Every year we look at some instant impact and hidden gem recruits (coming soon) around National Signing Day. You know the ones who could see the field right away and those that could develop into great players in a few years. We haven’t really looked at players who will almost definitely be big time players but might not exactly be instant impact recruits because of depth, injuries, or any other number of reasons they might just need a little time before their every down players. We are today.
Here are 7 players in Notre Dame’s class of 2016 that will almost certainly be big time players for the Irish in the near future – just maybe not next fall.
Javon McKinley (WR) – Regardless of what Demetris Robertson decides, Notre Dame will still have an elite wide receiver in this class with McKinley. The US Army All-American is an all around receiver who drew rave reviews in San Antonio and has all of the tools to be a big time receiver. The only problem for McKinley is the depth Notre Dame has at wide receiver. He might not crack the line up or even the two deep as a freshman, but before too long he will be another in a line of recent great wide receivers for Notre Dame.
Tommy Kraemer (OT) – There is a chance that Kraemer could see the field next season depending on how the depth shakes out, but in a perfect world he wouldn’t be pressed into action. That said, Kraemer has a bright, bright future for Notre Dame. He very well could be the next great Notre Dame to redshirt as a frosh and then step right into a starting role as a sophomore. He was one of, if not the best linemen down at the US Army All-American Bowl and it’s just a matter of time before he’s mauling opposing defensive linemen and opening up holes for the Irish running backs.
Tony Jones (RB) – Speaking of Notre Dame running backs, Tony Jones doesn’t get talked about enough in this class but he should. Jones is a bowling ball of a running back who could give the Notre Dame ground game a dimension it hasn’t had in a while. He won’t break many – maybe any – 98 yard runs like Josh Adams a year ago but he is a bruising back who could fill a Mike Tolbert-type role in the Irish offense.
Liam Eichenberg (OT) – He might not get the same hype as Kraemer, but Eichenberg has just as high as a ceiling as his classmate. Again, in a perfect world true frosh linemen wouldn’t be pressed into action, but just like Kraemer he has the looks of one of Notre Dame’s next great linemen. The Irish have had a nice string of tackles with Zack Martin going in the first round two years ago and Ronnie Stanley a lock to do so this year. Mike McGlinchey has the looks of yet another first round tackle for Notre Dame. Look for Kraemer and Eichenberg to be in the mix for such honors in a few years as well.
Kevin Stepherson (WR) – He doesn’t get the hype of McKinley and with all of the buzz surrounding Robertson the last month, many are overlooking Stepherson. They shouldn’t. Robertson has fittingly been tabbed as a Will Fuller replacement, but if there’s any receiver in the last couple of years who could replicate Fuller’s meteoric rise from 3-star recruit to All-American, its Stepherson. He doesn’t have much hype now, but neither did Fuller three years ago.
Jamir Jones (LB) – Does he stay at linebacker? Does he grow into a weakside defensive end? Who knows right now. What we know is he has the potential and upside to be a great pass rusher for the Irish defense. Jones might be more of a hidden gem or sleeper at this point, but given Notre Dame’s dire need for pass rushers, I’m putting him faith in Jones becoming one.
Julian Okwara (WDE) – Speaking of pass rushers, Julian Okwara could one day lead the Notre Dame defense in sacks in an upcoming season just as his older brother has the past two seasons. The younger Okwara is more developed coming into college than the elder and could have a higher ceiling because of it. Remember, Romeo Okwara came to Notre Dame and played as a true freshman shortly after his 17th birthday. Julian is already 18 and won’t be pressed into early action – unless he is completely ready.
Notre Dame could add to this list tomorrow as well. We all know that the 5-star prospects Notre Dame is still chasing could be instant impact recruits, but linebacker Jonathan Jones has the looks of the kind of over-looked linebacker that usually ends up at a place like Michigan State or Boston College that we all moan and complain about not offering. If he selects Notre Dame tomorrow I would definitely label him as a future star in this class.