Notre Dame pushing hard for remaining recruiting targets

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s coaching staff wanted to make a big last impression on Demetris Robertson. The message came in an abnormally large form.

The Irish had the Notre Dame football equipment truck, an 18-wheeler known as “ND One,” drive to Robertson’s home in Savannah, Ga., as part of his in-home visit with Irish assistant coaches Mike Sanford, Mike Denbrock and Scott Booker.

Unfortunately for the Irish coaches, Robertson won’t be making the roughly 900-mile trip back to South Bend with the truck. But Notre Dame is holding out hope that the five-star wide receiver will send his National Letter of Intent its way next Wednesday on signing day.

But as of Thursday night, Robertson, a 6-foot, 175-pound senior, said he plans to drag his recruitment beyond signing day. His previously scheduled visits to Alabama, where he was once verbally committed, were postponed the last two weekends. Now official visits to Alabama and/or Georgia Tech are on the table for this weekend.

The unpredictability of Robertson’s recruitment means those visits are only guaranteed once he shows up on campus. And in the meantime, the Irish will keep pushing.

The over-the-top effort to land Robertson is an attempt to nab Notre Dame’s highest-ranked wide receiver prospect since the start of the Rivals ratings era in 2002. Michael Floyd, in 2008, is the only other five-star wide receiver to sign with the Irish during that time. Both Rivals and 247Sports rank Robertson as the top wide receiver in the 2016 class.

Head coach Brian Kelly, who is only allowed one in-home visit per recruit, made his final push with Robertson last week. He spent his Thursday in Gordo, Ala., with five-star linebacker recruit Ben Davis. He was joined by assistant coaches Autry Denson, Mike Elston, Todd Lyght and Brian VanGorder.

An Irish victory in Davis’ recruitment would definitely shock the recruiting world. Davis, a 6-4, 235-pound athletic specimen, is the son of Alabama’s all-time leader in tackles and has long been considered a lock to join the Crimson Tide. But Notre Dame, Georgia and Auburn are all making pushes for the nation’s top-ranked inside linebacker, who will commit on signing day.

Kelly, Booker, Lyght and Elston made their trips to the South a day after visiting with four-star defensive back Jordan Fuller in New Jersey on Wednesday. The 6-2, 196-pound Fuller also hosted Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh and Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer on Wednesday.

With his most recent visits going to Ann Arbor and Columbus, many have Fuller pegged to land at one of those two schools. Fuller will announce his commitment Monday night.

On Tuesday, Kelly, Denbrock and Elston made their final pitch to outside linebacker Caleb Kelly in Fresno, Calif. The visit included a homemade pie with a shamrock baked into the crust at the Kelly household. Elston called the “Best Apple Pie in the Valley,” on Twitter.

A signing day addition of the 6-3, 216-pound Kelly would be a treat to the Irish, who are battling Oklahoma and Oregon. Kelly’s announcement won’t come until later Wednesday night, so the Irish will have to leave room for dessert.

Rivals rates Kelly as a five-star recruit. 247Sports pegs him as a four-star prospect.

Notre Dame’s best chance of adding to its committed class of 22 recruits comes from Orlando linebacker Jonathan Jones. The 6-1, 209-pound Jones is spending most of his week in Texas for the International Bowl. He will represent the United States in a game against Canada on Sunday.

Jones, who will announce a decision between Notre Dame and Michigan on signing day, received his last visit from Notre Dame last Thursday from Denson. Brian Kelly made his one visit to Jones in December.

Falling out of focus

While Notre Dame has spent time making a final push with top targets, some recruits who were priorities earlier in the process have started to receive less attention.

The most noteworthy of the group is four-star linebacker Jeffrey McCulloch. The 6-2, 220-pound senior from Houston Aldine Davis said he didn’t receive a visit this week from the Irish coaching staff. Brian Kelly made his allotted in-home visit with McCulloch in December before the dead period. At that time, McCulloch had been considering announcing his commitment at the Under Armour All-America Game.

Notre Dame may have had a chance to land McCulloch at the time, but he chose to delay his decision. He’s since made visits to Texas and Texas A&M and has been accepted by Stanford. The Irish are included as one of his finalists for his signing day announcement, but he seems destined to stay in state.

Four-star wide receiver Damian Alloway had multiple chances to commit to Notre Dame, but he chose to keep UCLA in the running. The 5-9, 170-pound senior at Fontana (Calif.) Summit didn’t pull the trigger on a pledge following his two visits to South Bend, and now Alloway seems to have fallen down Notre Dame’s priority list.

Alloway said he hasn’t received a visit from Notre Dame during the last two weeks. He plans to visit UCLA this weekend and has not yet set a commitment.

Notre Dame’s recruitment of wide receiver Nate Johnson may have fizzled as quickly as it ignited. Johnson made an official visit to South Bend this weekend, but the Irish have yet to follow up that trip with an in-home visit.

The 5-11, 175-pound senior from Thompson’s Station (Tenn.) Independence remains verbally committed to Michigan. 247Sports slates Johnson as a four-star recruit. Rivals rates him as a three-star prospect.

Saturday is the last day FBS coaches are allowed to make in-home visits with recruits. A one-day quiet period, which allows recruits to visit college campuses, takes place Sunday. Then the recruiting calendar shifts to a dead period, which prohibits face-to-face contact between coaches and recruits, Monday through Thursday.

2017 offers

Notre Dame continued to extend offers to the junior class as the Irish coaching staff is free to travel the country during the contact period. Here’s a look at some of the latest reported offers for 2017 recruits.

• CB LeAnthony Williams, 6-0, 177; Roswell (Ga.) High: Notre Dame rewarded Williams with a scholarship offer during his visit to Notre Dame last weekend for junior day. The four-star prospect already claims nearly 20 offers including Alabama, Georgia, Clemson and Auburn.

Rivals ranks Williams as the No. 10 cornerback in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 18 at the position.

• WR Tarik Black, 6-3, 196; Cheshire (Conn.) Academy: The four-star recruit reported a Notre Dame offer Tuesday. An offer from Tennessee on Wednesday pushed his total to 24 with Alabama, Michigan and Stanford also on the list.

Rivals ranks Black as the No. 16 wide receiver in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 17 at the position.

• DB Daniel Wright, 6-1, 175; Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) Cardinal Gibbons: The Irish returned to the school that produced 2016 running back commit Deon McIntosh to offer a junior prospect. Black, a four-star recruit, claimed the offer Tuesday. He’s already reported more than two dozen offers including Florida State, Miami, Ohio State and Alabama.

247Sports pegs Wright as the No. 7 safety in the class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 athlete.

• LB Drew Singleton, 6-2, 210; Paramus (N.J.) Catholic: Notre Dame hasn’t found success with top recruits at Paramus Catholic in recent years, but the Irish continue to put forth an effort in the talented program. Singleton, a four-star recruit, became the latest to claim an offer on Wednesday, joining the likes of Alabama, Clemson, Michigan and Ohio State, among others.

Paramus Catholic graduate Jabrill Peppers, a five-star prospect in the 2014 class, signed with Michigan. Five-star defensive tackle Rashan Gary may do the same. The No. 1 recruit in the 2016 class is considering Alabama, Clemson, Auburn, Ole Miss, USC and Michigan, but he never made a Notre Dame visit.

Rivals pegs Singleton as the No. 3 outside linebacker in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 13 at the position.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Five-star wide receiver recruit Demetris Robertson received a visit from Notre Dame's coaching staff Thursday. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)