Analysis: What are Notre Dame's chances with final 2018 recruits?

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

With National Signing Day less than a week away, the focus of Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts to finish the 2018 class continues to narrow.

With 21 signees and one verbal commitment (three-star offensive lineman Luke Jones), Notre Dame has a few more spots left to fill. The Irish find themselves juggling less than a dozen relevant recruits in the final days before Feb. 7.

The latest developments could result in Notre Dame reaching a 25-man class without much of a surprise.

Who are the most likely to end up in Notre Dame’s class next week? Let’s take a closer look at each remaining target.

Good chance

• CB DJ Brown, 6-1, 183; Washington (D.C.) St. John’s College High: Brown stepped away from his six-month commitment to Virginia on Tuesday. That just so happened to be the same day Brown finished his official visit to Notre Dame. Now, as Brown announced on Twitter, he will make a signing day decision among Notre Dame, Northwestern and California.

Brown visited all three schools in the last two weeks. The Irish were supposed to host Brown in December, but the potential of adding other cornerbacks to the 2018 class apparently put that trip on hold. That delay hasn’t seemed to hinder Notre Dame’s chances with Brown.

Brown reunited with former high school teammate Kofi Wardlow, a freshman defensive end, while visiting Notre Dame. If all goes to plan for the Irish, the two will be teammates once again.

Rivals: Three stars, No. 67 CB. | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 70 CB. 

• RB C’Borius Flemister, 6-0, 192; Zebulon (Ga.) Pike County: In the last month, Notre Dame made Flemister its top priority for adding a second running back in the class. That dedication should pay off for the Irish come signing day. Flemister remains verbally committed to Georgia Tech, but his recent trips to Tennessee and Notre Dame have shown he’s considering other options.

Head coach Brian Kelly, running backs coach Autry Denson and offensive line coach Jeff Quinn visited Flemister on Wednesday to make one more pitch in person. The appeal of the Irish is obvious: Flemister could become only the fourth scholarship running back on the roster if he signs with Notre Dame.

Flemister will sit down with his parents, who also made the trip to Notre Dame, to make a decision for signing day.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 40 RB. | Rivals: Three stars.

• DE Derrick Eason, 6-4, 242; Norfolk (Va.) Norview: The chances of flipping Eason’s commitment to N.C. State dramatically increased when he visited Notre Dame this past weekend. Now the Irish are trying to finish the job with defensive line coach Mike Elston visiting him Wednesday. If Notre Dame’s staff didn’t have confidence, the time would likely have been spent elsewhere.

The Irish haven’t had much luck adding a second defensive end to pair with Justin Ademilola in the 2018 class, but Eason has been receptive to the idea. Notre Dame offered the three-star recruit on Jan. 17.

Last year, Notre Dame added two defensive linemen — Wardlow and Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa — on signing day. Could the same happen with Eason?

247Sports: Three stars, No. 58 SDE. | Rivals: Three stars.

• WR Lawrence Keys, 5-11, 160; New Orleans McDonogh 35: Notre Dame appeared to be in the driver’s seat for Keys but only needed to survive visits to Texas and SMU. After a visit to Texas this past weekend, Keys told a Rivals reporter covering Texas that the Longhorns and Irish were tied at the top of his list.

Keys, who is still scheduled to visit SMU this weekend, received a visit from Notre Dame wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander on Monday. The Irish haven’t targeted any other wide receivers down the stretch, so it should be Keys or bust.

If Keys keeps holding out and other recruits at need positions reserve spots in Notre Dame’s class, would the Irish choose to pass on adding another wide receiver? It’s an interesting scenario to track.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 75 WR. | Rivals: Three stars.

• OL Jarrett Patterson, 6-5, 275; Mission Viejo (Calif.) High: New offensive line coach Jeff Quinn’s best chance at landing his first recruit at Notre Dame may be with Patterson. If that happens, he’ll have recruiting coordinator Brian Polian to thank. Polian kept Patterson’s recruitment alive for the Irish when offensive line coach Harry Hiestand left Notre Dame to rejoin the Chicago Bears.

