Notebook: Notre Dame waiting for good news at The Opening

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The list of high school football players attending The Opening Finals this week at Nike World Headquarters conspicuously lacks a single recruit committed to Notre Dame.

That might not last long.

Two top Notre Dame targets — running back CJ Holmes and offensive lineman Robert Hainsey — plan to announce their commitment decisions while in Beaverton, Ore., for the national, invite-only camp featuring 166 top college football prospects.

Holmes, a 6-foot, 192-pound back from Cheshire (Conn.) Academy, previously admitted he came very close to committing to Notre Dame following his campus visit for the Irish Invasion in June. He has since tried to add some mystery to his recruitment.

Holmes already recorded a video with Bleacher Report that will reveal his commitment on Friday and has used his Twitter account to add suspense. On Monday, Holmes tweeted an image showing Michigan, Alabama, Penn State and Syracuse as his final four schools. He has since deleted the tweet.

Despite his original tweet, Notre Dame should still be considered a top contender, if not the favorite, to land a pledge from Holmes.

“The culture and the tradition of the school itself are well known,” Holmes said of Notre Dame in June. “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 wouldn’t be the first recruit to commit to a school not listed among his purported leaders. Five-star defensive end Joshua Kaindoh committed to Maryland in April only 10 days after naming Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Michigan as his top four schools.

The recruiting theatrics shouldn’t distract from the talent of Holmes. He dazzled during the Irish Invasion camp and has seen his recruiting stock rise in the past few months. Rivals moved him inside its Top 250 at No. 230 overall as a four-star prospect and the No. 5 all-purpose back in the 2017 class last month. 247Sports slates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 42 athlete.

Hainsey, a 6-5, 276-pound offensive lineman at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy, has kept his recruitment more straightforward. The four-star recruit will choose among Notre Dame, Michigan and Michigan State on Sunday. Hainsey, who hails from Monroeville, Pa., visited Notre Dame in June for the Irish Invasion and received an offer during his previous trip to campus in March.

247Sports slates Hainsey as the No. 6 offensive guard in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 offensive tackle. Hainsey likely projects as an interior lineman for the Irish.

Last year, Notre Dame added a commitment from wide receiver Chase Claypool at The Opening Finals. But he wasn’t the only Irish commit in attendance. He was joined by offensive linemen Tommy Kraemer and Parker Boudreaux and running back Tony Jones Jr. Three more recruits in attendance last year —linebackers Daelin Hayes and Jonathan Jones and wide receiver Javon McKinley — eventually signed with Notre Dame’s 2016 class.

The absence of a current Irish commit on The Opening Finals roster is both a reflection of the perception of Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class and the lack of interest from some commits in competing in the event. Almost all players invited to The Opening Finals participated in one of the regional camps held across the country this year, but seven of Notre Dame’s 13 committed recruits in the 2017 class did not do so. That includes tight ends Brock Wright and Cole Kmet, linebackers David Adams and Pete Werner, and safety Isaiah Robertson — all of whom are rated as four-star prospects by Rivals and 247Sports.

Of the six Notre Dame commits who attended one of The Opening Regionals, only offensive lineman Josh Lugg is rated as a four-star recruit by both sites.  The other five — offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons, quarterback Avery Davis, defensive tackle Kurt Hinish, wide receiver Jordan Pouncey and cornerback Paulson Adebo — have at least one three-star rating.

Notre Dame could find other participants at The Opening Finals in its recruiting class in the future. More than 80 recruits in attendance have reported Irish offers.

Future catches?

A pair of wide receivers in the 2017 class started July by naming Notre Dame among their top five schools with announcements on Twitter.

On July 1, Michael Young, a three-star prospect, named Notre Dame, Texas A&M, Oregon, Missouri and Tulane as the leaders in his recruitment. The 5-11, 175-pound target from Destrehan (La.) High recently visited Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion.

247Sports slates Young as the No. 38 wide receiver in the class. Rivals doesn’t have Young included among the top 100 wide receivers it has ranked.

On July 4, Hezekiah Jones, a former Baylor commit, listed Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Houston as his top five schools. The 6-0, 193-pound target from Stafford (Texas) High attended Notre Dame’s Blue-Gold Game in April.

Rivals ranks Jones as the No. 16 wide receiver in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 24 at the position. Both peg him as a four-star recruit.

Georgia, Georgia

A pair of Notre Dame defensive targets chose the Bulldogs this week. Defensive end Robert Beal, a former Irish commit, and cornerback Latavious Brini, a recent visitor, both announced verbal commitments to Georgia.

Brini made his decision first Sunday, announcing his commitment on Twitter but also stating he plans to still take all five of his official visits. The 6-2, 190-pound Brini picked Georgia out of a top 12 that included Miami, Florida, Florida State, Alabama and USC.

Brini, a product of Hialeah Gardens (Fla.) Mater Academy, visited Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion. 247Sports slates Brini as a four-star recruit and the No. 16 cornerback in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 38 cornerback.

Beal, who dropped his three-month commitment to Notre Dame in February, revealed his latest commitment in a video with Bleacher Report on Tuesday. The 6-4, 230-pound recruit announced his transfer from Norcross (Ga.) High to IMG Academy earlier this year.

247Sports slates Beal as the No. 3 weakside defensive end in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him fifth at the position. Both peg Beal as a four-star recruit.


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