Notebook: Notre Dame CB target Thomas Graham not afraid of risks

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Thomas Graham plays cornerback with a specific philosophy in mind.

“You never can succeed without taking any risks,” the four-star prospect said.

He’s handled his recruitment the same way. Rather than stick with a commitment to USC that he started to feel uncertain about, Graham dropped his pledge in April to reevaluate his options.

Graham wasn’t worried about any backlash. He had already visited Notre Dame the previous month. Now the Irish are battling more than the Trojans in the pursuit of one of the top 2017 cornerbacks in the country.

The 5-foot-11, 177-pound recruit named his top 10 contenders less than a month ago. Notre Dame and USC were joined by Oklahoma, UCLA, Arizona, Oregon, LSU, Alabama, Utah and Arizona State.

Whenever Graham decides to make his next round of cuts, the Irish should be in a good position. With one visit already in the books, Graham plans to make an official visit for either the game against Michigan State or Stanford. Notre Dame has managed to grab Graham’s attention.

“It’s just different,” Graham said. “Where I’m from, it’s similar but just in a different part of the U.S. That kind of sticks out. It’s not really too big of a city. I don’t live in (Los Angeles). I live on the outskirts of it. It’s not too small. It’s mainly there for you to play football, go to school and that’s all.”

Rivals ranks Graham as the No. 7 cornerback in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him No. 12 at the position.

Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght is leading Notre Dame’s attempt to pull Graham out of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. Pairing Graham with cornerback commit Paulson Adebo would put the Irish a step closer in completing the secondary in the 2017 class.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly even reached out to Graham on Twitter before competing in The Opening Finals at Nike World Headquarters earlier this month.

“Coach Lyght, we talk a lot,” Graham said. “We talk like once a week. We have quick conversations. He sees how my week is going. We talk about life. Coach Kelly, he (sends direct messages to) me all the time before events. He tells me good luck and to go out there and represent.”

Adding the personal touch from the head coach has really impacted Graham.

“It means a lot,” he said. “When I went up there, we had a meeting together. We talked about how he sees my future there. You feel good that a coach with that much background at that level is talking to you like that. It’s something that you dream of.”

Echols open

What seemed inevitable for Hunter Echols occurred on Friday. The four-star defensive end recruit dropped his five-month commitment to UCLA.

Echols, a 6-4, 232-pound product of Los Angeles Cathedral, visited Notre Dame in June for the Irish Invasion and indicated a desire to return for an official visit following the camp.

Echols, who announced the status change of his commitment on Twitter, has plenty of options with an offer list that includes LSU, Oregon, Alabama, Oklahoma and USC.

Rivals ranks Echols as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 12 at the position. He recorded 79 tackles, 27 tackles for a loss, 17 sacks and three fumble recoveries in his junior season.

Top lists

A pair of Notre Dame targets in the 2017 class included Notre Dame in their recently released top lists.

• LB Jacob Phillips, 6-4, 228; East Nashville (Tenn.) Magnet: Notre Dame joined Oklahoma, LSU, Alabama and Oregon in a top five for Phillips. The four-star recruit visited Notre Dame in March and plans to return for an official visit.

Rivals ranks Phillips as the No. 3 inside linebacker in the class. 247Sports slates him eighth at the position.

• S Amari Carter, 6-2, 180; Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High: Notre Dame joined Miami, Clemson, Michigan, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Auburn and LSU in Carter’s top eight. The three-star recruit, who plays at the same high school that produced Irish safety Devin Studstill and linebacker Te’von Coney.

Rivals ranks Carter as the No. 42 safety in the class. 247Sports pegs him No. 57 at the position.

Former USC cornerback commit Thomas Graham with Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly. (Photo via Twitter)