Ten Notre Dame recruits to track as signing day approaches

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Set the countdown clock.

Twenty days stand between the Notre Dame football staff and National Signing Day. The race to Feb. 3 continues at midnight with the end of the NCAA-mandated dead period. Now coaching staffs are allowed to resume in-person contact with recruits on the road and on campus.

The Irish will hit the recruiting trail to see top targets and host another elite recruit this weekend. The 2016 recruiting class includes 22 commitments — five already started classes this week. That leaves Notre Dame with room for two or three more recruits in the class.

The list of names to watch over the next three weeks has shrunk to 10. Here’s a closer look at Notre Dame’s top remaining targets.

Wide receiver

• Demetris Robertson, 6-0, 175; Savannah (Ga.) Christian: The line of schools wanting to land Robertson in the final weeks is long. So is his itinerary. Robertson plans to visits Alabama, Stanford and Georgia before making a decision.

Notre Dame made a strong impression but will be forced to combat recency bias as he sorts through his visits. An in-home visit from head coach Brian Kelly will serve as the last push from the Irish.

“It’s a great school,” Robertson said of Notre Dame last week. “I can see myself there.”

Adding Robertson could eliminate Notre Dame’s interest in adding any more receivers to a class that already contains three commitments at the position. Robertson could also play defensive back, but the Irish have used former Irish receiver Will Fuller and Golden Tate as part of the recruiting pitch to Robertson. His explosiveness and elusiveness makes him a more enticing prospect than the other remaining receivers.

Both Rivals and 247Sports peg Robertson as the No. 1 athlete in the 2016 class. Rivals rates him as a five-star recruit. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect.

• Damian Alloway, 5-9, 170; Fontana (Calif.) Summit: Alloway has been this close to committing to Notre Dame before, but the Irish have never closed the deal. With a visit to UCLA still looming, the Bruins remain as the lone obstacle standing in their way.

However, with the addition of running back Deon McIntosh in November and the Irish pushing for Robertson, Alloway may be seen more as a luxury than a necessity. And with only a few scholarships available, the Irish could favor adding help on defense rather than offense.

Alloway, a four-star recruit, would bring versatility to Notre Dame’s offense in his ability to play in the slot and in the backfield. 247Sports slates Alloway as the No. 4 all-purpose back in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 16 wide receiver.

• Trevon Sidney, 5-11, 161; La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat: Sidney’s inclusion on this list is more theoretical than practical. During last week’s preparation for the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Sidney said he was interested in making a visit to Notre Dame despite not hearing from the coaching staff recently.

The Irish could keep Sidney, a four-star recruit, in mind in case the recruitments of Robertson and Alloway turn south. But it makes more sense for the Irish to continue their pursuit of recruits with long-standing relationships rather than Sidney, a USC commit. Consider Sidney a wait-and-see recruit for now.

247Sports slate Sidney as the No. 14 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals rates Sidney No. 29 at the position.

• Velus Jones Jr., 6-0, 180; Saraland (Ala.) High: His Notre Dame interest may have already come and gone. Jones, a USC commit, originally expressed plans to visit Notre Dame this weekend. However, Saraland head coach Jeff Kelly said Wednesday that Jones will instead make a visit to USC.

Notre Dame only recently offered Jones during the previous contact period and might not stay in the picture much longer. He will need to get on campus in order to change the direction of his recruitment.

Rivals rates Jones as a four-star recruit and the No. 62 wide receiver in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and No. 84 at the position.

Linebacker

• Ben Davis, 6-4, 235; Gordo (Ala.) High: The parade of top linebacker recruits visiting Notre Dame will continue this weekend. Davis, a five-star prospect according to Rivals, will make an official visit to South Bend.

Davis’ nickname, Mr. Uno, is reflected in his recruiting ranking. Both Rivals and 247Sports peg him as the top inside linebacker in the 2016 class. His combination of size, strength and athleticism is matched by few recruits in the country. He recorded 105 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions on defense, caught 33 passes for 510 yards on offense and scored seven touchdowns in his senior season.

