Successful finish for Notre Dame's recruiting class hinges on this weekend

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

How Notre Dame finishes the 2017 recruiting cycle will largely be determined by how this weekend unfolds.

With four major targets expected on campus, the Irish will have a great opportunity to improve its 2017 recruiting class. Notre Dame chose once again to make its annual awards show an important recruiting event.

In addition to the four targets in the 2017 class, a dozen Notre Dame commits in the 2017 and 2018 classes plan to be in South Bend. Many of them have saved their official visits for this weekend.

The presence of Notre Dame’s commits can’t be overstated. There aren’t many people in the world who have more faith in head coach Brian Kelly’s program than the recruits who have pledged to be Irish. The turbulent 2016 season hasn’t fazed many of them, and they’re ready to add more commitments to the class.

Each uncommitted visitor would bring needed value to Notre Dame’s class.

• DE Joshua Paschal, 6-3, 254; Olney (Md.) Good Counsel: The four-star defensive end will make his second visit to Notre Dame this weekend. At the request of his father, Paschal visited Notre Dame in June, and he came away impressed.

Now with his senior season behind him, Paschal has refocused on recruiting and has Notre Dame near the top of his list. He made a visit to Oklahoma in September and Kentucky, where his older brother played college football, last weekend.

Notre Dame’s need for pass rushers has been well-documented, and Paschal stands as ND’s best chance at landing an impact defensive end in the class. He recorded 68 tackles, 18 tackles for a loss, 13 sacks and one safety as a senior. Paschal is so athletic, Good Counsel, the same program that produced junior center Sam Mustipher to Notre Dame, used him as a receiver at times this past season.

“He's a good ball player,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “Not real big, but I was really impressed with him when I got to know him this year. He's a quick-footed guy. He's good with his hands. He can penetrate, and he's a hard worker. He's non-stop. I like him a lot."

247Sports slates Paschal as the No. 10 strongside defensive end in the 2017 class. Rivals ranks him 12th at the positon.

• ATH Greg Johnson, 5-10, 183; Los Angeles Augustus Hawkins: Plans to get Johnson on campus for a game this season fell through, but the Irish remained on his interest list. Now Notre Dame will host Johnson just days after he dropped his commitment to Arizona.

Johnson’s commitment change came a day before Arizona cornerbacks coach Donte Williams was officially hired by Nebraska. The Huskers hosted Johnson for his only previous official visit in October and figure to become a leader in his recruitment.

Johnson is familiar with Notre Dame too. He’s visited South Bend with his B2G Sports group previously. But this weekend’s visit will go a long way in determining his future with the Irish.

The four-star recruit could play any number of positions at Notre Dame. This past season, Johnson rushed 120 times for 1,370 yards and 13 touchdowns, caught 17 passes for 364 yards and three touchdowns and recorded 30 tackles and five interceptions on defense.

“He's a muscular kid,” Lemming said. “He can play a lot of positions. He's a running back, a physical slot receiver and could also play corner. He's a good athlete who has been kind of overlooked because there are so many great receivers on his team with Joseph Lewis and Jalen Hall."

Rivals ranks Johnson as the No. 4 athlete in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 10 athlete.

• WR Oliver Martin, 6-1, 190; Iowa City West: Martin keeps a low profile in the media but his high school production couldn’t be ignored. He surpassed 3,000 career receiving yards this year and finished the season with 85 catches for 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns. Martin also returned one punt and one kickoff for touchdowns.

Martin appears to have three schools emerging as leaders: Iowa, Notre Dame and Michigan. The home-state school hosted Martin for his first official visit last weekend. He previously made an unofficial visit to Notre Dame for the Duke game in September. Before he became a rising recruiting star, Martin also competed at Notre Dame’s Irish Invasion in 2015.

Michigan has also made Martin a priority, but the Wolverines have a growing list of wide receivers showing interest including Tarik Black and Nico Collins, both four-star recruits, and five-star prospect Donovan Peoples-Jones. If Martin were to commit to Notre Dame, he’d likely be the best receiver in Notre Dame’s 2017 class.

“He's big time,” Lemming said. “He's a kid that could be very productive at Notre Dame. He's much better than I even thought. After watching his senior film, he's a player of the year in the state of Iowa."

247Sports slates Martin as a four-star recruit and the No. 10 wide receiver in the 2017 class. Rivals rates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 63 wide receiver.

• WR Jamire Calvin, 5-10, 165; Los Angeles Cathedral: Calvin will finally make his first trip to Notre Dame this year, but he’s already been on campus in the past. He attended Notre Dame’s game against Georgia Tech in 2015 long before he received an offer from the Irish.

Calvin will return this weekend as one of Notre Dame’s top priorities at wide receiver. With Calvin planning to make his commitment announcement at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl in January, the Irish will receive Calvin’s last visit before his decision.

The last two weeks for Calvin brought in-home visits from Oregon State, Washington State, Nebraska and Notre Dame. But coaching changes at the first two schools could shake up his recruitment. San Jose State announced Wednesday that it had hired Brent Brennan, Oregon State’s outside receivers coach, as its new head coach. On Thursday, Purdue announced it had hired Washington State inside receivers coach JaMarcus Shephard.

Calvin, like Martin, had a productive senior season. He tallied 86 receptions for 1,312 yards and 14 touchdowns and returned a punt for a touchdown.

"He's a good athlete. He runs well. Notre Dame needs speeds and Calvin has it. He's somewhat overlooked, but he's not a bad ball player."

Rivals ranks Calvin as a four-star recruit and the No. 36 wide receiver. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and No. 49 at the position.

Closing time for Banks

Aaron Banks, one of Notre Dame’s top remaining offensive line targets, will announce his commitment decision on Friday. The 6-foot-7, 344-pound Banks will do so in a ceremony at El Cerrito (Calif.) High at 3 p.m. EST.

Banks will choose from one of seven finalists: Notre Dame, Michigan, UCLA, Nebraska, Oregon, Tennessee or California.

The four-star recruit has been one of Notre Dame’s top priorities the past two weeks. He’s received in-home visits from head coach Brian Kelly and offensive line coach Harry Hiestand. The Irish would like to add Banks to their 2017 recruiting class that already includes four-star offensive linemen Robert Hainsey and Josh Lugg and three-star offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons.

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

VISITORS LIST

The following recruits are expected to visit Notre Dame this weekend for Friday night’s awards show.

2017 targets

WR Jamire Calvin

ATH Greg Johnson

WR Oliver Martin

DE Joshua Paschal

2017 commits

QB Avery Davis

DT Darnell Ewell

OL Dillan Gibbons

OL Robert Hainsey*

RB CJ Holmes*

TE Cole Kmet

OL Josh Lugg

DE Jonathon MacCollister

WR Jordan Pouncey*

S Isaiah Robertson

TE Brock Wright

2018 commit

LB Ovie Oghoufo*

*Indicates unofficial visit

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

A June visit to Notre Dame surpassed expectations for four-star defensive end Joshua Paschal. (Photo courtesy of Nike)