Notebook: Notre Dame visit 'eye-opening' for Lathan Ransom

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Lathan Ransom had an idea of Notre Dame’s interest level in him.

But the 2020 safety recruit had heard the empty promises and embellishments made by other coaching staffs. Ransom was told by members of Notre Dame’s staff that he ranked atop their recruiting board. After his first visit to South Bend, Ransom believes them.

“A lot of coaches try to say that to me,” Ransom said about ND’s interest in him. “It’s easy to say it. My family and I talked about it, that they really showed that (interest). It meant a lot. It was really eye-opening. I like Notre Dame a lot.”

The Tucson (Ariz.) Salpointe Catholic product estimates he received texts from 15 Irish coaches prior to his visit. Ransom was among 20 reported visitors for Saturday’s Irish junior day event. The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder, however, felt like their lone guest.

“I talked to every coach, and they all had so much energy and were so excited,” Ransom said. “And even the players. I talked to the players and they had so much energy. They are already in college and doing their own thing, so that was cool to see.”

Ransom and his father arrived earlier than most on Friday afternoon. The Irish catered to Ransom, providing him his own schedule. Head coach Brian Kelly, defensive coordinator Clark Lea, safeties coach Terry Joseph and strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis each carried on long, one-on-one conversations with him.

They broke down film, scheme, depth charts and workouts. They explained how Ransom would eventually fill the role of Irish safety Alohi Gilman with his playmaking ability.

“He was super intelligent with the game,” Ransom said of Joseph. “He kept it without getting super serious to where you can’t even breathe in the room. He did a great job of keeping it fun with his teaching. And when he needed to get serious, he got serious. I like his whole vibe a lot.”

Joseph helped land two safeties in ND’s 2019 recruiting class — Litchfield Ajavon and Kyle Hamilton. The Irish offered Ajavon almost a year before Joseph arrived in South Bend. So Joseph’s first offer-turned-signee with the Irish, Hamilton, is a five-star safety (247Sports).

Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network, said Ransom could similarly develop into a five-star player with a strong senior campaign. For now, 247Sports considers Ransom a three-star recruit, ranking him as its No. 19 safety and No. 303 overall player. A four-star recruit on Rivals, Ransom comes in as the site’s No. 5 safety and No. 63 overall player.

“He got good size, but great range, ball skills and a terrific quick-twitch athletic body,” Lemming said. “He’s very athletic. When you watch him, you can tell that he’s an impact guy.”

Should Ransom land with the Irish, his first visit will figure to be more of an icebreaker. He trekked to Ohio State Sunday and intends to take unofficial visits to Texas and Texas A&M and maybe Washington this spring. Ransom’s first official visit will likely be for Oklahoma’s spring game on April 13, he said.

A commitment decision will wait. Ransom does plan on releasing his top schools on Twitter soon, then narrowing that list down in July. The Irish positioned themselves over the weekend to appear in both.

F I G H T I NG I R I S H #GoIrish#IrishBouNDXXpic.twitter.com/jaZJLmaQQL

— Lathan Ransom (@L8thanRansom) February 25, 2019Quarterback to watch

No 2021 quarterback has been on ND’s radar more than Tyler Buchner.

The Irish have offered just two 2021 quarterbacks in Preston Stone and Buchner. While Stone has not visited South Bend, Buchner’s Saturday trip marks his third since June of 2018. The La Jolla (Calif.) Bishop’s School product swung by ND last summer and for the Sept. 29 Stanford game.

Like Ransom, Buchner received special treatment after arriving earlier than Saturday’s visitors. The 6-2, 203-pounder joined quarterbacks Ian Book and Phil Jurkovec, linebacker Jordan Genmark Heath, quarterbacks coach Tommy Rees and his father, Bill Rees, for dinner Friday night at Rocco’s Restaurant, a local pizza eatery.

