Weekly Notre Dame Football Recruiting Roundup 1/10

Jeffrey McCulloch
Photo: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire

With bowl season come and gone the focus turns to an arena that plays a critical role in the future success of all college football programs: recruiting. Thanks to head coach Brian Kelly’s team securing double digit victories this season and falling just short of a playoff appearance, Notre Dame is in excellent position with several of the nation’s best uncommitted recruits. UHND will profile the biggest recruiting names every week until National Signing Day on February 3rd.

Javon McKinley

  • Hometown: Corona, CA
  • Position: WR
  • Star Ranking: Rivals 4-star; 24/7 4-star; ESPN 3-star
  • Top Offers: Ohio State, Oregon, USC

One of the top recruits on Notre Dame’s board, Javon McKinley committed to the Fighting Irish over Oregon and Washington at the U.S. Army All-American Bowl. The 6-foot-2 elite wide receiver joins the ranks of an already deep wide receiver class that will form a dangerous trio with future teammates Chase Claypool and Kevin Stepherson.

McKinley is the complete package – he was even named a team captain during the U.S. Army All-American Bowl – and helps Notre Dame’s race to the recruiting finish line start with a bang.

Caleb Kelly

  • Hometown: Fresno, CA
  • Position: LB
  • Star Ranking: Rivals 5-star; 24/7 5-star; ESPN 4-star
  • Top Offers: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State

Notre Dame would love nothing more than to add another 5-star talent at linebacker to complement current 5-star linebacker commitment, Daelin Hayes. Yes, Caleb Kelly is yet another Fresno recruit that Brian Kelly is chasing despite Notre Dame’s history of being jilted by Fresno natives, but Caleb is far too gifted to not take a chance.

Caleb Kelly has narrowed his choices to Oklahoma, Notre Dame and Oregon. The competition is fortuitous for Notre Dame, as none of the other programs competing for his services looked particularly impressive in their bowl matchups, either. One strong factor Notre Dame has in its favor is the ability to boast that two of the past four Butkus Award winners – an annual award given to the nation’s best linebacker – have played their Saturdays in South Bend. Add to the mix that Oregon’s defensive coordinator was recently demoted after TCU’s historic come-from-behind victory against the Ducks in the Alamo Bowl and Notre Dame is squarely in this race.

Demetris Robertson

  • Hometown: Savannah, GA
  • Position: ATH
  • Star Ranking: Rivals 5-star; 24/7 5-star; ESPN 4-star
  • Top Offers: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State

Robertson’s rare combination of athleticism and speed may have earned him the “athlete” moniker in recruiting circles but Notre Dame’s coaching staff was quite upfront with its plans for Robertson, informing the talented Georgia native they are recruiting him to be the next Will Fuller. The Fighting Irish will have their hands full trying to make that future a reality, however. With three recruiting weekends left before signing day – and with visits already scheduled for Stanford, Alabama and Georgia – Robertson’s claim that he’d return to South Bend after his original September visit is appearing less likely.

Notre Dame is still in this race, but not receiving a second visit puts the Irish at a disadvantage moving forward.

Jordan Fuller

  • Hometown: Old Tappan, NJ
  • Position: CB
  • Star Ranking: Rivals 4-star; 24/7 4-star; ESPN 4-star
  • Top Offers: Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State

Notre Dame has recruited Fuller hard this past season and pulled out all the stops when he took an official visit for the team banquet in December, including having Fuller spend time with quarterback Brandon Wimbush, a fellow New Jersey native. The hard work has paid dividends with the Irish managing to make Fuller’s top four, a list that includes Michigan, Ohio State and Rutgers.

The biggest challenge for Notre Dame may come down to position. Although possessing a lengthy 6-foot-2 frame, Fuller desires to play cornerback in college, a wish nearly every program in his final four is willing to grant – except Notre Dame. Kelly’s staff has indicated a willingness to allow Fuller to try cornerback, but his status at Notre Dame would be more of a safety-cornerback hybrid. Whether or not Notre Dame’s candidness regarding Fuller’s future position will work in its favor remains to be seen.

Ben Davis

  • Hometown: Gordo, AL
  • Position: LB
  • Star Ranking: Rivals 5-star; 24/7 5-star; ESPN 4-star
  • Top Offers: Alabama, Florida State, LSU

How likely is it an elite prospect hailing from Alabama whose father is a Crimson Tide legend will go out of state to play college football? That’s a question Notre Dame has been willing to ask, and Kelly and his staff are reaping rewards for their effort.

Ben Davis has narrowed his choices to a top five of Alabama, LSU, Georgia, Auburn and Notre Dame. And while it is clear one of those options is not like the other, Davis is serious enough about the Fighting Irish that he scheduled a visit to campus this week. The odds of luring Davis away from his roots in Tuscaloosa, particularly now that Nick Saban is on the cusp of earning his fourth national championship with the Tide, are slim. But at the very least Autry Denson, Ben Davis’ main recruiter for Notre Dame, has proven he can go toe-to-toe for the nation’s best prospects no matter where they reside.

Davis intends to make his decision public on National Signing Day.

Jeffrey McCulloch

  • Hometown: Houston, TX
  • Position: LB
  • Star Ranking: Rivals 4-star; 24/7 4-star; ESPN 4-star
  • Top Offers: Alabama, Florida State, Ohio State

Jeffrey McCulloch has long been considered a Texas A&M lean, but the instability emanating from College Station in recent weeks has shaken things up. Alabama and Texas are two schools McCulloch is taking serious looks at, with most experts agreeing that Texas is currently the team to beat. But Notre Dame has been the one constant and steady presence throughout McCulloch’s recruitment, and there is chatter that those close to McCulloch are in Notre Dame’s corner.

