Notre Dame can continue recruiting momentum with visitors

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s football coaching staff has carefully lined up the dominoes for a strong finish to the 2016 recruiting class.

A number of events in the 55 nights until signing day will dictate how those dominoes fall in place.

The first occurred Thursday when coveted linebacker recruit Daelin Hayes committed to Notre Dame. The recruiting profile of Hayes, a five-star prospect according to Rivals, and his engaging personality could give the Irish a lift on the recruiting trail down the stretch.

The next event will take place this weekend as Notre Dame hosts a pair of top recruiting targets for official visits. Friday night’s award show for the Irish football team will serve as the focal point for outside linebacker Caleb Kelly and defensive back Jordan Fuller. Nine Notre Dame commits, including Hayes, are also expected to be on campus to hang out with the team and have an opportunity to help recruit Kelly and Fuller.

A strong showing against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl can help Notre Dame carry momentum into January for the final month of the recruiting cycle. Subsequent commitment announcements and campus visits could propel Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class into the top five nationally.

But first, the focus will be on Kelly and Fuller this weekend. The attention is warranted.

Kelly, rated as a five-star recruit by Rivals, will make his long-awaited first visit to Notre Dame. Fuller, a four-star recruit, last visited Notre Dame in July.

Notre Dame continues to push for one or two more linebackers in the 2016 recruiting class, and Kelly would qualify as a welcomed addition.

The 6-foot-3, 219-pound senior is one of five finalists for high school Butkus Award given to the nation’s top linebacker.

"It's a great year for linebackers and he's at the very top of the list,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He's sort of a Jaylon Smith type of athlete, where he can break down in space and make plays. He's a physical kid. He's 220 and looking thin. He'll be a 230-240 kid who can run and make a lot of plays.”

Citing senior season stats of 130 tackles and 28 sacks at Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West, Lemming projects a bright future for Kelly.

“I can't say enough good things about him,” Lemming said. “He's an impact player, even more than Daelin Hayes is."

Rivals ranks Kelly as the No. 4 outside linebacker and No. 17 regardless of position in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit, the No. 2 outside linebacker and No. 50 overall.

Notre Dame will be the fourth school to host Kelly for an official after his previous trips to Oklahoma, Michigan and Oregon. The Sooners, who have established strong connections in Fresno, appear to be the team to beat.

Pinpointing a frontrunner is more difficult with Fuller. That’s in part because the 6-2, 205-pound prospect put recruiting to the side during a run to a state championship. Old Tappan (N.J.) Northern Valley Regional won the title Saturday to cap a 12-0 season. His first postseason trip will be to Notre Dame this weekend, his first official visit.

Fuller has been working with a top eight of Rutgers, UCLA, TCU, Ohio State, Notre Dame, Michigan, Penn State and Virginia Tech since July. Fuller has visited most of those schools once previously. His schedule of return trips will likely dictate where he lands in February.

Lemming said he sees a fit for Fuller at Notre Dame.

“He comes from a very talented family. Jordan without a doubt is a Notre Dame kid,” Lemming said. “He's the kind of guy that usually belongs at Notre Dame that can really prosper there.”

Fuller’s father played football at TCU, his mother toured with Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones as a backup singer and his older brother is a senior wide receiver at UCLA.

The youngest Fuller son earned his football accolades, including the New Jersey Gatorade Player of the Year for 2015, as a two-way player. He threw three touchdown passes on nine attempts, ran for 747 yards and four touchdowns and caught 33 passes for 773 yards and five touchdowns on offense. He added six interceptions and 44 tackles on defense.

Fuller projects as a defensive back who could play cornerback or safety in college. 247Sports slates Fuller as the No. 5 athlete in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the 21st safety.

VISITORS LIST

The following recruits are expected to visit Notre Dame this weekend.

2016 targets

DB Jordan Fuller

LB Caleb Kelly

2016 commits

WR Chase Claypool

OL Liam Eichenberg

LB Daelin Hayes

LB Jamir Jones

OL Tommy Kraemer

CB Julian Love

DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji

DE Julian Okwara

LS John Shannon

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Senior linebacker Caleb Kelly plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame this fall. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)