How RB Logan Diggs emerged as one of Notre Dame's top priorities in the 2021 class

Carter Karels
South Bend Tribune

In thinking about his 15 years as a coach at Archbishop Rummel, Nick Monica couldn’t remember one football player Notre Dame heavily recruited.

Not that the high school in Metairie, La., lacked talent. The Irish just never seemed to value the area as a high priority. Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery and wide receivers Michael Young and Lawrence Keys III are the only Louisiana products to sign with Notre Dame in the 11 recruiting classes under head coach Brian Kelly. 

Defensive end Bo Wallace also signed with Notre Dame but transferred to Arizona State before he ever enrolled.

So defensive pass game coordinator Terry Joseph stopping by ARHS in January caught the attention of its head football coach, Monica.

Joseph scouring the area should not come as a surprise, though. As a New Orleans native, the third-year Irish assistant’s recruiting ties in the Pelican State run deep. He spent his first decade of coaching in Louisiana at Archbishop Shaw High, Destrehan High, LSU and Louisiana Tech.

But Joseph’s visit led to one of the more unforeseen developments for Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class. The trip left Joseph seeing promise in Logan Diggs, and six months later, the Irish now regard him as their top running back target this cycle.

Monica recalls receiving a text from Joseph earlier this month that said as much.

“So I think that makes a light go off,” Monica said, “letting him know how good of a player he is. Notre Dame’s down here not only recruiting him, but also telling him he’s the No. 1 back on their board. That carries a lot of weight.”

Diggs being told he’s Notre Dame’s No. 1 option should be received at face value. The Irish adopted an honest, straightforward approach for recruiting running backs this cycle by making their intentions known. Even running back target Donovan Edwards knew Notre Dame considered Matthews (N.C.) Weddington running back Will Shipley as its top overall target.

Until he verbally pledged to Clemson last month, Shipley heard from Notre Dame’s coaching staff more than maybe any recruit pursued under Kelly. Run game coordinator Lance Taylor minimized contact with all other targets at the position and channeled his entire focus toward Shipley.

Losing Shipley required Notre Dame to restart from scratch in some ways, particularly with reevaluating prospects. Michigan and Georgia separated from Notre Dame as the top contenders for Edwards, a four-star product of West Bloomfield (Mich.) High. Garland (Texas) Lakeview Centennial’s Camar Wheaton trended elsewhere. Running back targets TreVeyon Henderson (Ohio State), Corey Kiner (LSU) and Lovasea Carroll (Georgia) committed elsewhere in the last three months.

The Irish responded by expanding their board in May, offering a scholarship to the following running backs: Conroe (Texas) Oak Ridge’s Alton McCaskill, Cypress (Texas) Cy-Fair’s LJ Johnson, Del Valle (Texas) High’s Tavierre Dunlap and Diggs.

“(Lance Taylor) learned his lesson. You just don’t do what he did, going after one guy,” said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS Sports Network. “Do what Clemson, Alabama and Georgia do — go after 10 guys. You are going to get a couple of them (with that strategy). You don’t put all your eggs in one basket. I think that’s what the moral of this story is.”

That a three-star running back from an area Notre Dame rarely recruits has emerged as its top target at a position of need should speak volumes. The Irish would also likely have to offer more running backs if Diggs commits to another school. They are currently not the perceived favorites for McCaskill, Johnson, Dunlap or Edwards.

The versatile skill set Diggs brings at 6-foot, 191 pounds could make him more than just a backup plan, however. Diggs turned 165 carries into 924 yards and five touchdowns with 26 catches for 186 yards and four scores in nine games last season. His seemingly refined pass protection skills may help him earn early playing time and eventual every-down back status.

247Sports ranks Diggs as its No. 39 running back and No. 635 overall player in the class, while Rivals pegs him No. 29 at the position. Diggs registered a three-star-plus evaluation on Lemming’s scale.

“Logan is rare to me as far as a high school player. He’s a complete back,” Monica said. “A lot of kids who I think are tremendous athletes and are great with the football, Logan is that, but Logan is also versatile. He’s got some shiftiness to him that can make you miss. He can be physical and get that extra yard or two when he needs to. He’s great as a receiver.

“To top it all off, one of the best things he does for his age is his pass protection skills. He really takes pride in that, which again, I find that’s rare.”

Nebraska, Michigan State, USC, Vanderbilt, Arkansas, Louisville, Arizona, Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Ole Miss were included in Diggs’ top 10 school list released on April 18. Notre Dame seemed to surpass those schools and become the favorite after its recent push.

Kelly, Taylor, offensive coordinator Tommy Rees and recruiting coordinator Brian Polian held a virtual visit with Diggs on June 11. Joseph also remains involved in Diggs’ recruitment. No school has shown more attention to Diggs than Notre Dame, Monica said.

Notre Dame’s interest looks much different compared to in-state powerhouse LSU, the one major program to favor Diggs as a linebacker.

“I think Logan took that a little personally,” Monica said. “He wants to play running back and thinks he’s pretty good at it. So for somebody to ask him to not play running back, I think he took that a little personally. But we’ll see how it plays out. I think he definitely could play on the other side of the ball. But I haven’t seen anything from him that would make me switch him. He’s obviously talented and gifted where he’s at right now.”

Diggs having never been to campus may keep the Irish from receiving his commitment in the near future. He won’t be able to visit Notre Dame until at least its Sept. 12 home game against Arkansas. Notre Dame’s season opener against Navy kicks off in Annapolis, Md., on Sept. 5 or 6. Last week, the NCAA extended the recruiting dead period again to Aug. 31.

Edwards prolonging his recruitment and taking a recruiting trip to South Bend this season will be worth monitoring. In the meantime, the Irish will prefer Diggs above the rest.

“I don’t think anything is missing,” said Monica about Notre Dame’s recruitment. “I think it’s just a matter of him not wanting to commit to something early. I know nowadays that sounds crazy, because this isn’t really early.

“For a lot of kids, they commit earlier than this. Logan doesn’t want to commit and then go somewhere else. I think what he really wants to do is where he decides to commit, he wants to hold onto that and make it real.

“Not something that he’s just going to sign off on now and then when he gets down to taking his visits, changing his mind. So I think he really wants to weigh his options and see what else comes up.”

Metairie (La.) Archbishop Rummel’s Logan Diggs (3), a three-star running back in the 2021 recruiting class, reported a Notre Dame scholarship offer on May 5. Diggs has emerged as a top running back target for the Irish.