Skill Positions, Early Enrollees Highlight Early Signing Day For Notre Dame

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.

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  1. ND crazed Mike, was taking Long info from Bobs post. Dave Casper, my all time favorite ND tight end was on the Raiders. Loved him kicking the ball into the end zone for td vs. Chargers.

  2. Bob, was that when Dick Vermeil was in charge. He brought along John Sciarra. Also was Vince Papale on that team. ” Invincible” And my favorite coach Dick Coury ( Notre Damer) who coached John Huarte in High School. Howie Long being a ” cat” just had to win this game. Loved watching Philly fans on the tube. Looked like watching a neighborhood brawl.

  3. A very good class, but still lacking a dominant edge rusher. Look at every champion at any level of football and a dominant defensive line almost always stands out above every other position (I will agree with Pats fans on Brady/Gronkowski as an exception).

    As an Eagles fan, I remember the 1980 Raiders/Eagles Super Bowl. The Eagles has a great QB with plenty of offensive weapons, but they scored 10 points in losing. They couldn’t stop Howie Long, the Raiders’ best edge rusher. Look how WF QB Wollford shredded our defense without an effective pass rush. I don’t mean to pee on the ND parade, but without an improved pass rush, it doesn’t matter what Wimbush or Jurkovek might do if ND is seriously eyeing a National Championship.

    1. HOWIE LONG was not on 80 Raiders team!! He was still at VILLANOVA!!! Good class ND has brought in you have to remember ND doesn’t get the best players because of academic standards, GPA, SAT. This class was a good one!! Hopefully we can get LENZY now that OREGON is rumored to have violated the rules in recruiting for football and track!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!! GO IRISH!!!

  4. Well, I guess at least we won’t have to worry about any last minute decommitment drama since all the current verbals signed. No last minute surprises are always good. Does ND have any recruitings slots left open? I don’t follow recruiting as closely as the games themselves. I know there’s usually a little fluctuation year to year due to scholarship limits and I was curious how close are we to the maximum for this year.

    But overall, ND generally does ok at recruiting. It’d be nicer to move comfortably into the top 10, we seem to have plateaued around 10 to 15. But my issue with BK hasn’t really been recruiting as much as it is player development at key positions. QB is a perfect example. How many QB’s showed up with a lot of promise and then fizzle out.

    Unlike some, I actually do believe ND gets players that are good enough to compete at an elite level. They’re just not being coached at an elite level.

  5. Opening our Christmas presents a little early. At least we didn’t get coal in our stockings. The Irish get the most needed immediate needs; quarterback, safety. Hope to see them on day one to plug up last years defencies. This was playing ones hand today for this brief window. Hopefully we’ll pull a rabbit or two out of the hat by the deadline

  6. Another class with a few top notch players but not enough to enable ND to move up to the penthouse occupied by elite programs. A good class but not great.

  7. I’m surprised this article hypes Jurkovec the least when QB is clearly the position of most need. Assuming the man under center would ever be expected to actually throw the ball, that is.

  8. Of course, being facetious.

    This class seems excellent at the top but very average after you drop down the top seven or so recruits.

    I mean, just look at the national ranking of the only RB commit so far.

    As per ESPN this class is barely top 10 and falling.

    1. ESPN is not always kind to Notre Dame in their rankings and reviews. Not sure they are happy about that TV contract with NBC. So take their rankings for what they are???. I personally look at others like Rivals. They have ND ranked at
      number 6 nationally. I think this is a more accurate reflection. I love the signings. Key players in key areas like the secondary!!!!!!

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