OL Matthew Wykoff, Caleb Johnson discuss their recruitment from Notre Dame

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

Caleb Johnson compared the Notre Dame offensive line to a cult — in a good way.

Hearing about how Andrew Kristofic, Zeke Correll, John Olmstead and Quinn Carroll interacted with each other taught Johnson what he wanted to know. Johnson, one of Notre Dame’s offensive tackle targets in the 2021 recruiting class, learned about the four sophomores from offensive line coach Jeff Quinn.

The quartet only arrived on campus 16 months ago as early enrollees after signing to the Irish 2019 class. Yet Quinn already describes them as inseparable. Almost all of their off-the-field activities, like eating, are done together.

“They were the most tight-knit group of guys ever,” said Johnson of what he heard from Quinn about the four linemen. “They’ve got an offensive linemen cult group. They’ve got like a religious group. They’re awesome.”

Their bond reminded Johnson of his relationships with fellow offensive linemen at Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic. Now he’s interested enough in Notre Dame that he scheduled a June 12-14 official visit. Magnolia (Texas) High offensive lineman Matthew Wykoff intends to take an official visit the following weekend.

The 6-foot-7, 295-pound Johnson represents one of Notre Dame’s three most promising offensive line targets. Clarkston (Mich.) High’s Rocco Spindler and Wykoff are the other two options that could join verbal commits Blake Fisher and Pat Coogan.

The Irish are unlikely to receive commitments from their other top offensive line targets, like Nolan Rucci. They also seem to have a better chance of landing Spindler than Johnson or Wykoff.

Spindler feels like Notre Dame’s top priority up front after taking multiple trips to South Bend. Michigan and Penn State are also courting Spindler, who wants to take all five official visits before announcing a commitment. Notre Dame began recruiting the four-star interior offensive lineman approximately two years ago and should be considered the favorite.

Even if Spindler pledges to the Irish, Wykoff and Johnson will be worth tracking. Their recruitments escalated after they received Notre Dame scholarship offers last month. The Irish could add four offensive linemen this class after signing just two — offensive tackles Tosh Baker and Michael Carmody — last cycle.

Head coach Brian Kelly held video calls with both recruits and their parents. Johnson also heard from offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and spoke to Quinn on Monday.

“I think he’s a great coach,” said Johnson about Quinn. “What he’s doing over there is awesome. We watched a ton of film on a bunch of his linemen destroying dudes. That was fun to watch, because there’s no sports really going on right now.”

“I think he’s a fun dude. He kind of showed us around his house on the lake. He’s told be about all the barbecues his linemen have there. They’ll go out tubing and fishing.”

Auburn (June 5-7) and Penn State (June 19-21) will also host Johnson for an official visit and threaten Notre Dame the most in his recruitment. 247Sports offers Johnson a four-star rating, ranking him as its No. 25 offensive tackle and No. 223 overall player in the class. Rivals pegs Johnson as a three-star offensive tackle, slating him No. 42 at the position.

When considering the Irish, Johnson said distance won’t be much of a factor because of his ties to Indiana. He still has friends and family in Fort Wayne, Ind., after spending his childhood there and attending the local Homestead High as a freshman before moving south.

“Good strength and offensive line coach,” said Johnson on what his top priorities are. “Stable staff, they won’t be leaving in the next two or three years. The feel of the place, because you’re going to be there for a long time. So you might as well love it.”

While Johnson will return to South Bend after visiting for the Oct. 12 home game against USC, Wykoff’s trip to Notre Dame will be his first. In-state schools like Texas and Texas A&M are at an advantage with Wykoff’s proximity and have hosted him multiple times.

So Wykoff wanted to schedule his June official visits to distant schools and plans to swing by Notre Dame, USC and Penn State.

“All the schools that I’m looking at,” Wykoff said, “you look at their background and there’s a lot of culture behind their football programs and the school. I want to go to a place that feels like home. I want to get that feeling every time I step on the campus.”

Though recruiting websites label the 6-5, 304-pound Wykoff as a three-star offensive tackle, he also attracts interest as an interior lineman. 247Sports ranks Wykoff as the No. 35 offensive tackle in the class, while Rivals pegs him No. 35 at the position.

The coronavirus pandemic may have deterred Wykoff’s ideal scenario of taking all five official visits. He still hopes to keep his timeline intact by announcing a commitment late this summer, however.

“I’m definitely looking into the education. That’s a big part” said Wykoff on his preferences in a school. “I grew up that way where education is a big part of it. I love culture behind football. I love the culture.

“Notre Dame has a history of a winning football team. A lot of culture there when it comes to football. Also just outstanding academics. They have some of the best academics in the country.”

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Magnolia (Texas) High’s Matthew Wykoff (74), an offensive lineman in the 2021 recruiting class, plans to take an official visit to Notre Dame in June.