Patterson visited Notre Dame the weekend before Quinn took over the position, but Quinn contacted him shortly after the hiring was made public. The Irish have emerged in a two-team race with UCLA.

Patterson visited the Bruins this past weekend. The Irish will respond by sending head coach Brian Kelly, Polian and Quinn to see him Friday.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 17 OT. | Rivals: Three stars, No. 29 OT.

Upset possible

• OL Nicholas Petit-Frere, 6-6, 260; Tampa (Fla.) Berkeley Prep: Virtually no one will feel comfortable predicting where Petit-Frere will sign. The five-star offensive lineman divulges little and has plenty of logical options. The Irish have worked hard to continue to be one of them.

Kelly, Quinn and Denson were scheduled to visit Petit-Frere on Wednesday. The Irish hosted Petit-Frere on his first official visit back in October, but the departure of Hiestand threw a wrench into the recruitment. It won’t ruin Notre Dame’s chances, but Quinn will have to build a relationship fast. Having Denson, the dedicated Irish recruiter in Florida, on hand to guide the transition should be valuable.

Petit-Frere has one final trip to Ohio State scheduled for this weekend. His previous official visits went to Michigan, Alabama and Florida.

247Sports: Five stars, No. 1 OT. | Rivals: Five stars, No. 1 OT.

 LB Solomon Tuliaupupu, 6-2, 218; Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei: If Tuliaupupu wants to leave California to play college football, he’ll be headed to Notre Dame. But it’s always seemed mostly likely that Tuliaupupu stays in Southern California. He gave his last two visits in January to UCLA and USC.

Defensive coordinator Clark Lea and Polian have kept Notre Dame in contention after Kelly used his in-home visit in November. The high school Butkus Award winner would have to break recruiting convention to pick the Irish. But he wouldn’t be the first to do so. Notre Dame would need a Manti Te’o-like surprise to sign Tuliaupupu.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 3 ILB. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 4 ILB.

Seems unlikely

• CB Noah Boykin, 6-2, 168; Washington (D.C.) H.D. Woodson: Boykin had plenty of time to withdraw his commitment to Maryland, but it wasn’t until he made an official visit to Florida in January that he finally stepped away from the Terrapins. Previous trips to Notre Dame and USC in October and November, respectively, were clear indications he was looking elsewhere.

But the timing of his decision put the Gators in the pole position. Boykin said he will choose either Maryland, Notre Dame, Florida or Virginia on signing day.

Rivals: Four stars, No. 21 CB. | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 25 CB.

• DT Moro Ojomo, 6-3, 265; Katy (Texas) High: Ojomo visited Notre Dame earlier in January, but he didn’t even mention it on his Twitter account. The week prior, tweeted that he “had the time of my life” on his visit to Oklahoma. The silence doesn’t seem like a coincidence.

The Irish will likely end up on the periphery as Texas, Oklahoma, Texas A&M, Oregon and Alabama fight for his commitment.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 25 DT. | Rivals: Three stars, No. 41 DT.

Count ND out

• DE Malik Langham, 6-6, 269; Huntsville (Ala.) Lee: SEC schools have swarmed Langham since he received an offer from the Irish in late November. Notre Dame hosted him for an official visit in December, but his recruitment will likely end with a signature for Alabama, Auburn, Florida or Tennessee.

247Sports: Four stars, No. 9 SDE. | Rivals: Four stars, No. 19 SDE.

 DT Otito Ogbonnia, 6-4, 290; Katy (Texas) Taylor: Notre Dame landed a spot in Ogbonnia’s top six in January, but the Irish did not receive an official visit from him. Tennessee and Nebraska received the last chances to host Ogbonnia. Texas Tech, UCLA and Ole Miss are also in the running.

247Sports: Three stars, No. 38 DT. | Rivals: Three stars.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Running back C'Borius Flemister (left), linebacker Solomon Tuliaupupu (center) and wide receiver Lawrence Keys (right) are among the last remaining targets for Notre Dame's 2018 recruiting class. (Photos courtesy of Student Sports)