Signing Day preview for Notre Dame's 2015 recruiting class
The suspense will come in a six-hour span on signing day when the fate of Notre Dame’s latest class of football recruits will be sealed.
Four undecided prospects remain realistic options for the Irish heading into Wednesday’s unofficial end to the 2015 recruiting cycle. Even then, the drama may only surround the safety position on what should be a predictable day for Notre Dame.
Letters of intent will start to roll into Notre Dame’s Guglielmino Athletics Complex shortly after 7 a.m. EST Wednesday. By rule, recruits must wait to ship their signed letters until 7 a.m. in their respective time zones. Eighteen Irish verbal commits are expected to join Notre Dame’s four early-enrolled freshman as official members of the 2015 class.
The class, dubbed the "Shamrock Soldiers," ranked No. 11 nationally in recruiting class rankings from Rivals and 247Sports as of Tuesday night. The addition of multiple recruits could bump the Irish back into the top 10.
The first two important announcements on Wednesday will come from recruits almost certainly bound for South Bend. Running back Dexter Williams will get the ball rolling at 11 a.m. Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown will make his announcement during the 3 p.m. hour. Both are expected to choose the Irish.
Williams, a four-star back, is scheduled to announce his decision on Bright House Network from Winter Garden (Fla.) West Orange High. The 6-foot, 195-pound recruit will choose between Notre Dame and Miami, a school he was once committed to. Rumors circulating on Tuesday brought some hope for the Hurricanes in a battle thought to have already been won by the Irish. Rivals ranks Williams as the No. 12 running back in the class. 247Sports pegs him No. 14.
St. Brown, a 6-5, 200-pound receiver, is slated to announce his choice on ESPNU. The Anaheim (Calif.) Servite product will pick from a final four of Notre Dame, Stanford, UCLA and USC. Rivals rates St. Brown as a four-star recruit and the No. 15 wide receiver in the class. 247Sports rates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 51 wide receiver.
The greater uncertainty will come later Wednesday afternoon with a pair of safeties. Nate Meadors, a three-star recruit, and Arrington Farrar, a four-star recruit, both made official visits to Notre Dame in the final month of the cycle and will decide Wednesday.
Meadors, who visited on Jan. 16, will choose from a foursome of Boise State, California, Notre Dame and UCLA. The Bruins are thought to be the top contender for the 6-1, 194-pound safety from San Gorgonio High in San Bernardino, Calif. His announcement will come at 4 p.m. on Fox Sports West.
Farrar visited Notre Dame this past weekend and has Wisconsin and Notre Dame as his two finalists. The former Stanford commit is set to announce with his teammates at College Park (Ga.) Woodward Academy in a ceremony starting at 3:45 p.m. The 6-foot-2, 195-pound safety escaped South Bend early Sunday morning before the snowstorm prevented traveling home.
Justin Reid, a safety prospect who also visited Notre Dame in January, has included the Irish in his final three alongside Stanford and LSU. But with the reported departure of Irish defensive backs coach Kerry Cooks, who was both Notre Dame’s lead recruiter for Reid and potential position coach, it’s hard to imagine Reid choosing Notre Dame. Reid is the younger brother of NFL safety Eric Reid, who played at LSU and currently plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
One other prospect, cornerback Iman Marshall, puts Notre Dame in his top group. The five-star recruit from Long Beach (Calif.) Poly is unlikely to pick the Irish when he announces on ESPNU in the 4 p.m. hour. Notre Dame, who hosted him in December, is joined by Florida State, LSU, Michigan, UCLA and USC in his top six.
By the time all the faxes reach Notre Dame on Wednesday, the Irish should have closed on a class of at least 24 recruits.
Following are signing day superlatives that headline Notre Dame’s 2015 recruiting class:
• Biggest get — QB Brandon Wimbush, 6-1, 210; Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep: All hope at the quarterback position seemed lost when Blake Barnett, one of the nation’s best dual-threat quarterbacks, ditched his six-month verbal commitment to Notre Dame and joined Alabama’s recruiting class. After missing out on a number of other possibilities in the summer, the Irish headed into the fall with seemingly no candidates at quarterback for its 2015 class.
