Blue and Gold Illustrated

March 2024

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

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38 MARCH 2024 BLUE & GOLD ILLUSTRATED 2024 FOOTBALL RECRUITING ISSUE BY KYLE KELLY T aebron Bennie-Powell proved he was a Notre Dame-caliber recruit long before he picked up an offer from the Fighting Irish. His on-field play did not necessarily show shades of his Notre Dame profile early on. West Chester (Ohio) Lakota West coach Tom Bolden used humble and unassuming words to describe Bennie- Powell, who On3 ranks as the No. 13 prospect in Ohio and the No. 27 safety nationally. The 6-1, 185-pounder dem- onstrated that personality by playing out of position during his junior sea- son. He sacrificed exposure at the spot where he plans to play in college. In 2022, Lakota West had On3's Nos. 24 and 50 safety recruits, Malik Hart- ford and Ben Minich, manning the back end of its defense. Hartford went on to sign with Ohio State and Minich signed with Notre Dame. Bennie-Powell played outside line- backer as a junior, and registered 36 stops, 5.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 fumble recovery and 1 forced fumble in 11 games despite a new position at a new school. He previously played safety for crosstown rival Lakota East in Liberty Township, Ohio. Bennie-Powell first surfaced on Notre Dame's radar during the 2022 season when he visited for a game day. He did not reemerge until late last spring when the Irish expedited their evaluations with some help from Bolden. Notre Dame offered Bennie-Powell after he participated in the program's Evaluation Camp I June 15. He eventu- ally verbally committed six days later. "He has great feet, hips and change of direction," Bolden told Blue & Gold Illustrated. "I knew athletically it was no question he could play safety. He was natural at backpedaling, in his turn, his speed and hips. All those things. "He has the balance you like to see in a defensive player. The physicality was there — we put him down in the box. I knew the transition would be seamless." Bennie-Powell helped Lakota West reach the Ohio Division I regional fi- nals as a senior. In 13 games, he had 48 tackles (34 solo), 2.5 stops for loss, 3 in- terceptions, 3 passes broken up, 1 forced fumble and 1 blocked punt returned for a touchdown. The Ohio Prep Sports- writers Association named Bennie- Powell first-team Division I All-State in his first season at safety. "When you go from in the box to over the top, you have to cover more ground and space," Bolden said. "He's gotten more comfortable with the position. He just had to flip the switch to play on the back end of the D instead of the front seven. But each week, he got better and better. He kept making plays week in and week out." Bolden believes Bennie-Powell is just scratching the surface. "He's a good-looking cat right now," Bolden said. "When he has that nutri- tion and training at his hands, he's just going to keep developing. … His play speaks for itself." And his character does, too. "He reminds me of a kid from that university," Bolden said. "The history, that tradition. The kids at Notre Dame are not only phenomenal football play- ers but great kids and great representa- tives of a great school. That's what he exemplifies." ✦ Bennie-Powell is On3's No. 13 prospect in Ohio and No. 27 safety nationally in the 2024 class. PHOTO BY KYLE KELLY TAEBRON BENNIE-POWELL SAFETY 6-1 ∙ 185 LAKOTA WEST H.S. CINCINNATI RANKINGS STARS NAT. POS. STATE ✪ ✪ ✪ ✪ — 27 13 ✪ ✪ ✪ — 71 31 ✪ ✪ ✪ — 50 22 ✪ ✪ ✪ — 52^ 25 ^ as an athlete STATISTICS • Recorded 48 stops (34 solo), 2.5 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions (1 returned for touch- down), 3 passes broken up and 1 forced fumble in 13 games as a senior. Also blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown. • Accounted for 36 tackles (26 solo), 5.5 stops for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery in 11 games while playing outside line- backer as a junior. Was also a contributor on offense, with 6 carries for 32 yards and had a 72-yard punt return touchdown. • Posted 16 tackles (12 solo), 2 interceptions (1 returned for touchdown) and 1 fumble recov- ery in 11 games as a sophomore defensive back for Liberty Township (Ohio) Lakota East. Also played running back and had 20 rushes for 176 yards and 3 catches for 81 yards. NOTABLE • Earned first-team All-Ohio, first-team All- Southwest Ohio, first-team All-Greater Miami Conference and Cincinnati Enquirer All-Star honors as a senior in 2023. • Earned the Award for Achievement, pre- sented by Ohio governor Mike DeWine. • His brother, Lebron, is a college basketball player at NCAA Division III Franklin College. RECRUITMENT • Committed to Notre Dame on June 21, 2023. • Also held offers from Duke, Kentucky, Pitts- burgh and West Virginia. • Recruited by Irish safeties coach Chris O'Leary. • Visited Notre Dame seven times, including his official visit vs. Ohio State on Sept. 23, 2023. 2024 PROJECTION • After transitioning from outside linebacker to safety for his senior season, he will look to further his defensive back development with a redshirt season. THEY SAID IT National recruiting analyst Tom Lemming: "His high school is close to Dayton, and with the cornerbacks coach [Mike Mickens] and Coach Marcus [Freeman] being from there, that might have something to do with it. "He's a good player, and they like how he ran at camp. I think he's a lower-level Power Five guy. He's a good athlete. He's not spectacular; but he's a solid three-star guy." Taebron Bennie-Powell Is Just Scratching The Surface Of His Potential

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