Notre Dame football getting top targets on campus right away

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The Irish aren't wasting any time when it comes to showing off newly renovated Notre Dame Stadium.

A season opener against Temple isn't a natural draw for recruits, but the Irish will host three top targets in the 2018 class for official visits. Notre Dame running back commit Markese Stepp and local safety target Paul Moala will also be in attendance for unofficial visits.

The visitors list is short, but it includes a combination of important needs for Notre Dame. With 16 verbal commitments in the 2018 class, the Irish coaching staff can focus on filling the gaps remaining on the roster.

• DE Thomas Booker, 6-4, 250; Baltimore Gilman: If Notre Dame is going to add another defensive end in the 2018 class, Booker may be the best bet. Though his offer list includes the likes of Ohio State, Florida State and Georgia, his expressed interest in academics leaves Notre Dame and Stanford as the perceived top contenders.

Booker attended a Notre Dame spring practice in March. Then Stanford entered the race with an offer in June. Last year, Booker took summer courses at Stanford. Two of Booker's former Gilman teammates, running back Dorian Maddox and offensive tackle Devery Hamilton, enrolled at Stanford in 2016.

Stanford typically waits until January to make a final push for its top targets with official visits, so this weekend stands as a great opportunity for Notre Dame to establish a lead.

“He's an outstanding defensive end,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “This is a big-time guy that they need. I would put Booker a shade above Isaac Rochell when he was coming out of high school.”

Rochell ended up playing in 49 games in his four years at Notre Dame before being drafted in the seventh round of this year's NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Chargers. At this time it looks good that Rochell will be part of the Chargers' opening-day roster.

247Sports slates Booker as a three-star recruit and the No. 15 strongside defensive end in the 2018 class. Rivals ranks him as a four-star recruit and the No. 15 defensive tackle.

• DE Joseph Ossai, 6-4, 217; Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge: Pulling Ossai out of Texas won't be easy for Notre Dame. Just getting him on campus this weekend will be a challenge on its own.

School was canceled for the week in Conroe as it received more than 30 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey. But as of Thursday, Ossai was still scheduled for a flight out of Houston, according to Oak Ridge assistant coach Kevin Deon Cain.

Ossai has been operating with Notre Dame as one of his top three schools alongside Texas A&M and Texas. The Aggies and Longhorns would seem to have the advantage, but Ossai is worth the fight.

As a junior, Ossai recorded 46 tackles, 8.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.

“He's a lengthy guy. He has long arms and five-star potential,” Lemming said. “He has the potential when he puts on a little more weight and strength. I loved him.”

247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 8 weakside defensive end. Rivals ranks him as a three-star recruit and No. 20 at the position.

• CB Kyler Gordon, 5-11, 180; Everett (Wash.) Archbishop Murphy: Notre Dame's need for cornerbacks has been well-documented with no one signed at the position in the 2017 class and zero cornerback commitments in the current class. Could Gordon change that?

Forecasting Gordon, a four-star recruit, to the Irish would be a bit premature. His official visit this weekend with his parents will be his first trip to Notre Dame.

“He's one of the three best players in the state of Washington,” Lemming said. “I'm really impressed with him. He's a good ball player. He could play wide receiver, corner or safety. He's one of those athletes you can pigeon-hole into any one of those skill positions.”

Notre Dame will have to compete with Washington, Stanford, Oregon, UCLA and other Pac-12 schools in Gordon's recruitment. The Irish could convince Gordon to follow the same path as former Irish cornerback KeiVarae Russell. Both played high school football in Everett.

247Sports slates Gordon as the No. 26 cornerback in the class. Rivals ranks him one spot lower at No. 27.

• S Paul Moala, 6-1, 200; Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn: The local recruit could attend every Notre Dame home game this season without much of a struggle. He'll attend his first game since receiving a scholarship offer at the Irish Invasion in June.

Moala has shown his versatility in the first two games of the season for Penn. In the season opener, he scored the only touchdown for the Kingsmen on a 34-yard reception. Last week, he blocked a field goal and intercepted a pass in a 7-0 win.

Notre Dame already has one safety committed in the 2018 class with four-star standout Derrik Allen. Whether Moala becomes the second safety in the class could be determined by who the Irish push the hardest for at the position.

247Sports slates Moala as a three-star recruit and the No. 35 safety in the class. Rivals rates him as a two-star recruit.


The following recruits are expected to attend Notre Dame’s game against Temple on Saturday.

2018 targets

DE Thomas Booker*

CB Kyler Gordon*

S Paul Moala

DE Joseph Ossai*

2018 commit

RB Markese Stepp

2018 prospect

LS Michael Vinson

2019 prospects

OL Jesse Hanson

LB Jack Kiser

RB Michael Love

RB James Sampson

WR Craig Young

*Designates official visit


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Defensive end recruit Thomas Booker, right, previously visited Notre Dame with his father in March. Booker will return for his official visit this weekend. (Tribune Photo/BECKY MALEWITZ)