Can Notre Dame finish with a signing day flourish?

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The frenetic finish to the 2017 recruiting class comes with a narrow focus for Notre Dame football on Wednesday.

In addition to collecting letters-of-intent from 13 verbal commitments, to add to five early enrollees, the Irish hope to receive good news from four remaining targets on Wednesday’s National Signing Day.

After a temporary struggle to improve the class following a 4-8 season, the Irish have rebounded with the new assistant coaches in place. A class that at one point ballooned to 18 commitments twice in October shrank to 15 in January.

In the past week, the Irish have added commitments from three recruits previously committed elsewhere — safety Jordan Genmark Heath (California), wide receiver Jafar Armstrong (Missouri), and kicker Jonathan Doerer (Maryland).

Notre Dame’s current class of 18 recruits — five of whom enrolled in January — ranks No. 14 in the country, according to 247Sports. Rivals pegs the Irish at No. 15.

A top 10 class could have been in the works if Notre Dame hadn’t lost ties with six different verbal commitments throughout the recruiting cycle: defensive end Robert Beal, defensive lineman Donovan Jeter, linebacker Pete Werner, wide receiver Jordan Pouncey, and cornerbacks Paulson Adebo and Elijah Hicks.

The Irish can wash away any lingering worry Wednesday with signature victories from any of the following four recruits:

• ATH Russ Yeast, 5-11, 185; Greenwood (Ind.) Center Grove: Yeast became Notre Dame’s most heralded remaining target when wide receiver Oliver Martin announced his commitment to Michigan on Monday. The in-state recruit won Indiana’s Gatorade Player of the Year in 2016 and played in the Under Armour All-America Game in January.

Notre Dame only recently started to push for Yeast, with an offer on Jan. 18. The son of Franklin (Ind.) College offensive coordinator Craig Yeast has been committed to Louisville since October, even though his father played at Kentucky.

The explosive athlete rushed for 1,525 yards and 19 touchdowns during his senior season and added 32 receptions for 602 yards and eight touchdowns. Despite his effectiveness on offense, Notre Dame could use Yeast at cornerback, a position in which the Irish lack a single commitment.

Yeast made an official visit to Notre Dame days after his offer and has gone silent publicly, other than a cryptic tweet here or there. His final decision might not be known until the school that signs him announces it.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 21 ATH. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 37 CB.

• DL Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, 6-4, 270; Kapolei (Hawaii) High: The Irish are stuck in a five-team battle for Tagovailoa-Amosa after hosting him for an official visit last week. He sandwiched a trip to South Bend in between whirlwind visits to Navy and Vanderbilt. He previously made official visits to USC and Georgia Tech.

Pulling a recruit out of Hawaii following only one visit, with an offer that came less than a month ago, could be a challenge for Notre Dame, but Tagovailoa-Amosa returned home impressed by the Irish.

“It was awesome,” he said. “I’m really fortunate to have had the opportunity to get out there and check out Notre Dame and learn more about the school. It was my first time seeing snow up there, so it was kind of a pretty good experience.”

Tagovailoa-Amosa could play a combination of defensive end and defensive tackle for Notre Dame. As a senior, he recorded 34 tackles for a loss, including 18 sacks.

Tagovailoa-Amosa said he will participate in a signing ceremony that starts at noon EST on Wednesday.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 10 SDE. | Rivals: Three stars, No. 39 DT.

• S Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, 6-2, 188; Hampton (Va.) Bethel: Notre Dame and Michigan State will duke it out for the three-star recruit. He dropped his commitment to Virginia to visit both schools the past two weekends.

Notre Dame offered Owusu-Koramoah less than two weeks before signing day, but it hasn’t prevented him from expressing a high level of interest. The Irish sent head coach Brian Kelly, recruiting coordinator Mike Elston and linebackers coach Clark Lea to visit him on Jan. 21.

Owusu-Koramoah could become the first rover, a hybrid safety/linebacker position, defensive coordinator Mike Elko has successfully recruited to Notre Dame. The Irish have already landed two safeties in the class — Isaiah Robertson and Jordan Genmark Heath — and missed on a third when Evan Fields picked Arizona State on Monday.

Owusu-Koramoah plans to make his announcement at 2 p.m. EST

247Sports: No. 20 ATH | Rivals: No. 40 OLB.

• DE Kofi Wardlow, 6-3, 240; Washington (D.C.) St. John’s College High: Wardlow became Notre Dame’s last hope to find another true defensive end in the 2017 class when Jalen Harris announced Tuesday he would be sticking with his Arizona commitment. He was also one of Notre Dame’s first priorities when the last contact period before signing day started.

Elko made a trip to his high school on the first day he was allowed to do so as a Notre Dame coach. Elston, who moved to defensive line coach this offseason, made the final visit with Wardlow last week.

Jonathon MacCollister, a 6-3, 228-pound, three-star recruit, remains Notre Dame’s lone defensive end commitment. Wardlow, who recorded 84 tackles, 28 tackles for a loss and 9.5 sacks as a senior, would provide a much-needed punch at the position.

The three-star recruit visited Notre Dame earlier this month, despite clinging to his original Maryland commitment. A week after his trip to South Bend, Wardlow also visited Virginia Tech. The winner will be revealed during his signing ceremony at 2:15 p.m.

Rivals: No. 47 WDE. | 247Sports: No. 78 WDE.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Louisville commit Russ Yeast is Notre Dame’s most heralded remaining target. (Photo courtesy of Intersport)