Recruiting Reset: Notre Dame has nation's best tight end class for 2017

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Editor’s Note: In the coming weeks, the ND Insider Recruiting Reset will take a position-by-position look at Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the 2017 class. This story is the fourth in the series.

Notre Dame lived up to the Tight End U reputation in the 2017 class.

No program in the country has recruited the position better than the Irish. Notre Dame targeted two of the top tight ends in the class and received commitments from both. The Irish didn’t need to offer any other tight end prospects.

With Brock Wright and Cole Kmet, both four-star recruits, committed in the 2017 class, the Irish have turned their attention to 2018. Adding another top recruit a year behind Wright and Kmet could prove challenging, but the Irish aren’t shying away from targeting the cream of the crop.

Commitments

• Brock Wright, 6-5, 249; Cypress (Texas) Cy-Fair: Arguably Notre Dame’s top commit in the 2017 class, Wright was an early addition. Only offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons has been committed to Notre Dame longer. When Wright gave his pledge to the Irish in June 2015, the current crop of Notre Dame freshmen included only nine commitments.

Wright, equal parts punishing blocker and sure-handed receiver, became the cornerstone of the Irish class. Rivals, Scout and ESPN all peg him as the top Notre Dame commit. Rivals ranks him as the No. 1 tight end in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him sixth at the position.

Because Cy-Fair utilizes a run-heavy offense, Wright’s blocking prowess is much more polished than many top tight end recruits. In eight games this season, the Bobcats have rushed for 1,613 yards and attempted only 157 passes. Wright has caught 20 of them for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

• Cole Kmet, 6-5, 238; Arlington Heights (Ill.) St. Viator: Refusing to settle for only one tight end in the class, Notre Dame extended an offer to Kmet less than a week after Wright committed to the Irish. A little more than three months later, Kmet came to the same conclusion as Wright — he wanted to play college football in South Bend.

With Wright serving as a natural in-line tight end, Kmet may be seen as the better pass catcher of the two. He could even flex out as a wide receiver. But in the past year, Kmet has bulked up and become more of a well-rounded tight end. Now there’s a debate on whether Wright or Kmet is the better prospect.

Recently, 247Sports moved Kmet to the top of Notre Dame’s class. Both Rivals and 247Sports slate him as the No. 3 tight end for 2017.

Kmet’s senior season was delayed by mononucleosis, but he’s been a big part of the St. Viator offense in six games with 36 catches for 540 yards and three touchdowns.

Eye on the future

• Zack Kuntz, 6-7, 215; Camp Hill (Pa.) High: Both Rivals and 247Sports agree — Kuntz is the top tight end recruit in the 2018 class. Notre Dame seems to agree as well. The Irish have hosted Kuntz three times this year.

The four-star recruit visited Notre Dame for the first time in April, when the Irish extended him an offer while he was attending the Blue-Gold Game. He returned this season for Notre Dame’s games against Michigan State and Stanford.

(UPDATE: Kuntz committed to Penn State on Nov. 26.)

• Jeremy Ruckert, 6-5, 219; Lindenhurst (N.Y.) High: Notre Dame expanded its 2018 target list during the bye week with an offer to Ruckert. The Irish joined a long list that already includes Alabama, Ohio State, Florida State, Penn State and UCLA.

Ruckert caught 60 passes for 852 yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore and has carried his success into his junior season.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 2 TE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 7 TE.

• Mustapha Muhammad, 6-4, 213; Missouri City (Texas) Ridge Point: Can the Irish pull another tight end from the Lone Star State? Notre Dame has been able to do so with Wright in the current cycle and Durham Smythe in 2013.

Muhammad not only claims offers from the power programs in Texas, but the likes of Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan, and Clemson are also after him. Notre Dame joined the fray in May but has yet to receive a visit.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 6 TE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 12 TE.

• Judge Culpepper, 6-5, 245; Tampa (Fla.) Plant: Notre Dame became familiar with the Culpepper family when older brother Rex Culpepper, now a freshman quarterback at Syracuse, visited campus in 2014. The Irish didn’t offer Rex Culpepper, but Judge Culpepper reported a Notre Dame offer in July.

Notre Dame joined a list of more than 30 schools to offer Judge Culpepper, the son of former NFL defensive tackle and Florida Gator Brad Culpepper.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 10 TE. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 15 TE.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

2017 tight end commit Cole Kmet, left, and 2017 tight end commit Brock Wright, right, attended Notre Dame's 36-28 loss to Michigan State on Sept. 17, 2016. (Tribune photo/Jared Hamsher)

In the coming weeks, the ND Insider Recruiting Reset will take a position-by-position look at Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the 2017 class. This story is the fourth in the series.

QB: Notre Dame's streamlined QB recruiting process pays dividends

RB: Notre Dame can be picky at running back

WR: Notre Dame has work left to do at wide receiver