Cool setting for hot recruiting weekend at Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND — Some recruits came prepared.

With a kickoff temperature of 43 degrees at Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish were handed cold weather on a hot recruiting weekend.

Linebacker Daelin Hayes and defensive end Khalid Kareem, both top 2016 targets from Michigan, looked unfazed by the Midwest weather. Hayes, who withdrew his commitment to USC last week, sported a U.S. Army All-American Bowl sweatshirt with a Notre Dame hat. Kareem, a four-star defensive end, sported his Harrison High School letterman’s jacket.

Four-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch, a prospect from Houston, also wore a letterman’s jacket. The visitors from California, however, needed jackets provided by Notre Dame for the game. Athlete Brandon Burton and wide receiver Javon McKinley wore navy blue winter coats with a small ND logo on the front.

The visiting recruits, which included nearly 50 high school football players, were able to share the sideline pregame with Irish legends Jerome Bettis and Tim Brown, who were honored before kickoff. Several recruits shared photos of themselves in Notre Dame jerseys on Twitter before they were escorted to Notre Dame Stadium.

The crowd on the sideline started to migrate to the section reserved for recruits 30 minutes before the game started. Kareem stayed on the field longer than most and finally found his seat nearly 10 minutes later.

The prime-time kickoff provided for an amplified atmosphere inside the stadium. The cheers in the first half seemed louder than at any point at home so far this season. The Irish faithful was only subdued when USC took a 31-24 lead in the third quarter.

Twitter buzz

2016 safety commit Spencer Perry (@Black___Jesus1k): “ND has the best atmosphere. Great Fans. Truly blessed to be Irish.”

2016 LB target Jeffrey McCulloch (@jmcculloch17): “Trip is going amazing thus far”

2016 LB target Daelin Hayes (@DaelinHayes_24): “Safe to say that ND is lit #Irish #9”

2016 CB prospect Darien Cornay (@Darien24ATH): “This town is crazy for football, everyone & their grandmother in ND gear #GoIrish”

2016 WR commit Kevin Stepherson (@KevinStepherson): “#BeatUSC”

Book numbers

Notre Dame quarterback commit Ian Book used an officia visit to catch Saturday’s Notre Dame game. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound signal caller has had a prolific start to his senior season.

Through the first seven games at El Dorado Hills (Calif.) Oak Ridge, Book completed 139 of his 188 passes (74 percent) for 1,812 yards and 20 touchdowns with only two interceptions. He added 62 carries for 408 rushing yards and eight touchdowns.

Book’s latest chapter — a 24-21 win Friday against Del Oro — moved his season record to 7-1. He completed a 29-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter and added a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for a go-ahead score. Book extended that drive with a fourth-down conversion on a fake punt.

Finishing the class

With the recent addition of cornerback Donte Vaughn, Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class includes 16 verbal commitments. The Irish still have room to add several more top targets before February’s signing day.

The class will likely finish with 23 or 24 recruits — an estimate subject to fluctuation due to typical offseason attrition and the possibility of a few Notre Dame players choosing to enter the NFL draft before their eligibility runs out.

Notre Dame seems to be done recruiting quarterbacks, offensive linemen and tight ends in the 2016 class. That leaves seven or eight scholarships for the remaining positions.

Expect Notre Dame to add at least one more wide receiver and one more running back, including the possibility of player who can play in the backfield and as a slot receiver. The rest of the focus should come on defense.

Notre Dame could use one or two defensive ends, a pair of linebackers and two or three defensive backs to round out the class.

2017 movement

A pair of 2017 recruits with interest in Notre Dame committed elsewhere Friday.

Safety Paris Ford, the younger brother of former Irish defensive back Darrin Walls, gave his pledge to Pittsburgh. The 6-foot, 172-pound junior at Pittsburgh Seton-La Salle received a Notre Dame offer on his birthday in June. 247Sports slates him as the No. 11 safety in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him fourth at the position. Both peg him as a four-star recruit.

Running back Kurt Taylor, who visited Notre Dame for the Navy game, committed to Michigan while visiting the Wolverines. The 5-9, 200-pound junior at Covington (Ga.) Newton had not received an offer from the Irish. Rivals ranks Taylor as the No. 19 running back in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him No. 24 at the position. Both rate him as a three-star recruit.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Recruits watch Notre Dame's 41-31 win over USC on Saturday, Oct. 17, 2015. (SBT Photo/JARED HAMSHER)