Recruiting Reset: Notre Dame still waiting to wrap up offensive line class

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Early and often.

That’s the best way to describe the recruiting success of Notre Dame offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. Since joining the Irish in 2012, Hiestand has helped Notre Dame land top offensive line recruits early in every recruiting class.

Four times — Steve Elmer in 2013, Jerry Tillery in 2015, Tommy Kramer in 2016 and Dillan Gibbons in 2017 — the first commitment of a class has come from a player being recruited as an offensive lineman.

The success hasn’t been limited to a fast start. It has also typically come with an early finish. In the four completed recruiting cycles under Hiestand, he has gathered all of his commitments no later than July in each recruiting cycle, seven months before signing day.

While Gibbons continued the first commitment trend, the Irish still haven’t wrapped up recruiting at the position in the 2017 class. Despite three commits, Notre Dame would like to add at least one more offensive lineman to the class.

But it won’t be an easy task with the remaining targets. Hiestand may need to offer a few more offensive linemen to finish off the class.

Commitments

• Dillan Gibbons, 6-4, 311; Clearwater (Fla.) Central Catholic: The three-star recruit became Notre Dame’s first commitment in the 2017 class all the way back in April of 2015. The Irish chose to pass on his older brother, Reilly, who signed with Stanford in the 2014 class, but Hiestand was convinced to make a move for the younger Gibbons.

Gibbons has played offensive tackle for most of his high school career, but will almost certainly play on the interior at Notre Dame. His thick frame and powerful run-blocking make him an ideal candidate to play guard or center.

Playing on his third team in high school (St. Petersburg Catholic as a freshman and Northside Christian as a sophomore and junior), Gibbons has helped pave the way for a Clearwater Central Catholic offense averaging 38.4 points and 344.2 yards per game.

247Sports slates Gibbons as the No. 45 offensive tackle in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him No. 55 at the position.

• Josh Lugg, 6-7, 293; Wexford (Pa.) North Allegheny: The Irish recruiting momentum in Western Pennsylvania started with Lugg. Since he joined Notre Dame’s recruiting class in August 2015, the Irish have landed five commitments from the area. Lugg has been a vocal member of Notre Dame’s recruiting class as an active social media user.

The run-heavy offense (265.2 yards per game) at North Allegheny has prepared Lugg as a polished run blocker. But if he’s going to remain as an offensive tackle, he’ll need to develop more consistency. His development could determine the success of this offensive line class.

Rivals ranks Lugg as the No. 31 offensive tackle in the class. 247Sports slates him 35th. Both peg him as a four-star prospect.

• Robert Hainsey, 6-5, 276; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: Hainsey remains Hiestand’s biggest catch in the 2017 class. The four-star recruit is seen as the most-talented of Notre Dame’s three commits and his versatility is a big reason why.

Hainsey could play guard or tackle for the Irish. His size, toughness and technique allowed him to succeed against top competition at The Opening Finals this past summer and on a weekly basis at IMG Academy. The Ascenders (8-0) have won 26 straight games and have traveled the country to play some of the best teams in the nation.

With Hainsey, a Western Pennsylvania native, playing left tackle, IMG Academy has averaged 405.3 yards and 37.8 points per game this season. 247Sports slates Hainsey as the No. 5 offensive guard in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 11 offensive tackle.

Remaining targets

• Foster Sarell, 6-7, 304; Graham (Wash.) Kapowsin: Pulling Sarell 1,800 miles away from home was never going to be easy for Notre Dame. When the five-star recruit received admittance into Stanford and Washington started its season (8-0), it only became harder.

But the Irish will keep fighting. Notre Dame hosted Sarell for the Irish Invasion in June and an official visit in October for the game against Stanford. The Cardinal and Huskies will be the two biggest obstacles Notre Dame will have to overcome.

If Hiestand can somehow get Sarell to Notre Dame, he’d qualify as his biggest catch with the Irish to date. Sarell has spoken highly of Hiestand’s relationship with his players and coaching ability.

247Sports slates Sarell as the No. 1 overall recruit in the 2017 class. Rivals also ranks him as the No. 1 offensive tackle in the class and No. 3 overall.

