Notre Dame recruiting targets preview Irish junior day

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame is expected to host nearly 30 recruits for its junior day on Saturday. ND Insider caught up with a few of the 2017 Irish targets who will be on campus.

CB Thomas Graham, 5-11, 173; Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High.

Junior stats: 103 tackles, two tackles for a loss and one interception for a touchdown.

Rankings: Rivals – Four stars, No. 6 cornerback. 247Sports – Four stars, No. 7 cornerback.

Top offers: USC (committed since July 2015), LSU, Oklahoma, UCLA and Utah.

Recruiter: Offensive coordinator Mike Sanford.

Recent visit: Utah.

Planned visit: Arizona.

• Graham will visit Notre Dame this weekend with his father.

ND Insider: What made you want to visit Notre Dame?

Graham: “Me and my dad had talked about going to schools and Notre Dame was one on the list. Once they offered, that just put it higher on the list for this spring and summer.”

ND Insider: What does a Notre Dame offer mean to you?

Graham: “It means a lot because it’s a tradition-rich program. It’s a program that’s all about family, football and a brotherhood that you’ll be a part of for a lifetime.”

ND Insider: What made you want to commit to USC?

Graham: “It was my dream school. I always wanted to go there so that made me want to commit. I opened my eyes to everybody else because they might have something to offer that USC doesn’t have to offer.”

ND Insider: Do you plan to visit other schools despite your commitment to USC?

Graham: “This spring I want to find my top five and then take official visits and then fully commit.”

ND Insider: What’s your relationship with Mike Sanford like?

Graham: “He’s a really cool dude. He and I both wanted me to get out there. He’s very excited and can’t wait to meet me.”

LB Jacob Phillips, 6-3, 230; East Nashville (Tenn.) Magnet.

Junior stats: 112 tackles, five tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks and one interception.

Rankings: Rivals – Four stars, No. 9 inside linebacker. 247Sports – Three stars, No. 43 outside linebacker.

Top offers: Auburn, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Oregon and Texas A&M.

Recruiter: Linebackers coach Mike Elston.

Recent visits: Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State.

Planned visit: Oklahoma (March 22-23).

• Phillips will visit Notre Dame this weekend with his high school coach.

ND Insider: What made you want to visit Notre Dame?

Phillips: “When I received an offer from Notre Dame, I was very thankful for it. After some consideration and talking about it with my coaches, we decided that it could be a wonderful place for me to play. We wanted to investigate it more and take a trip up there.”

ND Insider: What do you hope to learn about Notre Dame on your visit?

Phillips: “I hope to learn a lot about Coach Elston and all the rest of the coaches. I want to check out what kind of people they are and what they teach the kids. I also want to check out the campus and see if it’s a place I would enjoy living and see if it’s the right fit for me.”

ND Insider: What’s your relationship like with coach Elston?

Phillips: “I have a good relationship with Coach. We talk and he tells me everything straight up. He’s not trying to creep around anything. Obviously if he coaches at Notre Dame, he’s a great coach. I feel like he could prepare me to be a great player.”

ND Insider: Do you have a good grasp of what you’re looking for in a school?

Phillips: “I feel like I have a good grasp. I’m definitely thankful, humble and blessed by all my opportunities. I received my first offers pretty young so I have the whole overwhelming part out of the way. Now I’m mature with my process and the way I think about it. Right now I’m just trying to thin down the list to figure out which school is the right fit for me.”

ND Insider: Do you have a decision timeline?

Phillips: “Right now I don’t have a specific timeline. My coaches think that I should definitely not do it too soon right now. My parents don’t think I should either. I think I can wait a little bit. I don’t think I’ll last all the way to signing day, but definitely around when the season starts or later.”’

ND Insider: Do you have any favorites at this point?

Phillips: “I definitely have all the schools ranked, but I’m not ready to release that yet.”

ND Insider: Who has been recruiting you the most consistently?

Phillips: “The most consistent would probably be Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Vanderbilt and Oregon.”

LB Pete Werner, 6-3, 215; Indianapolis Cathedral.

Rankings: Rivals – Four stars, No. 19 outside linebacker. 247Sports – Four stars, No. 22 outside linebacker.

Top offers: Stanford, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State and Duke.

Recruiter: Linebackers coach Mike Elston.

Recent visits: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Penn State and Duke.

Planned visits: Ohio State and Stanford.

• Werner will visit Notre Dame on Saturday with his parents following a Friday trip to Michigan.

ND Insider: What made you want to visit Notre Dame?

Werner: “They offered me and showed a bunch of interest. It’s just one of those schools that I wanted to visit. I wanted to get a better feel about it because it’s one of my choices that I could commit to. It’s just a great school overall. I’m looking for a school with great academic reputation as well as a good football school. That fits the requirements.”

ND Insider: Do you have a decision timeline?

Werner: “I have three or four visits left. Hopefully I can gather from those schools and make my decision. I’d like to commit pretty soon, before my senior season. But if any schools bites on before I commit or anything, I’ll wait and see.”

ND Insider: Does going through the recruiting process with teammates Markese Stepp and Emil Ekiyor help?

Werner: “We help each other out. They obviously have their favorites. I have mine. We kind of get into little arguments about it, which is funny. We just have some fun with it. We’re good friends and talk about it a lot.”

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Former USC CB commit Thomas Graham will take an official visit to Notre Dame this fall. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)