USC tumult presents recruiting opportunity for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

USC will rebound on the recruiting trail. With a loaded pool of local talent, a history of success and the draw of Los Angeles, few doubt that the Trojans will remain a recruiting power in the coming years.

But with the recent firing of head coach Steve Sarkisian, the door of opportunity has opened for other programs to poach recruits committed to USC or considering the Trojans.

Notre Dame could be a beneficiary — chiefly with linebacker recruit Daelin Hayes. The 6-foot-3, 239-pound senior at Ann Arbor (Mich.) Skyline withdrew his commitment to the Trojans on Sunday. He will visit the Irish for the second time this season Saturday.

“After going there for the season opener against Texas and seeing what they did there and he’s coming back for the official visit,” said Rivals national recruiting analyst Adam Gorney, “it’s obvious that Notre Dame is the leader and probably the absolute team to beat for him now.”

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

Outside of Hayes, the Irish may have long roads ahead to try to sway any other recruits who were heavily considering USC. Much of that has to do with the emergence of UCLA under head coach Jim Mora.

Elite linebacker Mique Juarez also decommitted from USC this week. The 6-2, 222-pound senior at Torrance (Calif.) North had been waffling with his decision recently with the Bruins emerging as a serious contender.

Rivals also ranks Juarez as a five-star recruit and the top outside linebacker in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and fourth at his position.

“UCLA has been involved for as long as USC so that is obviously playing a factor with the coaching stability there and the success they’ve had,” Gorney said. “(UCLA linebacker) Myles Jack going to the NFL is a big factor since he can step in and start right away for them. I do think he’s going to give other schools around the country an opportunity.”

Official visits for Juarez are on hold, Gorney said, because he has yet to take an NCAA-required standardized test. Gorney said Juarez is scheduled to take the ACT on Oct. 24. Notre Dame could find itself on a list of official visits alongside Oklahoma, Ohio State, Ole MIss and Nebraska.

“I would be surprised, though, if he left Los Angeles,” Gorney said.

Safety/wide receiver Brandon Burton, who will also visit Notre Dame this weekend, attends a traditional USC pipeline at Gardena (Calif.) Serra. But according to Gorney, Burton is more likely to be a Bruin than a Trojan.

“UCLA is the team for him to beat as well surprisingly, but he’s very serious about all of his visits,” Gorney said. “The more he goes out on the road, it seems like he’s getting more comfortable with the idea of possibly doing that. He liked his Oklahoma visit. He absolutely loved his Florida State visit. The environment at Notre Dame is obviously going to be great so he’s probably going to have another very good time there. But staying home is probably the way he’s leaning right now.”

Burton also has visits scheduled for Alabama and Ohio State. Rivals ranks the 6-1, 190-pound Burton as a four-star recruit and the No. 3 athlete in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 25 safety.

Defensive end Oluwole Betiku, a teammate of Burton’s, committed to UCLA in August, but other schools have maintained relationships with him including USC and Notre Dame. The 6-4, 240-pound prospect visited Florida State last weekend and will visit Texas A&M on Saturday. He said earlier this week that the Irish are still on his visit list.

“He likes Chris Wilson, the defensive line coach at USC. So he’s going to give them a serious look, but he also has really great relationships at UCLA,” Gorney said. “He loves Angus McClure, who is one of the assistant coaches there. I would find it hard to believe for him to leave the structure that he has in Los Angeles. Whether he ends up at USC or UCLA, he’s probably going to stay closer to there.”

247Sports slates Betiku as a five-star prospect, the No. 1 weakside defensive and No. 6 overall in the 2016 class. Rivals rates him as a four-star recruit, the No. 4 strongside defensive end and No. 36 regardless of position.

Fresno linebacker Caleb Kelly may be one of the few California recruits being targeted by USC and UCLA to leave the Golden State. The 6-3, 219-pound outside linebacker plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame in December after making trips to Michigan, Oregon, Texas and Oklahoma.

Rivals rates Kelly as a five-star recruit and the No. 5 outside linebacker in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and second at the position.

It’s important for Notre Dame to make a run at the previously mentioned recruits before USC settles on a new coach. Once the Trojans restore order to their program, Gorney expects them to continue recruiting at a high level.

“A coach being fired like this is never a good thing in terms of the stability of a recruiting class, but a lot of the kids were not really thrilled with the direction of the program under Sark,” Gorney said. “The 3-2 start wasn’t great, so him leaving is not a major factor that will hurt the Trojans in the long run.”

Daelin Hayes on the sideline before the Notre Dame-Texas football game on Sunday, Sept. 5, 2015, at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)