Recruiting Reset: Derrik Allen makes safety a strength for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Star safeties haven’t been staples of Notre Dame recruiting classes.

The best safeties to sign with the Irish during head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure have been more shooting stars than the North Star.

The Irish may have finally found the latter in Derrik Allen. The four-star recruit has been tabbed as one of the top 10 safeties in the 2018 class.

Notre Dame hasn’t signed a safety of that caliber since five-star recruit Max Redfield in the 2013 class. Four-star recruit Elijah Shumate was also a top 10 safety in the 2012 class.

Shumate had a solid career with 26 starts in four seasons. Redfield’s career infamously flamed out before his senior season when he was dismissed from the team following an arrest for possession of a handgun without a license and possession of marijuana.

Allen has the chance to transcend both of their careers. The Irish can help out Allen by adding another safety in the class. A short list of options has developed with a wide range of talent projections.


• Derrik Allen, 6-1, 204; Marietta (Ga.) Lassiter: Picking Notre Dame over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Georgia, Ohio State and others wasn’t the only way Allen ditched convention in his recruitment. The Atlanta-area product made an early commitment seemingly out of the blue.

When Allen committed to Notre Dame in February, he did so nearly five months after his most recent trip to South Bend. Many of Notre Dame’s commitments typically come shortly after campus visits. And Allen’s last visit to ND came when the Irish lost to Michigan State in 2016.

But Allen already had been to Notre Dame twice and felt confident in his destination. He has since returned to campus for the Irish Invasion in June and the Georgia game last month and continued to swat away any pursuits from other schools.

On the field, Allen plays safety with physicality and fluidity. He’s a sure tackler in run support and a ball hawk in coverage. His play as a wide receiver and special teams returner has prepared him to be comfortable playing the ball in the air.

Rivals ranks Allen as the No. 7 safety and No. 82 recruit overall in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 8 safety and No. 125 overall.

Remaining targets

• Julius Irvin, 6-2, 181; Anaheim (Calif.) Servite: Notre Dame could use Irvin to fill voids at safety or cornerback. Recently, according to Irvin, the Irish have started to consider him as a potential cornerback. Irvin’s position at Notre Dame could depend on how the rest of the class plays out. The Irish have zero cornerback commitments.

Irvin, a senior, has been all over the field for Servite through his first six games. He’s totaled 24 tackles and four interceptions on defense, five catches for 245 yards and one touchdown on offense and a punt return touchdown on special teams.

The Irish have been all over Irvin since offering in February. In July, that interest landed Notre Dame in Irvin’s top five alongside USC, Washington, Michigan and USC. Irvin started to make official visits to each school with Notre Dame receiving the first for the Georgia game. He since has made trips to Washington’s game against Fresno State last month and Michigan’s game against Michigan State last week.

The Irish are familiar with recruiting prospects from Servite. The school sent junior wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and former tight end Troy Niklas to play for Kelly’s program. Notre Dame continued its interest in Servite with a recent offer to 2019 cornerback Trent McDuffie.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 26 safety. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 31 safety.

• Paul Moala, 5-11, 200; Mishawaka (Ind.) Penn: The Irish didn’t have to look far to find a potential fit at safety. The local powerhouse football program had one waiting to make an impression.

Moala did so in June at the Irish Invasion. During the event, he was timed with a 40-yard dash of 4.46 seconds. By the time the camp ended, Moala received a scholarship offer from Notre Dame.

The Irish are one of only a few Power Five programs pushing for Moala. Iowa offered him before Notre Dame, but the Irish getting involved didn’t lead to a recruiting overload. Nebraska and Vanderbilt joined Moala’s offer list in the past month.

Moala has been a regular on campus for Notre Dame this season. He attended the first two home games of the season against Temple and Georgia and plans to return for the USC game next weekend.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 34 safety. | Rivals: Two stars.

• D’Angelo McKenzie, 5-11, 175; San Jose (Calif.) Valley Christian: McKenzie’s interest in Notre Dame came pretty fast following an offer in April. He admitted he didn’t know much about the Irish at the time, but he became a quick learner and scheduled an unofficial visit for July.

Following that visit, McKenzie named Notre Dame the leader in his recruitment. He visited Arizona State later that month.

Do the Irish still lead? An official visit will likely be needed to make sure both sides are on the same page to move his recruitment forward. McKenzie’s relatively short offer list also includes UCLA, Washington State and Arizona.

Rivals: Three stars, No. 49 safety. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 57 safety.

• Chris Mitchell, 5-11, 189; Mission Viejo (Calif.) High: The same high school that Redfield attended has another safety prospect garnering attention. Notre Dame extended a scholarship offer to Mitchell in June, and he seemed to be receptive to the Irish recruiting pitch.

But unlike the previously mentioned safeties, Mitchell hasn’t visited Notre Dame. An official visit could get the ball rolling for both parties, but the Irish may be in a better position to pursue Irvin, Moala and McKenzie.

Mitchell has also reported offers from Washington State, Iowa State, San Diego State, UConn and Colorado State.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 84 safety. | Rivals: Three stars.

Missed targets

• Houston Griffith, 6-0, 181; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy: The long flirtation with Notre Dame came to an unceremonious end when Griffith gave his verbal commitment to Florida State on Sunday. Griffith, who had been recruited by the Irish as both a cornerback and safety, visited South Bend several times as a recruit. His most recent trip came on an official visit for the 20-19 loss to Georgia last month. The Chicago resident chose to stay down in Florida where he has attended school since his junior year.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 6 safety. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 15 cornerback.

• Trey Dean, 6-2, 180, Hampton (Ga.) Dutchtown: Dean’s visit to Notre Dame may have been more out of convenience than true interest. He stopped by South Bend while traveling in June to the Rivals Five-Star Challenge in Indianapolis. He committed to Tennessee in August. If the Irish still covet Dean, it wouldn’t hurt checking on his recruitment with the Vols in the middle of an unsteady season.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 13 safety. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 19 safety.

• Jaiden Woodbey, 6-1, 195; Bellflower (Calif.) St. John Bosco: Notre Dame successfully recruited a safety from St. John Bosco — D.J. Morgan — in the 2016 class. The Irish didn’t find similar luck with Woodbey. He ended his recruitment early with a commitment to Ohio State in February. Woodbey never visited Notre Dame.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 2 safety. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 4 safety.

Paul Moala runs drills during the Irish Invasion Camp on June 10 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend. (Tribune Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN)

The ND Insider Recruiting Reset series took a position-by-position look at Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts in the 2018 class. This is the 10th and final story of the series.

Quarterback: Early work paying off at QB

Running backs: Irish packing a powerful punch

Wide receivers: With size in hand, ND left looking for speed

Tight ends: Irish not settling for less

Offensive line: ND still looking for star power

Defensive tackle: Irish quickly turning DT into a strength

Defensive end: Pass rush still a priority for ND

Linebacker: Irish loaded at LB in 2018 class

Cornerback: ND still stuck in CB drought