Top LB recruit Ben Davis 'hyped' about Notre Dame visit

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Autry Denson has assisted with multiple recruiting commitments in his first year at Notre Dame, but his biggest victory might come this weekend.

Ben Davis, the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the 2016 class according to Rivals and 247Sports, named Notre Dame’s running backs coach as the main reason he’s visiting South Bend this weekend.

“If I wouldn’t have met him, I probably wouldn’t have ever visited Notre Dame,” said the Gordo, Ala., product who is scheduled to arrive Friday for his official visit.

Denson pushed Notre Dame into the role of fringe contender when Davis listed the Irish alongside Alabama, Auburn, Georgia and LSU in his top five. Notre Dame's coaching staff hopes it can make it move on the list once Davis’ impression of the school grows beyond his relationship with Denson.

“He’s been recruiting for a really long time now,” Davis said. “We stayed in contact, and I really want to go up there to South Bend. I’ve heard a lot about the great tradition they have.”

The 6-foot-4, 235-pound senior has a list of items he wants to learn about Notre Dame: how the players interact with the coaching staff, the history of the program, campus life and the relationships he could form during his time as a student.

Davis admits he’s not an expert on the Irish, but he kept on eye on Notre Dame throughout the season.

“I heard that they won a lot of championships also and it’s a great place to be,” Davis said. “Coach Denson said he thinks I’m going to fall in love with it.”

He’s grown to take Denson for his word. The reason the two have bonded during the recruiting process is Denson’s ability to talk with Davis on any number of topics.

“He’s always been a coach that I can talk to about anything. Football-related, non-football-related, anything. If I just want to talk, I can just call him. That’s why I’ve been happy to have him in my life and meet him. I can’t wait to get up there.”

One thing Davis is sure to learn while on campus is the linebacker legacy that has developed in the past few years at Notre Dame. Both Manti Te’o and Jaylon Smith were recognized as the nation’s top college linebacker with the Butkus Award during their Irish careers.

Davis would fit the profile of a future Butkus Award winner. He’s hard-hitting linebacker with the athleticism to play wide receiver in high school. He finished his senior season with 105 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions on defense and 33 receptions for 510 yards and seven touchdowns.

“Being a linebacker, I want to be able to go somewhere that I can develop myself to be the best,” Davis said. “With two of the last four Butkus awards coming from there, you know they put out linebackers. That’s a big reason I’m interested too.”

Davis isn’t a stranger to legacies. He’s an Alabama legacy himself. His father, Wayne Davis, holds the record for career tackles from his time with the Crimson Tide. That’s why many assume Davis will make the transition from Gordo High to the University of Alabama.

He’s not willing to concede that Alabama will be the choice for him.

“I’m taking it slowly,” Davis said, “and enjoying the process, laying out my options and seeing which one feels the most comfortable and where I want to go in my heart.”

For now, Georgia is providing Alabama with the most competition in his recruitment. Davis enjoyed his visit to Georgia. The additions of head coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker, both coming from Alabama, have strengthened his feelings about the Bulldogs.

“When I went there, it felt like home to me. It felt like a place I wanted to be at. Them and 'Bama share the top spot for me,” Davis said. “Then LSU, Notre Dame and Auburn. I have a feeling Notre Dame is going to jump up on the list too though.”

The next two weekends Davis will make official visits to Auburn and Alabama, but the Irish will get the first shot at Davis at the start of a new contact period. The first impression will have to make a lasting impression.

“I can’t wait to get up there,” Davis said. “I’ve been hyped up all week about it.”

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

Ben Davis, the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, made an official visit to Notre Dame in January. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)
Ben Davis, the No. 1 inside linebacker prospect in the 2016 recruiting class, will make an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)