Heath related to Buchner as a San Diego, Calif. product. Tommy Rees and offensive coordinator Chip Long broke down film with him. Most of Buchner’s conversation with Book and Jurkovec consisted of subjects not pertaining to football.

“When I was with (Book), a ton of little kids came up to ask him for pictures,” Buchner said. “Everyone was saying ‘Hi’ and ‘What’s up.’ He’s the guy on the campus. Obviously, that comes with a lot of responsibility. You have to be humble and take it well. He talked with me about that, as well as what it’s like to be a student at Notre Dame.

“Ian is great. He’s obviously a super humble kid and works hard. He handles it better than anyone. He says hi to all the kids and is absolutely great. He’s a great role model and someone to look up to.”

Buchner spent his early years living near Chicago and attended an ND home game against USC as a kid. Shane Walton, a former unanimous All-America cornerback for the Irish, serves as The Bishop’s School’s assistant athletics director.

“I think the biggest influence Shane has had on me is seeing what type of guy comes out of Notre Dame,” Buchner said. “He’s the perfect guy and the nicest guy ever. He does everything for us kids. I get to call him one of my friends, even though he’s 20 years older than me. I can talk to him about anything and go to his office at school, sit down for two hours and talk to the guy.”

Drew Pyne, a 2020 quarterback, verbally committed to the Irish in April of last year. Two months later, the Irish offered Buchner after he impressed at their Elite Skills Camp. Poised for a promising sophomore season, Buchner tore his ACL on his first series of the season opener.

That injury hasn’t deterred the Notre Dame staff or 247Sports, though. The site labels Buchner as a four-star quarterback, ranking him as its No. 2 pro-style quarterback and No. 49 overall player.

Buchner intends to visit Stanford next week. ND’s coaches made sure to broadcast last season’s 38-17 Irish victory over the Cardinal across television screens throughout their facilities. Some screens also featured ND’s 24-17 win over Michigan on Sept. 1.

He likely won’t be announcing a commitment following his Stanford visit, but Buchner will be the quarterback to watch for the Irish.

“Their offense is super aggressive, and I think it’s the perfect fit,” Buchner said. “It’s similar to what I run at my high school. It’s just an extension of that. Perfect fit … They have compared my game to Ian Book, which is kind of generous. I mean, I guess I’m alright. But I can definitely see myself playing that scheme.”

Junior day offers

Two recruits left campus with ND offers: 2020 defensive end Cam Large and 2021 offensive lineman Ben Christman.

Large, a product of Dedham (Mass.) Noble and Greenough School, accrued offers from LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Boston College and Virginia. The 6-5, 240-pound three-star recruit ranks as 247Sports’ No. 16 tight end and No. 529 overall player. He’s Rivals’ No. 13 tight end.

Richfield (Ohio) Revere’s Christman has not been rated or ranked. He’s garnered offers, though, from Ohio State, Penn State, Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. The 6-6, 295-pounder projects as an offensive tackle.

Position switch

Justin Robinson was among the 2020 targets that visited South Bend over the weekend. Listed as a receiver on recruiting sites, the 6-4, 200-pounder is being recruited as a safety by the Irish. The McDonough (Ga.) Eagle's Landing Christian product told the Tribune of the news to dispel any confusion.

New commitment

The Irish are set to welcome a late addition to their 2019 class in Zane Heemsoth. The 6-5, 235-pounder announced the news via Twitter Sunday and will be a preferred walk-on. Heemsoth, a product of Elmhurst (Ill.) York High, told the Tribune that ND will look at him at linebacker, defensive end and tight end. Should Heemsoth follow through with his decision, he will join the Irish in June.

Extremely blessed to announce that I will be continuing my academic and athletic career at the University of Notre Dame! Thanks to my family, coaches, and teammates who have helped me throughout the years. ☘️#FightClub19@NDFootballpic.twitter.com/puzYTwLlQu

— Zane Heemsoth (@zaneheemsoth) February 24, 2019

Buchner