Recruiting Reset: Outlook remains bleak at defensive end for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

In a recruiting class that has shown glimpses of promise, Notre Dame is once again left searching for answers following a pair of setbacks at defensive end.

Fifteen days after the Irish signed their 2016 recruiting class without losing a single commitment, 2017 defensive end commit Robert Beal dropped Notre Dame. Beal, a four-star recruit, originally became the first defensive player to commit the Irish in the class.

For three months, Notre Dame had successfully pulled a top recruit out of Georgia and continued a recruiting turnaround at the position that started in the 2016 class with Daelin Hayes and Khalid Kareem. But it was wiped away when Beal, who ended up giving Georgia his commitment in July, ditched the Irish.

The heartbreak repeated this fall when Donovan Jeter, a four-star prospect from Pennsylvania, committed to Notre Dame in September, ditched the Irish on Oct. 18 and pledged to Michigan less than a week later.

The only defensive end commitment Notre Dame has been able to hold onto came from Jonathon MacCollister, a raw three-star recruit, in June.

The Irish are left with few, if any, realistic options remaining from the list of recruits reporting offers. Notre Dame will likely need to expand its target list or push for a momentum change — which could happen with a defensive coordinator hire — in the final months of the recruiting cycle.

Commitment

• Jonathon MacCollister, 6-4, 253; Orlando (Fla.) Bishop Moore: MacCollister didn’t need to finish his visit to Notre Dame before committing to the Irish. The former teammate of Irish offensive lineman Parker Boudreaux quickly recognized a fit for himself at Notre Dame during his trip for the Irish Invasion.

In MacCollister, the Irish found a long and lean prospect with untapped potential. MacCollister has played as much tight end — and even preferred to be recruited as a tight end at one point — as defensive end. His development will most likely result in a ground-holding defensive end rather than a pure pass rusher.

247Sports slates MacCollister as the No. 19 strongside defensive end in the class. Rivals did not include him in its list of the top 35 recruits at the position.

Remaining targets

• Joshua Paschal, 6-3, 253; Olney (Md.) Good Counsel: Most of Notre Dame’s top defensive end targets have already moved past considering the Irish. But the recruiting process for Paschal and Notre Dame might not be over yet.

The four-star recruit made an unofficial visit to Notre Dame in June at the request of his father and left impressed. But he has yet to return for an official visit as Paschal and the Irish try to work through his recruitment. Paschal has reportedly made game visits to Oklahoma and Kentucky this season.

Rivals ranks Paschal as the No. 8 strongside defensive end in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him 10th.

• Hunter Echols, 6-4, 232; Los Angeles Cathedral: Hope may be all that’s left to hold onto with Echols and Notre Dame. The four-star recruit has made two commitments already, and neither of them were given to the Irish.

Echols visited Notre Dame for the Irish Invasion as a UCLA commit. He flipped his pledge to USC in August. The Irish continue to recruit Echols and his teammate, wide receiver Jamire Calvin. Getting both on campus for official visits remains a possibility.

Rivals ranks Echols as the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 14.

• Brad Johnson, 6-3, 230; Pendleton (S.C.) High: The three-star recruit hasn’t expressed much public interest in the Irish previously, but he recently told 247Sports that he’s working on setting up an official visit through Notre Dame running backs coach Autry Denson. His recruitment primarily includes South Carolina, Notre Dame, Mississippi State, Virginia Tech and Tennessee.

247Sports slates Johnson as the No. 23 weakside defensive end. Rivals rankes him No. 41.

Missed targets

• Joshua Kaindoh, 6-6, 256; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: The absence of Maryland and presence of Notre Dame in Kaindoh’s top four appeared to be good news for the Irish. Kaindoh, a Maryland native, released the list shortly after visiting Notre Dame for the Blue-Gold Game. But Kaindoh didn’t stick to his list at all when he committed to the Terrapins later that month.

(Update: Kaindoh dropped his commitment to Maryland on Nov. 28.)

Rivals: Five stars, No. 3 WDE. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 2 SDE.

• Robert Beal, 6-4, 230; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: Beal was Notre Dame’s highest-ranked commit in the 2017 class when he ditched the Irish. Beal was slated as the No. 2 weakside defensive end in the country at the time by both Rivals and 247Sports. He transferred from Norcross (Ga.) High to IMG Academy for his senior season.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 6 WDE. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 WDE

• Donovan Jeter, 6-5, 260; Beaver Falls (Pa.) High: Jeter’s relationship with Notre Dame went from sweet to sour in short order. Not long after defending Brian Kelly publicly on Twitter as a commit, he took swipes at the Irish head coach in interviews with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and ESPN.com following his new commitment to Michigan.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 8 SDE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 14 DT.

• Corey Malone-Hatcher, 6-3, 246; St. Joseph (Mich.) High: A talented, local recruit at a position of need seemed like a stroke of luck for the Irish, but he decided to stay in his home state rather than closer to home. Malone-Hatcher committed to the Wolverines in June after making several visits to both schools.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 12 SDE. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 19 WDE.

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Jonathon MacCollister runs a drill during the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, June 18, 2016. ND Insider Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA

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 seventh in the series.

QB: Streamlined QB recruiting process pays dividends

RB: ND can be picky at running back

WR: Irish have work left to do at wide receiver

TE: ND has nation's best tight end class for 2017

OL: Irish still waiting to wrap up offensive line class

DT: Ewell, Hinish answered ND's defensive tackle needs