RECRUITING

Notre Dame scores significant Ohio recruiting haul

Mike Vorel
South Bend Tribune

Tommy Kraemer has reason to smile.

Not just because players from his home state keep following his lead, but because of what those actions contradict.

On Sunday, Liam Eichenberg — a 6-foot-5, 285-pound offensive tackle from St. Ignatius High School in Cleveland — verbally committed to Notre Dame, choosing the Irish over reigning national champion Ohio State. A little more than six months earlier, Kraemer — a 6-5, 310-pound tackle from Cincinnati Elder — made the same choice.

Moreover, the 2015 class that signed with Notre Dame in February included three players from the state of Ohio: cornerbacks Shaun Crawford and Nick Coleman and defensive tackle Elijah Taylor. Two of the three, Crawford and Taylor, also claimed an offer from the Buckeyes.

For those keeping score, Notre Dame currently holds verbal commitments from the top two offensive tackles hailing from the state of Ohio in 2016, Kraemer and Eichenberg. The Irish own five Ohio commitments — and counting — from the last two recruiting classes, and four turned down Urban Meyer to head out of state.

Before he committed, Kraemer was told that none of this was possible.

But who’s talking now?

“It makes me really happy, because during my recruiting period I was told, ‘Notre Dame can’t get people from Ohio,’” Kraemer said this week. “It’s cool to see the No. 1 and No. 2 tackles from Ohio go to Notre Dame. It’s just awesome to get those Ohio guys up there and keep it going. It’s really exciting.”

But does it matter? The Buckeyes already tout six in-state commitments in the 2016 class, a year after they nabbed 12 prospects from the state of Ohio. Their 2015 signing class ranks seventh nationally by 247Sports and ninth by Rivals, both finishing ahead of Notre Dame.

In the big picture, how much ground have the Irish covered with their recent Ohio hauls?

“It’s a huge deal, because Ohio State is national champs,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “Ohio State wanted both of them (Kraemer and Eichenberg) really bad. They worked on them both really hard. I know it came down to Notre Dame and Ohio State for both of them.

“I think it’s Harry Hiestand’s reputation as an O-line coach, and knowing who he wants. He’s had them both on campus a few times with the offensive linemen. It’s sort of an O-line fraternity he’s building. He’s done a terrific job.”

Beyond Hiestand’s recruiting expertise, the culture at Notre Dame has also helped draw Ohio prospects to South Bend. Specifically, all five Ohio commits in the last two recruiting cycles hail from Catholic high schools.

Once, that was a natural fit that Notre Dame exploited.

And maybe, it can be once again.

“It was Notre Dame’s bread and butter up until 20, 25 years ago,” Lemming said. “Then they started going away from it, and Catholic school kids started going elsewhere. The best players gravitate to the private schools – Christian, Catholic or whatever. They know they are going to get a great education, plus they’re the best football schools in the country.

“Coach (Brian) Kelly has done a much better job of recruiting Catholic schools than the previous five coaches.”

The result, at least thus far, has been a substantial recruiting score behind enemy lines.

“Especially with Ohio State winning the national championship and being great recruiters, it says a lot about Notre Dame, that we can get those top tier guys from Ohio,” Kraemer said. “When you see a kid go into that pipeline and continue it, I think it’s a really good step forward for us.”

mvorel@ndinsider.com

574-235-6428

Twitter: @mikevorel

Tommy Kraemer, one of the top-rated offensive lineman recruits in the na­tion, was the first of two offensive linemen to commit to Notre Dame in the 2016 signing class. (Photo Courtesy of the Cincinnati Enquirer)