Five-star OL Foster Sarell headlines Notre Dame visitors list

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The first tangible recruiting impact of Notre Dame’s poor start to the season may be seen this weekend.

Despite an underwhelming 2-4 record, the Irish have managed to keep all 24 verbal commitments in the 2017 and 2018 class intact. But only one of those commitments — four-star defensive linemen Donovan Jeter — came since the start of the 2016 season.

Jeter committed to Notre Dame shortly after visiting South Bend for Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan State. The game, which included a visitors list of roughly 50, served as the first of Notre Dame’s two major recruiting weekends of the season.

The second weekend was scheduled to coincide with Saturday’s Stanford game. And while the Irish will host many talented recruits in the 2018 and 2019 class this weekend, the visitors list won’t quite live up to the standard, in terms of 2017 targets, set by the Michigan State game.

Some players previously linked to visiting Notre Dame this weekend — five-star linebacker Baron Browning, four-star safety Devon Hunter and four-star athlete Greg Johnson — won’t be in town. None have mentioned Notre Dame’s poor performance this season as the reason for their absence. (UPDATE: A previous version of this story included Johnson as a visitor expected in town. That changed Thursday evening.)

But winning creates excitement and gives recruits another reason to want to visit Notre Dame. With the lackluster start to the season, the brunt of the work falls on Notre Dame’s staff to convince recruits that a campus visit is still worth their time.

This weekend, the Irish will host four official visitors who are still considering Notre Dame. They will be joined by nine commits and six targets in the 2018 class.

Here's a closer look at the four top targets in the 2017 class expected on campus Saturday.

• OT Foster Sarell, 6-6, 311; Graham (Wash.) Kapowsin: A recruiting weekend can’t be considered small if Sarell is in town. The five-star recruit would be, arguably, the biggest catch for any program in the country this recruiting cycle.

Sarell, who previously visited Notre Dame in June for the Irish Invasion, is ranked as the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2017 class by 247Sports. Rivals ranks Sarell as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the class and No. 3 regardless of position.

“He’s very technically sound and very athletic,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He’s not a powerhouse guy who is going to smash you like (Ohio State commit) Josh Myers. But he’s a legit 6-6. He has the long arms, the quick feet and the brains. He makes very few mistakes twice.”

Sarell, who will visit Notre Dame with both of his parents, started the season with an official visit to Nebraska. He has since made unofficial visits to Stanford for its win over USC on Sept. 17 and Washington for its win over Stanford on Sept. 30. Alabama may also receive a visit.

“He’s got everything going for him,” Lemming said. “He’s a typical Notre Dame type of kid too. He would fit perfectly into Notre Dame academically and athletically.”

• S Grant Delpit, 6-3, 189; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: The four-star LSU commit became a late addition to the list when he confirmed his upcoming visit on Thursday night. Delpit, originally from Houston, teams with Irish offensive line commit Robert Hainsey at IMG Academy.

Delpit committed the Tigers in July, but LSU head coach Les Miles was fired earlier this season. He would be a welcomed addition to Notre Dame's recruiting class, which needs another safety or more to join Isaiah Robertson. The Irish will try to make a move on Delpit with his first visit to campus.

"He's a very good safety," Lemming said. "He can hit. Notre Dame needs guys like him in the secondary. He's a talented ball player."

247Sports slates Delpit as the No. 3 safety in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him ninth at the position.

• CB Elijah Hicks, 6-0, 170; La Mirada (Calif.) High: When Notre Dame’s coaching staff looked to expand their defensive back target board in August, they turned to a familiar school. The Irish offered Hicks, who attends the same high school as ND junior tight end Tyler Luatua. Hicks will make his first visit to Notre Dame this weekend with his father.

The Irish will face plenty of competition from the West Coast in trying to pull in Hicks. He also has received offers from USC, UCLA, Oregon and others. Hicks attended two USC games this season and made his first official visit to Northwestern last month.

“Elijah Hicks is a very good player,” Lemming said. “Notre Dame is desperate for DB help. He’s the kind of guy who can step in and play as a freshman.”

Rivals ranks Hicks as a four-star recruit and the No. 27 athlete in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 82 cornerback.

Hicks plays both ways at La Mirada. In seven games, he’s accumulated 10 catches for 109 yards and three touchdowns, 20 tackles, three tackles for a loss, two interceptions and one blocked field goal. He recorded a 4.65 40-yard dash at The Opening Regional in Los Angeles.

• S Amari Carter, 6-2, 180; Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High: Would three commits in three different recruiting cycles make Palm Beach Gardens a Notre Dame pipeline school? Carter could continue the Irish connection at his school.

Palm Beach Gardens produced sophomore linebacker Te’von Coney and safety Devin Studstill to Notre Dame in the last two recruiting cycles. It seems Miami may be the one true threat separating the Irish from extending the trend. Carter, a three-star recruit, plans to make his college commitment on Oct. 22.

“He’s not a dominating player, but a very athletic kid,” Lemming said. “Once he gets bigger and stronger, he could turn out to be a really good one. Studstill needed to hit the weight program too.”

Carter attended his first Miami football game as a recruit last weekend for its loss against Florida State. In addition to Miami and Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Clemson, Michigan, Auburn and LSU were listed in Carter’s top eight schools in July.

Rivals ranks Carter, who previously visited Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion, as the No. 42 safety in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him No. 60 at the position.

Carter previews his Notre Dame visit here ($).


The following recruits are expected to attend Notre Dame’s game against Stanford on Saturday.

2017 targets

DT Jerron Cage

S Amari Carter*

S Grant Delpit*

CB Elijah Hicks*

OL Foster Sarell*

2017 commits

CB Paulson Adebo*

OL Robert Hainsey*

OL Kurt Hinish

OL Josh Lugg

WR Jordan Pouncey*

S Isaiah Robertson

LB Pete Werner

WR Michael Young*

*Indicates official visit

2018 targets

LB Dallas Gant

RB Jaelen Gill

CB Houston Griffith

DT Aeneas Hawkins

WR Micah Jones

TE Zack Kuntz

2018 commit

RB Markese Stepp

2018 prospects

DB Julius Brents

OL Tommy Brown

RB Moses Bryant

TE Jack Cravaack

TE Tyrick James

WR Jacob Jefferson

CB D.J. Johnson

DT Aaron Jones

LS Justin Mader

TE Charlie Mangieri

LB Cameron McGrone

DL Daniel Parker

DT Billy Parker

DE Alex Reigelsperger

OL Charlie Schmidt

S EJ Williams

LB Kyle Wright

2019 prospects

DE Darius Alexander

QB Hank Bachmeier

WR David Bell

RB Payton Bowles

OL Justin Britt

OL Bryan Hudson

DE George Karlaftis

WR Bryce Kirtz

RB Mike Love

QB Luke McCaffrey

LB Cade Stover

2020 prospects

OL Jake Lugg

RB JJ Robertson | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame offensive line target Foster Sarell was recently named the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2017 class by 247Sports. (Photo courtesy of Nike)