Busy weekend for Notre Dame football includes several visiting recruits

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The busiest week of the spring for Notre Dame football offers a buffet of events.

With Pro Day on Thursday, practices on Friday and Saturday and the Notre Dame Football Coaches Clinic spanning all three days, the Irish have plenty on their plate. But that hasn’t prevented the coaching staff from finding room to host top recruits this weekend.

At least seven recruits are expected to arrive in South Bend by Friday. Adding future players to the program could make for a sweet treat to end the week.

Offensive lineman Cole Mabry will make his first trip back to Notre Dame since committing last month and will represent the Irish 2018 class. The calendar created a natural lull in recruiting since Notre Dame reached 11 verbal commitments in the class on Feb. 22, but the opportunity for the group to grow has returned.

The offensive line will be a primary focus this weekend with three top targets in the 2017 class expected on campus: Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ryan Hayes and John Dirksen.

The other three visitors play on the opposite side of the line of scrimmage: defensive tackle Ja’mion Franklin and defensive end John Waggoner, both 2018 prospects, and 2019 defensive tackle target Jacob Lacey.

An impressive weekend could put Notre Dame in line to add to its recruiting haul in the coming weeks.

• OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, 6-6, 260; Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep: Elite offensive line recruits are harder to find in the 2018 class. Rivals rankings show fewer offensive linemen pegged in the top 100 and top 250 than the previous year.

However, Petit-Frere can be found in the Rivals 250 for the 2018 class. Even though the recruiting service has him positioned as a defensive end, his higher ceiling is on the offensive line. That’s why CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming considers Petit-Frere the top recruit visiting Notre Dame this weekend.

“He’s the best out of all of them,” Lemming said. “He’s a terrific athlete. He’s a Ronnie Stanley-type clone who could develop into a No. 1 draft choice.”

Like Stanley, Petit-Frere plays basketball in addition to his gridiron prowess. As he continues to mature into a top offensive line recruit, Petit-Frere has a long way to go until he reaches the heights of Stanley, who was selected by the Baltimore Ravens in the first round of last year’s NFL Draft.

The four-star recruit reported a Notre Dame offer in January. Alabama, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and Oklahoma are among the other schools to appear on his offer list.

247Sports slates Petit-Frere as the No. 9 offensive tackle in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 7 strongside defensive end.

• OL Ryan Hayes, 6-7, 250; Traverse City (Mich.) West: Athleticism will be a theme with the visiting offensive linemen. Not only has Hayes played basketball, but he’s also caught passes as a tight end for Traverse City West.

The long, athletic frame of Hayes gives offensive line coaches plenty of reason to get excited.

“He’s a good player,” Lemming said. “He’s one of the best offensive linemen in Michigan. He’s also rising. He’s the best player up in northern Michigan.”

Hayes added Michigan to a growing offer last month. The Wolverines and Spartans are both trying to prevent Hayes from leaving the state for college football.

The Irish previously hosted Hayes, who added a Notre Dame offer in January, for the Duke game last season.

247Sports slates Hayes as a four-star recruit and the No. 8 offensive tackle in the class. Rivals ranks him as a three-star prospect and the No. 49 offensive tackle.

• OL John Dirksen, 6-5, 290; Maria Stein (Ohio) Marion: Dirksen,a three-star recruit, fits the bill as a Midwest mauler. While Hayes and Petit-Frere project more as pure tackles, Dirksen has the ability to play inside or out.

Dirksen’s playing style matches with several of offensive line coach Harry Hiestand’s previous recruits. His social media presence also matches Hiestand.

Dirksen has only one tweet on his Twitter account. Hiestand has zero.

“He’s shooting up real fast as one of the best offensive linemen in the Midwest,” Lemming said.

247Sports pegs Dirksen as the No. 35 offensive tackle in the 2018 class. Rivals doesn’t list him in the top 50 at the position.

• DT Ja’mion Franklin, 6-2, 310; Ridgely (Md.) North Caroline: Franklin will arrive at Notre Dame on Friday without a scholarship offer from the Irish. His current offer status might not last long.

“He’s a big-time guy. I think he’ll get an offer this weekend,” Lemming said. “He’s one of the best players in Maryland. One of the best defensive linemen in the country.”

In early March, Franklin reached a dozen scholarship offers.

If the Irish add themselves to the list, they will have competition from Duke, Georgia Tech, Louisville, Northwestern and Wake Forest.

Franklin, a three-star recruit, visited Clemson and Duke earlier this month.

Rivals ranks Franklin as the No. 28 defensive tackle in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him No. 35.

• DE John Waggoner, 6-5, 230; West Des Moines (Iowa) Dowling Catholic: Notre Dame has been active extending offers to defensive ends in the 2018 class in the past month, but Waggoner hasn’t been on the receiving end of one. A visit to South Bend will be the next step in the process as the Irish continue to evaluate him.

Waggoner has already reported offers from the likes of Iowa, Florida, Michigan, Oregon and UCLA.

“He’s the No. 1 player in Iowa,” Lemming said. “He plays both ways. He’s an impressive looking kid too.”

247Sports slates Waggoner as a four-star recruit and the No. 4 weakside defensive end in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks as a three-star prospect and the No. 16 weakside defensive end.

• DT Jacob Lacey, 6-2, 290; Bowling Green (Ky.) South Warren: The Irish have recently started to expand the target list in the 2019 class, but Lacey has long been on Notre Dame’s radar. He attended the Irish Invasion last summer and reported an offer following the camp.

Lacey returned to South Bend for two Notre Dame games in the fall. Lemming ranks Lacey ahead of any of the other recruits in Kentucky regardless of class.

“He’s the best player in Kentucky right now. He’s that good,” Lemming said. “And he’s got two years left.”

247Sports slates Lacey as a four-star recruit and the No. 4 defensive tackle in the 2019 class.

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

Three-star defensive tackle Ja'mion Franklin, a 2018 recruit, will visit Notre Dame this weekend looking for a scholarship offer from the Irish. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)