Notre Dame suffered a few major decommitments down the stretch in recruiting this year and the hits kept coming at the end of last week when prized corner back recruit Tee Shepard left Notre Dame and is no longer enrolled at the University.
Ray Shepard, the father of one of the cornerstones of the 2012 recruiting class for Notre Dame, told their local Fresno CBS affiliate that Tee left Notre Dame for health reasons, but didn’t elaborate on the details other than stating that his son would not be returning to Notre Dame.
Shepard’s dad Ray told me today his son is back because of health issues.
Ray Shepard would not tell me what happened to his son, but did tell me he hopes Tee will be cleared to resume working out sometime in May or June.
The loss of Shepard is a near devastating blow to an already thin secondary for Notre Dame in 2012. Corner was a huge position of need in last year’s class and after having the best duo of cornerbacks committed in the same class in years at one point in Shepard and Ronald Darby, the Irish ended up striking out at the position and now find themselves in a precarious position moving forward.
Shepard, an early enrollee, was expected to challenge not just for playing time in 2012, but many felt he had a great chance to start for the Irish when they travel to Dublin for the season opener against Navy.
With Shepard out of the mix, Notre Dame is going to need some of the 2011 freshmen to step up in a hurry this spring. Both Jalen Brown and Josh Atkinson will likely be pressed into action early with converted wide receiver Bennett Jackson and junior Lo Wood the only other cornerbacks on the roster.
With spring practice right around the corner, expect Brian Kelly and his defensive staff to experiment with a few position switches as well. Sophomore Eliar Hardy and Matthias Farely spent their freshman seasons at safety and wide receiver, but both could be candidates to get a look at corner this spring.
Cornerback once again becomes the top priority in recruit for Kelly and staff as well with Notre Dame needing to sign at three three corners this year. They will be able to sell the the lack of a deep depth chart at the position, but they had that last year as well and despite securing commitments from two elite corners throughout the process, they were not able to ever see either even take part in a single practice.