Notre Dame set to host talented recruits for opener

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame won’t waste any time getting top recruits on campus this season.

The setup for Saturday’s season opener against Texas couldn’t be much better for the Irish coaching staff. A primetime game, a big-name opponent and summer weather all combine for an ideal recruiting scenario in South Bend.

The expected visitors run the gamut from top targets, committed recruits and interested prospects in the 2016, 2017 and 2018 classes. It’s a top-heavy group that includes two five-star recruits and six official visitors.

Let’s take a closer look at the six top 2016 targets who are scheduled to be on campus.

• LB/DE Daelin Hayes, 6-3, 239; Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline: A momentum shift with Hayes has come fast and hard for Notre Dame. In the last week, news of his rekindled interest in the Irish started to circulate and plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame for the game against USC were confirmed.

Hayes, who remains verbally committed to USC, will take another step in the direction of the Irish when he makes an unofficial visit this weekend. Notre Dame appeared to be a likely destination for Hayes last summer after he received an offer following the Irish Invasion camp, but he committed to USC a month later.

Hayes moved out to California and back and has added pass rusher to his resume since his last visit to Notre Dame. He recently said the Irish have started to recruit him as a hybrid rush linebacker/defensive end, a position of need in the 2016 recruiting class. With two visits to Notre Dame planned and USC head coach Steve Sarkisian in trouble with his recent conduct, the Irish could make a major charge at flipping Hayes.

CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said Hayes has the potential be the top linebacker in the country.

“He has good size. He runs well," Lemming said. "He has Jaylon Smith-type of potential but hasn’t realized it yet."

Rivals rates Hayes as a five-star recruit and the No. 3 outside linebacker in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and No. 8 at the position.

• WR Demetris Robertson, 6-1, 176; Savannah (Ga.) Christian: Few recruits could make as big of an impact on Notre Dame’s class as the previously mentioned Hayes. Robertson would be on that short list.

An elite athlete who can play wide receiver or cornerback, Robertson has drawn the attention of schools nationwide. Alabama previously received his verbal commitment, but Robertson dropped the Crimson Tide in April. Georgia and Stanford have emerged as major contenders, but the Irish would like to make a run at him as well.

“He’s one of the premier players in the country,” Lemming said. “He’s a lights out wide receiver and cover corner and a great talent. If they get him, he’s an impact ball player. They don’t have too many in this class, so that would be a great one.”

Rivals ranks Robertson as a five-star recruit and the No. 1 athlete without a designated position in the 2016 class. 247Sports also pegs him as the top athlete, but slates him as a four-star prospect.

• WR/RB Melquise Stovall, 5-8, 180; Lancaster (Calif.) Paraclete: The former four-star USC commit chose to make Notre Dame his first official visit. He left the Trojans after being pushed out of the position he was originally recruited at by the USC coaching staff.

USC’s loss could be Notre Dame’s gain. Stovall rushed for 1,603 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns and caught 21 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns in his junior season. The Irish like Stovall as a slot receiver with the ability to work out of the backfield.

“He’s a good all-around athlete,” Lemming said. “He’s not in Robertson’s category, but he’s a good, solid ball player. They need more of those guys that have that kind of speed and elusiveness.”

Rivals ranks Stovall as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him third at the position.

• CB Donte Vaughn, 6-2, 195; Memphis (Tenn.) Whitehaven: Third time might be the charm for Notre Dame with Vaughn. The cornerback target will be making his third visit to South Bend in the last few months. If he visits Notre Dame a fourth time, he might be an Irish commit.

Vaughn has a decision date already in mind – Oct. 12 – and only one more visit planned — a trip to Tennessee on Oct. 10. Notre Dame’s search for a versatile cornerback with length led the coaching staff to Vaughn.

“Donte has terrific all-around talent,” Lemming said. “He plays in a tough league. The kids in the Memphis area are really physically guys that have a take-no-prisoners type of attitude. Donte is a pretty good prospect. He can play safety or cornerback.”

Rivals ranks 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. 31 cornerback.

• WR Donnie Corley, 6-2, 178; Detroit Martin Luther King: When the four-star receiver didn’t make it to the Irish Invasion in June, it appeared to signal the end of any momentum for the Irish with Corley. Instead, Corley spent that weekend at Tennessee.

But when Corley canceled a scheduled commitment announcement in early July, it opened the door for schools like Notre Dame. The Irish will try to rebuild a relationship this weekend.

“He’s one of the top three players in the state of Michigan,” Lemming said. “He has height, leaping ability, hands. He’s a Michael Floyd-type of guy, but not quite as heavy as him. He’s a very good one.”

Corley’s recruitment may come down to a few Midwest schools like Michigan State, Michigan and Ohio State, but he also claims offers from Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Georgia.

247Sports slates Corley as the No. 12 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 16 at the position.

• S D.J. Morgan, 6-3, 200; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco: Morgan left a visit to Notre Dame’s campus in April without an Irish offer. By the time Notre Dame eventually offered in May, Morgan had already given his verbal commitment to Arizona State.

Morgan has since withdrawn his pledge to the Sun Devils and is back on the market. Notre Dame will get another shot at him this weekend.

“’He has length and quick hands. He’s an athlete,” Lemming said. “They’re looking at him more as a defensive back, but he can play both ways. He’s a guy that could even grow into an outside linebacker because he’s a physical ball player.”

Rivals rates Morgan as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 safety in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates as a three-star prospect and 44th at the position.

• CB Eric Cuffee, 6-0, 188; Waco (Texas) High: The three-star recruit will watch two of his top schools in action on Saturday. The Longhorns are among the programs trying to keep Cuffee from leaving Texas.

A visit for the Irish Invasion in June made a big enough impact on Cuffee for him to schedule an official visit to Notre Dame.

“He’s a good prospect. He’s one of the better ball players in central Texas,” Lemming said. “He’s a legitimate cover corner. He’s not really big, but he can be physical. I liked him a lot.”

Rivals ranks Cuffee as the No. 35 cornerback in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him 57th at the position.


The following recruits are also scheduled to attend Saturday's Notre Dame game.

2016 commits

OL Parker Boudreaux*

OL Tommy Kraemer

OL Liam Eichenberg

S Jalen Elliott

LS John Shannon

CB Julian Love

DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji

2016 prospects

LB T.J. Brunson

OL Matthew Gutwald

OL TJ Storment

DE Jeremiah Tyler

OT Mike Lonsdorf

TE Niko Lalos

OL Tyler Witt

DT Marcel Minniefield

K Andrew Luckenbaugh

TE Matt Norton

2017 commits

OL Josh Lugg

OL Dillan Gibbons

2017 targets

ATH Tyrell Ajian

DE Corey Malone-Hatcher

TE Cole Kmet

2017 prospects

QB Jairus Grissom

S Jaylen Kelly-Powell

DB Ambry Thomas

WR Mac Hippenhammer

WR Reggie Crawford Jr.

ATH Allen Stritzinger

2018 prospects

DT P.J. Mustipher

OL Emil Ekiyor

*Denotes official visit | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

USC commit Daelin Hayes will make an unofficial visit to Notre Dame this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)