The first year of the early signing period for college football has gone off without a hitch for Brian Kelly and his coaching staff.
Notre Dame entered the day with 20 verbal commitments and all 20 made it official at the earliest possible time, opting in during the initial period and forgoing the customary February signing day extravaganza. And an impressive seven of those players will be enrolling early at Notre Dame, with the chance to jump start their football careers.
The Irish have customarily been heavy on the offensive line and tight end the last couple of seasons, but Notre Dame features skill position players at the top of their class. And there are good odds at least a couple of those players see the field in 2018.
Big On Skill
According to the 247 sports composite ranking the four highest rated players in the Irish class are listed as:
- Defensive back Houston Griffith (.9673 rating, 63rd nationally)
- Quarterback Phil Jurkovec (.9663, 66th)
- Defensive back Derrik Allen (.9649, 69th)
- Wide Receiver Kevin Austin (.9626, 73rd)
The additions of Griffith and Allen are especially huge, given the needs at the positions they play. Allen is going to play safety for Notre Dame and just from a physical ability stand point could be the most talented they have the second he steps onto campus. He’s big, he’s physical, and he played a lot of corner at the high school level. He’ll push to play the spot occupied by Jalen Elliot and Devin Studstill right away, and those guys will have to play at a high level to keep him off of the field.
Griffith had been linked to Notre Dame since 2015, but the 2016 season almost cost them the Chicago native. He had previously committed to Florida State, but recently backed off of that and is now officially a part of the Irish class. He played corner in high school, but the general consensus is his future is at safety. Like Allen, he loves to play an aggressive style of football and is an accomplished tackler who relishes contact. The thought of those two guys playing side by side for the duration of their careers is as good as the staff could have hoped for.
These are two SEC type of athletes.
Jurkovec and Austin are similar in terms of potential impact on the team, and I think Austin has the ability to see the field immediately. He has the athletic ability of someone like Chase Claypool, but a much more natural football player, and catches the ball effortlessly. Brian Kelly compared him to Golden Tate during his signing day press conference and the idea of a 6’3, 200 lb Tate running around is something I can sign up for.
Kelly also stated today he wanted Jurkovec to compete for the starting job in the summer and fall, which was more about his belief in Jurkovec the player than actually saying their was a quarterback competition. Either way, Kelly was effusive in his praise of the quarterback from Pennsylvania, calling him an underrated player (he’s 66th nationally) and the best in the nation this season. Jurkovec was a finalist for the Gatorade National Player of the Year award, so it’s not like this belief is without merit.
Seven Enrolling Early
Notre Dame is used to having at least a couple enroll early every season, but this year marks the biggest number of enrollees since Notre Dame began that practice. I’ll list them from most likely to play early at the top to bottom.
- Houston Griffith
- Bo Bauer, linebacker (.9036, 281st nationally)
- Jack Lamb, linebacker (.9439, 131st)
- Jahmir Smith, running back (.8721, 583rd)
- George Takacs, tight end (.9101, 245th)
- Ovie Oghoufo, linebacker (.8755, 527th)
- Micah Jones, receiver (.8919, 355th)
I’ve already touched on Griffith, I think it would actually be an upset if he didn’t see the field somewhere in 2018.
I put Bauer ahead of Lamb, even though Lamb is higher rated, because Bauer plays the spot vacated by Nyles Morgan and Lamb plays the spot currently occupied by Te’Von Coney. Now, if Coney was to leave for the NFL, Lamb probably jumps Bauer, because he’d only have Asmar Bilal in front of him, and he hasn’t exactly lit the world on fire.
It is good to see so many early enrollees at linebacker in general, you want those guys to get acclimated as soon as possible because even if Coney stays, we know both he and Tranquill are gone after next season. Notre Dame will needs lots of fresh faces in the middle to be ready very soon. This class allows them to best chance to do that.