Notebook: Notre Dame commits ready to sign early

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Before Christmas hits on the calendar, Notre Dame football should have the majority of its 2018 recruiting class signed.

A new NCAA rule will allow football recruits to formally end their recruitment with an early signing period starting Dec. 20 and ending Dec. 22.

For years, football recruits were left to wait until National Signing Day on the first Wednesday in February to sign the binding National Letter of Intent. Football has joined the majority of other NCAA sports by introducing an early signing period.

Recruits will have the option to wait until National Signing Day, but most of the players committed to Notre Dame have said they intend to sign in December. Fifteen Irish commits told ND Insider they will end their recruitment next month. Six of those pledges plan to enroll at Notre Dame in January.

The new signing period couldn’t come at a much better time for Notre Dame. A year ago, the Irish coaching staff may have struggled to convince recruits to sign in December following a 4-8 season and uncertainty in the program.

But with a No. 8 ranking from the College Football Playoff committee, Notre Dame (8-2) sits in a sturdy position a little more than a month before the early signing period.

“For Notre Dame, the early signing period is a good thing,” said Mike Farrell, Rivals national recruiting director. “They're one of the power programs that could pick off kids late, so you'd think that it wouldn't be a good thing for them. But most of the kids that want to go to Notre Dame are making that 40-year decision instead of the four-year decision.

“With really no question marks about Brian Kelly and the season they're coming off of, this is definitely a good time for the first one to occur.”

Notre Dame will still have an opportunity to flip recruits committed elsewhere, but that list of players could get shorter because of the early signing period. If a recruit isn’t willing to hold off on signing in December, he likely wasn’t going to end up at Notre Dame.

Farrell said he doesn’t expect many recruits to be rushed into bad decisions because of the early signing period. Those uncertain recruits should exercise their right to wait.

But committed recruits who don’t sign in December, that’s who Farrell — and likely other college football coaches — will be watching closely.

“What I'm most curious about is if a four-star kid is committed to a program for over a year,” Farrell said, “and then he says he doesn't want to sign in December, but he promises them he'll sign in February. Will the school drop him? Those are the decisions we're going to see that become very interesting."

Notre Dame doesn’t have a history of dropping recruits during head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure. The Irish will welcome those willing to sign early and likely continue to recruit those who wait until February.

“I would assume Notre Dame's going to have less of an issue pushing that agenda,” Farrell said, “than some of the other schools will."

Oweh schedules visit

Notre Dame doesn’t appear to have many remaining options at defensive end in the 2018 class. The last chance to add a four-star recruit could be with Jayson Oweh.

The 6-foot-5, 236-pound product of Blairstown (N.J.) Blair Academy has scheduled an official visit to Notre Dame for Dec. 8. He will be in town for the weekend of Notre Dame’s annual awards show for the football program.

The Irish appear to have fallen behind in Oweh’s recruitment with Penn State and Ohio State surging. Oweh made an official visit to Ohio State in September and will make his official visit to Penn State this weekend.

Michigan and Miami have also entered the fray with Oweh. He scheduled an official visit to see the Wolverines play the Buckeyes later this month. Miami extended Oweh an offer in October.

Oweh last visited Notre Dame in July. He was also on campus in June for the Irish Invasion.

Both Rivals and 247Sports peg Oweh as the No. 9 strongside defensive end in the 2018 class.

Justin Ademilola, a three-star recruit, stands as Notre Dame’s lone defensive end commitment.

All-American Lamb

Notre Dame linebacker commit Jack Lamb was presented with his jersey for the Under Armour All-America Game on Tuesday. The four-star recruit is the only current Notre Dame commit set to play in the game on Jan. 4 in Orlando, Fla.

Lamb missed nearly half of his senior season with a left knee injury, but he returned to play the final five games for Temecula (Calif.) Great Oak. The 6-foot-4, 207-pound linebacker sat out five games after suffering a patella injury in the season opener. In his last home game, Lamb recorded 23 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

A pair of Notre Dame targets are also Under Armour All-Americans: offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere and defensive back Houston Griffith.

SIGNING PLANS

Fifteen Notre Dame commits currently plan on taking advantage of the new early signing period for college football and ink with the Irish in December. Six of those early signers also plan to enroll early. The other commits may choose to wait until National Signing Day on Feb. 7, 2018.

Enrolling early

LB Bo Bauer

WR Micah Jones

LB Jack Lamb

LB Ovie Oghoufo

RB Jahmir Smith

TE George Takacs

Signing early

DT Jayson Ademilola

DE Justin Ademilola

S Derrik Allen

WR Kevin Austin

OL John Dirksen

QB Phil Jurkovec

OL Cole Mabry

ROV Shayne Simon

WR Joe Wilkins Jr.

Not sure yet

DT Ja’mion Franklin

WR Geordon Porter

RB Markese Stepp

Signing in February

S Paul Moala

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

Notre Dame linebacker commit Jack Lamb received his jersey for the Under Armour All-America Game on Tuesday. He is one of six recruits planning to enroll early with the Irish. (Photo courtesy of Intersport)