Clemson beats Notre Dame for four-star RB Will Shipley's commitment

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Will Shipley saw perfect fits for himself at Notre Dame and Clemson.

But on Tuesday, the four-star running back decided the better fit came at Clemson. The 5-foot-11, 200-pound recruit announced his verbal commitment to the Tigers with a video on Twitter.

Notre Dame made a strong enough impression to be in Shipley’s recruitment until the end against current power Clemson.

“Both programs are so awesome,” Shipley said on ND Insider’s Pod of Gold podcast last month. “They’re both honestly a perfect fit for me.”

The coronavirus pandemic threw a wrench in Notre Dame’s plans for Shipley. He was supposed to visit March 20-22, but that trip was canceled when Notre Dame suspended its spring activities and the NCAA instituted a recruiting dead period that prohibits visits.

The junior at Matthews (N.C.) Weddington began to plan a trip to Notre Dame in June but only if he was still undecided or already committed to the Irish. There’s still uncertainty if Notre Dame will be allowed to host recruits in June.

“Notre Dame was the very first visit that we set in the spring period,” Shipley said last month. “It was devastating that we didn’t get to take that visit (in March). It was probably going to be one of the most fun and exciting recruiting trips, just because all of the 2021 commits were going to be there.”

Shipley’s only visit to Notre Dame came in October for the 30-27 Irish victory over USC.

Clemson received Shipley’s final visit in January. The Tigers added Shipley to a recruiting class that already includes running back Phil Mafah. Shipley and Mafah were the only two running backs Clemson offered for 2021.

A commitment from Shipley would have given Notre Dame elite running back recruits in consecutive classes following four-star signee Chris Tyree in the 2020 class. Shipley rushed for 2,066 yards and 30 touchdowns on 118 carries last season. He also caught 34 passes for 582 yards and eight touchdowns.

Both Rivals and 247Sports peg Shipley as the No. 1 all-purpose back in the 2021 class. Rivals ranks him No. 36 overall in the class. 247Sports slates him No. 45.

Notre Dame prioritized Shipley, so it will need to make up ground with other running back targets in the 2021 class and likely extend more offers. The Irish entered Tuesday having offered only six other running backs in the class and only four remained uncommitted: Donovan Edwards of West Bloomfield (Mich.) High, Corey Kiney of Cincinnati Roger Bacon, Camar Wheaton of Garland (Texas) Lakeview Centennial and Prophet Brown of Elk Grove (Calif.) Monterey Trail.

Edwards, a four-star recruit and No. 2 running back in the class, is the only one on that list to have already visited Notre Dame. His last trip to South Bend came in December. The Irish will have plenty of competition for Edwards with an offer list that includes Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Oklahoma and USC.

Kiner, a four-star recruit per Rivals with only three stars from 247Sports, didn’t include Notre Dame among his top 10 schools in March. Wheaton owns the highest ranking of the group with Rivals labeling him as a five-star recruit and the No. 1 running back.

Brown has expressed interest in the Irish, but he’s also been evaluated as a cornerback target with new cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens maintaining contact with Brown. 247Sports slates Brown as a four-star recruit and the No. 14 running back. Rivals rates him as a three-star recruit and the No. 9 all-purpose back.

Notre Dame offered a pair of three-star running backs Tuesday after Shipley announced his decision: Logan Diggs (6-0, 191) and Alton McCaskill (6-1, 195).

247Sports ranks Diggs, from Metairie (La.) Rummel, as the No. 26 running back and McCaskill, from Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge, as the No. 27 running back in the 2021 class.

Four-star running back Will Shipley, left, announced his commitment decision Tuesday.