Eleven quarterbacks Notre Dame should pursue in 2017 class

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Signing day for the 2017 class is more than 17 months away, but quarterbacks rarely wait for recruiting cycles to finish.

When Notre Dame’s top target in the junior class, Hunter Johnson, committed to Tennessee on Sunday, he left the Irish empty-handed after going all in on his recruitment. Johnson, a Brownsburg (Ind.) High product and the top pro-style quarterback for 2017, was the only quarterback Notre Dame offered to date.

CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said the Irish took a risk in only pursuing Johnson early in the 2017 class.

“You can’t blame them,” Lemming said. “They took a calculated risk. They did not want to upset Hunter Johnson by offering someone else. They wanted to let Hunter know that they were focused completely on him and it backfired.”

As a result, Notre Dame may have already fallen behind with a number of other top quarterbacks in the class. At least two potential offer candidates identified by Lemming have already given verbal commitments to other schools.

That hasn’t stopped the Irish lately. Freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush was committed to Penn State before flipping to Notre Dame and 2016 commitment Ian Book had originally given his pledge to Washington State before switching earlier this month.

As head coach Brian Kelly and offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford work to identify new targets at the position, Lemming suggested 11 quarterbacks the Irish should consider.

• Jake Allen, 6-3, 191; Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) St. Thomas Aquinas: Not long after he visited Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion in June, Allen gave his commitment to Florida. But as the quarterback at a Catholic football powerhouse in Florida, the four-star recruit would seem to be an ideal candidate for Notre Dame.

Allen completed 63 of his 120 passes for 751 yards and six touchdowns in his sophomore season at Fort Lauderdale Cardinal Gibbons. Rivals ranks Allen as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback. 247Sports slates him No. 11 at the position.

The Irish have had past success recruiting at St. Thomas Aquinas with wide receiver Corey Holmes being the most recent player to make the transition.

• Tate Martell, 5-11, 188; Las Vegas Bishop Gorman: Three days before Johnson committed to Tennessee, Martell offered his pledge to Texas A&M. The four-star recruit included Notre Dame in his top five in April despite not having an offer from the Irish.

Martell finished his sophomore season 124-of-200 passing for 2,537 yards and 40 touchdowns. He also rushed for 433 yards and five TDs. Rivals ranks Martell as the top dual-threat quarterback. 247Sports slates him No. 2 at the position.

“Tate Martell might have been perfect for them,” Lemming said. “Keep Tate Martell in the back of your mind now. Kyler Murray is a freshman at A&M and he might be a Russell Wilson type of player. He’s two years ahead of him, and if he doesn’t play this year that would mean Tate would have to be behind him for three years.”

Bishop Gorman has provided offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley, tight end Alize Jones and safety Nicco Fertitta to Notre Dame’s program in recent years.

• Dylan McCaffrey, 6-4, 182; Highlands Ranch (Colo.) Valor Christian: Stanford will likely be the favorite to land McCaffrey, but that won’t stop schools nationwide from recruiting the four-star prospect. McCaffrey’s father, Ed, played wide receiver for Stanford and his older brother, Christian, is a sophomore running back for the Cardinal.

McCaffrey finished his sophomore season 167-of-279 passing for 2,378 yards and 22 touchdowns. He also rushed for 296 yards and six TDs. 247Sports slates McCaffrey as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback.

Lemming listed McCaffrey as the No. 1 player in Colorado for 2017. McCaffrey’s reported offers include Michigan, Duke, UCLA and Washington.

• Tristan Gebbia, 6-3, 180; Calabasas (Calif.) High: Alabama coaches Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin have already identified the four-star recruit as a top target. Plenty of coaches will likely follow suit.

Gebbia completed 239 of 367 passes for 3,336 yards and 35 touchdowns as a sophomore. He also rushed for 103 yards and five TDs. Rivals ranks Gebbia as the No. 4 pro-style quarterback. 247Sports slates him fifth at the position.

Lemming named Gebbia as the top quarterback in California for this class. Gebbia also claims offers from Arizona, Louisville, Miami and Nebraska, among others.

