Notre Dame’s narrow win over Virginia Tech last night wasn’t the Irish’s only victory of the weekend. Notre Dame landed transfer Isaiah Pryor after the former Buckeye safety made his second visit to see the Irish in less than a month this weekend. Pryor’s commitment to transfer to Notre Dame gives the Irish an experienced defensive back to slide into what figures to be an otherwise inexperienced secondary in 2020. With two years of eligibility remaining, Pryor should be a multi-year contributor like Notre Dame’s last safety transfer.
How Isaiah Pryor Fits Into Notre Dame Secondary
Notre Dame is losing Jalen Elliott and Troy Pride Jr at least in the secondary after this year. Most also feel that it is a forgone conclusion that Alohi Gilman will head to the NFL after this year instead of pursuing a 5th year even though he has the eligibility available. That means Notre Dame is most likely going to have to replace 3/4 of its secondary in 2020.
Isaiah Pryor hasn’t been promised a starting role, but he will challenge for the starting strong safety position that Gilman is likely to vacate next year. He will compete there along with Houston Griffith, who moved over from corner earlier this year while freshman phenom Kyle Hamilton slides into the starting lineup in place of Jalen Elliott.
Pryor, a former top-100 recruit out of IMG Academy, brings an excellent pedigree to the Irish defense. He’s extremely athletic and has a knack for tracking ball carriers. Like Houston Griffith, who he’ll be competing with, he has yet to play to his recruiting ranking but still has a lot of upside. It will be an exciting battle between the two of them throughout spring and fall camps.
Whoever loses the battle between Griffith and Pryor is still going to see the field a lot in 2020. Notre Dame uses three safeties often as we’ve all seen this season with Kyle Hamilton being on the field so much for a true freshman. Clark Lea has liked using a third safety in place an additional cornerback in the nickel, although part of the reason for that has been personnel and injuries at corner.
Personnel at corner figures to be a potential issue again in 2020, so expect to see a lot of Hamilton, Pryor, and Griffith on the field at the same time. That is quite the trio of big, athletic, safeties on the backend of the Notre Dame defense. All three have eligibility in 2020 and 2021, at least for the Irish, too, so this is a trio that we might see a lot of over the next couple of seasons.
Notre Dame’s Last Safety Transfer Worked Well
Notre Dame hasn’t had the best of luck with transfers at wide receiver or even corner in recent years, but the last safety transfer has worked out pretty well. That would be current starter and 2019 captain Alohi Gilman. Notre Dame hit on Gilman, who has been a mainstay in the Irish defense the last two years even if his number of impact, negative plays have decreased this season.
There are some significant differences between Gilman and Pryor, though. Gilman enrolled at Navy out of high school for a reason – he lacked scholarship offers. Pryor, on the other hand, is exceptionally athletically gifted and had scholarship offers from elite programs all over the country. Gilman transferred because he had his eyes on the NFL, and the Naval Academy changed a rule that would have allowed him to do that immediately after graduation. Pryor is transferring because he was passed by younger players at Ohio State that were also athletically gifted.
In terms of what Notre Dame is getting here versus what they got in Gilman, with Gilman Notre Dame got a hard-nosed player with a really high floor but perhaps a limited ceiling given his athletic traits. With Pryor, they are getting a player with a much higher ceiling, but there is no guarantee that they’ll get the same level of production from him.
Considering Notre Dame does not and won’t add a true safety int he class of 2020, this was a huge pickup for Notre Dame and one that has the potential to pay some big dividends for the Irish defense for the next few years.