Notre Dame eager for recruiting Invasion

TYLER JAMES
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s biggest recruiting weekend of the summer starts in earnest Friday.

At the center of the event, termed the Irish Invasion, is Friday night’s invite-only camp. Elite recruits will flood Notre Dame’s campus to get a feel for what the football program has to offer. The recruits will be a mix of top 2015 targets with scholarship offers already in hand and prospects in the 2016 and 2017 classes looking to make a name for themselves in front of Notre Dame’s coaching staff.

It’s a revamped summer recruiting event that Notre Dame’s staff worked to brand as the place to be for college football recruits.

“The idea is really good,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “Other schools have done this the last few years. They can make it something special by having it on Notre Dame’s campus where there is so much history. It’s a win-win situation. Getting the kids on campus even if nothing is going on is great. If this is successful, I’m sure they’ll get even more top players to come next year.”

Nearly 40 recruits have confirmed plans to visit Notre Dame throughout the weekend. None may know the campus better than 2015 linebacker target Justin Hilliard. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound recruit from Cincinnati’s St. Xavier will be making his fourth visit to campus since the start of March. The five-star prospect plans to visit Ohio State again on Saturday before making his commitment decision by the end of the month.

Running back Jacques Patrick is also familiar with Notre Dame’s campus. The five-star 2015 prospect visited the Irish just last week, but chose to return to South Bend one more time this summer. He will be joined by a number of other 2015 recruits holding Notre Dame offers including running back Josh Adams, linebacker Tevon Coney, defensive ends Austin Bryant and Mekhi Brown, and cornerback Ykili Ross. Not all will take part in Friday’s camp, but they are expected to visit Notre Dame by the start of next week.

The class of 2016 visitors will be highlighted by quarterbacks Malik Henry and Jawon Pass, offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg, tight end Jake Hausmann and cornerback Levonta

Taylor. After Hilliard, 247Sports director of recruiting Steve Wiltfong said Henry might be the most important recruit visiting. The 6-2, 174-pound prospect from Westlake Village, Calif., ranks as the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in 2016 class according to 247Sports.

“Malik Henry is a five-star quarterback in the 2016 class that Notre Dame’s recruiting hard early,” Wiltfong said. “He’s a kid that Notre Dame’s going to have a great shot to land. He’s a guy that you can build a fantastic class around, not to mention he’s a tremendous talent himself. He’s a guy at the quarterback position that can be a program changer or keep your program competing for national championships.”

In addition to the changes in branding, Notre Dame will allow media members to attend Friday night’s camp from 8 to 10 p.m., a change in previous policy. Both Lemming and Wiltfong agreed that the addition of media will boost the camp’s stock nationally.

“You have to create that buzz,” Lemming said. “It’s smart to let all the press in to create the buzz that the camp is something special that kids should be going to.”

The success of the camp could be amplified by the coverage following the event. Any positive reviews shared through media could influence recruits to make a trip of their own to Notre Dame in the future.

“Notre Dame’s coaching staff is the main force building the camp up, but the media can help,” Wiltfong said. “If it’s a great camp and scholarship offers go out and kids commit and there’s all kinds of great stuff happening, you want people writing about it so next year people know that the camp can be a difference-maker for them.”

In the short-term, the hope for Notre Dame is to produce future signees from the crop visiting campus this weekend. For Lemming, it’s the only way to deem the camp successful.

“The only way to determine if it’s successful is by the end of the year, how many of these seniors-to-be commit and how many of these juniors commit to Notre Dame?” Lemming said. “That’s the only reason to have it ... If you don’t land any of these big names, then it’s not really a success.”

Big picture, the Irish can create the foundation for future camps being national attractions. Eventual commitments are the hopeful byproduct.

“It’s a successful camp if the kids that arrive have a great experience and get a taste of Notre Dame and why it can be a potential fit for them,” Wiltfong said. “Ultimately you want to land commitments from your top targets that come to this event. Those guys that you’ve offered scholarships to are getting a chance to take part in what should be a great environment. You want there to be buzz. You want this event to become one of the premier events in the country.”

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

Jacques Patrick, one of the top-rated running backs in the 2015 class, will visit Notre Dame for Friday's Irish Invasion camp. (Courtesy of Orlando Sentinel/CHRIS HAYS)

The following players are expected to visit Notre Dame for its Irish Invasion recruiting weekend.

2015 TARGETS

RB Josh Adams; DE Mekhi Brown; DE Austin Bryant; LB Tevon Coney; LB Justin Hilliard; RB Jacques Patrick; CB Ykili Ross

2015 COMMITS

CB Shaun Crawford; S Nicco Fertitta; OL Tristen Hoge; OL Trevor Ruhland; DT Elijah Taylor; DT Brandon Tiassum; OL Jerry Tillery

2015 PROSPECTS

S Jahque Alleyne; RB Levante Bellamy; LB Matthew Draper; LB Chris Green; TE Daniel Imatorbhebhe; TE/LB Inoke Moala; ATH Reggie Rogers; LB Jahvoni Simmons; LB Casey Toohill; ATH Justin Tranquill

2016 TARGETS

OL Liam Eichenberg; TE Jake Hausmann; QB Malik Henry; QB Jawon Pass; CB Levonta Taylor

2016 PROSPECTS

QB Logan Byrd; WR Kyeler Burke; TE Luke Farrell; WR Desmond Fitzpatrick; OL Sean Foster; LB Dealin Hayes; WR Josh Imatorbhebhe; OL Trent Maynard; ATH Jordan Overton; WR Kalebb Perry; DT Garrett Rand; DB Robbie Robinson

2017 PROSPECTS

ATH Kahlee Hamler; DE Corey Malone-Hatcher; QB Dante Sparaco