Then came an unexpected official visit from Penn State quarterback commit Brandon Wimbush. The St. Peter’s Prep product visited South Bend for Notre Dame’s victory over Stanford and flipped to the Irish in a matter of days. Wimbush, also one of the nation’s top five dual-threat quarterbacks, is on a short list of prospects that can match Barnett’s combination of arm talent and athleticism.
Wimbush went out and proved his worth as a senior by completing 72 percent of his passes for 3,187 yards and 37 touchdowns on his way to a state title. He also rushed for 723 yards and nine touchdowns.
On last year’s signing day, head coach Brian Kelly listed quarterback first when asked of the top priorities for the 2015 class. Kelly got his man in Wimbush, who appears to be an ideal overall fit yet for Kelly's offense.
• Strongest unit — linebackers Josh Barajas, Asmar Bilal and Te’von Coney: Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder may have a future starting trio of linebackers in the 2015 class alone. The group is filled with ability and a combination of skills that complement each other well.
Coney, who enrolled in January, at 6-1, 222 pounds, is a tough, hard-nosed middle linebacker. Barajas, at 6-3, 212 pounds, brings physicality and versatility as an outside linebacker. Bilal, at 6-3, 205 pounds, possesses extraordinary athleticism that allowed him to play safety at times in high school. With the addition of this trio, linebacker should become one of the deepest positions on Notre Dame’s 2015 roster.
• Biggest miss — defensive end: Struggles recruiting defensive ends have become a recurring signing day topic for Notre Dame in the last four recruiting cycles. Since landing six defensive ends in the 2011 class, the Irish have only once, in 2014, landed more than one pure defensive end in a cycle. The same narrative held true in the 2015 cycle.
Bo Wallace, at a skinny 6-4, 215 pounds, projects as the best, and likely only, future defensive end in the class. Micah Dew-Treadway, a 6-5, 275-pound early enrollee, could play end but should be better suited to play inside by the time he sees the field for Notre Dame. Fellow early enrollee Jerry Tillery (6-6, 308) switched from offensive line to defensive line late in his recruitment but may be a stretch at defensive end.
The lackluster results aren’t for a lack of trying. Notre Dame swung and missed on a number of elite defensive end prospects. Byron Cowart (undecided), Porter Gustin (USC) and Mekhi Brown (Alabama) all visited South Bend since the start of June but will start their careers elsewhere.
• Earliest impact — TE Aliz’e Jones, 6-5, 220; Las Vegas Bishop Gorman: No one’s path to the field in 2015 seems clearer than the one for Jones at tight end. In the absence of Ben Koyack, the Irish return only little-used tight ends Durham Smythe and Tyler Luatua with experience at the position. Jones is more skilled as a receiver than both players.
The biggest challenge for Jones, one of the nation's top tight ends in 2015, will be blocking college defenders. If he can prove able in that aspect, it’s hard to imagine the four-star tight end not seeing the field as a freshman. Jones plans to play in the season opener against Texas, and his confidence is well-reasoned.
• Sleeper — WR Jalen Guyton, 6-1, 185; Allen (Texas) High: Stellar stats in his senior season were not enough to earn four-star status from Rivals and 247Sports. Guyton caught 82 passes for 1,770 yards and 22 touchdowns in an undefeated state championship run. He served as the go-to receiver for Texas A&M quarterback commit Kyler Murray.
Maybe recruiting analysts think Murray deserves more of the credit for Guyton’s numbers. Even ESPN and Scout, which both rated him as a four-star recruit, ranked him outside the top 50 receivers in the class. Perhaps his lower ranking is a result of him not taking part in the regional and national camp circuits. Guyton did not play in the three major All-American games, but will suit up for the U.S. Under-19 National Team to play against Canada on Saturday.
Guyton is a do-it-all receiver with playmaking ability. His size and speed do not jump out, but he had a knack for getting things done against some of the toughest competition in Texas. Guyton can play a number of different receiver positions and will come to Notre Dame with polished route-running skills.
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