Notre Dame narrowing the focus to finish 2015 recruiting class

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The final picture of Notre Dame’s 2015 football recruiting class appears to be coming into focus. With less than seven weeks remaining until signing day, the Irish have only a short list of candidates left to fill the remaining scholarship offers.

Head coach Brian Kelly admitted as such on Monday. Following a big recruiting weekend that included six Irish targets and 13 committed recruits, Kelly detailed the advantages of already holding 21 verbal commitments in the 2015 class.

“It’s allowed us to really focus specifically on eight players, maybe 10 max, but really four in particular,” Kelly said. “We’re down where we can talk about really being specific about the players that we’re looking to finish off the class. That allows for real attention to those guys specifically and allows all nine coaches to be involved in recruiting four to six to eight players.”

Of course, Kelly can’t name those players because of NCAA rules, but the past few months of recruiting activity can help sort out the possible recruits he was referencing. Ten prospects who have previously visited Notre Dame sit at the top of the list. The Irish are most likely to sign at least four of these recruits if everything works out in their favor.

1. WR Equanimeous St. Brown, 6-5, 200; Anaheim (Calif.) Servite: He appears to be the only realistic option left for the Irish to grab a fourth wide receiver in the class. The Irish covet another big target and St. Brown fits the bill.

The Irish hosted St. Brown for an unofficial visit in June and an official visit for the Stanford game in October. Utah received St. Brown’s only other official visit to date. USC, UCLA and Stanford are also considered contenders for the wideout who caught 32 passes for 485 yards and four touchdowns as a senior.

Rivals ranks St. Brown as a four-star prospect and the No. 12 wide receiver in the class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and No. 50 at the position.St. Brown will play in the Under Armour All-America Game on Jan. 2.

2. RB Ronald Jones, 5-10, 185; McKinney (Texas) North: He withdrew his verbal commitment to Oklahoma State the day his official visit to Notre Dame ended. The writing on the wall would indicate that a switch to the Irish could be on the horizon, but rival USC could stand in Notre Dame’s way.

Jones, a four-star recruit, used his official visit to USC on Dec. 6, a week before his trip to South Bend. He is expected to sign with one of the two teams that annually play for the jeweled shillelagh. Luckily for the Irish, Jones was not in attendance for USC’s demonstrative win over Notre Dame in the regular-season finale. Notre Dame hopes to add another running back to join Josh Adams in the 2015 class.

The Under Armour All-American rushed for 2,009 yards and 28 touchdowns as a senior. Rivals ranks Jones as the No. 9 RB in the 2015 class. 247Sports slates him No. 19 at the position.

3. TE Alize Jones, 6-5, 220; Las Vegas Bishop Gorman: The UCLA commit’s latest visit to Notre Dame came this past weekend for the awards show. The Irish appear to be the only legitimate threat to flip Jones away from the Bruins.

Jones attended Notre Dame’s victory over Michigan in September and the awards show alongside his teammate Nicco Fertitta, an Irish safety commit. The Irish are no longer targeting any other tight ends in the class besides Jones.

The four-star prospect caught 41 passes for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns as a senior. 247Sports slates Jones as the top tight end in the class. Rivals ranks him No. 2 at the position. Jones will play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3.

4. S Ben Edwards, 6-0, 196; Jacksonville (Fla.) Trinity Christian: His recruitment pits the Irish against another Pac-12 option. Edwards, once committed to Ohio State and Auburn, has Stanford and Notre Dame at the top of his list.

Edwards visited Notre Dame in November for its loss to Louisville. He since finished his senior season with a state title. He recorded 33 tackles with his lone interception coming in the state championship game. The Irish hope to add at least one more safety to its 2015 class.

Rivals ranks Edwards as a four-star prospect and the No. 11 safety in the class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and No. 30 at the position.

5. S Tyree Kinnel, 5-11, 183; Huber Heights (Ohio) Wayne: His official visit to Notre Dame last weekend opened the possibility of flipping the Michigan commit. After the visit, Kinnel said he could see himself at Notre Dame.

But a decision from Kinnel likely won’t come until after Michigan hires a new head coach. Notre Dame will have to continue to be aggressive with other safeties if the process with Kinnel lingers. The four-star recruit also plans to visit Michigan State in January.

247Sports slates Kinnel as the No. 14 safety in the class. Rivals ranks him No. 15 at the position.

6. S Gary Jennings, 6-2, 205; Stafford (Va.) Colonial Forge: He may be the most versatile recruit left on Notre Dame’s board. Jennings could fill needs at wide receiver or safety for the Irish. But on his visit to Notre Dame last weekend, Jennings said the Irish coaching staff let him know that safety was the biggest priority.

Jennings, a three-star recruit, doesn’t plan on making a final decision until after making all of his visits. West Virginia and Virginia are first on his schedule in January. 247Sports slates Jennings as the No. 120 wide receiver in the class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 25 prospect in Virginia.

