Blue and Gold Illustrated

Sept. 10, 2018

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 43 of 55

44 SEPT. 10, 2018 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY COREY BODDEN I t was a little quiet on the Notre Dame recruiting front in August, with the dead period and preseason camp beginning for programs across the country. Recruiting activity is expected to pick up in September with the dead period ending, prospects making their way to campuses for official and unofficial visits, and the early signing period inching closer and closer. Here is a look at some of the top storylines for the Irish on the recruiting trail heading into the fall. SPOTS FOR THE 2019 CLASS ARE LIMITED It was known heading into the 2019 cycle that it would likely be a smaller group for the Irish, especially after they signed 27 prospects in 2018. Only 12 current Notre Dame players will exhaust their eligibility following the upcoming season, while another eight hold fifth-year options. With 17 commitments in the 2019 class as of Aug. 30, Notre Dame would be five over the limit if all eight potential fifth-year seniors were to return and there was no further attrition to the 2019 roster. Personnel losses will happen, and Notre Dame should be in good shape with its current 17 plus the addition of at least two more prospects. It is obvious that the staff desires to bring back as many veterans as it can in 2019. There is still a lot to play out this cycle, but it seems the Irish will add anywhere from one to four more pledges. A home run finish would be adding impact players at wide receiver, offensive line, defensive end and cornerback. If just a defensive end were to be added, the staff would likely be quite pleased with the current haul. KEEPING THE CLASS INTACT IS A PRIORITY Irish fans should not expect any of the 2019 commits as of late August to not be part of the class, but decommitments happen everywhere and Notre Dame is not immune. The class of 2016 is the lone group under head coach Brian Kelly where the Irish did not lose a single player that had made a commitment to the program. On the flip side, Notre Dame has been pretty good at flipping players pledged elsewhere. It is imperative that the Fighting Irish avoid the former and add to the class rather than subtracting. With 17 commits and a small target board, losing a current pledge could put the Irish in a precarious position depending on the timing. Notre Dame is looking to add at least one more impact guy at wide receiver and defensive end, and losing a player at those spots would put the staff even further behind what they are trying to accomplish. Each of the 17 commits appear 100 percent locked in with the Irish for now, but sometimes circumstances change in recruiting. Keeping this group together is crucial after the staff did well to meet all of their minimum needs across the board. LANDING ONE MORE DEFENSIVE END IS A MUST Defensive end is the top priority for the Irish heading into the fall. Notre Dame holds commitments from a pair of four-stars in Fort Worth (Texas) Nolan Catholic standout NaNa Osafo-Mensah and Montvale (N.J.) St. Joseph's talent Howard Cross, but would love to add one more high- level player at the position. Expect the defensive end board to expand as the staff gets their hands on senior film and evaluates recruits that continue to develop with their high school careers coming to a close. Right now, Phoenix O'Connor end Bralen Trice is the lone legitimate offered target for the Irish heading into September. Rivals rates him as a four-star prospect, the No. 7 player in Arizona and the No. 23 weakside defensive end in the country. Trice's official visit for the Michigan game Sept. 1 marked his first trip to South Bend. He has Notre Dame in his top five and noted prior to the visit that he was looking forward to getting a close look at the program. Notre Dame Storylines Heading Into The Fall Phoenix O'Connor defensive end Bralen Trice, a four-star talent and the No. 23 weakside defensive end nationally according to Rivals, has the Irish in his top five along with Oregon, Washington, UCLA and TCU. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM

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