Notre Dame football starts spring evaluation for recruiting


South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame football coaches started spring evaluations this week by hitting the recruiting trail.

The staff will travel the country until the end of May to schools that house some of the top prospects in the country.

The NCAA evaluation period opened on April 15, but the Irish waited until after Easter to hit the road. The NCAA allows 168 evaluations in this timeframe, excluding Sundays and Memorial Day, to determine the athletic and academic capabilities of prospective student-athletes.

During these evaluations, the college coaches are not allowed in-person contact with the recruit beyond a simple greeting. The coaches are there to observe, make their presence known and speak with the high school coaching staff. Following the evaluation, recruits often reach out to the college coaches for a phone conversation after they leave the school.

Offers will be extended, campus visits will be planned and relationships will be built. Notre Dame started taking advantage of the evaluation period in earnest on Tuesday. Two of the first recruits to receive visits were a pair of 2015 Irish commits: quarterback Blake Barnett and offensive lineman Jerry Tillery. Irish quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur and outside linebackers coach Bob Elliott visited to Santiago High in Corona, Calif., to watch Barnett throw.

Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand and secondary coach Kerry Cooks made the trip to Evangel Christian in Shreveport, La., to see Tillery. Plenty of stops on the recruiting trail have happened since and will continue into May.

A number of recruits and high school coaches have already reported visits from Notre Dame staff members. Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder made his way to Georgia, defensive line coach Mike Elston made stops in Indiana and Ohio, tight ends coach Scott Booker hit some schools in Virginia, Cooks was also spotted in Texas, Elliott hit Arizona and Hiestand circled back to Illinois.

Offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock and recruiting coordinator Tony Alford have future visits lined up. Head coaches are not allowed to partake in off-campus recruiting during the spring evaluation period.

New 2015 offers

The Irish coaching staff has expanded its search for prospects in the 2015 recruiting class with some new offers reported. Here’s a look at the new targets added this week:

CB Taeon Mason, 6-0, 170; Pasadena (Calif.) Muir: A USC commit, Mason received a Notre Dame offer Tuesday. Rivals ranks Mason as a four-star prospect and the No. 27 cornerback in the country. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 45 cornerback.

DE Josh Sweat, 6-5, 235; Chesapeake (Va.) Oscar Smith: One of the top defensive ends in the country, Sweat received an offer from the Irish on Wednesday. 247Sports slates Sweat as a five-star prospect, the No. 1 weakside defensive and No. 6 overall. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect, the No. 4 weakside defensive end and No. 68 overall. His offer list includes Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State, among others.

DE Darrell Taylor, 6-4, 220; Hopewell (Va.) High: A three-star prospect, Taylor received an offer from Notre Dame on Wednesday. 247Sports slates Taylor as the No. 15 weakside defensive end and No. 198 overall. Rivals ranks him as the No. 25 player in Virginia. He also garnered offers from Michigan, Florida, Miami and Tennessee on Wednesday alone.

DL Jordan Thompson, 6-3, 250; Cincinnati LaSalle: A three-star prospect, Thompson received an offer from the Irish on Thursday. Rivals ranks him as the No. 31 strongside defensive end. 247Sports slates him as the No. 36 defensive tackles. His offer list includes Michigan State, Northwestern and Louisville, among others.

DT Du’Vonta Lampkin, 6-4, 307; Houston Cypress Falls: A former Oklahoma commit, Lampkin received an offer from the Irish on Thursday. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and the No. 20 defensive tackle in the country. Rivals ranks him as a three-star recruit and the No. 23 defensive tackle. His offer list includes LSU, Michigan and Texas, among others.

New 2016 offers

Notre Dame has also already started to set its board of targets in the 2016 class. A handful of high school sophomores reported offers from Notre Dame this week:

OL Greg Little, 6-6, 280; Allen, Texas: A five-star prospect, Little already holds offers from Texas, Texas A&M, Michigan and LSU, among others. 247Sports slates him as the No. 1 recruit in the entire 2016 class. He is the teammate of current 2015 Irish wide receiver commit Jalen Guyton.

QB Malik Henry, 6-3, 174; Westlake Village (Calif.) Westlake: A four-star prospect, Henry already holds offers from UCLA, USC, Arizona State and Nebraska, among others. 247Sports slates him as the top dual-threat quarterback in the 2016 class and the No. 13 recruit overall.

RB Robert Washington, 5-10, 205; Huntersville (N.C.) Southlake Christian: An unranked prospect, Washington received an offer on Wednesday night after speaking with Alford, who expressed plans to visit his school on Monday. Washington, who visited Notre Dame earlier this month, rushed for 2,512 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.

WR Scott Bracey, 6-2, 195; Richmond (Va.) Benedictine: A four-star prospect, Bracey already holds offers from Florida State, Clemson, Ohio State and Michigan, among others. 247Sports slates him as the No. 5 athlete in the 2016 class and No. 49 overall.

LB Caleb Kelly, 6-3, 210; Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West: A four-star prospect, Kelly’s fifth offer came from Notre Dame. He also holds offers from Oklahoma, USC, California and Fresno State. 247Sports slates him as the No. 3 outside linebacker and No. 24 overall. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame appears headed for more cold weather, with a bowl date Dec. 28 in New York City.