7. RB Soso Jamabo, 6-3, 200; Plano (Texas) West: Notre Dame’s late-summer momentum with the Under Armour All-American seems to have all but dissipated. Jamabo visited Notre Dame in June and again in September for the win over Michigan. But UCLA, which hosted Jamabo in October, has taken the front-runner role away from Irish.

Texas A&M and Ole Miss could also become contenders for Jamabo after rushing for 2,279 yards and 44 touchdowns as a senior. He caught 16 passes for 281 yards and three touchdowns as well. Rivals bumped Jamabo to a five-star prospect following the season. 247Sports pegs Jamabo as a four-star recruit. Both rank him as the No. 3 running back in the class.

8. S Frank Buncom IV, 6-1, 187; San Diego St. Augustine: Notre Dame took its shot at impressing Buncom in October, but will have to wait until his official visit to Stanford in January to learn if it still has a real shot at landing him. The four-star prospect also has Vanderbilt and California in his top four.

Buncom, who plans to study neurology, will definitely be weighing academics heavily in his decision. But his football accolades have received the most attention. He recorded 68 tackles, three tackles for a loss and three pass deflections as a senior. He also caught 38 passes for 515 yards and five touchdowns as a wide receiver.

Rivals ranks Buncom as the No. 14 safety. 247Sports slates him as the No. 11 cornerback. Buncom will play in the Semper Fidelis All American Bowl on Jan. 4.

9. RB Jordan Cronkrite, 5-10, 196; Palmetto Bay (Fla.) Westminster Christian: He seems to be lower down the wish list for Notre Dame, but Cronkrite would be a talented addition. He was also in town last weekend for the awards show.

The U.S. Army All-American once verbally committed to Miami but has been looking elsewhere since September. Louisville or West Virginia are top contenders for Cronkrite.

In 10 regular season games, Cronkrite rushed for 1,405 yards and 15 touchdowns. Rivals ranks Cronkrite as the No. 25 running back. 247Sports slates him No. 22 as a multi-position athlete.

10. CB Iman Marshall, 6-1, 195; Long Beach (Calif.) Poly: He followed through on his plan to visit Notre Dame last weekend, but most recruiting experts predict Marshall eventually signing with USC. Getting Marshall on campus gives the Irish at least a slight chance, but his recruitment will probably play out all the way until signing day.

Marshall, a five-star recruit, is worth finding a scholarship for if he’s truly interested in Notre Dame. The Irish already have three cornerbacks committed in the 2015 class, but none as talented as Marshall. Both Rivals and 247Sports peg the Under Armour All-American as the top cornerback in the class.

• Four more recruits also sit on the edge of Notre Dame’s radar. They could emerge into the list with January visits.

S Mykelti Williams, 6-0, 196; Indianapolis Warren Central: Williams told the Tribune that he added an offer from Notre Dame on Thursday. Playing at the same program that produced defensive tackle Sheldon Day, Williams is no stranger to the Irish.

With Minnesota and Louisville as top contenders for Williams, Notre Dame could quickly rise to the top of his list. Rivals ranks Williams as a four-star prospect and the No. 16 safety in the class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and No. 22 at the position.

RB Ke’Shawn Vaughn, 5-10, 210; Nashville (Tenn.) Pearl-Cohn: The four-star prospect reported an offer from Notre Dame on Sunday. Purdue and Louisville landed Vaughn’s first two official visits, and it remains to be seen if Notre Dame will host him as well.

Vaughn rushed for 2,664 yards and 41 touchdowns as senior. 247Sports slates him as the No. 21 running back in the class. Rivals ranks him No. 31 at the position.

RB Dexter Williams, 5-11, 195; Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange: The Miami commit has shown interest in Notre Dame, but never made a trip to campus in the past couple months. His planned visit for the Louisville game was scratched when he suffered a broken foot the night before the trip.

Notre Dame would need to get Williams, a four-star recruit, on campus in January and change his mind about his pledge to the Hurricanes. 247Sports slates Williams as the No. 12 running back in the class. Rivals ranks him No. 13 at the position.

S Nate Meadors, 6-1, 194; San Bernardino (Calif.) San Gorgonio: An onslaught of attention from colleges and new offers made for a hectic November and December for Meadors. That will likely carry into January.

The three-star prospect visited Boise State in November and California in Decemeber. His January visit schedule includes Washington, Notre Dame and UCLA. The Irish could have sorted out their safety issues before Meadors makes it to campus. 247Sports slates him as the No. 53 athlete in the class.

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Las Vegas Bishop Gorman tight end Alize Jones verbally committed to Notre Dame on Thursday. Jones is ranked as one of the nation's top tight ends in the 2015 class. (Photo courtesy of Las Vegas Sun)