247Sports, Rivals disagree most on 2019 safety signee Litchfield Ajavon

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

None of Notre Dame’s 2019 signees were as polarizing as Litchfield Ajavon.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pound safety was one of Rivals’ highest-rated Irish recruits. As a four-star safety, Rivals ranked Ajavon No. 9 at his position and No. 106 overall. 247Sports not only valued Ajavon as a three-star recruit, but also ranked him its No. 59 safety and No. 746 overall player.

In terms of star ratings, 247Sports and Rivals differed on nine of the 22 Irish signees in their final rankings. The amount of four-star and five-star recruits on both sites are about the same, too. 247Sports has 32 five-star and 355 four-star players for 2019. Rivals lists 30 and 361, respectively.

Kyle Hamilton and Quinn Carroll are the only Irish signees ranked higher than Ajavon on Rivals. Ajavon is higher than just Jay Bramblett and Cam Hart in the 247Sports rankings.

“His physicality and energy in the secondary is something that you don’t see a ton out of Notre Dame commits,” said Adam Friedman, Rivals’ Mid-Atlantic analyst. “A lot of times, Notre Dame commits, especially the skill players, are not as outspoken or aggressive. But Litchfield is loud on the field. When I’m sitting at his games, and I’m up top in the press box filming it, I could hear him yelling at his teammates and telling them what to do.

“You could see him looking for big hits coming downhill, streaming across the field to make a big hit on a receiver that might not be looking directly at him. Litchfield brings an edge to the secondary at Notre Dame that I don’t think they’ve had in a little while.”

Friedman said he’s seen Ajavon live more than any other analyst but admitted he’s higher on him than most. He’s learned more about Ajavon, who was born in a Liberian refugee camp in Ghana. The Alexandria (Va.) Episcopal product moved to America as a six-year-old with his grandfather and mother.

“There’s kind of a fearlessness to the way he plays,” Friedman said. “When you’ve got so much to work for — when you talk about Litchfield versus these other prospects — there’s so much that he has to work for. Not just on the field or in the classroom, but in life overall.

“I think that guy is super focused on his goals and will put everything he’s got into improving and making sure he’s successful. I think Litchfield really fits that mold — someone who’s backed into a corner and has nowhere to go but up.”

Steve Wiltfong, 247Sports’ director of recruiting, doubts that Ajavon possesses the fluidity and ability of players like Kyle Hamilton, ND’s prized safety signee. There are concerns on Ajavon’s ability to cover in the open field.

Wiltfong, however, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Ajavon finishes as ND’s most underrated player from the 2019 class.

“He was a guy that when we dropped him, we faced some criticism on it,” Wiltfong said. “His drop was more because I don’t think our analysts saw as fluid of an athlete as some of the other guys ranked high at the position. His change of direction, ability.”

Ajavon recorded 62 tackles, two for loss, one interception and a fumble recovery as a senior. The learning curve for Ajavon will be in coverage, Friedman said.

"He’s got the intelligence for it,” Friedman said. “He’s got the physical ability for it. He just hasn’t been asked to do a ton of that at the high school level and against the competition he’s faced. In the 7-on-7 circuit, he’s been very good there. So I feel like once he’s able to pick that up, play within the scheme and know his keys there, I think he will be able to excel.”

A breakdown of the eight other Notre Dame recruits with star-rating differences on 247Sports and Rivals can be found here ($).

S Litchfield Ajavon.