Notebook: Tight end recruit Alizé Jones will have to climb depth chart

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Few recruits will have as good of an opportunity to play at Notre Dame in 2015 as tight end Alizé Jones.

Before Jones signed with the Irish in February, he stated his goal was to play in the season opener against Texas. But for all the promise Jones has shown as one of the top high school tight ends, Jones will have to climb his way up the depth chart.

“To say that he’s going to come in and be at the top of the roster is not fair,” said Irish tight ends coach Scott Booker. “We also have guys that we feel are capable of being tremendous tight ends here.”

Durham Smythe and Tyler Luatua have surged to the top of tight end depth chart during spring practice. When Jones arrives on campus in the summer, he will bring with him an impressive résumé. Jones caught 41 passes for 930 yards and 13 touchdowns in his senior season at Las Vegas Bishop Gorman. 247Sports slated Jones as the No. 1 tight end in the 2015 class. Rivals ranked him fourth at the position.

“I’m excited to be around him,” Booker said. “I’ve seen him grow up from a skinny freshman who didn’t have all his coordination to a guy that is considered by you guys, the experts, as the No. 1 tight end.”

Notre Dame’s recent history of putting tight ends into the NFL was one of the big selling points for Jones. Billy Palmer, a senior in 2003, was Notre Dame’s last starting tight end to not be selected in the NFL Draft. Ben Koyack will likely extend the streak to six consecutive tight ends in this year’s draft.

The Irish coaching staff doesn’t shy away from making that lineage apparent to recruits. Some schools try to use that against Notre Dame, Booker said, by suggesting that their program has an easier path to playing time.

“Any time you have the legacy we have, the kid is either willing to go and compete or he’s not,” Booker said. “We’ve fortunately found kids who are able to compete at a high level and aren’t afraid of being behind another guy who was recruited highly at the same position.”

New hire

Notre Dame has added Aaryn Kearney to its football recruiting staff.

Kearney, who spent six years on the recruiting staff at Nebraska, will serve as the assistant director of recruiting operations for the Irish. A Notre Dame spokesperson confirmed the hiring this week.

Kearney started as a recruiting staff assistant at Nebraska in February 2009. In 2014, Kearney served as director of recruiting operations for the Cornhuskers.

Kearney graduated from Nebraska in 2008 and served as a student manager for the football team for five years.

New offer

On his visit to Notre Dame, sophomore offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons received a scholarship offer from head coach Brian Kelly. Gibbons reported the offer while on campus Wednesday.

The 6-foot-5, 290-pound Gibbons recently hit double digits in scholarship offers including Louisville, Michigan State, Ohio State and South Carolina. Neither Rivals nor 247Sports have rated the junior-to-be at St Petersburg (Fla.) Northside Christian.

His older brother, Reilly, signed with Stanford in 2014 and has since transferred to South Florida.

Recent visitors

The busy spring of visitors continued this week at Notre Dame.

Fresno State safety commit Micah Croom was on campus Monday. The 6-2, 190-pound junior does not have an offer from the Irish. The three-star prospect attends the same high school, La Mirada (Calif.) High, as Notre Dame tight end Tyler Luatua. Rivals ranks Croom as the No. 22 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 40 at the position.

Offensive line target Nathan Smith visited Notre Dame on Tuesday. The 6-7, 260-pound Smith made a stop in South Bend a little more than a week after receiving an Irish offer. The junior at Murrieta (Calif.) Mesa claims more than 20 offers including Arizona State, Miami, Oregon and UCLA. Rivals ranks him as a four-star recruit and the No. 11 offensive tackle in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and No. 43 at the position.

Quarterback target Hunter Johnson returned to campus on Wednesday. The 6-3, 197-pound sophomore became the first quarterback in the 2017 class to receive an offer from the Irish on his March 15 visit with offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford. Johnson also added an offer from Michigan earlier this week. The four-star prospect from Brownsburg (Ind.) High is ranked as the No. 1 pro-style quarterback by 247Sports.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame tight end signee Alizé Jones, right, celebrates after scoring a touchdown, with Las Vegas Bishop Gorman teammate Cordell Broadus (AP Photo/Isaac Brekken)