Early work delivers OL recruiting depth for Notre Dame


South Bend Tribune


No news should be good news for Notre Dame’s 2015 offensive line recruitment.

Once again, offensive line coach Harry Hiestand identified a strong group of recruits early and received verbal commitments from a talented haul of three prospects. For the third-straight recruiting cycle, Hiestand’s efforts have put the Irish in an admirable position along the offensive line.

It’s a different story at tight end. With four tight ends in the last two recruiting classes, Notre Dame remained picky at the position early in the 2015 cycle. Only a handful of offers were handed out, and none have resulted in a commitment.

As those targets started to commit elsewhere, the Irish staff chose not to pursue other options. They appear content in moving forward without a tight end in the class.

As the cycle moves toward signing day, expect little action at either position. Only unexpected decommitments could change Notre Dame’s outlook.


• OL Jerry Tillery, 6-6, 315; Shreveport (La.) Evangel ChristianNotre Dame’s first commitment in the 2015 class, Tillery grew up an Irish fan. Yet that nearly lifelong allegiance hasn’t stopped him from flirting with other schools. Since his commitment, Tillery visited Arkansas and LSU. With connections to both programs, he hasn’t shut the door on either. Future visits to the schools wouldn’t come as a surprise.

Tillery, who plans to enroll in January, remains committed and publicly praises the Irish. On his last visit to Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion, he even spent time with the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, former Notre Dame president. Behind the scenes, Tillery has worked to recruit others to Notre Dame.

One thing’s for certain: Hiestand landed an intriguing four-star prospect in Tillery. He possesses excellent athleticism for his size, but still is learning technique. Notre Dame will continue to make sure Tillery’s committed to the program as an offensive tackle of the future.

247Sports slates Tillery as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the country. Rivals ranks him No. 15 at the position.

• OL Tristen Hoge, 6-5, 285; Pocatello (Idaho) Highland: No one can question Hoge’s commitment to the Irish. Earlier this year, his family bought a home in the South Bend area in preparation of his enrollment in 2015.

Hoge’s family pedigree helped paved the way to athletic excellence. Hoge’s father, Marty, played at Idaho State University and has served as an assistant coach at Highland High. Hoge’s uncle, Merril, played eight seasons in the NFL.

Hoge is an elite center prospect with the ability to play across the interior of the offensive. His strong and compact frame lends to a powerful presence to take on defensive tackles in the middle.

A four-star prospect, Hoge is slated as the No. 1 center in the 2015 class according to 247Sports. Rivals ranks Hoge as the No. 9 offensive guard.

• OL Trevor Ruhland, 6-4, 270; Cary (Ill.) Grove: Major programs may not have been lining up to recruit Ruhland, but his highlight film shows an overlooked offensive lineman. Ruhland, whose biggest offers included California, Nebraska, Duke and Northwestern, committed weeks after an Irish offer in April.

Tenacity and a propensity to maul appear to be Ruhland’s best attributes. He projects as a fierce run-blocker for the Irish at some point in his career.

Rivals ranks Ruhland as the No. 42 offensive guard in the country. 247Sports slates him No. 51 at the position.


• OL Zach Robertson, 6-5, 314; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco: Robertson expressed interest early in the recruiting cycle, but the Irish grabbed three commitments before he could visit South Bend. If Notre Dame needed to fill a void left by a decommitment, the four-star prospect could be one of the first targets. He’s less athletic than Tillery and could be a swing player at tackle and guard.

247Sports slates him as the No. 6 guard in the country. Rivals ranks him as the No. 19 tackle.

• TE Alize Jones, 6-4, 220; Las Vegas Bishop Gorman: The four-star prospect is one of the few 2015 tight ends the Irish would likely chase. Jones visited Notre Dame twice in 2013 before committing to UCLA in November. He has shown little sign of backing out of his pledge to the Bruins, but if Jones did the ties from Bishop Gorman to Notre Dame, which include Irish offensive lineman Ronnie Stanley and safety commit Nicco Fertitta, could come in handy. Both Rivals and 247Sports slate Jones as the No. 1 tight end in the country for 2015.

 TE Chris Clark, 6-6, 245; Avon (Conn.) Old Farms: Clark’s recruitment has been far from predictable. He committed to North Carolina in March but the pledge held for not much longer than a month, during which Clark made a visit to Notre Dame. The Irish fell out of his top group heading into summer before the four-star prospect eventually committed to Michigan in June. If another change comes before Clark signs, it won’t surprise many who cover recruiting. 247Sports slates Clarks as the No. 2 tight end in the class. Rivals ranks him No. 4. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

2015 offensive line commits Jerry Tillery and Tristen Hoge during Irish Invasion football camp on Friday, June 20, 2014, at Notre Dame. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)

Sunday: Quarterbacks

Monday: Running backs

Tuesday: Wide receivers

Wednesday: Offensive line/Tight ends

Thursday: Defensive line

Friday: Linebackers

Saturday: Defensive backs

Part four in a seven-day series bringing a position-by-position analysis of Notre Dame's 2015 football recruiting efforts.