Signing day superlatives for Notre Dame's 2016 class

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s 2016 recruiting class is filled with a cast of characters.

From future stars to developmental projects, each recruit signing with the Irish will have a chance to fill a role at Notre Dame.

Some of the biggest storylines in Notre Dame’s class can be described with these signing day superlatives.

Biggest get — LB Daelin Hayes: Seeing the talented linebacker prospect commit to USC in July 2014 had to sting. But persistence and a renewed recruiting push from head coach Brian Kelly and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore put Notre Dame back in the conversation. When he ditched the Trojans for the Irish in December, it marked the biggest recruiting victory of the 2016 cycle for Notre Dame.

Hayes brings a blend of athleticism and strength that could be used at multiple positions in the defensive front seven. His early enrollment will allow Notre Dame to get a better sense of whether he fits better initially at linebacker or defensive end.

The fact that Rivals kept Hayes as a five-star recruit despite missing all but three games of his senior season with a torn labrum in his right shoulder is a testament to the potential Hayes has as a college football player.

Runner-up: OL Tommy Kraemer.

Earliest impact — DE Khalid Kareem: No position has had a clearer path to playing time in the last few recruiting cycles than defensive end. That hasn't changed. When Kareem enrolled at Notre Dame in January, he became the most talented freshman at the position since Isaac Rochell joined the Irish in 2013.

Kareem has the size (6-3, 245) and pass-rushing prowess to earn a spot in the defensive line rotation during his first season in South Bend. Kareem totaled 17 sacks in his senior season at Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison.

Runner-up: DB Devin Studstill.

Highest upside — WR Chase Claypool: The raw talent of the Canadian star can be breathtaking. He’s shown his athleticism on the football field and basketball court during his high school career in British Columbia. There’s little reason to believe that talent won’t transfer when he crosses the border.

Notre Dame has successfully recruited big receivers in recent years with Corey Robinson (6-5) and Miles Boykin (6-4). Claypool (6-5) may have the highest ceiling of the bunch. As a possession receiver and a red-zone target, Claypool could develop into a mismatch for most defensive backs.

Runner-up: OL Tommy Kraemer.

Sleeper — CB Julian Love: No recruit in Notre Dame’s class impacted his high school team in more ways than Love. He ran. He caught. He tackled. He covered. He returned. He scored. Though he’s projected as a cornerback initially at Notre Dame, a switch to any number of positions throughout his career would not be surprising.

Love may need time to develop the technique to be a successful college cornerback. But if he can harness his deceptive speed, compact strength, and football intelligence, Love could transform into a shutdown cornerback. 247Sports, ESPN and Scout all rate Love as a three-star recruit.

Runner-up: QB Ian Book

Strongest unit — Offensive line: Harry Hiestand owns the crown for most consistent recruiter for Notre Dame. Once again, he’s put together a powerful group of offensive linemen. The unit started with the gem of Notre Dame’s class, offensive tackle Tommy Kraemer. The 247Sports Composite, which combines the rankings of the major recruiting services, pegs Kraemer as Notre Dame’s top commitment in 2016.

The unit also includes Liam Eichenberg, who received an offer from Ohio State following his freshman year, and Parker Boudreaux, who claimed more than 70 scholarship offers throughout the recruiting process. Eichenberg could play either tackle or guard for the Irish. Boudreaux is the prototypical interior lineman with a mean streak. Only quantity prevents the Irish from claiming the title as the best offensive line class in the country.

Runner-up: Wide receiver.

Biggest reach — DE Adetokunbo Ogundeji: After missing out on several early defensive end targets, Notre Dame was forced to get creative at the position. The result? A commitment from Ogundeji, a lightly recruited, raw prospect from Walled Lake, Mich.

The former Western Michigan pledge claimed fewer than 10 scholarship offers before Notre Dame made a move for his verbal commitment. Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore scouted the 6-4, 215-pounder and saw a project he can work into a productive defensive end. History has shown that successful pass rushers can come from anywhere.

Ogundeji’s development hit a speed bump this fall with a partially torn MCL in his right knee. He was recently cleared to resume football activities after missing most of his senior season.

Runner-up: RB Deon McIntosh.

Toughest miss — WR Austin Mack: The Fort Wayne to Notre Dame pipeline has been favorable to the Irish in the past decade. Former Irish superstars Jaylon Smith and Tyler Eifert made the transition to Notre Dame from Catholic high schools in Fort Wayne. The area also produced safety Drue Tranquill, defensive lineman Tony Springmann and wide receiver John Goodman in recent years.

So when one of the top wide receivers in the country attends Smith’s alma mater, Bishop Luers, it’s easy to imagine his future at Notre Dame. Instead, Mack chose to follow Smith’s older brother’s path to Ohio State. Mack was a frequent visitor in South Bend before committing to the Buckeyes in June. The four-star recruit enrolled at Ohio State in January.

After a strong showing at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl, Mack was named the No. 3 wide receiver in the 2016 class by 247Sports. Rivals ranks him No. 21 at the position.

Runners-up: DE Josh King, DE Auston Robertson.

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

Linebacker Daelin Hayes visited Notre Dame twice last season and enrolled with the Irish in January. (SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)