Notre Dame chasing top 2018 RB Jaelen Gill

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

As soon as Torii Hunter Jr. was mentioned, Jaelen Gill knew the latest news of the summer for Notre Dame’s two-sport player.

Gill, who also wants to play football and baseball in college, was well aware that Hunter signed a contract in June with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim after being selected in the 23rd round of the MLB Draft. The 2018 running back recruit has started to evaluate which school would be the best option for him to play both sports.

“All the schools I’ve talked to about playing both are definitely open to it,” Gill said. “They all have athletes that have done it. To me, it really doesn’t matter how good the baseball team is because I’m mainly football. Wherever I go for football, I’ll play baseball and try to add to the depth of their team the best I can.”

Like Hunter, Gill’s brightest future should come on the gridiron. The four-star recruit is already ranked as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2018 class by 247Sports. But Gill, who plays center field, isn’t ready to put his glove away.

“I’ve played my whole life. It’s our family sport,” Gill said. “I just love baseball. It’s like my second love. It would be real hard for me to give it up.”

Gill has yet to make a recruiting visit to Notre Dame, but he was on the South Bend campus once previously. For a baseball tournament, of course. That should change in the near future. If Gill doesn’t make a visit before the season starts, he hopes to get on campus for a game this fall.

“I have to get there before the year ends,” Gill said.

Notre Dame extended an offer to Gill in April after he rushed for 1,553 yards and 19 touchdowns in his sophomore season. He also scored three receiving touchdowns on only seven catches for 224 yards. His status as one of the top 2018 recruits in the country was bolstered when he received one of only a few invites in his class for The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters. Gill ran the 40-yard dash in 4.47 seconds during testing at the event.

Recruiting coordinator Mike Elston has been leading the Irish in their recruitment of Gill, but the Notre Dame staff has been receiving help from 2018 commit Markese Stepp. Gill said he exchanges messages with Stepp, a fellow four-star running back, daily. Stepp is pushing to share a backfield with Gill.

“It means a lot. Just being able to play right alongside a great running back like Markese, that would be something great,” Gill said. “It would be crazy. We would light things up at Notre Dame.”

The message from Elston, Stepp and others has certainly hit home with Gill.

“Everybody knows Notre Dame’s always been a top-notch school in all sports with great academics,” he said. “They have a great tradition. They stay true to everything. You never see them in the media getting in trouble or anything like that. It’s just a great school.”

The Irish are on the short list of teams that have already impressed Gill. He named Ohio State, Tennessee, UCLA and USC as other schools who have stood out early in his recruitment.

Pulling the 6-foot, 177-pound running back at Westerville (Ohio) South away from the Buckeyes may be a challenge. Gill’s high school is less than 20 miles away from Ohio Stadium. Ohio State made Gill one of its first scholarship offers in the 2018 class in June of last year. Head coach Urban Meyer has ramped up the interest since then.

“I would talk to them frequently even before I got the offer, but these past four or five months they’ve been really coming at me really hard,” Gill said. “Coach Meyer wants me to call him two times a week. It’s definitely heating up for them.”

But Gill doesn’t want to be seen as an Ohio State lean. His recruitment has a long way to go, and he plans to consider all his options.

“I’m completely open to any school,” Gill said. “Whatever school I see gives me the best opportunities and tests me the best for a post-football career is where I’m going to go. I’m not biased toward any school right now.”

Below are highlights from Gill's sophomore season.

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

Four-star running back Jaelen Gill, a 2018 recruit, has early interest in Notre Dame. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)