Notebook: DE Ryan Johnson considering Notre Dame visit

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Ryan Johnson isn’t sure if he will make an official visit to Notre Dame, but the defensive end recruit gave the Irish a spot in his final six schools.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound product of Mobile (Ala.) St. Paul’s Episcopal, said four schools are locked in for official visits: Alabama, Auburn, Stanford and Texas. That leaves Oregon and Notre Dame battling for the final visit available.

Johnson won’t have a lot of time to squeeze in his five official visits between the end of the dead period on Jan. 11 and signing day on Feb. 1. He said at least two of his visits will likely come in the middle of a week rather than the typical weekend visit.

Defensive end remains one of Notre Dame’s biggest needs in the 2017 recruiting class, and Johnson would be worth the wait. Rivals ranks Johnson as a four-star recruit and the No. 8 strongside defensive end. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and No. 17 at the position.

“It’s a great program with good football history and a great academic school as well,” Johnson said of Notre Dame. “They haven’t been as good the last few years, but I think they’ll get back up there once they rebuild. It’s a school on the rise.”

Running backs coach Autry Denson and defensive line coach Keith Gilmore have made Johnson feel like a priority.

“I have a really good relationship with coach Denson and coach Gilmore. I’ve been talking to them for awhile,” Johnson said. “They have definitely showed that they want me at their school. Them reaching out to me and showing that they really want me badly, that’s what got me to finally say I may want to go up there and visit.”

Denson has taken on the tough task of recruiting in Alabama. Last year, he helped the Irish receive a visit from five-star linebacker Ben Davis. After Davis, whose father played at Alabama, ended up signing with the Crimson Tide, Denson said he enjoys the challenge of recruiting in the state.

“If it’s tough to get a kid out of Alabama, then send me there seven days a week and twice on Sunday, so that we can go out and we can get a kid,” Denson said on signing day last year. “For a Notre Dame kid, I don’t care where he is. I can’t wait to get back there.”

Johnson was invited to play in the Under Armour All-America Game, but he was forced to sit out with an ankle injury. While watching practice and Sunday’s game, Johnson sported a Stanford hat.

Hearing Elko

As Mike Elko settles into his new job as Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator, he hasn’t wasted much time in reaching out to recruits.

Notre Dame’s 2017 recruiting class has needs remaining on the defensive side of the ball, and it will be up to Elko to get up to speed with recruiting coordinator Mike Elston and the other position coaches to identify new targets and push to make certain recruits a priority.

Elko’s impact will start to become more tangible when the recruiting dead period ends and he’s allowed to visit recruits, and recruits are allowed to make campus visits again. But Elko already has started to touch base with some recruits.

North Carolina defensive end commit Jake Lawler said he recently heard from Elko, but the four-star recruit told the Tribune he’s “fully committed to UNC” when asked about his recruitment.

A pair of unheralded cornerbacks also reported recent communication with Elko. Jason Pinnock, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior from Windsor, Conn., said he’s considering a visit to Notre Dame later this month. Pinnock, a three-star recruit according to 247Sports, has been committed to Boston College since August. Rivals rates Pinnock as a two-star prospect.

OJ Tucker, a three-star cornerback from Ocala, Fla., said he heard from Elko on Saturday. Tucker, who was being recruited by Wake Forest under Elko, has an offer list that includes Maryland, UCF, Nebraska and Georgia Tech.

Pinnock and Tucker have yet to receive offers from Notre Dame.

Top five for Wedington

A recent offer from Notre Dame landed the Irish a spot in Connor Wedington’s top five.

The 6-foot, 189-pound athlete released his list of favorites Sunday on Twitter with Baylor, Stanford, Washington, UCLA and Notre Dame earning spots.

Wedington, a senior at Sumner (Wash.) High, backed away from his commitment to Washington on Dec. 9. Notre Dame entered his recruitment race with a scholarship offer on Dec. 21.

The Irish are recruiting Wedington as an athlete who could play a number of positions. He played primarily as a running back this past season, but Notre Dame’s bigger needs are at wide receiver and defensive back.

Wedington rushed for 1,460 yards and scored 19 rushing touchdowns as a senior. He added 275 receiving yards, three receiving touchdowns and two return touchdowns on special teams. He also intercepted two passes.

Rivals ranks Wedington as a four-star recruit and the No. 11 running back in the 2017 class. 247Sports slates him as a three-star prospect and the No. 21 athlete.

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

Four-star DE Ryan Johnson is considering a Notre Dame visit. He has the Irish as one of his final six schools. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)