• Aaron Banks, 6-7, 344; El Cerrito (Calif.) High: The four-star recruit became the latest offensive lineman to report a Notre Dame offer in June. Banks quickly followed up the interest with an unofficial visit to Notre Dame. Now he’s probably Notre Dame’s best chance of landing another lineman from its remaining targets.

Banks returned to South Bend on an official visit for Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan State. He has taken a break from visits since then, but he will make an official visit to Michigan this weekend. Wolverines head coach Jim Harbaugh recently visited his school and was seen holding the down marker as part of the chain gang. Banks previously made an official visit to Oregon.

Few recruits have the size that Banks will bring with him to college football. Rivals ranks Banks as the No. 15 offensive tackle in the class. 247Sports slates him 24th.

• Trey Smith, 6-5, 304; Jackson (Tenn.) University School: When Smith released his top six in July, it meant at least one school wouldn’t receive an official visit from him. If everything goes well, Notre Dame won’t be left out. The Irish hope to host him for their last home game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 19 and will need to in order to have a realistic chance in the closing stretch of his recruitment.

Smith has already visited Ole Miss, Tennessee and Alabama this season. Ohio State and Clemson will also by vying for visits. Smith has discussed making a decision at some point in December. Many believe the Vols are the favorite to land him.

247Sports slates Smith as a five-star recruit and the No. 3 offensive tackle in the class. Rivals ranks him as a four-star prospect and the No. 14 offensive tackle.

(UPDATE: Smith committed to Tennessee on Dec. 6.)

Missed targets

• Josh Myers, 6-6, 310; Miamisburg (Ohio) High: Notre Dame recognized Myers as a talented offensive lineman early in his high school career. The Irish offered him a scholarship in the summer before his sophomore season, but Ohio State was a step ahead with an earlier offer. He committed to the Buckeyes in January 2015 despite two previous visits to South Bend.

Rivals: Five stars, No. 3 OT. | 247Sports: Five stars, No. 6 OT.

• Wyatt Davis, 6-4, 328; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco: The California product had his eyes on the Midwest, but he chose Ohio State over Notre Dame and Michigan. He visited all three schools on consecutive days in June before committing to the Buckeyes later that month. Davis attends the same high school as Irish freshman safety D.J. Morgan.

Rivals: Five stars, No. 1 OG. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 1 OG.

• Jedrick Wills, 6-5, 315; Lexington (Ky.) Lafayette: Notre Dame made the top eight Wills named in June, but he recently told ND Insider he’s no longer considering the Irish. He visited Notre Dame the last two summers, but his recruitment will likely come down to Alabama, Kentucky and Michigan.

(UPDATE: Wills committed to Alabama on Nov. 15.)

Rivals: Five stars, No. 4 OT. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 9 OT.

• Jake Moretti, 6-5, 285; Arvada (Colo.) Pomona: Moretti made the same decision as Davis except his came a year earlier. Notre Dame hosted him in June 2015 shortly after he visited Ohio State. He ended up giving the Buckeyes his commitment on July 4.

(UPDATE: Moretti flipped his commitment to Colorado on Nov. 17.)

247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 OT. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 12 OT.

• Andrew Thomas, 6-5, 326; Atlanta Pace Academy: Notre Dame received a pair of visits from Thomas, but it wasn’t enough to land his commitment. He made a trip to South Bend with teammate Trey Blount, an Irish wide receiver target, in March, and he returned in June for the Irish Invasion. He ended up making the same decision as Blount and committed to Georgia in July.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 10 OT. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 18 OT.

• Tyler Beach, 6-6, 275; Port Washington (Wisc.) High: Wisconsin rarely lets top offensive line recruits leave the state. Beach continued the trend when he gave the Badgers his pledge in April. A month earlier, Beach received an offer from Notre Dame during a campus visit.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 32 OT. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 43 OT.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame would like to add five-star offensive lineman Foster Sarell (right) to its 2017 recruiting class that includes commitments from Robert Hainsey (middle) and Josh Lugg (left). (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 fifth in the series.

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