• Tua Tagovailoa, 6-1, 190; Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis: Notre Dame hasn’t landed a recruit from the islands since defensive lineman Kona Schwenke in 2010, but Tagovailoa may be reason enough to return. The four-star quarterback has already attracted offers from USC, UCLA, Arizona and Texas Tech, among others.

Tagovailoa finished his sophomore season 163-of-239 passing for 2,583 yards and 33 touchdowns. He added 576 rushing yards. Rivals ranks Tagovailoa as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback. 247Sports slates him fourth at the position.

“He’s a little shorter than Marcus Mariota but he’s being compared to him,” Lemming said.

Attending the same high school as Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, only increases the frequency of that comparison.

• Keytaon Thompson, 6-4, 210; New Orleans (La.) Landry-Walker: Thompson will be working as the full-time starting quarterback for the first time this season, but he has already turned heads. Thompson claims offers from LSU, Florida, Miami and Mississippi State, among others.

Thompson produced five touchdowns in one playoff game last season. He finished 6-of-8 passing for 149 yards and two touchdowns in addition to 90 yards and three touchdowns rushing. Rivals rates Thompson as a four-star recruit and the No. 7 dual-threat quarterback. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and ninth at the position.

“He may be the biggest sleeper of all of the guys,” Lemming said. “In the long run, as far as potential, he could be the best of the bunch.”

• Jake Fromm, 6-2, 215; Warner Robins (Ga.) Houston County: Strong-armed quarterbacks don’t stay secrets too long in SEC country. Following a big sophomore season, Fromm has the attention of many programs.

Fromm finished the season 249-of-294 passing for 3,629 yards and 31 touchdowns. The four-star prospect now holds offers from Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Michigan State and several more schools.

Rivals ranks Fromm as the No. 7 pro-style quarterback in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 9 at the position.

• Davis Mills, 6-3, 193; Norcross (Ga.) Greater Atlanta Christian: Spending a lot of time in Georgia may be prudent for the Irish. Fromm and Mills are in a serious battle to be the best quarterback in the state.

Mills threw for 2,267 yards and 26 touchdowns in his sophomore season. He added 313 rushing yards and six TDs. Rivals ranks Mills as the No. 3 pro-style quarterback. 247Sports slates him No. 7 in the class.

Mills has reported offers from Stanford, Michigan, UCLA and Missouri.

• Jake Bentley, 6-4, 217; Opelika (Ala.) High: Bentley has only been a backup quarterback in his first two seasons of high school football, but he is already garnering major scholarship offers. His father, Bobby Bentley, won six state championships as a coach at Duncan (S.C.) Byrnes High. Bentley’s older brothers — Shuler Bentley (Old Dominion) and Chas Dodd (Rutgers) — have played quarterback in college.

“His dad was one the more prolific coaches in South Carolina for years and developed a lot of quarterbacks,” Lemming said. “Everybody is telling me Jake is the next guy in line.”

Bentley claims double-digit offers including Auburn, Clemson, Duke and Miami. 247Sports slates Bentley as the No. 6 pro-style quarterback. Rivals ranks him ninth at the position.

• Jack Coan, 6-3, 176; Sayville (N.Y.) High: The prolific quarterback from the Empire State could get a look from Notre Dame. Coan already claims offers from Maryland, Miami, Michigan, Rutgers and Syracuse. Lemming listed Coan as one of the top three players in New York for 2017.

Coan completed 195 of 327 passes for 3,431 yards and 40 touchdowns in his sophomore season. Rivals rates Coan as a four-star recruit and the No. 12 pro-style quarterback. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and 17th at the position.

• Jelani Woods, 6-5, 215; Ellenwood (Ga.) Cedar Grove: A trip for Lemming to see several talented players at Cedar Grove included an unexpected introduction to Woods. The three-star quarterback only holds an offer from South Florida, but could be on the verge of blowing up on the recruiting trail.

“He’s the kind of guy Notre Dame would probably be looking at,” Lemming said. “He’s athletic.”

Rivals ranks Woods as the No. 9 dual-threat quarterback in the class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 25 pro-style quarterback. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame offensive coordinator Mike Sanford on the sidelines during Notre Dame's Blue-Gold Game on Saturday, April 18, 2015, at the LaBar Practice Complex on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)