Recruiting Reset: Notre Dame chases elite wide receivers

Tyler James
South Bend Tribune

Notre Dame has work left to do in recruiting wide receivers.

While the Irish already have two commitments in the 2016 class at the position, the top targets remaining with Notre Dame's offers could take the class from average to borderline elite.

Wide receiver commits Kevin Stepherson and Chase Claypool complement each other well with speed and size, but both are far from being considered in the top group of college-bound wide receivers.

The Irish are still looking to add a pair of playmakers to mirror the four-man wide receiver class they signed in February. The most likely combination will pair a downfield threat with a slot receiver who could also spend time as a running back. If Notre Dame can carry the momentum made in the summer with some of their top targets, the Irish could be in line for another impressive haul.

COMMITMENTS

• Kevin Stepherson, 6-1, 180; Jacksonville (Fla.) First Coast: The three-star recruit didn't need to leave campus to make his decision. He committed to the coaching staff in Notre Dame Stadium following the Irish Invasion camp in June. Notre Dame hopes that wasn't Stepherson's last memorable moment in South Bend.

But Stepherson didn't take long in drawing the ire of Irish fans on social media. Visits to Florida State and Auburn for team camps raised questions of Stepherson's commitment, but he insists his heart remains with Notre Dame.

Stepherson showed big-play potential in his junior season by averaging 23 yards per catch. He finished with 33 receptions for 756 yards and 11 touchdowns. Rivals ranks Stepherson as the No. 62 wide receiver in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 121 at the position.

• Chase Claypool, 6-6, 214; Abbotsford (British Columbia, Canada) Secondary: Extending the search for wide receivers to Canada proved fruitful. Claypool, who visited in June, committed to the Irish a month later.

The size of Claypool would stand out on any high school football field. Once Nevada and Rutgers offered him a scholarship in March, other schools started to take notice. Notre Dame was able to beat out Oregon while his recruiting stock was still rising

Claypool will need work to turn his raw skills into polished talent once he faces worthy competition in college, but he continues Notre Dame's stretch of recruiting big receivers. Claypool could also grow into a tight end before his Irish career ends.

247Sports slates Claypool as a four-star recruit and the No. 43 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals rates him as a three-star prospect and No. 96 at the position.

TOP TARGETS

• Javon McKinley, 6-2, 204; Corona (Calif.) Centennial: Could a third visit be the charm for Notre Dame? McKinley visited South Bend in April and June and plans to return to Notre Dame for the USC game in October. The Trojans figured to be tough competition in McKinley's recruitment but already have four commitments at the position.

McKinley also has started lining up official visits to Ohio State, Oregon and Tennessee and is still considering nearby UCLA. The four-star prospect can stretch the defense with his speed and brings with him big-play ability. As a junior, McKinley caught 97 passes for 2,062 yards and 25 touchdowns.

247Sports slates McKinley as the No. 14 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 18.

• Marquez Callaway, 6-2, 175; Warner Robins (Ga.) High: Notre Dame passed the first test in trying to pull a top recruit out of SEC country: getting him on campus. Now the Irish will try to get him back once more for an official visit.

Callaway, a four-star recruit, visited for the Irish Invasion in June and stood out as one of the most impressive recruits to participate in the camp. Like McKinley, Callaway would bring a good blend of size and athleticism to complement Notre Dame's committed receivers.

Rivals ranks Callaway as the No. 21 wide receiver in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him as the No. 9 athlete.

• Demetris Robertson, 6-0, 180; Savannah (Ga.) Christian: When Robertson backed off his Alabama commitment in April, schools started to line up for another shot at the elite prospect. Notre Dame would be one of them. While he has yet to visit South Bend, the Irish are holding out hope that he will choose to make an official visit.

Robertson, who also plays defensive back, could be hard to pull out of the SEC away from Georgia, Florida, and Alabama. Programs like Stanford, Ohio State and Florida State are among the national powers trying to do the same as Notre Dame.

Rivals rates Robertson as a five-star recruit, the No. 1 athlete in the 2016 class and No. 7 regardless of position. 247Sports slates him a four-star prospect and the top athlete.

SLOT/RB OPTIONS

• Damian Alloway, 5-9, 170; Fontana (Calif.) Summit: Notre Dame and UCLA are the two schools battling for Alloway, who could end his recruitment in the coming weeks. The Irish surged with a visit in July, but the four-star recruit expressed plans to return to UCLA before making a decision.

Alloway, who also played running back as a junior, rushed for 642 yards and eight touchdowns, caught 32 passes for 635 yards and 10 TDs and returned four kicks for scores last season. 247Sports slates him as the No. 4 all-purpose back in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him as the No. 20 wide receiver.

• Melquise Stovall, 5-8, 180; Lancaster (Calif.) Paraclete: Stovall dropped his verbal commitment to USC on Saturday. With tentative plans to make an official visit to Notre Dame, the Irish could emerge as a legitimate contender for the four-star prospect.

Stovall, who has spent most of his career as a running back, rushed for 1,603 yards and 20 touchdowns and caught 21 passes for 415 yards and two touchdowns as a junior. Rivals ranks Stovall as the No. 2 all-purpose back in the 2016 class. 247Sports slates him No. 3 at the position.

LOOKING ELSEWHERE

• Ahmir Mitchell, 6-3, 206; Egg Harbor City (N.J.) Cedar Creek: All signs have Mitchell heading to either Ohio State or Michigan in the end. The four-star prospect visited both schools multiple times this summer, but made it to Notre Dame just once with his teammates for a seven-on-seven tournament. Both Rivals and 247Sports peg Mitchell as the No. 8 wide receiver in the 2016 class.

Highlights.

• Donnie Corley, 6-3, 187; Detroit Martin Luther King: Corley didn't show to Notre Dame's Irish Invasion camp in June and hasn't made a visit to South Bend. The four-star recruit planned to announce a decision in July, but backed off days before it was scheduled for The Opening. Michigan State, Tennessee, Ohio State, Michigan, LSU and Georgia are among the schools trending for Corley while the Irish have faded. 247Sports slates Corley as the No. 13 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 14 at the position.

Highlights.

MISSED TARGETS

• Austin Mack, 6-2, 205; Fort Wayne (Ind.) Bishop Luers: The four-star prospect had a regular presence at Notre Dame games early in his high school career. But his connection to Irish linebacker Jaylon Smith, who attended the same school, wasn't enough to pull him to Notre Dame. Mack gave his pledge to Ohio State in June. 247Sports slates Mack as the No. 9 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 43 at the position.

Highlights.

 • Brad Hawkins, 6-1, 194; Camden (N.J.) High: Storms in the Midwest cancelled a planned trip for Hawkins and other New Jersey recruits in March. The next weekend, Hawkins visited Michigan on a trip that would change his recruitment. The four-star recruit committed to the Wolverines in July. 247Sports slates Hawkins as the No. 36 wide receiver in the 2016 class. Rivals ranks him No. 42 at the position.

Highlights.

tjames@ndinsider.com | 574-235-6214 | Twitter: @TJamesNDI

Wide receiver target Javon McKinley could commit to Notre Dame at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl (Photo courtesy of Rivals).

Part three in a seven-part series breaking down where Notre Dame stands at each position group in the 2016 recruiting class.

Part one: Quarterbacks

Part two: Running backs