Recruiting Reset: More athleticism would round out secondary

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A steady stream of defensive backs is required to compete in the current college football landscape. Notre Dame has put its 2015 roster in a stable spot but has work to do in shaping its future secondary.

The Irish have made defensive backs a priority in the 2016 recruiting cycle and have three verbal commitments to show for it. By signing day in February, that number could double.

A pair of safeties and one or two more cornerbacks could complete the recruiting cycle in the secondary. The committed recruits have some versatility, but lack star power. Adding more size and athleticism would make for a well-rounded class.


Julian Love, 5-11, 175; La Grange (Ill.) Nazareth Academy: Love jumped on a scholarship the day Notre Dame’s coaching staff extended him one. The three-star cornerback committed during his March 21 visit.

In Love, Notre Dame added a versatile athlete who has excelled on offense and defense during his high school career in the Chicago area. He has shown a knack for making plays in the secondary and blanketing receivers.

Rivals ranks Love as the No. 21 cornerback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 52 at the position.

Jalen Elliott, 6-1, 177; Chesterfield (Va.) L.C. Bird: Elliott spent his junior season playing quarterback, but Notre Dame sees a free safety in the three-star recruit. He brings physicality and quickness to the secondary and could find a role as a nickelback at some point in his career.

Elliott committed to Notre Dame while visiting for the Irish Invasion in June. Even though he committed before the camp started, he still decided to compete during the event inside Notre Dame Stadium.

247Sports slates Elliott as the No. 26 athlete in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 53 athlete.

Spencer Perry, 6-3, 202; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: Perry came to the Irish Invasion as a Florida commit. Days later he ditched the Gators. The three-star safety flipped his commitment by the end of the month.

Perry brings size and speed to the secondary. His propensity for contact makes him a solid candidate to play strong safety and could even lend to playing linebacker in certain situations.

Rivals ranks Perry as the No. 39 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 50 at the position.

Safety targets

Lamar Jackson, 6-2, 206; Elk Grove (Calif.) Franklin: The four-star recruit has plans to make an official visit to South Bend on Sept. 5 when the Irish host Texas. Jackson also has visits scheduled for Arizona State, Oklahoma, Oregon and Michigan. USC and UCLA will also remain as contenders.

Jackson has been receptive to the message being delivered by his lead recruiter at Notre Dame, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford. The need for a safety of his caliber is clear. 247Sports slates Jackson as the No. 5 safety in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as sixth at the position.

Devin Studstill, 6-1, 183; Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High: Could Studstill choose to follow his former teammate, linebacker Te’von Coney, to Notre Dame? After visiting for the Irish Invasion in June, Notre Dame may have inched toward leading his recruitment.

The Irish will have to pull Studstill away from Miami and keep him from picking West Virginia. The three-star prospect has visited all three schools in the past several months. 247Sports slates Studstill as the No. 33 safety in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 48.

Ikenna Okeke, 6-2, 200; Smyrna (Tenn.) High: A commitment to Notre Dame nearly happened during his Irish Invasion visit in June, but Okeke wanted to make sure he visited Stanford first. Now the three-star recruit has slowed down the process and isn’t closing the door on other schools.

Notre Dame will be challenged by Tennessee, Penn State, Missouri and Louisville in addition to Stanford in the coming months. Rivals ranks Okeke as the No. 33 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 38.

Chacho Ulloa, 5-11, 186; Corona (Calif.) Centennial: Three teams remain in the chase for Ulloa’s commitment: Notre Dame, Stanford and Arizona State. Official visits to each school will allow him to settle on a decision.

Ulloa, who visited Notre Dame in April and June, will likely return in October for the USC game. He attends the same school as Irish wide receiver target Javon McKinley. Rivals ranks Ulloa as the No. 29 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 59.

D.J. Morgan, 6-3, 205; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco: Notre Dame’s offer to Morgan may not have been too late after all. Morgan visited the Irish in April, but left campus without an offer. Less than a month later, he committed to Arizona State. Soon after his commitment the Irish extended the safety an offer. Morgan has since decommitted and scheduled an official visit for Notre Dame’s season opener.

California also has made a strong push for Morgan after opening up his recruitment. Rivals rates Morgan as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 43 safety.

Andrew Pryts, 6-2, 200; Hermitage (Pa.) Hickory: The farther Pryts gets from his Notre Dame visit in June, the less likely it seems he’ll end up Irish. The safety has since visited Stanford, Ohio State and Penn State, where his father played linebacker. Getting Pryts back on campus would help turn around the momentum that seems to be slipping from Notre Dame.

247Sports slates Pryts as a four-star prospect and the No. 11 safety in the 2016 class. Rivals rates him as a three-star recruit and No. 43 at his position.

Brandon Burton, 6-1, 190; Gardena (Calif.) Junipero Serra: The two-way athlete isn’t ready to choose a position, but Notre Dame’s needs project him as a safety. Burton listed Notre Dame alongside Alabama, Ohio State, UCLA, Arizona, Florida State and Oklahoma as his top schools and said he hopes to visit the Irish in the future.

Rivals rates Burton as a four-star prospect and the No. 2 athlete in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 25 safety.

Cornerback targets

Damar Hamlin, 6-1, 180; Pittsburgh (Pa.) Central Catholic: Notre Dame continues to try to squeeze its way into a tight race for Hamlin. Getting the four-star recruit to visit last month was a step in the right direction. The Irish are battling Penn State, Ohio State and Pittsburgh as the top contenders.

Hamlin’s size could allow him to play a number of positions in the secondary, but he could fill Notre Dame’s need for a big corner. 247Sports slates Hamlin as the No. 18 cornerback in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 9 safety.

Jordan Fuller, 6-2, 205; Old Tappan (N.J.) Northern Valley Regional: Finding a favorite in Fuller’s recruitment is a tough task. The four-star prospect remains wide open and his visits reflect that. He has made stops at TCU, Notre Dame, Rutgers, Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, Stanford and UCLA this year.

Another prospect with good size, Fuller could play cornerback or safety in college. 247Sports slates Fuller as the No. 6 athlete in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 19 athlete.

Donte Vaughn, 6-3, 195; Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven: Two summer visits to Notre Dame have put the Irish in a good spot with Vaughn but keeping him out of the SEC will be a tall task. Vaughn listed the Irish alongside seven SEC programs — Tennessee, Texas A&M, LSU, Ole Miss, Auburn, Missouri and Mississippi State — as his top eight schools.

Vaughn plans to return to Notre Dame on an official visit for the season opener. Rivals rates Vaughn as a four-star recruit and the No. 18 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 32 cornerback.

Eric Cuffee, 5-11, 190; Waco (Texas) High: Following his June visit to Notre Dame, Cuffee gave the Irish a spot in his top eight. But the three-star prospect doesn’t plan to make a decision anytime soon. The Irish will likely need to get Cuffee back on campus to beat out Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, TCU, Ole Miss, Michigan and Arkansas.

Rivals ranks Cuffee as the No. 29 cornerback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 57 at the position.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame safety recruit Jalen Elliott stood out at ND's Irish Invasion Camp on June 19. (SBT Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)

The final installment of a seven-part series breaking down where Notre Dame stands at each position group in the 2016 recruiting class.

Part one: Quarterbacks

Part two: Running backs

Part three: Wide receivers

Part four: Offensive line

Part five: Defensive line

Part six: Linebackers