Limited data means limited movement by Notre Dame prospects in latest recruiting ratings

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

David Abiara was the one member of Notre Dame football’s 2021 recruiting class who was under strong consideration for a significant ratings bump in 247Sports’ latest individual player rankings, released Wednesday.

The most recent pledge (March 27) in the so-far, seven-man Irish class ended up remaining a three-star prospect and actually moved down three spots positionally, to No. 21, among the nation’s top strongside defensive end prospects.

“David Abiara is a guy that Notre Dame has kind of made a living off those kind of developmental defensive linemen,” said Steve Wiltfong, director of recruiting for 247Sports. “And he’s definitely got some traits, where I could see him down the line being an NFL Draft pick out of Notre Dame.”

An offer list that includes Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, among others, would suggest a ratings hike might have been in order as well.

So why didn’t the 6-foot-4, 248-pound prospect from Mansfield, Texas, move up? Not enough data, due to the cascade of cancelled evaluative events across the country in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Which is sort of a familiar refrain in the new 247Sports player rankings, especially where Notre Dame’s recruits are concerned — insufficient data, not much movement.

Quarterback Tyler Buchner, the only one of the seven Irish prospects who Wiltfong said 247Sports got to evaluate live the past couple of months, was the only one of them who actually moved up on Wednesday.

And it was a mere one spot, from 50 to 49 nationally regardless of position for the nation’s No. 3 dual-threat QB in his class.

Cane Berrong, a 6-4, 225-pound tight end from Hartwell, Ga., took the biggest tumble among the five Irish recruits ranked within the top 247 overall. He slipped from 209 to 218 overall and from No. 7 to No. 9 among tight ends in the class.

Blake Fisher held steady as the No. 8 offensive tackle in the class and No. 82 prospect overall. Wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. moved down one spot positionally and overall to 19 and 136, respectively.

Defensive tackle Gabriel Rubio moved up two spots positionally to No. 7, but slid three overall to 150. Safety Justin Walters, like Abiara ranked outside the top 247, dropped six spots to No. 41 among safeties.

Collectively, Notre Dame is No. 7 in the 247Sports team rankings.

“The two Notre Dame guys who could move up a lot if we get some new evaluation opportunities are Walters and Abiara,” Wiltfong said. “Justin Walters is a kid you’d like to see in an offseason setting to see how he would do against more athletic people and get a gauge for him in that regard.

“With David Abiara, it would have been nice to see him just among his peers in pass-rushing drills and things of that nature.”

Typically, 247Sports at this time of year would move into a once-a-month update cycle. But with national and regional show cases, including The Opening camp series and UnderArmour camp series, likely to be postponed or canceled, the recruiting service may have to alter that update schedule.

“With today’s new rankings, we were able to get out in February and early March,” Wiltong said. “There were UnderArmour camps. There were Elite 11 camps and there was a ton of 7-on-7.

“We also were able to get more information on kids that we didn’t have earlier — whether it’s talking to high school coaches, whether it’s talking to next-level sources or just getting our hands on some data from camps and combines that we didn’t have earlier that we do now with some partnerships that we made.

“But going forward we may be missing a lot — camps, more 7-on-7 competitions. And then actually a lot of states have spring football. So getting to see kids in full pads with their full teams are all being wiped off. That goes for the college coaches, too.”

And what about if the 2020 high school seasons are affected in some way?

It’s not just evaluation windows that are missed, but developmental opportunities.

Buchner, for instance, is transferring from The Bishops School in La Jolla, Calif., to Helix High in La Mesa, Calif., with a big step up in enrollment and regular-season competition at his new school. The plan is for him to graduate in December and enroll early at ND, in January of 2021.

“That move has got to help him and his readiness to make an impact at Notre Dame,” Wiltfong said. “The kids he’s playing against now, he’s Bo Jackson Tecmo Bowl-good against them. I mean, it’s not fair how much more athletic and better he is.

“Even if you play at a national power high school, there’s still a learning curve. But for Tyler Buchner to come from the smallest (enrollment class) of ball to Notre Dame would have been a leap. Now he’s going to at least have a taste of better competition before he gets into Notre Dame.

“At the end of the day, he has tremendous potential at Notre Dame regardless, but the learning curve is starting sooner for him.”

Quarterback prospect Tyler Buchner (with ball) is the only Irish recruit who moved up in 247Sports’ latest player rankings, released Wednesday.
Three-star defensive end David Abiara, from Mansfield, Texas, remained a three-star in 247Sports’ latest player rankings of the 2021 national football recruiting class.

How the Notre Dame football recruits in the 2021 class were ranked Wednesday by 247Sports within its top 247 national prospects overall, positionally and on a 5-star scale:

Player                     Rank        Position    Stars

Tyler Buchner           49         3 Dual QB 4-star

Blake Fisher             82         8 OT        4-star

Lorenzo Styles Jr.    136        19 WR      4-star

Gabriel Rubio         150         7 DT        4-star

Cane Berrong         218       9 TE        4-star

David Abiara          NR         21 SDE    3-star

Justin Walters        NR         41 S        3-star