Notebook: Notre Dame coaching staff was well-traveled during recruiting contact period

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame’s coaching staff logged a lot of miles in the last two weeks.

When the recruiting calendar shifted to a contact period on Nov. 27, the Irish coaches spread across the country to visit important recruiting targets.

During the contact period, which ended Sunday night, coaches were allowed to make visits to the schools and homes of 2017 recruits.

Assistant coaches could visit a recruit once a week, but the head coach can only make one in-home visit per recruit for the entire contact period, which resumes Jan. 12 and runs through Jan. 28.

Monday marks the start of the dead period, which prohibits visits by coaches to recruits and recruits to college campuses but does not cut off other forms of communication. For those recruits planning to make college decisions between now and the middle of January, the past two weeks offered the last close looks at their college choices.

Notre Dame’s coaching staff made stops in at least 15 states to start the contact period: California, Florida, Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maryland, Tennessee, Virginia, Iowa, Michigan, Connecticut, Illinois, Georgia and Washington.

Below are some of the recruits who reported receiving visits from Notre Dame coaches. The list is not a comprehensive look at every stop each coach made in the past two weeks. Each recruit listed is in the 2017 class unless noted otherwise.

• Head coach Brian Kelly: OL commit Aaron Banks, OL target Trey Smith, S commit Isaiah Robertson, CB target Thomas Graham, TE commit Brock Wright, OL target Foster Sarell, OL commit Robert Hainsey, OL commit Dillan Gibbons

• Offensive line coach Harry Hiestand: Foster Sarell, Aaron Banks, Trey Smith, Robert Hainsey, Dillan Gibbons.

• Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght: CB commit Elijah Hicks, CB target Darnay Holmes, CB target Brendan Radley-Hiles, 2019 DE prospect Kayvon Thibodeaux, 2018 WR target Bryson Jackson, Isaiah Robertson and Thomas Graham.

• Tight ends coach Scott Booker: Brock Wright, 2018 DE commit Justin Ademilola, 2018 DT commit Jayson Ademilola, RB commit CJ Holmes, WR prospect Braylon Sanders

• Wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock: 2018 WR target Amon-Ra St. Brown, 2019 QB target J.T. Daniels, 2019 WR target Bru McCoy, LB target Rahyme Johnson, ATH target Greg Johnson, WR target Jamire Calvin, WR target Oliver Martin, WR commit Jordan Pouncey.

• Defensive line coach Keith Gilmore: DE target Joshua Paschal, DT commit Darnell Ewell, LB target Antjuan Simmons, 2018 LB commit Ovie Oghoufo, DE commit Jonathon MacCollister, DT commit Kurt Hinish.

• Linebackers coach Mike Elston: LB commit Drew White, LB commit David Adams, Kurt Hinish, Ovie Oghoufo.

• Running backs coach Autry Denson: WR commit Michael Young, Jordan Pouncey, Robert Hainsey, Dillan Gibbons.

• Quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford: 2018 QB commit Phil Jurkovec, OL commit Josh Lugg, QB commit Avery Davis.

Werner’s flip

What was expected when Pete Werner dropped his Notre Dame commitment on Nov. 29 became official on Sunday. The four-star linebacker recruit announced his commitment to Ohio State, the school he visited days before ditching the Irish.

Werner, a 6-foot-3, 215-pound senior at Indianapolis Cathedral, maintained a commitment to Notre Dame for more than eight months before changing his mind two weeks ago. Rivals ranks Werner as the No. 18 outside linebacker in the 2017 class. 247Sports pegs him No. 22 at the position.

Werner was one of several Notre Dame targets to commit elsewhere in recent weeks. Five-star outside linebacker Baron Browning also committed to Ohio State. Offensive lineman Trey Smith, a five-star recruit according to 247Sports, gave his pledge to Tennessee. Four-star cornerback Ambry Thomas also chose to stay in his home state with a commitment to Michigan.

New 2017 targets

Notre Dame slowed on offering new targets in the 2017 class during the season, but the Irish have started to hand out a few more offers as they expand their recruiting board. Before the start of December, Notre Dame hadn’t extended a new scholarship offer in the 2017 class since safety TreSean Smith in October.

These three 2017 recruits reported new Notre Dame offers in the past two weeks.

• ATH Chris Miller, 5-11, 174; Denton (Texas) High: The Colorado commit reported an Irish offer on Dec. 1. He returned to Boulder this weekend for an official visit. Miller, who could play cornerback or wide receiver in college, caught 38 passes for 541 yards and eight touchdowns as a senior. The three-star recruit chose to commit to Colorado over offers from Iowa, Houston, Missouri and Boise State.

247Sports slates Miller as the No. 23 athlete in the 2017 class. Rivals pegs Miller as a cornerback but not among the top 70.

• S Evan Fields, 6-2, 194; Oklahoma City Midwest City: The three-star safety reported a Notre Dame offer Thursday. Fields made an official visit to Arizona State this weekend.

Fields reported Notre Dame as his 26th scholarship offer with Oklahoma State, Houston and Kansas State also on the list.

Rivals ranks Fields as the No. 47 safety in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him at No. 72.

• DT Brandon Pili, 6-4, 300; Portland (Ore.) Westview: The three-star defensive tackle also reported a Notre Dame offer Thursday. The Irish have been active in Oregon in the past two weeks with a pair of 2018 recruits from the state also claiming offers.

Pili, who transferred this year to Westview from Alaska, has received scholarship offers from the likes of USC, UCLA, Oregon State, Colorado and Ole Miss since the start of his senior season. 247Sports slates Pili as the No. 85 defensive tackle in the 2017 class.

State champs

The 24 commitments in Notre Dame’s 2017 and 2018 recruiting classes had not won a state championship this season until last week.

The drought ended on Thursday when 2018 linebacker commit Bo Bauer won the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 4A state championship. Bauer’s Erie Cathedral Prep team finished the season 14-0 with a 27-20 victory over Imhotep Charter.

State championship No. 2 came on Friday night from 2017 linebacker commit Drew White and St. Thomas Aquinas. The Raiders (12-2) defeated Tampa Plant 45-6 in the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A championship.

Robert Hainsey, a 2017 offensive line commit, finished his season undefeated, but Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy (11-0) does not participate in the FHSAA postseason tournament.

Early enrollees

Notre Dame’s newest commit, four-star offensive lineman Aaron Banks, plans to join Notre Dame’s class of early enrollees. Banks will join offensive lineman Robert Hainsey, tight end Brock Wright, safety Isaiah Robertson and running back CJ Holmes as they enroll at Notre Dame in January.

Last week, Notre Dame announced the signing of Hainsey, Wright and Robertson. All three have signed their financial aid agreements with Notre Dame. The documents secure the recruits their scholarships from the Irish but do not prevent the recruits from enrolling elsewhere.

Holmes said he plans to formally sign his financial aid agreement on Wednesday. Banks said he signed his paperwork when he committed on Friday. | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame defensive backs coach Todd Lyght was active traveling the country during the first contact period of the 2017 recruiting cycle. (Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)