Notre Dame’s offensive backfield recruiting took a major hit on Tuesday afternoon when Will Shipley committed to Clemson over Notre Dame despite Notre Dame pouring more effort into his recruitment than perhaps any other in over a decade. It wasn’t all bad news for Notre Dame today though. Shortly after Shipley spurred the Irish for the Tigers, Notre Dame picked up a commitment from 4-star cornerback Philip Riley.
Notre Dame’s cornerback recruiting struggled the last few years just as much as its running back recruiting had prior to the commitment of Chris Tyree for the class of 2020. Landing a commitment from a composite 4-star corner like Riley is a great way to reverse that trend for the class of 2021.
— PhilipRiley2021 (@Riley18Philip) May 5, 2020
On top of an offer from Notre Dame, Riley held offers from Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Miami, Oregon, Penn State, Texas, Virginia Tech, Washington, and USC among a host of other programs. His recruitment really heated up over the last couple of months though.
Riley is ranked as the #20 cornerback in the country in the 247Sports Composite rankings and the 285th overall.
Notre Dame fans should be ecstatic about the commitment from Philip Riley (@Riley18Philip). This is a lockdown corner, with loose hips and quick feet. Mike Mickens got a good one.
— Tom Lemming (@LemmingReport) May 5, 2020
New Notre Dame cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens, along with defensive coordinator Clark Lea, led the charge for Riley’s commitment. Notre Dame only offered Riley in late March, but were able to secure his commitment just a little over a month later without even getting Riley on campus yet.
If there are recruiting visits in June as Notre Dame is currently, Riley is likely to join what could be a monster recruiting weekend like Notre Dame had planned in March. Will Shipley was tentatively planning on visiting in June as well, but ultimately decided to commit to Clemson earlier today without waiting for that visit.
That is a big win for Mickens, even if Lea gets an assist, considering the struggles recruiting corners under previous cornerbacks coach Todd Lyght who left his alma mater after the 2019 season.
According to an interview on 247Sports on Riley’s commitment, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly also played a prominent role in adding Riley to class of 2021.
“First it was coach Kelly. It was great,” said Riley, who talked with the head coach of Notre Dame leading up to eventually making his final decision. “We were talking about football, like, and how things are at Notre Dame. My parents loved it. I loved it. It was great to just build that relationship stronger.
That should help quiet the concerns of those who think that Brian Kelly does not take enough of an active role in recruiting for Notre Dame to win more battles with elite programs for top prospects like Riley.
Notre Dame signed four cornerbacks in the class of 2020. None of them were as highly rated as Riley in the 247Sports rankings and one of them, Landen Barletson, was already dismissed from Notre Dame before ever enrolling following an arrest earlier this year. Riley is the highest-rated cornerback commitment for Notre Dame since Isaiah Rutherford in 2019 (#208 overall).
Notre Dame is far from done recruiting corners for its defensive backfield for the class of 2021, but Riley is a great start for the Irish. If they can add Ceyair Wright, a top 100 overall prospect, to pair with Riley and safety Justin Walters, they will have the makings of a stellar secondary haul.
Riley is the 9th overall commitment for Notre Dame’s 2021 class and the third to commit since all on-campus and in-person recruiting came to halt due to coronavirus. Defensive end David Abiara and offensive lineman Pat Coogan were the other two.
Losing out on Shipley was a big loss for Notre Dame today, but landing Riley was a big win for the Irish defense. Notre Dame needed to address cornerback just as much, if not moreso than running back for 2021.