Michigan State on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013. (SBT Photo/JAMES BROSHER)