Notre Dame Recruiting New Defensive Recruit Roundup

(Photo: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)
(Photo: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports)

This is the time of year where chaos reigns in college football. Now that all bowl games have come to a close and all awards have been given, programs focus on the lifeblood of the sport: recruiting. With national signing day only two weeks away, the scramble to fill in roster positions reaches a near frenzy. Notre Dame’s race to the end will be even more hurried as head coach Brian Kelly and staff seek to replace the loss of defensive line commitment Matt Dickerson to UCLA, and incorporate newly announced defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder.

Below are several new names Notre Dame has targeted on the defensive side of the ball.

Terrence Alexander

  • Position: Cornerback
  • Vitals: 5’10”, 178 lbs
  • Hometown: River Ridge, Louisiana
  • Best Offers: Nebraska, Ohio State, Stanford

Having secured the commitment of 4-star cornerback Nick Watkins, Notre Dame moved its priorities toward landing elite 5-star safety JuJu Smith and Nick Watkins’ teammate, 3-star safety Payton Hendrix. After Hendrix’s surprising commitment to Texas Tech, Notre Dame offered 3-star cornerback, Terrence Alexander.

Despite the late offer Notre Dame has solidly placed itself in the mix for Alexander’s signature, having received an official visit this past weekend. While the Louisiana native still intends to visit Ole Miss, the general consensus is Alexander truly enjoyed his visit and is serious about academics.

Marcus Griffin

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Vitals: 6’3”, 285 lbs
  • Hometown: Bellevue, Washington
  • Best Offers: Mississippi State, South Florida, Washington

The 4-star defensive tackle and one-time Washington State commitment has been mentioned as a Notre Dame target in the past, though the Fighting Irish had yet to offer a scholarship. That offer may finally be near, with Griffin tweeting his intention to take an official visit to Notre Dame on January 24th. West coast recruiter Mike Denbrock may have his work cut out for him, however, as Griffin’s stock has risen rapidly in recent weeks with an offer from Mississippi State and Arkansas, and Ole Miss showing interest.

Michael Sawyers

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Vitals: 6’2”, 307 lbs
  • Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
  • Best Offers: Florida State, Miami, Tennessee

Michael Sawyers had been a solid 4-star commitment for Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. That all changed when Franklin left to head the Penn State program after Bill O’Brien’s departure. Sawyers de-committed from the Commodores and scheduled visits to Georgia Tech, Ole Miss and Tennessee before Notre Dame defensive line coach Mike Elston swung by the Volunteer State for a visit. Elston managed to get into Sawyers’ ear about Notre Dame’s top-ranked business school, Sawyers’ desired major. Elston’s chat was enough for Sawyers to want to visit, though the major obstacle for the Fighting Irish at this point is whether or not he will have time to squeeze such a trip on to his increasingly busy itinerary.

Daniel Cage

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Vitals: 6’3”, 275 lbs
  • Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
  • Best Offers: Florida, Michigan State, Nebraska

The annual coaching carousel impacts not only committed players, such as Michael Sawyers, but uncommitted ones, too. Cage, a 3-star defensive tackle from Cincinnati, was considered a Louisville lean until head coach Charlie Strong accepted the head coaching position at Texas. While Notre Dame has managed to talk its way into an official visit, the visit is mid-week, and Cage currently has Notre Dame listed outside of his Top 5 according to Rivals, a scouting service.

Chris Nelson

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Vitals: 6’3”, 280 lbs
  • Hometown: Lakeland, Florida
  • Best Offers: Iowa, Missouri, Texas

Another casualty of coaching instability, the 3-star Florida native had committed to Louisville until Charlie Strong’s departure to Austin. Unlike Cage, however, Nelson boasts an offer from Texas and has the ability to follow Strong to his new coaching gig, as many expect he will ultimately do. There was initial talk of Nelson making a visit to South Bend on January 31st, the final weekend before signing day, but Nelson has since scheduled a visit to Central Florida that weekend instead. Unless something drastic happens, it appears Nelson is either Texas bound or will stay close to home.

Pete Mokwuah

  • Position: Defensive Tackle
  • Vitals: 6’5”, 305 lbs
  • Hometown: Staten Island, New York
  • Best Offers: Connecticut, Rutgers, Pittsburgh

One of the newest additions to Notre Dame’s defensive recruiting board, 3-star Rutgers commitment Mokwuah’s recruitment only became visible after a New Jersey newspaper reported VanGorder was spotted at Mokwuah’s high school.

