Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2023

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

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32 AUGUST 2023 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED FOOTBALL RECRUITING BY KYLE KELLY Notre Dame picked up a summertime safety commitment from West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West High for the second straight year. Three-star 2024 prospect Taebron Bennie-Powell — also known as "BP" — announced his pledge in favor of the Fighting Irish June 21. The 6-foot-1, 170-pounder's pledge comes after he picked up a Notre Dame scholarship offer at its Evalua- tion Camp I June 15. Bennie-Powell, the No. 34 recruit in Ohio and the No. 22 athlete nationally per On3, chose the Fighting Irish over Duke, Kentucky, Pittsburgh and West Virginia. He followed in the footsteps of for- mer Lakota West safety Ben Minich, who verbally committed to Notre Dame on Aug. 5, 2022. The 5-11, 190-pound Minich also earned his offer after he competed in a June camp session. Minich signed with the Irish in De- cember, enrolled in January and fin- ished the 2023 recruiting cycle as the No. 18 prospect in Ohio and the No. 50 safety in the country per On3. He also played a pivotal role in sparking Bennie- Powell's initial interest in Notre Dame and eventual commitment. "Ben was definitely a factor in this," Bennie-Powell told Blue & Gold Illus- trated. "He helped me out with choos- ing Notre Dame. He's been through the process. So it was easy for me to look up to him." Because the Lakota West defense featured two of the country's best safeties in Minich and Ohio State signee Malik Hartford — a top-250 recruit with a Notre Dame offer — Bennie-Powell played out of position at linebacker last season. He made 36 tackles (26 solo), plus had 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery in 13 games as a junior. He'll transition to strong safety for his senior year. Entering Notre Dame's first evalu- ation camp, Bennie-Powell knew it would be hard to pass up on an Irish of- fer. Still, the coaching staff treated him like a must-get prospect. After he camped at Notre Dame, he went on a campus tour. Some coaches were "on him" to commit during it. But head coach Marcus Freeman ensured Ben- nie-Powell understood he could be patient and commit whenever he felt comfortable. As it turned out, Bennie-Powell needed less than 24 hours. He committed to Free- man over the phone the next morning. "I told him I was ready," said Bennie- Powell, recalling his conversation with Freeman. "He was excited for me and the program. He actually made sure that I was 100 percent committed. His reac- tion was what I wanted to hear." Even though his commitment came together quickly, Bennie-Powell has confidence he made the right decision. And that's a credit to Freeman, safeties coach Chris O'Leary and director of re- cruiting Chad Bowden. "I just love the coaches," Bennie-Powell said. "They called me while I was at work. They saw me in my Popeyes stuff, and they were just laughing and everything. So I already know it's a family there. "Two, the campus is nice. Three, I'm very religious, and the whole campus reflects that. So that's one of the main reasons why I liked Notre Dame." Bennie-Powell knows other pro- grams will continue to recruit him. After he announced his Irish offer, a Southern Cali- fornia coach followed him on Twitter. There is always a chance that in-state school Ohio State could join his recruitment, too. But no matter who tries to poach him, he's adamant that he is locked in with the Irish and ready to reunite with Minich. "I'm super excited," he said. "I can't wait to get up there and become a family." ✦ Irish Continue Their Pipeline From Lakota West High FILM ANALYSIS "Taebron Bennie-Powell played much closer to the line of scrimmage as a junior. He plays with good physicality and a high motor in run- ning down plays from the backside. Projecting him as a safety long term, he'll be a plus-tack- ler and a physical presence as a run defender. Seeing him move around in the camp setting at defensive back, I was impressed with his smoothness. You can't see that on his junior film based on where he's playing in their de- fense. But it's not a stretch in the camp setting to see him play safety with his movement skills. "I'm looking forward to seeing how he plays as a safety this year. He looks like a stock-up prospect this offseason. I was encouraged by what we saw. Relative to his evaluation, it will hinge on how he plays as a senior at safety, but the signs are there. It says a lot that Notre Dame took him and saw enough to feel good about the projection. With his size, athleticism and movement skills, he has the baseline skill set and physicality to be a good safety prospect." — On3 director of scouting and rankings Charles Power COMMITMENT PROFILE TAEBRON BENNIE-POWELL Bennie-Powell, On3's No. 34 prospect in Ohio and No. 22 athlete nationally, is the second safety from West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West to commit to the Fighting Irish in two years. PHOTO BY KYLE KELLY "Ben was definitely a factor in this. He helped me out with choosing Notre Dame. He's been through the process. So it was easy for me to look up to him." BENNIE-POWELL ON FORMER LAKOTA WEST AND CURRENT NOTRE DAME SAFETY BEN MINICH

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