The 2016 season was an abject disaster for the Notre Dame football team. The 4-8 record. The loss to Duke at home, the hurricane game, the USC debacle. The program was reeling, ads were taken out in the student newspaper calling for the job of Brian Kelly, and predictably recruiting was struggling. Heading into December of that year, the class was sitting on 14 commitments, and with the staff overhaul that was taking place, things were looking rather bleak.
The new staff came in, they got right to work and they finished with a flourish, nabbing seven commitments from December to February, and saving the class, which ended up 10th nationally. However, among those seven, only one was a composite four star recruit. The rest were three stars, and not particularly highly thought of, with modest offer lists. In many ways they were seen as class fillers. That thought has turned out to be largely incorrect.
Among those seven, five figure to start for Notre Dame in 2019, with a sixth at least going to garner major playing time. In a lot of ways, the close to the 2017 recruiting class will save Notre Dame in 2019.
Jafar Armstrong, Running Back
Armstrong committed to the University of Missouri on June 14th, 2016. He was not involved with Notre Dame until the coaching changes occurred and the Irish coaches landed him on January 29th, 2017, the week before signing day. He was recruited as a wide receiver, but moved to running back last spring, and is the unquestioned starter at running back this season. If the spring game is any indication, Armstrong is likely to garner the most touches of any skill player this season, probably above 200 on the season. He will undoubtedly be one of the drivers of the 2019 offense that could be the best of the Kelly era.
Aaron Banks, Guard
Banks was the first of this group to commit to Notre Dame, announcing his pledge December 9th, 2016. He’s the only four star of this bunch and was a bit of surprise coming out of California. The buzz on him began mid-season of 2017 and continued into the off-season of 2018, with the coaches finding a role for him early in the goal line package. When starting guard Alex Bars was lost for the season against Stanford, Banks seized the role a couple of games later and has not looked back.
Not only is Banks going to start for Notre Dame next season, he is considered by some to be their best overall lineman and figures to at least be a two year starter.
Jonathan Doerer, Kicker
You may remember the flurry of news coming out of Notre Dame around the end January, and Doerer was a part of that, decommitting from Maryland on the 29th and announcing for Notre Dame the same day. Doerer’s job is by no means safe–he will engage in a kicking competition this fall with walk-on Harrison Leonard–but as of this moment, he will kick Notre Dame’s field goals and kickoffs this season. As apprehensive as we feel now, imagine if he wasn’t on the team.
Jordan Genmark Heath, Linebacker
Genmark Heath contributed to the late January rush, decommitting from Cal on January 26th and giving his pledge to Notre Dame. Genmark Heath was another name that just kind of popped up over the last month of the cycle and the Irish moved quickly.
Genmark Heath played his way into a backup safety role in 2017, tallying four tackles in the Citrus Bowl against LSU, before moving to linebacker last season. He is currently competing with Jack Lamb at the Buck position and could be in line for a platoon situation that we’ve seen at linebacker before. Whatever the case, Genmark Heath will be an important part of the defense next season.
Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, Rover
Owusu-Koramoah decommitted from Virginia on January 22nd, and signed with Notre Dame on February 1st. From the moment he entered the conversation, he was projected to the ROVER position, seen as the prototype player for the spot. He was making waves last spring while competing with Asmar Bilal, but broke his foot in fall camp, ending his season.
He is currently slated to start at the ROVER position this season, and likely share time with Paul Moala, with both of those players being mainstays on special teams.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, Defensive Tackle
Lord Myron committed and signed with Notre Dame on national signing day, despite a late push from USC for the Hawaii product. Shooting up the rankings chart late, MTA got himself onto the field as a freshman in 2017 and was going to be a key figure for the 2018 defense before breaking his foot against Michigan and losing most of the year.
Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa is going to start for Notre Dame at the three technique, replacing Jerry Tillery, next season, and is one of the keys to the Notre Dame defense overall. One of the most indispensable players on the entire team.
Kofi Wardlow, Defensive End
Wardlow flipped from Maryland to Notre Dame on signing day, and is the only one of the 7 who doesn’t have a path to the field in 2019. He may have been unlucky in that he arrived at Notre Dame during the defensive end boom–this is the deepest Notre Dame has been at his position maybe ever. He did make some plays in the spring game and flash some athleticism, and he will have a chance to prove himself in the fall, but it’s honestly tough to see it happening. Just so many bodies.