Prime time is right time for Notre Dame recruiting
Drew Pyne, Notre Dame’s 2020 quarterback commit, intended on visiting Saturday’s Irish season opener. But his distant location and high school scrimmage altered those plans.
Those in Pyne’s situation typically benefit from a night game with Notre Dame-Michigan set for a 7:30 p.m. EDT kickoff. Pyne just happens to live in Connecticut.
“It allows the guys that want to be with their team Saturday morning, they can still drive,” Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian said of night game weekends. “Official visitors, you can bring in on a red-eye (flight) and they can get a little time in and do some things on campus.”
It also helps when No. 14 Michigan and ESPN's College GameDay comes to town. The Irish will host six uncommitted recruits on official visits over the weekend. Two 2019 commits are also taking official visits. Talented recruits in the 2020 and 2021 classes are expected on campus, too.
“Far more than you would ever be able to do with a 3 o’clock start,” Polian said on the advantage of night games. “It opens up a three-to-four-hour block where we will come back from the hotel, back here to the building and interact with recruits.”
Notre Dame’s most recent pledges came from three-star wide receiver Cam Hart and three-star quarterback Brendon Clark on July 4. The Irish are ahead of schedule with 17 commitments for 2019.
That number might elevate after Saturday.
• OT Walter Rouse, 6-6, 285; Washington (D.C.) Sidwell Friends: Although his classes have not started, Rouse was cleared to attend this weekend’s festivities. An NCAA rule typically prohibits recruits like Rouse from taking official visits before their senior year starts.
It became clear earlier this week that the NCAA would allow seniors not yet in class to make official visits this weekend across the country. Polian addressed this rule earlier in August but did not mention specific athletes.
“That’s always something — it’s almost a rule people have forgotten about because of the early official visits,” Polian said. “We had to double check on a couple guys there.”
The anticipated 2018 starting tackles are junior Liam Eichenberg and sophomore Robert Hainsey. Tackles Quinn Carroll, John Olmstead and Andrew Kristofic have already verbally pledged for 2019.
Considering his length and raw ability, Rouse fits the mold of a tackle who could benefit from a redshirt season.
“He’s one of the best tackle prospects in the country, and as far as ceiling is concerned, maybe the best,” said Tom Lemming, CBS Sports Network recruiting analyst.
Rouse’s only other official visit was at Northwestern in June. Following his unofficial visit to Notre Dame on June 20, Rouse circled Sept. 1 on his calendar. He also made unofficial visits to Pittsburgh, Virginia, Ohio State, Stanford, Penn State, Duke and North Carolina.
Rivals: Three stars, No. 40 OT | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 47 OT
• ATH Kendall Abdur-Rahman, 6-1, 182; Edwardsville (Ill.) High: The Irish are loaded with big, physical outside receivers like junior Chase Claypool and senior Miles Boykin. Players like freshmen Kevin Austin and Joe Wilkins add depth to the position, too.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame does not have an overabundance of speedy playmakers. Abdur-Rahman projects as a slot receiver who could fill that void.
“He’s explosive. He’s a quick-twitch athlete,” Lemming said. “Probably one of the biggest weakness of Notre Dame is that they don’t have a lot of quick-twitch athletes on offense.”
Abdur-Rahman puts on display his athleticism at positions beyond receiver. He flourished as a dual-threat quarterback, rushing for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns as a junior. He threw for 548 yards and eight touchdowns as well.
Michigan State, Illinois, Iowa, Iowa State and Minnesota are also courting Abdur-Rahman.
247Sports: Three stars, No. 36 ATH | Rivals: Three-star ATH
• WR Cornelius Johnson, 6-3, 195; Greenwich (Conn.) Brunswick School: Johnson fits the mold of Notre Dame’s typical outside receiver. He can create separation one-on-one and haul in 50-50 balls like Boykin did in January's Citrus Bowl.
With clutter at the position, though, the Irish might want to develop Johnson into a hybrid receiver.
“Cornelius is one of the guys that could fit into both spots,” Lemming said.
Johnson looks like an outside receiver, but his route-running and versatility could allow him to also operate in the slot. Last season, he recorded 485 yards and seven touchdowns on 33 catches.
