Notre Dame recruiting future on display at Blue-Gold Game too

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

On the field Saturday inside Notre Dame Stadium, the Irish will provide a preview of the program's future.

But talk about what’s to come won’t just be limited to the current roster at the Blue-Gold Game. The Irish also will host at least 40 recruits including incoming freshmen, current commitments and targets in the 2018 class and prospects in the 2018 and 2019 classes.

The group is headlined by five recruits in the 2018 class who have already received Notre Dame offers. Each will weigh the possibility of joining the seven 2017 signees and the seven 2018 commits as future teammates.

This weekend will likely serve as Notre Dame’s final big recruiting weekend before June’s Irish Invasion. Last Saturday, the NCAA recruiting calendar shifted to an evaluation period, which will allow Notre Dame’s coaches to hit the road and visit high schools through the end of May.

Notre Dame’s 2018 class already consists of 12 commitments, so adding to the class immediately shouldn’t be a major concern. But the Irish could very well be hosting multiple recruits who could eventually end up in the class.

• LB Dallas Gant, 6-3, 224; Toledo (Ohio) St. John’s: In less than a month, Gant plans to announce his commitment. The Irish get one last chance to impress this weekend before he shares his decision on May 16.

Gant should be plenty familiar with Notre Dame by now. After receiving an offer at the Irish Invasion last summer, he returned for the Michigan State game in the fall and last made a trip to South Bend for Notre Dame’s junior day in February.

The four-star recruit has declared Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State as his five finalists. The winning school will land a versatile linebacker who can cover a lot of ground.

“He’s one of the best linebackers in the Midwest,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He’s gained some weight and strength. He had a really good junior campaign too.”

247Sports slates Gant as the No. 1 outside linebacker in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him No. 19 at the position.

• DT PJ Mustipher, 6-5, 287; Owings Mills (Md.) McDonogh School: Two decisions could lead to two Mustiphers on Notre Dame’s 2018 roster. Older brother Sam will have a chance to return to Notre Dame for his fifth season on the Irish offensive line. Younger brother PJ could choose to join him in South Bend.

The Irish have plenty of competition for PJ Mustipher. The four-star recruit also has offers from Alabama, Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State.

“He’s outstanding,” Lemming said. “He wants to play defense, but he could be an All-American offensive guard or a very good defensive tackle.”

Turns out PJ Mustipher is a pretty good wrestler too. In February, he won the Maryland Independent School state championship in the heavyweight division.

Both Rivals and 247Sports peg Mustipher as the No. 8 defensive tackle in the 2018 class.

• WR Kevin Austin, 6-3, 198; Coconut Creek (Fla.) North Broward: A Notre Dame scholarship offer in August has finally resulted in a visit to Notre Dame for Austin. The four-star recruit will be joined by his parents on the trip from South Florida to South Bend.

The Irish saw promise in Austin before a junior season that included 41 catches for 1,021 yards and 13 touchdowns and 46 carries for 454 yards and six touchdowns.

“He’s one of the best wide receivers in Florida,” Lemming said. “He has good size and really good hands.”

Austin said Thursday that he’s focusing mainly on eight schools: USC, Notre Dame, Duke, Miami, Florida, Ohio State, Kentucky and Tennessee. He’s uncertain on a timeline for a commitment decision.

Rivals ranks Austin as the No. 24 wide receiver in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him No. 52.

• WR Chase Cota, 6-4, 195; South Medford (Ore.) High: Cota didn’t wait long to check out Notre Dame. Less than a month after receiving an offer, he decided to see the Irish in person.

The four-star recruit has seen his recruiting profile rise in the past couple months with offers from USC, Louisville, Georgia and Alabama. Lemming even compared him to a former Notre Dame All-American wide receiver.

“He’s a good-sized kid. You know who he is? He’s Jeff Samardzija,” Lemming said. “He has that kind of ability. He has great hands and runs faster than he looks.”

Cota recorded the highest Nike Football Rating out of all the recruits testing at The Opening Regional in the Los Angeles area in March. That included a 40-yard dash of 4.53 seconds and a vertical jump of 36.5 inches.

Cota caught 42 passes for 754 yards and 10 touchdowns in his junior season. 247Sports slates him as the No. 10 wide receiver in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him No. 34.

• DB Nasir Peoples, 6-0, 185; Warminster (Pa.) Archbishop Wood: The three-star recruit gave Virginia Tech his verbal commitment in February, but that came before an offer from Notre Dame. Now the Philadelphia-area product is willing to give the Irish a look.

Notre Dame has pulled a defensive back away from the Hokies previously. Irish cornerback Troy Pride Jr. was committed to Virginia Tech when he visited during the 2015 season. He eventually joined Notre Dame’s class after head coach Frank Beamer retired from Virginia Tech.

Pulling Peoples away from Virginia Tech may be more difficult after the Hokies defeated Notre Dame in South Bend last season. Virginia Tech was the first program to extend an offer to Peoples.

Rivals ranks Peoples as the No. 26 recruit in Pennsylvania but not among the top 55 cornerbacks in the country. 247Sports slates him as the No. 74 safety in the 2018 class.

VISITORS LIST

The following recruits are expected to attend Saturday's Blue-Gold Game.

2017 signees

WR Jafar Armstrong

QB Avery Davis

K Jonathan Doerer

S Jordan Genmark Heath

OL Dillan Gibbons

OL Josh Lugg

DE Kofi Wardlow

2018 targets

WR Kevin Austin

WR Chase Cota

LB Dallas Gant

DT PJ Mustipher

S Nasir Peoples

2018 commits

DT Jayson Ademilola

DE Justin Ademilola

CB Kalon Gervin

WR Micah Jones

WR Braden Lenzy

LB Ovie Oghoufo

RB Markese Stepp

2018 prospects

CB Justin Birdsong

CB Cagan Campbell

DE Andre Carter

CB Erick Hallett

CB Dominique Hampton

RB Charles Highbaugh

S Dyontae Johnson

OL Jalen Mayfield

LB DeAndre Square

2019 prospects

LB Samih Beydoun

OL Spencer Brown

DE Steven Faucheux

RB Marcellus Gaines

CB Xavier Goldsmith

CB Arthur Herndon III

QB Sam Johnson

TE Spencer Klopfenstein

RB Jaren Mangham

ATH Kenny McIntosh

RB Lew Nichols

2020 prospect

ATH Max Lenzy

tjames@ndinsider.com

574-235-6214

Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Four-star linebacker Dallas Gant, a 2018 recruit, will make a return visit to Notre Dame on Saturday for the Blue-Gold Game. (Tribune Photo/MICHAEL CATERINA)