Notre Dame suffered its most significant decommitment in a few years last week when top-100 overall prospect Deion Colzie decommitted from Notre Dame and opened up his recruiting again. The Irish have been lucky in recent years on the decommitment front, but this one hurts the Irish big time. Brian Kelly and his staff, however, have to pivot and find a way not only to replace Colzie, but somehow continue to build what looked like a monster class in a very uncertain recruiting world right now. So, where do they go from here?
First things, first, the commitment of Lorenzo Styles now becomes even more critical for Notre Dame. Styles is ranked higher than Colzie and right now ranks up there with Tyler Buchner as recruits the Irish could least afford to lose from the class of 2021. Notre Dame needs to be doing everything they can to make sure Styles is still solid and onboard.
Continue Recruiting Deion Colzie, Hard
First off, Notre Dame has to continue to recruit Deion Colzie aggressively. When Colzie committed to Notre Dame last fall, he described it as his dream school, which is why he ended his recruitment so early. Kelly, wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander, and offensive coordinator Tommy Rees have to remind Colzie why Notre Dame was his dream school and why he committed in the first place.
I mentioned yesterday there is some precedent here with players like Stephon Tuitt and Aaron Lynch, and a few commenters added Braden Lenzy as an even more recent example. Still, the fact remains there are far, far more examples of players who decommit and land elsewhere. That doesn’t mean Notre Dame should stop recruiting Colzie, though.
By all accounts, Colzie is a perfect fit for Notre Dame from an off the field perspective, and even his decommitment showed that. Instead of staying “committed” to Notre Dame but taking visits like so many recruits do nowadays, Colzie did the mature thing by being upfront and honest with the Irish staff. Despite the decommitment, that is the kind of kid Notre Dame wants in the program.
(Side note: we will delete any comments bashing recruits or suggesting that other schools are paying recruits. Do better than that in the comments please).
Turn Up the Heat on Dont’e Thornton and Jayden Thomas
Even before the Colzie decommitment, Notre Dame was looking to add a third elite receiver in this class not only to develop the kind of wide receiver corps capable of winning a championship but to also give some flexibility for a player like Lorenzo Styles to play in the secondary if it looks like he could have a more significant impact there. The top two names that Notre Dame was involved with are Dont’e Thornton and Jayden Thomas.
Thornton would be more of a one for one replacement with Colzie just based on his size alone though their skillsets vary. Rivals lists him at 6’4″, 185 lbs, and ranks him as the #52 overall prospect in the nation. I said yesterday that recruits like Colzie don’t just grow on trees for Notre Dame, but Thornton is similar to Colzie just in terms of athletic profile. The problem is, Thornton is the only prospect like that on Notre Dame’s radar right now.
In what is becoming a major theme of this recruiting cycle, Penn State appears to be the biggest player in Thornton’s recruiting outside of Notre Dame. Thornton was initially committed to Penn State but decommitted in August after originally making his pledge in February 2019. Thornton also has offers from Arizona State, Oregon, Tennessee, Auburn, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, and USC, among many others. So, in short, he good.
As of March 8, Thornton had Notre Dame listed among his favorites.
4 ⭐️ WR Dont’e Thornton Jr. tells me these 9️⃣ schools are currently recruiting him the hardest!
What school has the best shot at landing him?
👇🏽Let Me Know in the Comments!👇🏽#FollowMEforEdits pic.twitter.com/tWOGK7zxec
— Hayes Fawcett (@Hayesfawcett3) March 8, 2020
Thomas doesn’t have quite the same height as Colzie or Thornton, but he is a similar play to Colzie on the field. Instead of being 6’4″ like Colzie though, he checks in at 6’2″ and 198 lbs. So he’s slightly shorter but more solidly built than Thornton at this time. Notre Dame is among Thomas’s top 11, but the Irish have some ground to make up with Thomas.
Getting Thomas out of the South could prove difficult, even if Notre Dame does turn up the heat on their recruitment of Thomas.
— Jayden Thomas (@jgpt333) February 14, 2020
Of Thomas’s top 11, eight of the programs involved are in the South with just Notre Dame, Michigan, and Ohio State being outside the South. The good news here for Notre Dame is Thomas has already been on campus at Notre Dame. If the recruiting cycle ends up being drastically reduced in terms of on-campus visits this year, that familiarity could help them here.
Expand the Wide Receiving Board
Outside of Thomas and Thornton, there are several other wide receivers that Notre Dame has been recruiting even before the Colzie decommit as well, but they would be considered in the next tier of prospects. Three-star prospect Andrel Anthony from East Lansing, Michigan, is one of those prospects. Notre Dame obviously is competing with Michigan and Michigan State on this one.
Outside of Anthony, expect there to be some movement on the wide receiver board when recruiting starts heating back up again – whenever that might be. There are a lot of prospects where there was some mutual interest for Notre Dame previously before Notre Dame shrank its board with Colzie and Styles committed. Expect some of those names to resurface.
The dream scenario right now (assuming they can’t get Colzie back in the fold) would be getting Thornton and Thomas and calling it a day. The chances of that happening aren’t high, though. If Notre Dame can simply land one of the two, it would still be considered a win, but even then, Notre Dame was recruiting both already to pair with Colzie and Styles, so if they only get one of two, they are in about the same situation they were last week when they already had plans to add a third receiver.
If Notre Dame is not able to land at least one of Thomas or Thornton, they will not have the kind of receiving class that they were once in line for baring them getting in on another elite prospect that wasn’t already on their radar. That said, let’s hope that isn’t the case, and Notre Dame can pivot here and still bring in the elite weapons they need to team with Buchner for this class to close the talent gap.