Recruiting sagas usually don’t end well when a prospect visits Notre Dame and doesn’t commit soon after, but Notre Dame isn’t yet out of this race, either.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has written several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance as a sports contributor on MSNBC. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his wife and those around him. Scott can be reached at scottjanssenhp@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter.


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  1. Kelly is not getting rid of BVG! The talent has been there the last 2 years! However,his ego won’t let him dumb down the scheme! This is the most athletic defense ND has had since Holtz and this season they had the depth even with all the injuries!

  2. Suspect there will be some change in defensive strategy/scheme. Hate to see a decline in attacking aggressiveness. Blitzing was delayed and late. Offenses were getting ball out quick (season whole). Bowl game “D” was rallying to the ball. At least early. Feel they have the player talent and depth now. Staff will need to study, solve and implement a finished product. Did it for the option. So this will addressed and corrected. Special teams (return) need attention again also. Ohio State was in coverage so fast. Dominated that part of game. Thanks.

  3. @Jack / @ Subway Alum

    Jack, your list of 4 stars on the roster is a good point, but we need greater depth AND quicker development on d. I have written, as many others on this site have (Subway Alum above), about BVG deficiencies ad nauseum. BK obviously doesn’t agree unfortunately, we’ve got the same d coaches coming back, so our only hope for improvement is to significantly up the talent pool and development..

  4. @ Subway alum,

    The concepts being put forth during games from other offense should be viewed in film study. Teams can’t change who they are. I don’t want to sound like Dennis Green, but you know what a team does well and what it doesn’t do well. Your scheme should be to force a team into concepts offensively that they can’t execute. Bellicheat does this all the time to teams and Saban is a master at it. They see what you do well and sell out stopping it.

    Diaco’s philosophy of making you go the distance of the field and string together long drives also work. He eliminated the explosive play under his tenure, the only problem with him was the fact that ND turned the ball over like a machine and his defenses had trouble with the short field.

    The spread offense is not hard to defend, the multiple packages that he wants to use are not going to work at the college level with Oregon style offenses, you can’t substitute and even if you do they will check out of the play into something else. The way to stop the spread is a hybrid defense with a LB that is a large safety. He tried this with Onawalu and it worked better with #23. He needs to stay in a base defense with adaptable personnel that can change on the field and keep it simple. He doesn’t keep it simple he’s trying to run an adapted Rex Ryan defense in a 4-3. He doesn’t have Ray Lewis and Ed Reed that live in the film room. He has college students, dummy it down, make it easier and allow them to play fast. If he can’t do this, get rid of him. Same stuff happened on offense under Everett last year.

  5. @ Jack, thanks for the “star-studded” reminder. Your input supports my thesis that VanNo needs help.

    I partially agree with your scheme comments but scheme is what you practice all week leading up to the game. What VanNo can’t do is adjust his scheme to what the opponents offensive scheme is. I see his frantic side-line hand signals but i don’t see the results. We get ‘run-over’ or ‘thrown-over’ during every game. What is really irksome is that opposing teams with a history of mediocre offense, put up 20 to 30 points against his d. Help him from up top, or help him to the door.

    BTW, for now, take Morgan’s name off that list. There is no way he’s gonna see that MLB position. He is clueless at this level. At best he continues on special teams.

  6. How much more 4 star talent do you need on the front 7

    1. Nyles Morgan 4 stars
    2. Isaac Rochell 4 stars
    3. Trumbetti 4 stars
    4. Jarron Jones 4 stars
    5. Tillery 4 stars
    6. Tevon Coney 4 stars
    7. Asmar Bilal 4 stars
    8. Jay Hayes 4 stars
    9. Josh Barajas 4 stars

    The problem isn’t talent, the problem is scheme being translated to players and players executing the scheme. This needs to be fixed on defense or the same inconsistency you saw in 2015 will occur in 2016.

  7. I’m convinced that just bringing in new talent is not enough. Either hire an in-game “consultant” to the current Defensive Coordinator or just hire a new DC. Kelly brought in Sanford and together they equally call offensive plays why not help out Van No-d-r? Or just help him out the door.

  8. This class needs star power, SUPERIOR front 7 talent. D has been, and remains, our biggest problem with this team. Graduation/early exit losses have depleted the d even further for next year. These final four (3-lb’s and a db) are serious talent. Even though it looks unlikely, hope we can win a couple of them with great recruiting AND some good ol “luck of the Irish”.

  9. Thanks for the update, Scott.

    What concerns me from your post is the competition for/location of each of these possible recruits.
    Harbaugh is raking them in (rated #2 so far by some recruiting sources) and Bama and tOSU are all pursuing the same guys we are. None of them look likely; LBs would be welcome- but the history of ND playing young LBs not named Jaylon Smith (Niles Morgan still hasn’t played much, and the top LBs from last year’s haul were all red-shirted, other than early arrival Coney)) would likely discourage Caleb Kelly and Ben Davis from seriously considering ND.
    Keeping who already have given verbal commitments would be the priority at this point.
    Any one of the above would be great, but I’m not expecting that.
    BTW, many three star recruits from years past have developed into outstanding college players.

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