Talent shipping to Notre Dame for Irish Invasion

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The foundation for the Irish Invasion already has been laid.

With two successful iterations of Notre Dame’s elite summer camp on record, the next challenge for the Irish coaching staff is elevating its status to an event top football prospects circle on the calendar annually.

Year three of the Irish Invasion should help continue that progression. With at least 70 recruits expected for Saturday’s camp, which will run for two hours in Notre Dame Stadium starting at 7 p.m., Notre Dame’s coaching staff has assembled an impressive group of players.

The recruits range from top targets in the 2017, 2018 and 2019 classes to prospects in those same classes hoping to impress the Irish coaches for a future scholarship offer. Notre Dame will also have five 2017 commits on campus helping to build relationships with other recruits.

“It’s important to keep this going every year and make the Invasion a must-stop for all the top prospects,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “Alabama has one. Ohio State has one. Michigan is trying to get theirs going but they bounce around so much. To be an elite team, you have to have an elite camp that everybody talks about every year.”

Before the camp, the Irish coaching staff will get a chance to show off the Notre Dame campus and spend time sharing the recruiting pitch of an unofficial visit.

“The name Irish Invasion is great," Lemming said. "Now it’s a matter of following through every year and getting all these impact players to show up. Because kids have a lot of choices. It’s really up to the assistant coaches to make sure they get their guys coming in for the camp.”

With 22 targets scheduled to be on campus, Notre Dame appears to be getting the right recruits on campus.

Top targets

Of the 27 visiting recruits who already have received offers from Notre Dame, 14 of them are targets in the 2017 class. Each would be welcome additions to Notre Dame’s recruiting class, but these four may be the most talented.

• OLB Baron Browning, 6-3, 230; Kennedale (Texas) High: Rivals, 247Sports and Lemming all agree. Browning is one of the top linebackers in the country. The two recruiting websites rate him as a five-star recruit. Rivals ranks him as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him second.

Notre Dame already has added three linebacker commitments in its 2017 class — Pete Werner, David Adams and Drew White — but is still in the market for outside linebackers who could bring pass rush potential.

Browning listed Notre Dame among his top 10 schools earlier this spring alongside Texas, Oklahoma, TCU, Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, Michigan, USC and UCLA.

• OLB Justin Foster, 6-4, 258; Shelby (N.C.) Crest: The four-star recruit could fill the previously mentioned need at outside linebacker. Foster brings more size to the position than Browning.

He’s a premier ballplayer,” Lemming said. “He’s a big kid who can run.”

Alabama, Clemson, Oklahoma, Michigan and Stanford are among the top schools in pursuit of Foster as well. 247Sports slates him as the No. 5 outside linebacker in the class. Rivals ranks him seventh at the position.

• OL Foster Sarell, 6-6, 311; Graham (Wash.) Kapowsin: Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand has an eye for talent, and Sarell fits the description of a top-notch blocker.

“He’s a super, five-star offensive lineman,” Lemming said. “Him, along with Jedrick Wills and Trey Smith, those are three offensive linemen Harry Hiestand really wants. He’s a great student, he’s technically sound and a Notre Dame type of kid.”

247Sports slates Sarell as a five-star recruit and the No. 3 offensive tackle in the class. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect and seventh at the position.

The Irish will have to battle Washington, Stanford, USC, Michigan and Alabama in Sarell’s recruitment.

• DE Hunter Echols, 6-4, 230; Los Angeles Cathedral: The four-star recruit plans to stay home to play at UCLA, but Echols still wants to take at look at Notre Dame. He has room to grow as a defensive end but projects as talented pass rusher. Echols recorded 79 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks in his junior season.

Rivals ranks him as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the class. 247Sports slates him 13th at the position.

Future commits?

Three-star defensive end Jonathon MacCollister called dibs on the first commitment of the weekend when he gave the Notre Dame coaching staff his verbal pledge soon after he arrived on Friday.

The Irish Invasion has historically featured several future Notre Dame commitments each year. The next three players may be the most likely to follow that trend.

