Recruiting focus turns to cornerbacks this weekend for Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

A win over USC last Saturday wasn’t Notre Dame’s last important game of the season. It also wasn’t Notre Dame’s last important recruiting weekend.

The Irish will host a pair of cornerback targets on official visits for Saturday’s matchup with N.C. State. Notre Dame’s desperation for cornerbacks has been well-documented with zero commitments in the 2018 class and zero freshman cornerbacks on the current roster.

But the cornerbacks visiting on Saturday aren’t desperation targets. These are potential difference-makers. The Irish will work to flip the commitments of four-star cornerbacks Alontae Taylor and Noah Boykin during their visits.

“These are big-time guys,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “Notre Dame has always been great at going after other teams’ players.”

Five of the last six recruits to commit to Notre Dame in the current freshman class dropped pledges to other schools to eventually sign with the Irish. And Notre Dame’s coaching staff was working off a 4-8 record from last season. Now with a 6-1 record and a No. 9 ranking in the AP Poll, the Irish can recruit from a position of strength with a 2018 class that already consists of 17 verbal commitments.

Notre Dame extended a scholarship offer to Taylor, a four-star recruit, less than three weeks ago. The 6-foot-1, 180-pound product of Manchester (Tenn.) Coffee County Central has been committed to Tennessee since June 2016. But the Volunteers have become poaching targets in the middle of a 3-4 season with the end of head coach Butch Jones’ tenure seemingly in sight.

A day after Taylor reported a Notre Dame offer, Ohio State extended an offer as well.

“He’s an outstanding player,” Lemming said. “It would be great if they could get him. He was committed to Tennessee forever. When I went and saw him, he was diehard for the Vols. Even if you get him, if there’s a new coach coming in (at Tennessee), they may get him back.”

Taylor has played a number of positions in high school. In the first eight games of his senior season, Taylor rushed for 986 yards and 13 touchdowns, completed 24 of 46 passes for 391 yards and three touchdowns, and caught 11 passes for 256 yards and one touchdown.

Rivals ranks Taylor as the No. 25 wide receiver in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him No. 45 at the position.

Boykin was the first cornerback to receive a Notre Dame offer when the Irish expanded the board in September. The 6-2, 168-pound senior at Washington (D.C.) H.D. Woodson has been committed to Maryland since July. Boykin picked the Terrapins with Clemson, Michigan, Oklahoma and Georgia already on his offer list.

“I like Boykin. I was very impressed with him as an athlete,” Lemming said. “He’s a good ball player. He would be a real good catch at corner especially this late in the game.”

Rivals ranks Boykin as the No. 24 cornerback in the 2018 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 26 cornerback.

Notre Dame will also host 2019 running back target Kenny McIntosh for an unofficial visit this weekend. The four-star recruit will get a chance to see his older brother, Irish sophomore running back Deon McIntosh, play in person.

Kenny McIntosh, a 6-1, 194-pound junior at Fort Lauderdale (Fla.) University School, has received offers from the likes of Alabama, Miami, Ohio State, Florida State and Florida.

“Kenny is outstanding,” Lemming said. “He’s better than his brother. He can play numerous positions. McIntosh can play receiver, running back, quarterback, defensive back. He’s a terrific athlete.”

In six games this season, Kenny McIntosh turned 97 carries into 683 yards and five touchdowns. He also caught 12 passes for 141 yards and one touchdown.

Rivals ranks McIntosh as the No. 3 athlete, a designation given to players without a specific position, and No. 49 overall in the 2019 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 9 athlete and No. 116 overall.

Names to know

The rest of Notre Dame’s visitors, aside from any Irish commits, will be prospects who have yet to receive offers from the Irish. But according to Lemming, there are a number of visitors in the 2019 and 2020 classes who could be Notre Dame targets eventually. The following six are some of them.

• DE Marcus Hicks, 6-5, 230; Wichita (Kan.) Northwest: Hicks, who holds an offer list with Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas and Nebraska on it, previously visited Notre Dame in June. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit the No. 14 weakside defensive end in the 2019 class.

• OL Zeke Correll, 6-4, 260; Cincinnati Anderson: The four-star recruit has offers from Ohio State, Wisconsin and Northwestern. Rivals ranks him as the No. 6 offensive guard in the 2019 class.

• OL Zach Carpenter, 6-4, 280; Cincinnati Moeller: Rivals pegs Carpenter as a three-star recruit and the No. 10 offensive guard in the 2019 class. He already has offers from UCLA, Pittsburgh and Virginia.

• CB RJ Mickens, 5-11, 175; Southlake (Texas) Carroll: Texas A&M, UCLA, Stanford, Oklahoma and Michigan are among the programs recognizing Mickens early with scholarship offers. 247Sports slates him as a four-star recruit and the No. 2 cornerback in the 2020 class.

• OL Miller Merriweather-Lewis, 6-4, 310: Ocala (Fla.) Vanguard: Pegged as a four-star recruit and the No. 9 offensive tackle in the 2020 class by 247Sports, Merriweather-Lewis already has offers from Miami, Florida, Michigan, USC and more.

• TE D.J. Rogers, 6-4, 225; Sammamish (Wash.) Eastside Catholic: The first offer for Rogers, a 2020 recruit, came from USC last month.

VISITORS LIST

The following recruits are expected to attend Saturday's game against N.C. State.

2018 targets

CB Alontae Taylor*

CB Noah Boykin*

*official visits

2018 commit

OL John Dirksen

2019 target

RB Kenny McIntosh

2018 prospects

LB Jake Reichwein

WR Emmett Turner

2019 prospects

OL Jack Buford

OL Zach Carpenter

CB Donavann Collins

OL Zeke Correll

WR CaSaan Dixon

RB Tommy Fossett III

WR Zakhari Franklin

DT Aaron Hall

S Jordan Hull

RB Troy Jackson

WR Jalen Jennings

LB Jeremiah Jordan

RB TJ McDaniel

WR Donovan Ollie

WR Zach Owens

LB Trevon Salter

WR Allen Smith

CB Dennarrio Stewart

LB Allen Walker

S Daquan Wilson

2020 prospects

RB Sam Adams

QB Michael Alaimo

OL Alex Atcavage

QB Griffin Brewster

RB Elijah Burris

QB Ryan Clark

WR Freddy Edwards

OL Bryan Felter

WR Reggie Grimes

S Ayden Hector

CB Jalen Huff

OL Miller Merriweather-Lewis

CB RJ Mickens

CB Jabbar Muhammad

DE Jeremiah Neal

DT Don Price

TE D.J. Rogers

WR Jason Scott Jr.

RB Johnny Spinner

WR Ian Stewart

OL John Young

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

Tennessee commit Alontae Taylor, a 2018 recruit, reported a Notre Dame offer Oct. 10, 2017. (Photo courtesy of Rivals)