Seven 2018 recruits enroll early for Notre Dame football

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

The uncertainty came fast for Jack Lamb earlier this month.

When defensive coordinator Mike Elko left Notre Dame for Texas A&M on Jan. 4, the Irish linebacker recruit was looking for answers. In less than two weeks, he would be enrolling at Notre Dame, and all of a sudden he didn’t know who would be his coordinator.

“It was kind of a crazy last couple weeks not really knowing what was going to happen,” Lamb said. “Elko leaving unexpectedly, I didn't really even know that was going on until it already happened. After he left, wondering who was going to be defensive coordinator was a little stressful.”

Lamb arrived Sunday on Notre Dame’s campus with six of his fellow 2018 signees to enroll early at Notre Dame. All seven recruits started the move-in process Sunday with orientation scheduled for Monday and classes beginning Tuesday.

With all the new experiences awaiting Lamb, at least he now knows who will be his defensive coordinator. The Irish announced the promotion of linebackers coach Clark Lea last Tuesday.

“As soon as they picked up coach Lea, I knew we were going to be in good hands because that meant we were going to keep the scheme the same,” Lamb said. “With him being the linebackers coach, it was really reassuring to know that he was going to be the defensive coordinator as well. The defense will revolve around the linebackers, so it will be beneficial to all of us."

Lamb, a four-star recruit, is one of three linebackers starting their Notre Dame careers this week. He’s joined by Bo Bauer, a four-star recruit according to Rivals, and Ovie Oghoufo, a three-star recruit. All three were pleased by the news of Lea’s promotion.

“I didn't know coach Elko that much honestly,” Bauer said. “I know coach Lea a ton. When (Elko) left, I was honestly worried coach Lea was going to leave. I didn't want to lose him to somewhere else. I'm really happy that he's defensive coordinator."

Lea inherited verbal commitments from Bauer and Oghoufo when he joined Notre Dame’s staff last offseason. Lamb gave the Irish his pledge in July. In less than a year, Lea established strong bonds with his future players.

"We're a lot alike,” Bauer said. “We like the small details and the perfectionist attitude. It's a little OCD sometimes, but I can see the things I expect in people, he expects in his players. I value that."

“Coach Lea, that's my guy,” Oghoufo said. “Ever since he came in, I think I was the first person he hit up. He said he watched my film with his whole family. I was like, 'Wow, for real?' I'm really happy for him. It makes it better on me because now he calls the shots and he also coaches me. So I got it both ways. I like it."

"He's a really amazing guy,” Lamb said. “I call him my friend now. Getting to know him, he has a great personality, a really genuine guy. He's super nice and really knowledgeable about football. It's been great to get to know him."

All three linebackers will have a chance to find playing time in their freshman seasons. With the departures of graduating seniors Nyles Morgan and Greer Martini and the potential early departure of Te’von Coney, the Irish will be looking to replace a lot of experience in the fall. A chance to participate in spring practice could allow for Lamb, Bauer and Oghoufo to move up the depth chart quickly.

They all had to graduate early in order to receive such an opportunity. For Oghoufo, it was something he planned on doing before even committing to Notre Dame. That allowed him to space out the extra classes he needed to complete by December.

Bauer was a bit busier. He took 10 classes in his final semester at Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep by taking an extra class before school started and another after school in addition to his typical eight classes.

"No one else has ever done this (at Cathedral Prep) because no one's ever asked,” Bauer said. “It was a ton of work to get to this point. You just kind of want to make all those people proud in this first semester to show that it was all worth it."

Other enrollees

Four other 2018 recruits will enroll at Notre Dame this week: defensive back Houston Griffith, wide receiver Micah Jones, running back Jahmir Smith and tight end George Takacs.

Griffith may have the best chance of turning early enrollment into early playing time. Rivals ranks Griffith higher than any other member of Notre Dame’s 2018 class as the No. 3 safety and No. 35 overall. The Irish will likely have a shakeup at the safety position this season after an inconsistent 2017 campaign.

Griffith can also play cornerback. He should be well prepared for college football after playing the last two seasons at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. Twenty-one of his teammates in the 2018 class have already committed to FBS programs, according to the Rivals database.

The three enrolling freshmen on the offensive side of the ball will have to compete with loaded depth charts at their positions.

The 6-foot-5, 202-pound Jones, a four-star recruit per Rivals, adds another big body at receiver behind Chase Claypool and Miles Boykin.

Smith, a three-star recruit, will have to battle with four running backs ahead of him who saw the field last season: Dexter Williams, Tony Jones Jr., Deon McIntosh and C.J. Holmes. Smith could differentiate himself if he can be a physical runner between the tackles.

Takacs, a four-star recruit per Rivals, joins a talented tight end group with three players who caught passes last season: Alizé Mack, Nic Weishar and Cole Kmet. Brock Wright played in 11 games last season primarily as a blocker. Takacs is also an adept blocker.

The current crop of seven mid-year additions is the biggest group to join Notre Dame’s football program since former head coach Charlie Weis first introduced the Irish to the practice in 2006. The previous 12 groups have never had more than five recruits in one class.

STARTING CLASSES

The following seven recruits are enrolling as freshmen at Notre Dame this week. It’s the largest group of mid-year additions the football program has added since the policy started in 2006.

• LB Bo Bauer, 6-2, 212; Erie (Pa.) Cathedral Prep

• DB Houston Griffith, 6-0, 194; Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy

• WR Micah Jones, 6-5, 202; Gurnee (Ill.) Warren Township

• LB Jack Lamb, 6-3, 211; Temecula (Calif.) Great Oak

• LB Ovie Oghoufo, 6-3, 208; Farmington Hills (Mich.) Harrison

• RB Jahmir Smith, 5-10, 198; Sanford (N.C.) Lee County

• TE George Takacs, 6-6, 244; Naples (Fla.) Gulf Coast

tjames@ndinsider.com

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Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Cathedral Prep linebacker Bo Bauer (center) enrolls at Notre Dame this week. (Photo courtesy of Erie Times-News/MATTHEW O'HAREN)