LB Hilliard, DT Taylor headline Saturday's Notre Dame recruiting junior day

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

Familiarity sometimes trumps all when it comes to recruiting.

Notre Dame hopes another visit to campus on Saturday for Justin Hilliard will mark another big step in an important recruitment in the 2015 cycle.

When news spread Wednesday night that the junior linebacker from Cincinnati cancelled plans to visit Alabama this weekend and would travel to South Bend instead, Notre Dame’s junior day took a leap in significance.

The 247Sports five-star prospect will make his third visit to campus and his first since September’s home game against Michigan State.

“With recruiting, you want to get a young man on campus as many times as possible because the better he gets to know your coaching staff, the harder it is to say no,” said 247Sports national recruiting writer Steve Wiltfong. “He already has a good relationship with the staff and head coach Brian Kelly. He'll get a chance to meet the new defensive coordinator in person, which will be big. It's just another chance to be on campus and get a better feel for Notre Dame.”

The St. Xavier product has emerged as one of the top targets in the class for the Irish. Notre Dame hopes the Catholic connection and Kelly’s ties to Cincinnati will play a role in a recruitment that’s gone national for Hilliard. He already holds offers from Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State, Oklahoma and USC.

247Sports slates Hilliard as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the country and No. 14 regardless of position. Rivals ranks him as the No. 1 inside linebacker and No. 47 overall.

“He’s one of the top targets on Notre Dame's board at a school where Brian Kelly and his staff have had a lot of success,” Wiltfong said. “They have a really good relationship with Steve Specht, the head coach at St. Xavier. They've been recruiting that school for a long time when you're talking about Brian Kelly and (defensive line coach) Mike Elston. I really like where Notre Dame stands going into the visit.”

Hilliard headlines a crop of more than a dozen prospects expected on campus Saturday. Only one other visitor, also from Cincinnati, will arrive on Saturday with a Notre Dame offer in hand. Defensive tackle Elijah Taylor of Archbishop Moeller will return after receiving an offer during his November visit for the USC game.

“He plays in a great conference for a great football team,” Wiltfong said of Taylor. “He's a really strong kid. I like him. He's a guy that Notre Dame identified early as a big, strong kid that can give them some help up front.”

The 6-foot-3, 275-pound prospect attends the same high school as former Irish quarterback Andrew Hendrix. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 20 defensive tackle prospect. Rivals ranks him as a three-star recruit and No. 29 at his position.

“I think he loved his visit for the USC game,” Wiltfong said. “This will be a chance to really interact with the staff. If you come in on a game day, you do get to talk to the coaching staff but they're busy trying to win a football game. This visit will be a more intimate than Elijah's last visit.”

After Hilliard and Taylor, two more visiting recruits appear to be the most likely to eventually land an Irish offer, maybe even as soon as this weekend.

Wide receiver/tight end Miles Boykin of Providence Catholic in New Lenox, Ill., will return for his third visit to campus. Rivals ranks the 6-4, 210-pound Boykin as the No. 10 wide receiver and No. 114 overall. 247Sports slates him as the No. 41 wide receiver.

“He's a guy that can make plays and bring some versatility to your offense,” Wiltfong said. “It'll be interesting to see the type of player Boykin grows into.”

Linebacker Josh Barajas will make the short trip east from Valparaiso, Ind., for his first visit to Notre Dame. The 6-3, 212-pound junior at Andrean High has exploded on the recruiting trail to start the year with offers from Virginia Tech, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Michigan and more.

247Sports slates Barajas as the top prospect in the state, the No. 3 inside linebacker in the country and No. 145 overall. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 outside linebacker and No. 191 overall.

Wiltfong said a great visit and an offer to Barajas could position the Irish as early frontrunners in his recruitment.

"You talk about Justin Hilliard and Josh Barajas, you have two of the best linebackers in the Midwest, two of the best linebackers in the country, on campus,” he said. “The junior day has really turned into a nice one.”

The remaining visitors also come from the Midwest with many attending schools that have previously produced players for the Irish. Here’s a breakdown of the rest of the talent:

DT Brandon Tiassum, 6-5, 280; Indianapolis Park Tudor: a two-way lineman, Tiassum holds offers from Indiana, Western Michigan and Toledo. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 17 offensive guard and the fourth-best player in the state. Rivals ranks him as the No. 20 defensive tackle and the No. 2 prospect in Indiana.

OL Trevor Ruhland, 6-4 270; Cary (Ill.) Grove: a three-star prospect, Ruhland holds offers from Duke, Illinois, Nebraska and Northwestern, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 35 offensive tackle and the No. 4 player in Illinois. 247Sports slates him as the No. 42 offensive guard and the 13th-best recruit in the state.

ATH Justin Tranquill, 5-11, 195; Fort Wayne (Ind.) Carroll: a three-star prospect, Tranquill holds offers from Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Cincinnati, among others. 247Sports slates him as the No. 27 safety and the No. 8 prospect in Indiana. Rivals ranks him as the No. 46 athlete and tenth-best in the state. Tranquill’s older brother, Drue, signed with Notre Dame in February.

ATH Mykelti Williams, 6-0, 190; Indianapolis Warren Central: a three-star prospect, Williams holds offers from Illinois, Indiana, Ole Miss and Purdue, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 32 athlete and the third-best player in Indiana. 247Sports slates him as the No. 37 safety and No. 11 in the state. Warren Central produced Irish defensive lineman Sheldon Day.

OL Adam Solomon, 6-6, 290; Indianapolis Bishop Chatard: a three-star prospect, Solomon holds offers from Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 48 offensive tackle and the No. 4 prospect in Indiana. 247Sports slates him as the No. 57 offensive tackle and seventh-best in the state. Bishop Chatard produced Irish offensive linemen Zack and Nick Martin.

OL Matt McCann, 6-6, 305; Bishop Chatard: a three-star prospect, McCann holds offers from Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 prospect in Indiana. 247Sports slates him as the No. 58 offensive tackle and 10th-best in the state.

OL Noah Listermann, 6-7, 265; Cincinnati Winton Woods: a three-star prospect, Listermann holds offers from Cincinnati, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. Rivals ranks him as the No. 46 offensive tackle and the No. 22 player in Ohio. 247Sports slates him as the No. 82 tackle and 31st-best in the state. Winton Woods produced Notre Dame defensive tackle signee Daniel Cage.

DT Kraig Howe, 6-3, 253; Kettering (Ohio) Archbishop Alter: a three-star prospect, Howe holds offers from Boston College, Pittsburgh, Illinois and Northwestern, among others. Rivals ranks him as the No. 33 defensive tackle and the No. 29 player in Ohio. 247Sports slates him as the No. 47 tackle and 33rd-best in the state. Alter produced Irish quarterback Malik Zaire.

DE Joe Belden, 6-3, 230; Avon (Ind.) High: a three-star prospect, Belden holds offers from Indiana and Ball State. 247Sports slates him as the No. 35 weakside defensive end and the No. 18 player in Indiana.

OLB Quentin Moon, 6-2, 215; Indianapolis Pike: a three-star prospect according to 247Sports, Moon holds offers from Illinois and Toledo. 247Sports slates him as the No. 48 outside linebacker and the No. 17 recruit in Indiana.

RB Kellen Overstreet, 5-11, 200; Hamilton (Mo.) Penney: an unrated prospect, Overstreet rushed for 3,327 yards and 53 touchdowns as a junior. He also caught 23 passes for 404 yards and seven touchdowns.

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

Junior linebacker Josh Barajas may end his visit to Notre Dame this weekend with an offer from the Irish.