Notre Dame returns to Fresno area with recruitment of DT Jacob Daniel

NOTEBOOK

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

The Fresno area hasn’t been kind to Notre Dame in the past few recruiting cycles.

But with a talent like defensive tackle Jacob Daniel in nearby Clovis, Calif., the Irish coaching staff made its return to the fertile recruiting ground with an offer in February.

Daniel, a 6-foot-4, 315-pound junior at Clovis North, received the news from new quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur on national signing day for the 2014 class.

“It meant a lot,” Daniel said. “That’s one of the schools that I actually wanted to get an offer from. I’m really going to consider them in the future.”

So much so that when Daniel named a top list of 11 schools earlier this month, Notre Dame found itself in good company. The early leaders include USC, Ole Miss, UCLA, Oregon, Arizona, Arizona State, Alabama, Notre Dame, Washington, Fresno State and California.

Daniel’s recruitment with Notre Dame remains in the early stages, but he already knows two things for certain.

“I know they offer a great education and a pretty great place to play football,” he said.

The basic knowledge comes from seeing the Irish play on television frequently. Asked if he saw them play much last year, Daniel answers in the affirmative.

“Yeah, they’re on every week,” Daniel said. “There’s no way you can’t.”

Along with that exposure, Daniel is well aware of the early-round projections of former Irish defensive linemen Louis Nix and Stephon Tuitt in May’s NFL Draft. In Daniel, recruiting analysts have seen similarities in his potential as a difference maker in college. 247Sports slates him as a five-star prospect, the No. 6 defensive tackle and No. 27 overall in the 2015 class. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect, the No. 9 defensive tackle and No. 83 overall.

“I feel like I have a very high potential ceiling that I haven’t even touched yet,” Daniel said. “I think I’m a pretty good high school player. I effectively stop the run. I can improve on rushing the passer, but I’m going to get better every single day. I’m a hard worker. I think that’s what is standing out to coaches.”

The last three recruiting cycles have brought a number of misses in the Fresno area for the Irish. Wide receiver and Deontay Greenberry and cornerback Tee Shepard couldn’t stick after verbal commitments to Notre Dame in the 2012 class. Cornerback L.J. Moore and wide receiver Michiah Quick both used official visits to Notre Dame in the last two classes, but neither signed with the Irish.

Daniel, who previously held a verbal commitment to Steve Sarkisian at Washington, reopened his recruitment when the head coach left for USC. The Trojans are perceived to be front-runners, but Daniel insists he’s open to all of his top schools. USC and UCLA have already received visits this year and Daniel has a trip planned for Oregon in May. A visit to Notre Dame isn’t immediately on the horizon, but he hopes to make a visit in the fall.

His eventual decision will come down to a short list of criteria.

“A good location to go to school, a nice little, safe place, the best education and I’d like to feel comfortable with the coaching staff and my teammates,” Daniel said.

LaFleur has helped start the relationship with Notre Dame. Now Daniel hopes to build a rapport with defensive line coach Mike Elston.

“I’ve gotten to talk to coach Elston,” Daniel said. “I really want to start to talk to him more and getting closer with him and building that type of bond.”

Clark picks UNC

One of Notre Dame’s top tight end targets in the 2015 class took himself off the board on Sunday. Chris Clark, a 6-6, 245-pound prospect from Avon, Conn., announced a verbal commitment to North Carolina following a visit to Chapel Hill.

A four-star prospect, Clark had been scheduled to visit Notre Dame at the end of the month. 247Sports slates him as the No. 4 tight end in the 2015 class and No. 173 overall. Rivals ranks him No. 7 at his position and No. 176 overall.

2016 offers

The Notre Dame coaching staff started to identify early targets in the 2016 class with a few offers in the last several weeks.

The most recent came on Sunday, when quarterback Jawon Pass reported an offer from the Irish on Twitter. The 6-4, 210-pound prospect threw for 2,197 yards and 23 touchdowns as a sophomore at Carver High in Columbus, Ga. Pass also tallied 404 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground. He already holds offers from the likes of Clemson, Florida, Miami and Texas A&M.

•On Friday, running back Kameron Martin reported an offer from the Irish. The 5-10, 177-pound prospect from Port Arthur, Texas hit 20 offers with Clemson added to the list on Monday. Martin rushed for 1,060 yards and 14 touchdowns as a sophomore at Memorial High. He also holds offers from Baylor, Florida, Florida State and Oklahoma State.

•Running back Kareem Walker also reported an offer from Notre Dame earlier this month. The 6-1, 190-pound prospect from Wayne, N.J., has accumulated more than a dozen offers. As a sophomore at DePaul Catholic, Walker rushed for 1,164 yards and 12 touchdowns. His offer list includes Alabama, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State.

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

Notre Dame has targeted Clovis (Calif.) North defensive tackle Jacob Daniel. (Photo provided/CentralValleyFootball.com)