If you’re a close follower of year round recruiting, how many times have you asked yourself “what’s going on with Notre Dame at defensive back?” For me, it’s absolutely in the double digits. While every other position has been relatively clear in terms of targets and commitments, defensive back has been the opposite of that.
It’s been pretty clear since the end of 2019 and the beginning of the 2020 cycle that Notre Dame wanted to take five defensive backs in the upcoming class. It’s also been clear that Kelly and co. weren’t sure where those commitments would come from.
They went heavy after current Georgia commit Jalen Kimber, who is a fast rising four star corner the Irish appeared to be in good shape with, then his recruitment blew up and the next thing you knew he was a part of Georgia’s class. At one time it appeared things were looking strong for California top 50 corner Clark Phillips, earning a spot in his top three, but things rapidly cooled off after he visited Ohio State and it looks like he’ll be committing there next week. Lovie Jenkins out of Florida looked promising to commit, but he was suddenly dropped and has since committed to Tennessee.
Notre Dame moved quickly on defensive back Clarence Lewis, offering him May 4th and receiving his commitment June 10th, shortly after he visited South Bend for the first time. That gave Notre Dame their first defensive back commitment in the class, with four more slots to go. As we head into the July dead period, it looks like some clarity is finally coming to the backfield.
June 21st Visits
The last big recruiting weekend of the summer is coming up, with a pair of three star defensive backs visiting who could very likely commit to the Irish before heading home.
Caleb Offord, 6-1, 173, South Haven, MS, .8678 composite rating
Offord’s recruitment is following the same trajectory of Lewis. Notre Dame offered the 6-1 corner on the 23rd of May, he unofficially visited on June 8th, and he’ll be back on the 21st for an unofficial visit. At the moment, the Irish are a clear leader for him and it’d be a surprise if he didn’t ultimately end up in the class. He has set a commitment date for July 4th, two weeks after his visit and he has no other visits scheduled between now and then. Do the math.
A great allure for the staff in targeting Offord is his size at 6-1, and his film in reminiscent of current corner Troy Pride; Pride and Offord are/were put in a lot of press man situations in high school. Offord is seemingly a natural fit at the boundary because of that size, and could theoretically also be used at safety.
Landen Bartleson, 6-1, 182, Danville, KY, .8566
Bartleson has been on Notre Dame’s radar a lot longer than Lewis and Offord, but could be joining the class all the same. He’s listed as a safety on 247’s site, although that doesn’t mean a whole lot, and it’s likely Notre Dame is looking for him to play corner. Again, his size is very appealing at 6-1, and the word is the Irish coaches love his athleticism. It’s hard to get a gauge for how much of a fit he is on defense since his entire junior highlight tape consists of him playing running back.
The fact that the staff has been on him for so long and he’s visiting for the third time this offseason on Saturday, this time officially, makes me think this is likely to go down while he’s on campus.
Will Nixon, 5-11, 185, Waco, TX, .8738
Nixon is one of those guys where you watch his film and you don’t understand how he isn’t solidly considered a four star athlete. He plays with aggression, burst, agility, and is a playmaker. His mid three star rating just doesn’t compute, though that’s really neither here nor there. The thing with Nixon is every school who has offered, with the exception of Notre Dame, wants him to play receiver. He is apparently open to defensive back though, and with him visiting this weekend, we might see him be very, very open to it in the form of a verbal commitment, although that’d be more surprising than the first two listed here. If he were to commit, he automatically becomes one of my favorites in the class and I’ll go ahead and put him down as a potential sleeper signing.
Christian Gonzalez, 6-1, 193, The Colony, TX, .8958
Speaking of favorites in the class, Gonzalez would also carry that distinction were he to end up in South Bend, this is another player who I absolutely love. He plays corner now, has experience in the slot, and at his size has the ability to move to safety if needed. He’s a super smooth player with long strides and is the type of athlete who would benefit from a college speed program. Could easily see him take a tenth or two off of his forty time. At 6-1 he is well put together, has a nose for the ball and is very good with the ball in his hands on picks and on offense.
Don’t see a commitment coming from him this weekend, but being around a bunch of guys who will end up at Notre Dame will be a good thing. Very important swing player for Terry Joseph and Todd Lyght.
Excellent chance Notre Dame ends up with two from this weekend within the next two weeks with hope of landing all four of these players ultimately. Notre Dame has prioritized versatility here, with all four players with the ability to play any of the corner spots and even move to safety, something that presents tremendous value within the class. Also as an aside, receiver recruit Xavier Watts is also visiting this weekend and there is a chance he commits as well. He is someone who the staff thinks could be a defensive back if need be. So, food for thought there. Whatever, the case, this weekend could go a long way in determining how the 2020 class ultimately finishes.