Notre Dame hosting several targets for penultimate recruiting weekend of 2017 cycle

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Months of watching film, reaching out to recruits and extending scholarship offers have all built to the final 12 days until signing day for Notre Dame’s football program.

Yet most of that work had to be reset in the last month or so as the Irish have regrouped to find new recruiting targets to address evolving needs. Everything has moved faster with the finish line in sight. By the time this story hits the press, a new development could have already happened.

The next two weekends will be Notre Dame’s best chances to push a recruiting class from 15 commitments back into the neighborhood of 20 recruits. The needs have been clearly identified with new offers at defensive end, defensive tackle, cornerback, safety, wide receiver and even running back.

Turning those offers into members of the recruiting class typically requires one pivotal moment: a campus visit. The finish to Notre Dame’s 2017 class should become clearer after this weekend with at least five targets expected on campus.

In South Bend, the visiting recruits will meet new coaches settling into their roles, five early enrollees starting their college careers and three commits making official visits. Those new faces, the coaches returning from last season and the recruiting office will all combine to highlight what Notre Dame has to offer.

Soon enough Notre Dame will learn if these five recruits liked what they’re about to see.

• S Evan Fields, 6-2, 194; Oklahoma City Midwest City: A month before the latest wave of offers, Notre Dame identified the three-star recruit as a new safety target. He saved a trip to see the Irish for his final official visit.

Fields has turned his focus to six schools down the stretch: Arizona State, Baylor, Kansas State, Notre Dame, Oregon and UCLA. He made official visits to Oklahoma State and Kansas State in November, Arizona State in December and UCLA last weekend.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko visited with Fields in Oklahoma City on Wednesday night. Irish recruiting coordinator and defensive line coach Mike Elston made a trip to see Fields last week. Defensive backs coach Todd Lyght evaluated Fields in December before extending him an offer.

Fields missed four games with an arm injury at the start of his senior season, but he still finished with 81 tackles, two interceptions and one sack.

247Sports slates Fields as the No. 42 safety in the 2017 class. Rivals ranked him No. 47 at the position.

• S Jordan Genmark Heath, 6-1, 205; San Diego Cathedral Catholic: Not long after Notre Dame offered Genmark Heath a scholarship, he received a stamp of approval from former Irish quarterback Rick Mirer.

“This is a really solid kid,” Mirer, who currently runs a wine company in Napa Valley, wrote on Twitter. “He would be a great addition. I’ve been watching him closely.”

Notre Dame agrees. The only problem is Genmark Heath remains committed to California, a program transitioning from head coach Sonny Dykes to Justin Wilcox. At least the Irish know their main competition.

Genmark Heath did a little bit of everything as a senior. He tallied 59 tackles and four interceptions on defense, 197 rushing yards and eight rushing touchdowns, 16 catches for 291 yards and two touchdowns on offense and one punt return touchdown on specials teams.

247Sports slates Genmark Heath as a four-star recruit and the No. 22 safety in the country. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 67 athlete, a designation for a player without a specific position.

• CB Tre Norwood, 5-11, 168; Fort Smith (Ark.) Northside: On the same day Todd Lyght visited with Tre Norwood, the three-star recruit dropped his commitment to Louisville. The news came one day after Norwood received a scholarship offer from the Irish last week.

Notre Dame started a recruiting wave for Norwood, who added Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Tennessee to his offer list after the Irish. Mike Elko’s defensive staff at Wake Forest had been targeting Norwood previously.

In Norwood, the Irish may have identified a diamond in the rough. Norwood has reported a relatively small number of scholarship offers, and the home-state Razorbacks aren’t on the list.

247Sports pegs Norwood as the No. 132 cornerback in the 2017 class. Rivals did not include Norwood on its list of the top 70 cornerbacks.

• DE Kofi Wardlow, 6-3, 240; Washington (D.C.) St. John’s College High: On his second day on the recruiting trail for Notre Dame, Mike Elko traveled to Washington, D.C., last week. That tripped turned into a scholarship offer for Wardlow on Wednesday. Once the Irish offered, Wardlow scheduled a visit.

The three-star recruit remains committed to Maryland, but he only gave the Terps his pledge a month ago. Mike Elston made a trip to meet with Wardlow on Thursday before Wardlow and his parents headed to South Bend for the weekend.

Wardlow teamed with Tyree Johnson, a Texas A&M defensive end commit, as a disruptive duo on the defensive line. Wardlow recorded 84 tackles, including 28 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks, as a senior.

Last weekend, Wardlow made an official visit to Pittsburgh, a sign that he continues to weigh options outside of Maryland. Before his commitment, he also made official visits to Michigan State and Maryland.

Rivals ranks Wardlow as the No. 47 weakside defensive end in the country. 247Sports slates him No. 75 at the position.

• ATH Russ Yeast, 5-11, 185; Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove: The in-state recruit reported an Irish offer on Wednesday. On Thursday, his head coach confirmed that Yeast would be making an official visit to Notre Dame this weekend.

In his first season playing high school football in Indiana this past year, Yeast was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year.

Previously enrolled at Fremont (Ohio) Ross, Yeast moved to the Indianapolis area when his father, Craig, was named the offensive coordinator at Franklin College.

The Irish wouldn’t mind seeing the younger Yeast extend his stay in the state. A two-way player, Yeast could line up at running back, wide receiver or cornerback in college. At Center Grove, which lost in the Class 6A state championship game to Carmel, Yeast rushed for 1,525 yards and 19 touchdowns and added 32 receptions for 602 yards and eight touchdowns.

Yeast gave his second verbal commitment of the recruiting process to Louisville in October. He had previously been committed to Kentucky, where his father played football.

Notre Dame has been tracking Yeast since at least the spring of 2015. He attended the Irish Invasion camp in June of that year. Yeast said this week that Notre Dame is recruiting him as an athlete.

Rivals ranks Yeast as a four-star recruit and the No. 21 athlete in the class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 48 cornerback.


The following recruits are expected to visit Notre Dame this weekend. All eight visitors are making official visits paid for by Notre Dame.

2017 targets

S Evan Fields

S Jordan Genmark Heath

CB Tre Norwood

DE Kofi Wardlow

ATH Russ Yeast

2017 commits

LB David Adams

DT Kurt Hinish

LB Drew White | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Three-star safety Evan Fields, a 2017 recruit, reported a Notre Dame offer Thursday, Dec. 8. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)