Notebook: Coaching carousel creates recruiting holes for Notre Dame to fill

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Coaching positions aren’t the only voids Notre Dame’s football staff will have to fill in the coming weeks.

With the recent departures of offensive coordinator Mike Sanford and tight ends coach Scott Booker, the Irish have developed significant holes in their national recruiting map.

Sanford’s top responsibilities included parts of Texas and California. Booker had been Notre Dame’s lead recruiter in Georgia and New Jersey, and he spearheaded efforts in the DMV area (Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia).

Notre Dame could fill those holes by shifting regional responsibilities for the current coaching staff or seeking new coaches with recruiting ties to those areas. Already having associate head coach Mike Denbrock in California and defensive backs coach Todd Lyght in Texas should help the Irish in those important states. Position coaches should help carry the extra load until new hires are finalized.

Booker made a strong push to continue the tight end tradition at Notre Dame with his recruiting efforts. Helping land Alizé Jones, a four-star recruit, in the 2015 class and gaining commitments from Brock Wright and Cole Kmet, also four-star recruits, in the 2017 class were signature additions under Booker. He also led the recruiting push for four-star defensive end Isaac Rochell in 2013 and four-star wide receiver CJ Sanders in 2015.

Keeping the commitments of Jayson Ademilola and Justin Ademilola, twin defensive linemen from Jersey City (N.J.) St. Peter’s Prep, should be a priority for Notre Dame’s 2018 class.

The breadth of Sanford’s measurable impact was mostly limited to the quarterback position. He worked proficiently in adding commitments from three-star Ian Book in 2016, three-star Avery Davis in 2017 and four-star Phil Jurkovec in 2018. He had already put in significant work on recruiting 2019 quarterback JT Daniels as well.

The biggest recruit Sanford landed other than his quarterbacks was four-star wide receiver Javon McKinley in the 2016 class.

Both Davis and Jurkovec have reaffirmed their commitments since Sanford was announced as the new head coach at Western Kentucky.

Intrigue was added to Davis’ recruitment on Wednesday when his head coach at Cedar Hill (Texas) High, Joey McGuire, was added to Matt Rhule’s new staff at Baylor. Davis received a scholarship offer from the Bears shortly after Rhule became Baylor’s head coach.

Davis, who can sign with the Irish on Feb. 1, decided to dispel any rumblings of a potential commitment flip by making a statement on Twitter.

“To clear all the hype & confusion, I am solid with Notre Dame. Nothing has changed for me nor will it. #GoIrish,” Davis wrote. “im not doing interviews because there's no reason. my stance never changed.”

Jurkovec told the Tribune that Sanford’s departure does not change his commitment.

“I’m fully committed to the school,” Jurkovec said in a text message.

Paschal to UK

Days after visiting Notre Dame, four-star defensive end Joshua Paschal decided he had seen enough to make a commitment. Unfortunately for the Irish, the pledge went to Kentucky.

Paschal gave his verbal commitment to the Wildcats on Tuesday.

“That’s where I was most comfortable,” Paschal told the Washington Post.

The 6-foot-3, 254-pound senior at Olney (Md.) Good Counsel chose Kentucky over offers from Notre Dame, Oklahoma and more. Paschal’s older brother, TraVaughn, played at Kentucky and currently works at the school.

The decision is a blow for the Irish at a position of need. Paschal appeared to be Notre Dame’s best chance to gain a second defensive end commitment to the 2017 class in addition to three-star Jonathon MacCollister. Paschal’s official visit this past weekend marked his second trip to South Bend.

If the Irish want to add another defensive end in the 2017 class, they may be forced to extend more offers at the position or change the mind of a recruit committed elsewhere. Finalizing the personnel of Notre Dame’s defensive coaching staff for next season could impact the outlook.

247Sports slates Paschal as the No. 11 strongside defensive end in the class. Rivals ranks him 12th.

Graham decision

Notre Dame will learn its fate with four-star cornerback Thomas Graham on Friday. The 5-foot-111, 177-pound senior will announce his decision in a 2 p.m. EST ceremony at Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) High.

Graham will choose one of six schools: Arizona, Arizona State, Nebraska, Notre Dame, UCLA or Oregon.

The Ducks have made a late charge for Graham since head coach Willie Taggart, an active recruiter, took over the program. Nebraska also could have gained momentum when it hired cornerbacks coach Donté Williams, who was recruiting Graham at Arizona, earlier this month.

Notre Dame has long been a contender for Graham. He made trips to South Bend for an unofficial visit in March and official visit in September for Notre Dame’s loss to Michigan State.

Rivals ranks Graham as the No. 11 cornerback in the class. 247Sports slates him 12th.

Four for Fields

December has already been a busy month for Evan Fields. The three-star safety has received new offers, cancelled a previously scheduled commitment announcement and released a list of the final schools he plans to consider.

Notre Dame, which offered Fields earlier this month following an evaluation by defensive backs coach Todd Lyght, is joined by Oregon, Arizona State and Kansas State in Evans’ final four. Oregon entered the mix for Evans with an offer on Tuesday. He has already made official visits to Arizona State (Dec. 10) and Kansas State (Nov. 5).

The 6-foot-2, 194-pound senior at Oklahoma City Midwest City said this week he plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame at some point in January.

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

Rivals 250 for 2018

The latest Rivals 250 for the 2018 class brought minimal changes for Notre Dame commits this week.

The same three Irish pledges who made the list in August remained as one of the top 250 recruits in the class in the updated rankings.

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec (No. 55) and linebacker Bo Bauer (No. 103) moved up slightly in the new release. Running back Markese Stepp (No. 200) slid down after missing most of his junior season with a hamstring injury.

All three players stayed in the same spot in the position rankings — Jurkovec as the No. 3 dual-threat quarterback, Bauer as the No. 5 inside linebacker and Stepp as the No. 11 running back.

The updated rankings included 15 players labeled as five-star recruits. Five of them have already visited Notre Dame: offensive lineman Jackson Carman (No. 2), wide receiver Jalen Hall (No. 4), running back Zamir White (No. 6), defensive back Tyreke Johnson (No. 8) and wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown (No. 11).

St. Brown is the youngest brother of Irish sophomore wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown. Wide receiver Osiris St. Brown, the middle brother, is committed to Stanford’s 2017 recruiting class.

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Notre Dame special teams coordinator/ tight ends coach Scott Booker during Notre Dame Football Practice on Thursday, Aug. 13, 2015, at Notre Dame in South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN