Defensive lineman Hunter Spears commits to Notre Dame

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Hunter Spears had planned to commit on his 18th birthday.

The only problem was that the 2019 defensive line recruit had already made up his mind with his birthday almost seven months away. Spears scrapped those plans Tuesday to announce his pledge to Notre Dame.

“I decided to move up my commitment day to today, Feb. 20, in honor of my Grampy and my biggest supporter,” Spears tweeted Tuesday afternoon on his Twitter account. “I know how proud of me he is, and that he’s looking down on me.

“With that being said, I’m excited and blessed to announce my commitment to the University of Notre Dame. Go Irish.”

Spears, who turns 18 on Sept. 15, finalized his decision a few weeks after a visit to Notre Dame’s junior day event on Jan. 27. The four-star recruit previously attended Notre Dame’s win over USC on Oct. 21.

The 6-foot-4, 267-pound junior at Sachse (Texas) High committed to the Irish over offers from Alabama, Oklahoma State, TCU, Michigan State, Baylor and others.

“He’s a defensive end that may grow into a defensive tackle,” said CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst Tom Lemming. “He’s a good, solid defensive end. A legit four-star player.”

247Sports slates Spears as the No. 9 defensive tackle in the 2019 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 17 weakside defensive end.

Spears missed his junior season while recovering from a torn ACL. As a sophomore at Sachse, he recorded 57 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, four sacks and 22 quarterback hurries.

“He’s grown. I’ve seen him each of the last three years,” Lemming said. “He’s put on a lot of weight. He’s outstanding. He makes good use of his hands. He’s a good player.”

Spears is the second junior day visitor to commit to Notre Dame. Four-star cornerback K.J. Wallace did the same on Jan. 28. The duo gives the Irish four verbal commitments in the 2019 class alongside defensive tackle Jacob Lacey and quarterback Cade McNamara.

Defensive line coach Mike Elston has put together a strong start to the 2019 defensive line group with Spears and Lacey, also a four-star recruit.

The Irish hosted a number of top defensive line targets in late January while Spears and Lacey were on campus. They were joined by defensive ends NaNa Osafa-Mensah and Joseph Anderson and defensive tackle Mazi Smith. All three are rated as four-star recruits.

Lacey shared a photo on Twitter of all five recruits and Elston from junior day captioned, “2019 Dream Team.”

A defensive line class that deep with talent would be almost unprecedented for head coach Brian Kelly’s tenure at Notre Dame.

Only once since 2010 have the Irish signed at least four defensive linemen with four-star ratings or higher from Rivals: the 2011 class that included five-star defensive ends Stephon Tuitt and Ishaq Williams and four-star defensive ends Aaron Lynch and Ben Councell.

“I’ve been at Notre Dame going on nine years,” Elston said earlier this month. “I haven’t had a stronger group of underclassmen that I’m recruiting than I have this year in (the) 2019 (cycle).

“This could be the best defensive line haul we’ve ever had here, and a lot of it is because I’ve been able to put 2018 to bed (early) and get moving on the 19s and visit their schools all throughout January.”

Below are sophomore highlights of Spears via Hudl.

GOD, COUNTRY, NOTRE DAME

4For40

The work starts now, Go Irish pic.twitter.com/NgvMuiUj93

— Hunter Spears (@Thehunterspears) February 20, 2018

Four-star defensive lineman Hunter Spears visited Notre Dame for junior day in late January. (Photo courtesy of Student Sports)