Like Rouse, Johnson’s classes have not started. Michigan, Penn State, Nebraska, Stanford and Alabama extended offers to him. He took two unofficial visits to Stanford this summer. He attended Notre Dame’s Junior Day on March 3.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 25 WR | Rivals: Three stars, No. 59 WR
• CB Isaiah Rutherford, 6-1, 174; Carmichael (Calif.) Jesuit: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly isn’t afraid to move players around and tinker with their positions. Although Rutherford projects as a cornerback, his offensive ability suggests he could also excel elsewhere.
Across 13 games as a junior, he rushed for 1,468 yards on 169 carries with 17 touchdowns. Lemming, who upgraded Rutherford to five stars in April, said he makes more sense as a cornerback than running back.
“I think he’s got great upside as a cover corner,” Lemming said. “He’s got the height, the length, the quick-twitch athletic ability.”
Rutherford tweeted his top seven — Notre Dame, Alabama, Oregon, LSU, California, Oklahoma and Colorado — in June. He also plans to make official visits to Colorado and Oregon on Sept. 15 and Sept. 22, respectively.
Rivals: Four stars, No. 9 CB | 247Sports: Four stars, No. 19 CB
• WDE Bralen Trice, 6-4, 225; Phoenix (Ariz.) O’Connor: Should Trice redshirt, he could see the field early with current juniors Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes gone by then. Trice’s closing speed and first step makes him a prime candidate for Notre Dame's rush end.
“He also has the athletic ability to break down in space and make plays,” Lemming said. “That means he could be an outside linebacker or maybe grow into a defensive end.”
As a junior, Trice registered 75 tackles, 24 hurries and 14.5 sacks. Saturday will mark his first official visit, although he plans on making an official visit at Oregon on Sept. 22.
Trice announced his top five of Notre Dame, Washington, TCU, UCLA and Oregon in late May.
Rivals: Four stars, No. 23 WDE | 247Sports: Three stars, No. 38 WDE
• OT Enokk Vimahi, 6-4, 281; Kahuku (Hawaii) High: The Irish could be stacked at the tackle position. Fortunately for Vihami, he’s filled out and could handle a move inside. Rouse only beats Vihami in length.
“He would complement Rouse very well (inside),” Lemming said.
Guards Tommy Kraemer, Trevor Ruhland and Alex Bars are upperclassmen. Josh Lugg is the Irish’s only underclassman who was rated about as high as Vihami in high school.
Saturday marks Vihami’s first official visit. Vihami announced his top eight — Notre Dame, USC, UCLA, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Oklahoma, Washington and Virginia — in July.
247Sports: Four stars, No. 9 OT | Rivals: Four stars, No. 17 OT
The following recruits are expected to visit Notre Dame for Saturday's game against Michigan.
OL Walter Rouse*
WR Kendall Abdur-Rahman*
WR Cornelius Johnson*
CB Isaiah Rutherford*
WDE Bralen Trice*
OL Enokk Vimahi*
DT Cole Brevard
WR A.J. Henning
WR Daniel Jackson
DE Darrion Henry
DE Braiden McGregor
DE Rylie Mills
LB Kalel Mullings
OL Peter Skoronski
OL Bryn Tucker
WR Lorenzo Styles Jr.
OL Zeke Correll
OL Quinn Carroll
LB Osita Ekwonu
S Kyle Hamilton*
LB Jack Kiser
DT Jacob Lacey
DE Hunter Spears
CB K.J. Wallace*
RB Kyren Williams
OL John Olmstead
TE Michael Mayer
LS Ryan Mannelly
OL Michael Carmody
DE Deontae Craig
OL Dallas Fincher
DE Bryce Mostella
OL Justin Rogers
CB Elijah Eberhardt
RB Gavin Williams
OL Randy Holtz
DB/RB Enzo Jennings
LB Jaheim Thomas
OL Garrett Dellinger
QB J.J. McCarthy
DE Jack Sawyer
ILB Kobe King
CB Kalen King
DE Devon Williams
QB Ron Powlus
OT Riley Mahlman
*Denotes official visit