They always say once Notre Dame wins the big ones they’ll make that leap in recruiting. So far, that is proving to be correct. Notre Dame famously beat Clemson in the biggest game of the season in college football so far, and has gone on to reap the benefits.
The Irish received the commitments from four players last week: cornerback Philip Riley (a previous commit), offensive linemen Caleb Johnson (previously committed to Auburn), kicker Josh Bryan (previously committed to Colorado), and linebacker Kahanu Kia. It brought the Irish class to 23 total commits* and to 8th nationally in the 247 composite ranking.
(*They are expected to lose defensive end commit David Abiara.)
This follows a period in early summer when things looked REALLY bleak on the recruiting front and anything in the top 20 had to be considered successful. Notre Dame initially struggled to find their footing with the loss of visits and everything having to go virtual. They ended up rebounding with a big July and August, then a lull after the season started, and suddenly things are kicking into high gear following the victory over Clemson.
Could the class get even better? Here are the current targets and our assessment of landing them (based on the public information).
Donovan Edwards, Running Back
Composite Rating: .9805, #36 nationally, #3 running back overall
When Notre Dame lost out on Will Shipley in the spring, attention turned to the recruitment of Edwards, with the conventional wisdom being Notre Dame had blown it a bit with him. The Irish chose to largely focus all of their running back efforts on Shipley and when they missed with him, they were naturally behind with everyone else, including Edwards, who was also highly rated and more of a local product (Michigan).
It had gotten to the point that from August till November, Edwards and Notre Dame were rarely mentioned together, and if they were it was to say the Irish were falling out of favor. However, post-Clemson there was some talk the Irish were communicating with Edwards, and there was some mutual interest. That chatter has continued through the past couple of weeks, and there is now some optimism he could take an unofficial visit while Michigan HS football takes a three week pause. That is the main thing to be watching for as far as developments with Edwards.
How I see it: It really seems like the optimism largely stems from it appearing Notre Dame was out of it, and is now in it to some degree. Edwards has not focused on recruiting at all once his football season started, it’s hard to get any kind of read on where things stand with anyone. If he ends up in South Bend at some point for a visit, that’s a big development since he’s visited campus before (last December). The conventional wisdom is Michigan is the leader, but as everyone has seen, that program isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders.
For their part, Notre Dame is playing exactly the way a back like Edwards would want, who has a skill set similar to Kyren Williams, with about a tenth faster 40 time. The fit couldn’t be better on the football field. So keep an eye out for that visit, should it occur, Notre Dame could be cooking with fire.
Ceyair Wright, Cornerback
Composite Rating: .9655, #75 overall, #6 cornerback
Oh, beware the Southern California skill position player. Wright has been connected to Notre Dame for the better part of a year, and in fairness has always expressed an interest in the school and has already visited. He’s another one who has taken his time with the recruiting game (perhaps because he was filming Space Jam 2 with LeBron James). As you may have surmised, Wright has his sights set on an acting career post football, and it appears he’s quite serious about it. He also a very serious football player, one Notre Dame would very much like to land.
How I see it: The acting piece here is really what gives me pause. The fact is USC has a great film school and is a pipeline in the film industry. It makes too much sense for Wright to go that route. However, like Edwards, he’s talking about taking visits on his own, and if one of them is to South Bend, it has to be taken seriously. Of the big three of Edwards, Wright, and Gillium (coming up) Wright makes the least sense, so I’m counting on it the least.
Kelvin Gillium, Defensive End
Composite Rating: .9547, #102 overall, #6 defensive end
(Committed to Oklahoma)
This is a recruitment that picked up publicly just over the last couple of weeks. Suddenly Notre Dame was after a top 100ish defensive end who the staff felt good about. Last week, Irish Illustrated’s recruiting analyst Tom Loy joined the One Foot Down podcast to talk recruiting and mentioned a hefty amount of dialogue between the defensive staff and Gillium. He also mentioned the staff felt good about their chances with the defensive end, while the Oklahoma staff felt good about keeping him around. Whatever the case, we don’t have to prognosticate how big it is to get a defensive end recruit of this caliber, and Gillium would be an exciting addition to the class without landing anyone else.
How I see it: Generally, when you have a committed player where both staffs feel good, that’s bad news for the school that holds the commitment. Think about it, if the player is happy where he is, he isn’t talking to anyone and certainly not in a way that makes the other staff feel positive about things in terms of landing that player. So, there is definitely something to this. If I had to guess right now, I’d say Notre Dame lands him. And of the three players mentioned in this piece, I’d say most likely is Gillium, followed by Edwards, and finally Wright.