• S Amari Carter, 6-2, 180; Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High: The three-star safety has long had the Irish Invasion on his visit schedule. If Notre Dame impresses Carter, he could choose to follow former high school teammates Devin Studstill and Te’von Coney from South Florida to South Bend.

Miami, which is a short ride from his high school, will likely be the top competition for Notre Dame much like it was with Studstill in the 2016 class and Coney in the 2015 class. Carter also reports offers from Auburn, Michigan, Clemson and LSU.

Rivals ranks Carter as the No. 42 safety in the class. 247Sports slates him 56th.

• OL Robert Hainsey, 6-5, 276; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: The last time Hainsey visited Notre Dame, he received an offer from the Irish. The western Pennsylvania product visited with his father in March. This time his mother will make the trip.

The four-star recruit projects as an interior lineman for the Irish. Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Florida and Ohio State are among Hainsey’s other offers.

“Notre Dame has been very impressed with his improvement in the past year,” Lemming said. “He’s probably going to be a guard or center.”

247Sports slates him as the No. 6 offensive guard in the class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 offensive tackle.

• WR Michael Young, 5-11, 175; Destrehan (La.) High: The three-star receiver arrived at Notre Dame early to take a long look at the campus. By the time he leaves on Sunday, Young should have a pretty clear impression of what the Irish are offering him.

Earlier this week, Young named Notre Dame as one of his top 10 schools with Oregon, Vanderbilt, Texas A&M, Virginia Tech, Missouri, Arizona, Tulane, Minnesota and Virginia also making the list.

247Sports pegs Young as the No. 39 wide receiver in the class.

The youngsters

Some of the top recruits visiting Notre Dame on Saturday aren’t more than halfway through their high school careers. Yet many of them already have been to South Bend. These four players are names to know for the future.

• DE Malik Vann, 6-2, 249; Fairfield (Ohio) High: A visit for the Blue-Gold Game in April produced an offer for Vann. Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Louisville and Pittsburgh are among the other programs who have liked what they’ve seen from Vann early in his career.

247Sports slates him as four-star recruit and the No. 6 inside linebacker in the 2018 class, though his future may be on the defensive line.

• CB Houston Griffith, 6-0, 180; Chicago Mount Carmel: The son of former NFL fullback Howard Griffith received a Notre Dame offer on his visit in March. He returns with Ohio State, Florida, Georgia, Florida State and Michigan recently added to his list.

247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 7 cornerback in the 2018 class.

• RB Markese Stepp, 6-0, 210; Indianapolis Cathedral: The-four star recruit has been on campus multiple times since the start of last season. A Notre Dame offer in April gives him the opportunity to join teammate Pete Werner, a 2017 linebacker commit, with the Irish.

Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa, Wisconsin and Duke have also offered the four-star running back ranked No. 12 in the 2018 class by 247Sports.

• QB JT Daniels, 6-1, 190; Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei: Notre Dame identified Daniels as their top quarterback target in the 2019 class following a freshman season with 3,042 passing yards and 33 touchdowns as a varsity player.

Arizona State, UCLA and USC followed suit since Notre Dame offered Daniels in July.

Local flavor

Notre Dame showed some love for some of the top players in the area with invites to the Irish Invasion.

Rising senior Cedric Mitchell, a two-way player at Concord, landed on Notre Dame’s radar and visited in April. The Irish have evaluated Mitchell (6-1, 180) as a safety, but 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 109 wide receiver in the 2017 class.

Marian running back Alexander Horvath, a 6-3, 221-pound rising senior, and Penn tight end Anthony Torres, a 6-6, 235-pound rising junior will also be in attendance.

Torres, the younger brother of Irish basketball player Austin Torres, impressed reporters covering an Ohio State camp earlier this month.

A complete visitors list is in the story below.



Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Outside linebacker Justin Foster, a four-star recruit in the 2017 class, will be one of the top Notre Dame targets attending Saturday's Irish Invasion camp. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)