Recruiting notebook: Updates on the Polynesian Bowl, Notre Dame coaches visiting schools

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Having Aidan Keanaaina as a personal guide has helped fellow Notre Dame signees Chris Tyree, Kevin Bauman and Michael Carmody feel at home during this week’s Polynesian Bowl.

Learning more about Polynesian culture has been easier with Keanaaina leading the way. Like practicing the Haka, a group dance routine from the Māori culture that requires a combination of shouting, rhythmic stomping and coordinator movements.

Keanaaina represented the only Denver Mullen High football player with Polynesian descent. He led them with the Haka before games. Sunday’s high school all-star game at Aloha Stadium in Oahu, Hawaii will begin with players on both teams performing the Haka. Kickoff is slated for 12:05 a.m. EST on CBS.

“When we have questions, we kind of throw them at (Keanaaina),” Bauman said. “He’ll tells us what he knows. I know the Haka, his family does. He was kind of showing us that, which was cool. It’s fun having him and his cultural background here this week.”

Tyree will wear No. 4 in a light blue uniform for Team Makai (ocean). Bauman (18), Carmody (70) and Keanaaina (92) will play for Team Mauka (mountain) and sport white uniforms. Offensive tackle signee Tosh Baker earned an invite and arrived in Hawaii on Thursday. He will not play because of an MCL sprain in his knee that he suffered in practice at the All-American Bowl earlier this month. The injury is not considered serious.

This week’s activities have not involved much contact drills to mitigate injuries.

“It’s been a great week here in Hawaii getting to compete with some of the best players in the country,” Bauman said. “Doing some of the things outside of football, getting to see Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center. That’s all super fun stuff. Getting to hang out with the other Irish guys has been fun.”

Rees reaction

Bauman had been verbally committed to Notre Dame for more than a year before connecting with newly minted offensive coordinator Tommy Rees.

Deposed offensive coordinator and tight ends coach Chip Long had forged a close relationship with Bauman. Communication between Bauman and someone other than Long on the coaching staff was hardly necessary.

But Bauman found himself meshing well with Rees during his official visit for Notre Dame’s Oct. 12 home game against USC. Bauman confirmed his intuition when hosting Rees — along with head coach Brian Kelly — for an in-home visit two months later.

Notre Dame’s signees and commits out of the 2021 recruiting class have only offered positive sentiments regarding Rees’ promotion.

“He’s very personable and easy to get along with,” Bauman said. “He understands us on a different level. He’s an awesome guy and obviously knows the game and Notre Dame. I think he’s a great fit for the job.

“I’m beyond excited to see what he’s going to do here with the offense and how the program is going to benefit from his role.”

Contact period

Notre Dame’s coaching staff returned to the recruiting trail after the contact period began on Thursday.

Division I football coaches are now permitted to visit high schools and evaluate recruits via practices and workouts. This week’s most notable visit comes from special teams coordinator Brian Polian. Muskegon (Mich.) High athlete Cameron Martinez expected Polian to attend his basketball game across town at Reeths-Puffer High on Friday.

Martinez, an Ohio State commit, stands as Notre Dame’s lone potential addition to the 2020 recruiting class. When former OSU co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley departed for Boston College’s head coaching job last month, Martinez opted to not make his commitment official during the early signing period. The Irish are looking to host Martinez for their Feb. 1 junior day.

Other visits

Two of Notre Dame’s top targets out of the 2021 recruiting class, Clarkston (Mich.) High offensive linemen Rocco Spindler and Garrett Dellinger, received a visit from head coach Brian Kelly on Friday.

Ohio State’s Ryan Day, Alabama’s Nick Saban and Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh were among other head coaches that visited Clarkston. Kelly also stopped by West Bloomfield (Mich.) High to see four-star running back target Donovan Edwards out of the 2021 class.

As Notre Dame continues to search for a cornerbacks coach, defensive analyst Chris O’Leary has seemingly assumed the role on the recruiting trail. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, run game coordinator Lance Taylor and defensive line coach Mike Elston also visited schools on Friday.

Below are a handful of the other notable Friday visits. Targets are recruits that hold Irish scholarship offers.

• 2021 RB target Will Shipley Matthews (N.C.) Weddington — Taylor

• 2021 RB target Corey Kiner, Cincinnati Roger Bacon — Rees

• 2021 CB target Dyson McCutcheon, La Puente (Calif.) Bishop Amat — O'Leary

• 2021 S target Xamarion Gordon, Downey (Calif.) Warren — O'Leary

• 2021 DE target Jabari Ishmael, Miami Columbus — Elston*

• 2021 DE target Michael Trigg, Lake Wales (Fla.) Seffner Christian Academy — Elston*

• 2022 DE target Tony Livingston, Lake Wales (Fla.) Seffner Christian Academy — Elston*

• 2021 WR commit Lorenzo Styles Jr., Pickerington (Ohio) Central — Rees

• 2021 DB prospect Jaylin Smith, Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany — O’Leary

*Ishmael, Trigg and Livingston received their scholarship offers on Friday.

Junior day update

Bolingbrook (Ill.) High’s Justin Walters confirmed with the Tribune he will attend Notre Dame’s Feb. 1 junior day.

The three-star safety added a Notre Dame scholarship offer after visiting for the Sept. 14 home game against New Mexico. 247Sports ranks Walters as its No. 17 safety and No. 395 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class, while Rivals pegs Walter No. 14 at the position.

The following have also confirmed with the Tribune that they will come for junior day: La Grange Park (Ill.) Nazareth Academy defensive end Daine Hanson (2021), Mission Hills (Calif.) Bishop Alemany defensive back Jaylin Smith (2021), Myrtle Beach (S.C.) High wide receiver JJ Jones (2021), Westerville (Ohio) South athlete Kaden Saunders (2022) and Fond Du Lac (Wis.) High safety Braelon Allen (2022).

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Notre Dame tight end signee Kevin Bauman (18) will compete in Sunday’s Polynesian Bowl in Hawaii.
Notre Dame recruit Garrett Dellinger walks up the tunnel following the Notre Dame-Southern California game on Oct. 12, 2019 at Notre Dame Stadium. Dellinger had a visit from Irish head coach Brian Kelly on Friday.