Recruiting Reset: Notre Dame needs partner for four-star safety Isaiah Robertson

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame addressed its safety concerns in the 2016 recruiting class, but the Irish still had plenty of work to do at the position.

A pair of safeties in the 2017 class would give Notre Dame some real momentum at the position. The Irish were halfway there when they added a commitment from Isaiah Robertson, a four-star recruit, in April. Unfortunately for Notre Dame, Robertson still doesn’t have a partner for the back end of the secondary.

The absence of a second commitment hasn’t been for a lack of trying. The Irish extended scholarship offers to close to 30 safety recruits in the class. Early interest from some recruits faded and the list of legitimate remaining targets seems short. Previous targets like Chaz Ah You and Isaiah Pola-Mao appear to have fallen off the board. Neither has received a visit from Notre Dame during the contact period.

Notre Dame made a late offer to TreSean Smith, a Louisville commit, in October and may need to add more safeties to the list in order to complete a pair at the position. (UPDATE: Three-star safety Evan Fields reported a Notre Dame offer Thursday morning.)


• Isaiah Robertson, 6-2, 190; Naperville (Ill.) Neuqua Valley: If Robertson wanted to play wide receiver, he’d likely be the best wide receiver commit in Notre Dame’s class. Yet his future is on defense, which makes perfect sense for both him and the Irish.

Robertson starred as a two-way player in high school, but he was sold on playing defense at Notre Dame. He’s a natural at making a play on the ball and has shown consistent physicality as a safety. His career on offense should help him in the secondary.

Two weeks after receiving an offer from the Irish, Robertson gave the coaching staff his commitment. He ditched plans to visit Illinois and Wisconsin in doing so.

None of the four safeties Notre Dame signed in the 2016 class shared a four-star rating from both Rivals and 247Sports. Robertson does. Rivals ranks him as the No. 17 athlete in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 22 safety.

Remaining targets

• TreSean Smith, 6-2, 188; Cincinnati LaSalle: Smith kept his visit under wraps, but when he showed up unannounced to watch Notre Dame play against Virginia Tech in November, it became the first glimmer of hope that the Irish could flip the Louisville commit.

The Irish and the Cardinals rarely battle for a recruit, but the seasons each team had will make Louisville a tough foe to beat. Louisville also has the advantage of recognizing Smith’s talent earlier. Smith received an offer from the Cardinals in February and he made a commitment in June.

Smith led LaSalle to its third straight state title. Smith scored both LaSalle touchdowns in a 14-7 win over Perry in the championship game. He rushed 17 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns, all in the second half, to lead a comeback win.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 23 S. | Rivals: Three stars.

• Jaiden Cole, 6-1, 195; Monroe (La.) Neville: Notre Dame was able to successfully recruit an athletic quarterback to play safety in the 2016 recruiting cycle (Jalen Elliott), and it’s trying to do it once again. Cole, who visited Notre Dame for the Michigan State game, is on the short list of 2017 recruits to receive an offer from the Irish since the start of August.

In Cole, Notre Dame is pursuing an under-the-radar prospect. The Pelican State product doesn’t have an offer from LSU, but his offer list includes Arkansas, Washington, Oklahoma State and Texas A&M.

Unfortunately for the Irish, there hasn’t been a lot of buzz on a decision from Cole. He’s busy leading his team in the playoffs with a 13-0 record. Cole has thrown for 1,472 yards and 19 touchdowns and rushed for 1,284 yards and 20 touchdowns.

Rivals: Three stars, No. 44 ATH. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 51 ATH.

• Grant Delpit, 6-3, 189; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: Delpit may have been one of the most important visitors to make it to Notre Dame’s campus this season. A top-level talent at a position of need from a powerhouse program, Delpit represents the type of safety the Irish would like to start landing.

However, the visit didn’t seem to propel Notre Dame ahead of LSU. Delpit, an LSU commit, made visits to Notre Dame and Miami after the Tigers fired head coach Les Miles. But with an LSU visit set for this weekend and Ed Orgeron taking over the program, Delpit appears set with his decision.

Delpit teamed with Irish offensive line commit Robert Hainsey as IMG Academy rolled to a perfect 11-0 season. Delpit recorded 47 tackles and four interceptions in the secondary.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 3 S | Rivals: Four stars, No. 9 S.

Missed targets

• Devon Hunter, 6-1, 205; Chesapeake (Va.) Indian River: On two different occasions, Hunter told reporters he would visit Notre Dame. First it was the Stanford game. Then it was the Miami game. Neither happened. By the end of the October, he excluded the Irish from his five finalists — Alabama, Auburn, North Carolina, Virginia Tech and Florida.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 3 S. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 4 S.

• Paris Ford, 6-1, 180; Munhall (Pa.) Steel Valley: Within two months of receiving an offer from Notre Dame, Ford followed it up with an unofficial visit. The Irish appeared to be in a good spot to land the brother of former ND cornerback Darrin Walls. Yet in October 2015, Ford decided to end his recruitment and commit to Pittsburgh.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 4 S. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 20 S.

• Jaylen Kelly-Powell, 6-0, 180; Detroit Cass Tech: Kelly-Powell was a regular visitor at Notre Dame early in his recruitment, but he never returned for a game this season. His last trip to South Bend came for the Irish Invasion. He committed to Michigan in November.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 17 S. | Rivals: Three stars, No. 31 S.

• Keldrick Carper, 6-3, 185; Plain Dealing (La.) High: Carper made a surprise official visit to Notre Dame for the Michigan State game, but he remained committed to Texas A&M. The Irish received his only visit since pledging to the Aggies in June. He recently signed financial aid agreement paperwork to enroll early at Texas A&M.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 28 ATH. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 42 S.

• Amari Carter, 6-2, 180; Palm Beach Gardens (Fla.) High: Notre Dame couldn’t continue its recruiting streak at Palm Beach Gardens with Carter. Rather than follow the same college path as linebacker Te’von Coney and safety Devin Studstill, Carter chose to stay home with a commitment to Miami. He visited South Bend for the Irish Invasion and returned on an official visit for the Stanford game.

Rivals: Three stars, No. 46 S. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 63 S.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Houston Griffith, left, and Isaiah Robertson during the Irish Invasion at Notre Dame Stadium Saturday, June 18, 2016. ND Insider Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA

In previous weeks, the ND Insider Recruiting Reset has taken a position-by-position look at Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the 2017 class. This story is the 10th and final installment 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

DE: Outlook remains bleak at defensive end for Irish

LB: Linebacker class should help solidify ND defense

CB: Irish continue to add reinforcements at cornerback