Notebook: RB CJ Holmes came close to Notre Dame pledge

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The emojis indicated CJ Holmes enjoyed his Notre Dame visit.

Following last Saturday’s Irish Invasion camp, the four-star running back started throwing around shamrock emojis — symbols used on cell phones — on his Twitter account.

When his teammate at Cheshire (Conn.) Academy, four-star wide receiver Tarik Black, tweeted “Commit Watch,” Holmes continued the flirtation. He chose to tweet emojis of a gun next to a pointed finger followed by “hmmmm.”

Was Holmes ready to pull the trigger on a commitment?

“I was very close,” Holmes said earlier this week. “I loved the visit, but a decision like that needs to be reflected on. There’s a lot of thinking that has to go into it.”

So instead of ending his recruitment, the 6-foot, 192-pound Holmes returned to Connecticut with his future still in mind.

Holmes proved to be one of the stars of the camp with his performance running with and catching the football. A one-handed catch highlighted a big night for the versatile athlete.

While Holmes was impressing the Irish coaching staff, Notre Dame was impressing him.

“The culture and the tradition of the school itself are well known,” Holmes said. “But the fans and the people, it’s just a very nice place to be. They were so welcoming. The academics obviously are second to none.”

Holmes was accompanied by his parents on the trip to South Bend, and they were equally impressed.

“My parents were very interested, and they learned a lot,” Holmes said. “They were very excited about the visit.”

A potential decision could be on hold until Holmes makes planned visits to Penn State (July 16) and Alabama (July 18) next month.

But that won’t stop Notre Dame from pushing. Tight ends coach Scott Booker has been leading Holmes’ recruitment, and running back Autry Denson has joined in as his potential future position coach.

“Coach Denson is awesome,” Holmes said. “We just met, but we really hit it off. Moving forward, I think our relationship is going to be great.”

Notre Dame has told Holmes to imagine himself being used in the Irish offense in the same way as C.J. Prosise was in 2014 and 2015. The third-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks saw playing time at wide receiver before excelling as a running back last season. Holmes could do a little of both too.

Rivals ranks Holmes as a four-star recruit and the No. 5 all-purpose back in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 5 athlete.

Holmes has also found success as a defensive back in high school, but he’d rather have the ball in his hands. As long as he’s doing it in a Notre Dame uniform, the Irish are likely to agree.

“My preference is offense,” Holmes said. “I’ll play whatever position gets me on the field quicker.”

Echols chamber

Hunter Echols remains committed to UCLA, but Notre Dame’s recruiting pitch continues to reverberate with him.

One question into an interview about his Irish Invasion visit, the four-star defensive end recruit mentioned he plans to get back to Notre Dame for an official visit in the fall.

“It was real fun,” Echols said. “It was real cool. I liked meeting all the coaches. I liked talking to (head) coach (Brian) Kelly about possibly coming to Notre Dame.”

The 6-5, 228-pound Echols was dealing with a groin injury, but he still took part in the camp to receive some lessons from defensive line coach Keith Gilmore. Because only one offensive lineman took part in the camp, the defensive line didn’t have anyone to run one-on-one pass rush drills against.

That’s when Echols asked defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder if he wanted to give it a shot.

“You can try to block us, coach,” Echols said.

Even though he may not have had a chance to show it, Echols was arguably the best pass rusher on campus Saturday.

In his junior season at Los Angeles Cathedral High, Echols tallied 79 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss and 17 sacks. Rivals ranks Echols as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him 13th.

“They told me I could be like a Jaylon Smith for the defense. Not necessarily a Jaylon Smith, but create my own path and impact the game like he did as a Notre Dame player,” Echols said of Notre Dame’s recruiting pitch. “I could play defensive end and a hybrid outside linebacker. I could really anchor that defense and help win a national championship.”

More visits could be on the way for Echols, who said UCLA is comfortable with him taking trips as long as he communicates with the coaching staff. A Nebraska visit is already on the radar.

“I’m just going through the process,” Echols said. “I’m still cool with UCLA and (defensive line) coach Angus (McClure) and (head) coach (Jim) Mora and everybody else.”

Clarity for Brini

A visit to Notre Dame led to Latavious Brini setting a decision date. The 2017 cornerback recruit will announce his commitment on July 31.

Brini set the date on Sunday, following his Irish Invasion visit. The 6-2, 190-pound prospect from Hialeah Gardens (Fla.) Mater Academy released a top 12 of Miami, Georgia, USC, Florida, Mississippi State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, Florida State, Alabama, Florida Atlantic, Central Florida and Florida earlier in June.

Running backs coach Autry Denson and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght have made sure the Irish stay in the mix.

“I loved the coaching staff,” Brini said. “Coach T-Lyght, coach Denson — I loved them.”

Brini said he talks to one of them almost every day. The communication will likely continue until he makes his decision.

247Sports slates Brini as a four-star recruit and the No. 16 cornerback. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 38 at the position. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Running back recruit CJ Holmes celebrates making a one-handed catch with Irish linebacker Jonathan Jones during the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, June 18, 2016. ND Insider Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA