Four-star OL Aaron Banks commits to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The shot of recruiting momentum Notre Dame desperately needed came in the form of a massive offensive lineman Friday.

Aaron Banks, who measured in at 6-foot-7 and 344 pounds at an Oakland Nike camp in May, gave the Irish his commitment. The four-star recruit made his announcement during a ceremony at El Cerrito (Calif.) Friday afternoon and later shared the news on Twitter.

Blessed to and excited to announce that I am committed to Notre dame #IRISHEL17E#GoIrish ‼️ @Hayesfawcett3pic.twitter.com/CnBuzciirG

— BANKSofAMERICA (@bigaaronbanks) December 9, 2016

Notre Dame beat out the likes of Michigan, UCLA, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee and California to land a commitment from Banks. Head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand made Banks one of Notre Dame’s top priorities in the last few weeks. Both made visits to see Banks early in the current contact period that ends Sunday night.

“He's a good catch,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “They weren't going to get Foster Sarell or Trey Smith, but I think he's a pretty good consolation prize. He's very big and fairly athletic. Working with Harry Hiestand, they could really develop him into a big-time ball player. So it's a good catch. You can't teach size and he certainly has that in abundance."

The Irish are still pushing for Sarell, the No. 1 offensive tackle in the country, according to Rivals and 247Sports, but may be trailing Washington and Stanford. Smith, who 247Sports pegs as a five-star recruit, committed to Tennessee last week.

With four offensive linemen already committed to Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class, Sarell would be the icing on the cake. Without him, the Irish still have three four-star offensive linemen (Robert Hainsey, Josh Lugg and Banks) and a three-star offensive lineman (Dillan Gibbons). All four have played offensive tackle in high school, but each could wind up playing on the interior with Gibbons the most likely of the group.

“I think he could play both,” Lemming said when asked if Banks is a better fit at tackle or guard. “Harry's good enough to teach him to play both and play at a big-time level. He's athletic and he's quick in a limited space, which would make him good for guard."

Rivals ranks Banks as the No. 14 offensive tackle in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him 24th at the position.

Notre Dame’s 2017 class expanded to 18 commitments with the addition of Banks. Improving the class has been tough sledding for the Irish since the start of the season. They entered August with 17 commitments and have only added Banks and cornerback Elijah Hicks since then. Four-star defensive lineman Donovan Jeter joined and left the class during the season, and four-star linebacker Pete Werner dropped out of the class last week.

Rivals ranks Notre Dame’s class No. 7 in the country behind only Alabama, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Georgia, Texas A&M and LSU. 247Sports slates the Irish at No. 10.

The Irish will try to continue the recruiting momentum this weekend as four top targets make official visits alongside a dozen Notre Dame pledges. Friday night’s awards show served as the main event for the weekend.

Defensive end Joshua Paschal, athlete Greg Johnson and wide receivers Oliver Martin and Jamire Calvin will be the main focus for Notre Dame’s coaching staff this weekend, but Banks stole the show on Friday.

"It's a good catch in two ways,” Lemming said. “He can really add to Notre Dame's depth on the offensive line, but also they've had such a major slump in recruiting that this could maybe start sending the arrow pointing north instead of south. It's a good sign to be able to beat Michigan on him. Perhaps they can finish really strong now with recruiting."

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Offensive lineman Aaron Banks, a 2017 target, attended Notre Dame's 36-28 loss to Michigan State on Sept. 17, 2016. (Tribune photo/Jared Hamsher)