Happy camper Ashton Craig becomes Notre Dame football's 16th verbal commitment
Ashton Craig gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “happy camper.”
In less than a month, the 6-foot-5, 280-pound offensive line prospect from Lawrenceburg, Ind., opted to audition for the Notre Dame coaching staff at an Irish football camp, picked up a scholarship offer, was invited for an official visit, and on Saturday became the 16th member of the nation’s consensus No. 2 recruiting class in the 2022 cycle.
Before his weekend-long campus visit was even over.
Michigan, Florida State, Cincinnati, Indiana, Purdue and four Ivy League schools were among his 29 reported offers.
“He’s got a good frame, good feet and good potential,” CBS Sports recruiting analyst Tom Lemming said. “He’s a three-star right now, but the Notre Dame coaching staff is projecting him to be very good.”
And projecting him to play center, rather than tackle.
He’s the second Indiana offensive lineman in the class and the fourth of the Brian Kelly Era, joining Zionsville’a Joey Tanona (2022), Avon’s Blake Fisher (2021) and Nick Martin of Indianapolis (2011).
Sunday marks the end of a 27-day reprieve from an elongated NCAA recruiting dead period that stretched from March of 2020 to May 31, 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It restarts Monday because of the traditional recruiting calendar.
Schools and prospects jammed as many camps and campus visits into that window as they could, and Craig was no exception.
He took official visits to Nebraska and Northwestern in addition to working out at ND, Michigan and Ohio State. Craig canceled a scheduled visit last weekend to Vanderbilt, and one this weekend to Iowa in order to come see Notre Dame instead.
“His recruitment has been kind of a whirlwind,” Lawrenceburg coach Ryan Knigga said. “It’s kind of been crazy, and it’s been unique. We thought we had a pretty clear picture of the way this was going to go. Then, here comes Michigan. Here comes Notre Dame.
“It started slow, because for a while, all we had out there was sophomore film. And while Ashton played very well, he was 6-2, 240 as a sophomore. His growth spurt came during the early part of COVID, and he’s still growing. I could see him being 6-7 when he ends up at Notre Dame.”
Craig’s uncle, Jason Boyd, was 6-7, 334 when he played offensive line for Indiana University in the 1990s.
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“There’s a lot to be impressed with beyond Ashton’s size,” Knigga said. “He ran a 5.1 40 and broad jumped 9 feet at Michigan’s camp earlier this month. He’s very fluid, a really good basketball player, although he gets called for a lot of charges.
“He played both ways for us, and you can see his explosiveness in his defensive end film. He’s detail-oriented and a very hard worker. I think once he gets into their nutrition and strength programs, he’s going to be a creature. He's going to be really good.”
Craig helped lead Lawrenceburg — located about 30 miles east of Cincinnati on the Ohio River — to an 11-2 record in 2020. The Tigers were knocked out of the Class 3-A playoffs in the regional round, but successfully dodged COVID all season long, including having in-person classes for the entire school year.
Besides Craig, two other uncommitted 2022 prospects took official visits to Notre Dame this weekend — five-star offensive tackle Zach Rice from Lynchburg, Va., and four-star wide receiver C.J. Williams from Santa Ana, Calif.
Six previously committed members of the class joined them on their official visits, including Tanona and fellow offensive line commit Ty Chan.
Visiting unofficially were four top 100 2023 recruits — defensive linemen Luke Montgomery and Brenan Vernon, offensive lineman Harris Sewell and wide receiver Carnell Tate. No fewer than 24 of the Rivals 2023 Top 100 have paid their own way this month to check out the Irish program and the Notre Dame campus.
For Craig, the announcement itself proved to be perhaps the most challenging part of the recruiting process. According to Knigga, Craig has had three different Twitter accounts suspended and was trying to open a fourth Saturday to make his announcement.
“It was perfectly innocent,” said Knigga, who became Craig’s designated tweeter in recent weeks and was poised to do so Saturday night. “All he was trying to do was to tweet stuff about football and offers.
“Other coaches have told me it’s not all that uncommon, but it’s still hard to figure out. We contacted Twitter support, and you can’t get a hold of anybody. That’s when I just started tweeting his stuff for him.”
Craig and his family were scheduled to finish up their visit on Sunday. They had to endure multiple severe thunderstorm warnings and a tornado warning, though, on Saturday.
“That didn’t keep them from having a great time,” Knigga said. “A month ago this didn’t even seem possible. Now it’s real, and Ashton wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
Follow ND Insider Eric Hansen on Twitter: @ehansenNDI