Notre Dame recruiting has built a strong foundation with the upcoming 2021 recruiting class. However, one of the top remaining targets on the board, Will Shipley, is uncommitted. The all-purpose back from North Carolina appears to be locked in on Notre Dame and Clemson. The Irish have had their struggles against the Tigers on the field, but can Brian Kelly beat Clemson in this recruiting battle?
Will Shipley Profile
Position: Running Back
Ranking: 5-Star, #1 All-Purpose Back According to 247 Sports
Hometown: Matthews, North Carolina
High School: Weddington High School
Sophomore and Junior Statistics: In just two seasons, Shipley has compiled 3,483 total rushing yards for an average of 8.8 yards per carry. The all-purpose back has a total of 65 touchdowns; 49 on the ground and 14 receiving. Shipley tallies his yardage with a combination of speed, athleticism, and strength as he breaks through tacklers.
Official Visit Set
Will Shipley sets weekend of June 12th for Official Visit. Previously, the Notre Dame coaching staff had planned for March 20-22nd as the major recruiting weekend, but COVID-19 put the critical event on hold. Coach Kelly has reassigned June 12-14th as the foremost recruiting weekend, that is, if life can get closer to normal. Brian Kelly says that he will officially know the summer plans for current players and recruits on May 15th.
Irish OL commit Blake Fisher leading recruiter? Notre Dame has had recruits make an impact on fellow prospects in the past, but Blake Fisher has undoubtedly shown his love for Notre Dame with his fellow athletes. Most specifically, he and Will Shipley seem to have a tight bond. Shipley even went out of his way to wish Blake Fisher a happy birthday on March 25th and say, “they are brothers for life.”
Notre Dame Clemson Recruiting Battle
Two-Horse Race. For now, the two favorites to land 5-Star Running Back Will Shipley are the Fighting Irish and Tigers. Clemson already has a distinct geographical advantage with Shipley living in neighboring North Carolina. Will Shipley’s decision has not been made yet, and Notre Dame’s recruiting efforts these next several months will be vital to his decision.
Notre Dame Clemson Game in South Bend. Will Shipley’s decision will almost certainly be determined before the November 7th matchup. But, with recruiting, there is no certainty until the letter of commitment is signed. When this game takes place, the clash will showcase the best experience Notre Dame has to offer. The build-up for this game has the potential to bring back memories of Notre Dame Miami circa 1988 and Notre Dame Florida State circa 1993.
Recruiting Impact of Coach Taylor
Coach Taylor was promoted for this role. When Brian Kelly hired Taylor and eventually turned him into Run Game Coordinator, it was to land major running back recruits like Shipley. Lance Taylor has just started to develop the running backs at Notre Dame, including potentially his first NFL running back via Tony Jones Jr. However, the Irish Run Game Coordinator has built quite the reputation for marquee running backs.
Coaching Christian McCaffrey and Bryce Love. Coach Taylor helped to shape and develop two of the best running backs in the history of Stanford Football. The Stanford Cardinal set a school record in 2015 in rushing yards with 3,132. McCaffrey’s college statistics were worthy of a Heisman Trophy, even though he came up short. Since his college days, McCaffrey has established himself as one of the premier running backs in the NFL.
Running Behind a Talented O-Line
Notre Dame is O-Line U. Under Brian Kelly, the Irish have had some of the best offensive linemen in the history of college football. Just look at last year’s NFL 1st Team All-Pros in Quenton Nelson, Zack Martin, and Ronnie Stanley. There have been some talented running backs behind these offensive linemen, but no All-American caliber players.
The future is bright upfront. Notre Dame always has talent on the offensive line, and they have several young linemen who will be blocking for Shipley, such as Blake Fisher, Tosh Baker, Zeke Correll, and Quinn Carroll, to only name a few.
Impact on 2020 Recruiting Class
Shipley is at the top of the Recruiting Board. The all-purpose back is a game-changer for Tommy Rees and the Irish Offense. He could join the ranks of the current Notre Dame Quarterback commit of the 2021 class, 4-Star Tyler Buchner. The elite quarterback prospect has been committed to Notre Dame since March of 2019.
Can the Irish finish with a Top 10 or even Top 5 Class? According to 247, Brian Kelly and Notre Dame are sitting at the #6 ranking, even with two recent decommitments. It appears the program always starts strong but slowly tumbles down the rankings until Signing Day. Can Brian Kelly change the narrative this year? With all the setbacks, that will be hard to accomplish, but it’s the next step they need to take.
Will Shipley, the next great Irish running back? It has been a while since Notre Dame had an unstoppable running back, such as Jerome Bettis, Autry Denson, and Reggie Brooks. Shipley is currently the top running back in the country, and watching his game film, one can see why. The Irish always recruit exceptionally well on the offensive line and quarterback positions, and adding Will Shipley could be the final piece of the puzzle.
The coronavirus delays official visits. Coach Kelly’s new June recruiting weekend will be critical for the 2021 class. The Irish have already lost two prominent recruits these past few months. If the program truly wants to finish with a strong class, they will need to put in the work this summer and fall against the primary opponent standing in their way on and off the field, Dabo Swinney’s Clemson Tigers.