Getting Davis on campus is a victory in its own right for Notre Dame and running backs coach Autry Denson, his recruiter. He’s already made official visits to Georgia and LSU and will finish the month with trips to Auburn and Alabama. The Crimson Tide are the favorites to land Davis, an Alabama legacy. His father, Wayne Davis, holds Alabama’s career record for tackles.

• Caleb Kelly, 6-3, 215; Fresno (Calif.) Clovis West: Three teams are at the top of Kelly’s list. He’ll host the head coaches from Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Oregon before making a signing day decision.

Notre Dame will try to ride the momentum of Kelly’s December official visit to South Bend to surge ahead of Oklahoma, the long-time leader for the outside linebacker. The visit surpassed his expectations and put the Irish in serious contention for Kelly.

As he tries to settle on a commitment, Notre Dame will continue to push their academic prowess and recent success with linebackers Jaylon Smith and Manti Te’o. Like Smith and Te’o, Kelly was named the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top high school linebacker.

Adding Davis and Kelly would be a dream finish for Notre Dame at linebacker. Rivals rates Kelly as a five-star recruit and the No. 4 outside linebacker. 247Sports slates him as a four-star prospect and No. 2 at the position.

• Jeffrey McCulloch, 6-2, 230; Houston Aldine: A busy January for McCulloch may prevent Notre Dame from closing on the talented linebacker. Tuesday’s news that McCulloch had been admitted by Stanford is just another hurdle the Irish will have to clear.

The four-star recruit plans to finish the month with visits to Texas, Alabama and Texas A&M. If McCulloch refuses to stay in his home state and nix the national champions, the Irish will still have to battle the Cardinal. McCulloch’s affinity for a quality education will keep Notre Dame in the mix, but the momentum may be waning from his October visit.

Rivals ranks McCulloch as the No. 4 inside linebacker in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 8 outside linebacker.

• Jonathan Jones, 6-1, 209; Orlando Oak Ridge: A heads-up battle between Notre Dame and Michigan could add some competition in the coming weeks. Jones plans to make official visits to UCF this weekend and Duke next weekend.

Florida has been fruitful for the Irish in the 2016 class. Jones would be the seventh recruit to pledge to Notre Dame this recruiting  cycle if he sees a future in South Bend. Notre Dame linebackers coach Mike Elston will visit Jones, Kelly and McCulloch early in the new contact period.

While Jones brings versatility as a linebacker, his recruiting profile is a notch below Notre Dame’s other targets at the position. 247Sports slates Jones as a four-star recruit and the No. 17 outside linebacker in 2016 class. Rivals rates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 19 inside linebacker.

Defensive back

• Jordan Fuller, 6-2, 196; Old Tappan (N.J.) Northern Valley Regional: Fuller’s December official visit to Notre Dame was only the start of his final recruiting tour of the country. Trips to Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State are in the works for the four-star recruit.

The Irish, Fuller said, preferred him at safety, a position of need for Notre Dame. Fuller would rather play cornerback, and the Irish are open to that possibility as well. It will be interesting to see if his position preference plays a role in his recruitment down the stretch.

247Sports slates Fuller as the No. 5 athlete in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 21 safety.

Athlete

• Jonah Morris, 6-4, 190; Akron (Ohio) Archbishop Hoban: Morris has yet to visit Notre Dame, but the Irish are already serious contenders. He recently named Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan State and Pittsburgh as his final four schools. He will visit the Buckeyes and the Irish in the next two weeks.

Morris, a former Michigan State commit, could fill a need at any of the three positions Notre Dame is still actively recruiting: wide receiver, linebacker and defensive back. But he’s not likely the top target at any of those positions. How Notre Dame juggles Morris, a three-star recruit, with its remaining targets will be fascinating to watch. His Catholic school background would seem to be a fit at Notre Dame.

Rivals ranks Morris as the No. 43 athlete in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 48 athlete.

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

Five-star wide receiver Demetris Robertson will reportedly visit Georgia this weekend. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army All-American Bowl)