Mokwuah has seen his recruitment catch fire recently, with Alabama, Florida, Pitt and Miami all making contact. Mokwuah has dismissed the new overtures, but left the door open for Notre Dame, saying, “It’s the academics. It’s tough to just shut that down. If another school came to me, like some random SEC school, and I knew the academics were not first there, I wouldn’t even consider it.”

The one caveat, it appears, is Mokwuah’s reticence about visiting Notre Dame without a scholarship offer, while Notre Dame has often waited until a recruit visits to extend an offer during the Brian Kelly era. Should this point of contention be bridged, Notre Dame could become serious players.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, as well as appeared on MSNBC as a sports contributor. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at

You may also like


  1. Who thinks (like me) the best recruiting tool there is is success? Saban has 42-deep at OL & DL because ‘Bama is successful. We must remember NotaDame’s (I’m from Boston) academic mission and the reality of sticking to our high standards. This, of course, makes it much tougher for us to land studs like ‘Bama and OleMiss. So being successful at our level is tough. BUT LET’S BE TOUGHER! DenBrock is exciting me. GO IRISH!

      1. re:Bostonian clarification, I’m just explaining why I say “NotaDame” and not “Notre Dame.” Sorry if it bothers you.”

  2. i am just looking for outside, objective analysis as to why we got blown out, its all about figuring that out, and making changes

  3. I can’t understand why we waited so long to go after a few defensive line targets. I would think Kelly would have know Nix, and probably Tuitt, were NFL bound. Especially after Vanderdoes “changed his mind” last year defensive linemen should’ve been one of our main recruiting pushes.

    1. You’re certainly entitled to that opinion. I think Swarbrick has been absolutely fantastic and Notre Dame is very lucky to have him.

  4. Scott, where are you getting your rankings? I assume it is the Rivals rankings, since you mention Rivals in your review of Cage. I prefer the 247Composite, because it takes multiple major services into account. In those rankings, Cage is ranked the #25 DT, #301 overall and a 4-star.

    Also, regarding Cage, he has come out and explicitly said that Notre Dame was his early favorite as a sophomore and junior, but when Diaco didn’t offer he had to go looking elsewhere. The fact Rivals says we’re not in his top 5 is meaningless. The mere fact that he scheduled a special visit to fit Notre Dame into his final official visit schedule shows at worst ND is no worse off than 4th. However, I contend that after his visit over the next couple days, he will leave South Bend with the Irish in the lead.

    The fact Griffin jumped at the chance to see ND after his in home visit shows his interest level is very high.

    And Mokwuah speaking so highly of academics and ND can only mean good things.

    Overall, I believe we land 2 of these 3 DT recruits, despite the late offers.

    1. I did use the Rivals rankings, yes. I prefer Rivals because they seem to be tougher in their scrutiny, but that’s just personal preference.

      I’m not discounting Cage’s interest — any time a recruit visits there’s considerable interest. However, that mid-week visit knocks it down a peg or two, at least in my book. Not to mention Cage just delayed the visit another week.

  5. i don t get it, we should have focused on the best oc and dc and special teams coordinators in the nation, not on under Armour, and having a group of people who recruit the very best, i remember reading my nd alumni magazine and a guy in my class, said one of his relatives went to play for oregon or stanford, and was an outland trophy candidate, how do we let so many guys get away, in 1966/67 we had page, hardy, duranko, mcoy, why cant we get em now! hopeful but ….

    1. For what it’s worth, Notre Dame should land a Top 10 class this year. We’re doing pretty well in recruiting.

      As far as coordinators go, the offensive coordinator was always going to be an internal hire, because Kelly is going to call the plays. And we want Kelly to call the plays — his playcalling is what has managed to get him all the way to Notre Dame, and he’s regarded as one of the best playcallers in college football, as Jesse Palmer mentioned during ND’s bowl game against Rutgers. So, in essence, Kelly hired himself as offensive coordinator, and that was a homerun hire.

      As for defensive coordinator, only time will tell. But I think ND landed itself a great one in VanGorder.

      1. Scott

        I think your right in ND finishing with a top 10 recruiting class for 2014 and when its all said and done maybe even a top 5 class. But when you compare Alabamas class against ND its not even close IMO. Alabama currently has 10 recruits that are ranked in the top 75 compared to NDs 1 recruit. That doesnt even count the 3 JUCO recruits they have coming in that are ranked in the top 15 juco recruits. Im hopeful ND will loosen things up some day and even the playing field

  6. If you want to win a National Championship you need to go at least two deep on the D-line. Saban stated in an interview that the difference between the SEC and other conferences is the lines. The past two classes have great O-lines now fill up with D-Lineman

    1. Jack, the “at least” phrase is important; I lean toward a functional three deep (even if spot players and young’uns on the third string.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button