Signing day superlatives for Notre Dame's 2018 class

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

National Signing Day offers another chance to forecast the careers for another round of Notre Dame recruits. These are some signing day superlatives for the Irish 2018 class.

Biggest get - QB Phil Jurkovec: Notre Dame's first commitment in the 2018 class turned out to be its most important. Jurkovec's career matched the hype given to him early in high school. Former Irish quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford recognized the talent and made him a priority at the end of his sophomore season. He has only put up video game numbers since then.

Jurkovec finished his run at Gibsonia (Pa.) Pine-Richland with a state championship as a senior and career totals of 8,202 passing yards, 71 passing touchdowns, 2,942 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns. He'll be expected to challenge for playing time early in his career. 

Earliest impact - DB Houston Griffith: The debate of whether Griffith should play cornerback or safety might last longer than he'll have to wait to play for the Irish. With thin depth at cornerback and unproven depth at safety, Griffith could find a path to the field in either role.

No defensive back in Notre Dame's 2018 class should be better prepared than Griffith after playing the last two seasons at Bradenton (Fla.) IMG Academy. His early enrollment last month will give him a chance to start climbing the depth chart this spring.

Highest upside - WR Kevin Austin: The coaches at Florida's powerhouse programs may be up for reevaluations if Austin reaches his ceiling at Notre Dame. The 6-foot-2, 197-pound product of Coconut Creek (Fla.) North Broward Prep has the potential to be a do-it-all receiver with plenty of big plays in his future.

Austin's high school production didn't always match his talent-level, but he still managed to set a Broward County record with 329 receiving yards in one game. His size, speed and hands make for a potent combination.

Sleeper - CB Tariq Bracy: Bracy's best highlights in high school came primarily as a running back, yet he's projected to play in the secondary at Notre Dame. Can he translate that playmaking ability to defense? The Irish have had success in recent years converting the likes of KeiVarae Russell and Julian Love from two-way stars in high school to reliable cornerbacks.

Bracy makes things look easy on the football field with his athletic gifts, but the three-star recruit was still overlooked by some Pac-12 programs. Defending wide receivers will be his next challenge.

Strongest unit - Linebacker: The trio of Jack Lamb, Bo Bauer and Ovie Oghoufo would be an impressive group of linebackers on their own. Throw in rover Shayne Simon as part of the linebacker unit, and you're looking at a group that could have a few multi-year starters at Notre Dame. The first three enrolled early with a race for early playing time expected.

Biggest reach - S Paul Moala: The local recruit didn't have national powerhouses knocking down his door when former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Mike Elko took a chance on Moala following his performance at the Irish Invasion camp last summer. So instead of Iowa, Nebraska or Vanderbilt stealing the former two-star recruit, the Irish kept the Penn product close to home.

Elko won't be around to make sure Moala turns into a productive player for the Irish. Can he find a role on defense or special teams? Moala finally received a three-star rating from Rivals last month.

Toughest miss - WR Amon-Ra St. Brown: Not many recruits in the 2018 class feel like better bets for stardom than St. Brown. The five-star recruit has the potential to be better than both his older brothers. Unfortunately for the Irish, he didn't want to follow Equanimeous St. Brown to South Bend. Instead, Notre Dame will have to defend him at USC.


Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec, right, was Notre Dame's first commitment in the 2018 class. He may also be the most important. (Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/Matt Freed)