Blue and Gold Illustrated

May 2018

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

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Page 44 of 63 MAY 2018 45 BY COREY BODDEN Defensive end is a big priority for Notre Dame, with the staff aiming for multiple players on the edge in the class of 2019. The Irish took a big step forward in that goal the morning of April 22 when Montvale (N.J.) St. Jo- seph's Rivals250 defensive end How- ard Cross III announced a commit- ment to Notre Dame while in South Bend on an unofficial visit. "It was just really everything I'm looking for in a school with the 'Four For 40,'" Cross said. "Notre Dame will benefit me for the rest of my life." In the span of less than a month, Cross went from not having an offer to being an Irish commit. Notre Dame first entered the mix for Cross April 3 and impressed him enough during his visit for the Blue-Gold Game to get him to pull the trigger. "It happened as I was on the visit, and I realized it," Cross said. "It was everything in general about the school. They have an incredible asso- ciation, which will really, really benefit me." The 6-2, 240-pounder picked Notre Dame over offers from, among oth- ers, Boston College, Duke, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina State, Northwestern, Tennessee and Virginia Tech. Talking with a few of the Irish play- ers and defensive linemen helped sell Cross on the Notre Dame program. "I could tell they really loved the school," Cross explained. "It was re- ally big to talk to them. When I was going to all the colleges that was the main thing I wanted to do. I wanted to get the perspective of the players." The visit also included a lot of time around the coaching staff, especially defensive line coach Mike Elston, who sees Cross as a strongside end for the Irish. Cross has already made a strong connection with the Irish assistant in a short time. "Coach Elston is a great man," Cross stated. "He's a family guy. I love Coach Elston. He was telling me that it's a lifetime decision and that Notre Dame is a great place to be, especially with the culture there. It'll benefit you for the rest of your life." Cross likes the position fit in the Notre Dame defense. "It's a position I'm familiar with and able to do and really liked playing," said Cross. "I think that also helps. I feel I can really make a contribution to the team." Though it was the spring game and not a traditional Saturday in South Bend during the fall, Cross was im- pressed by the atmosphere he wit- nessed inside Notre Dame Stadium. "I thought it was really cool," Cross said. "That was their spring game, and they had a lot more people than I've seen at a lot of stadiums." Adding Cross, Rivals' No. 26 strong- side defensive end and No. 238 over- all player nationally, gave the Irish three 2019 Rivals250 prospects in as many days. The junior followed Metuchen (N.J.) St. Joseph's offen- sive lineman John Olmstead (No. 63), who commit- ted April 20, and Alexandria (Va.) Epis- copal safety Litchfield Ajavon (No. 79), who announced his pledge April 21. Cross became commitment No. 6 for the Irish and the third highest-ranked prospect among that group behind Ol- mstead and Ajavon. He was also the fourth four-star pledge on the defen- sive side of the ball, joining Ajavon, Bowling Green (Ky.) South Warren de- fensive tackle Jacob Lacey and Sachse (Texas) High defensive tackle Hunter Spears. If rankings hold, Cross could be- come the first top 250 defensive end to sign with the Irish since 2016 when Daelin Hayes, who was ranked No. 31 overall nationally per Rivals, and Kha- lid Kareem, who was No. 237 overall, signed with Notre Dame. Cross is the son of former New York Giants tight end and 13-year veteran Howard Cross Jr. The St. Joseph's standout was named a USA Today first-team All-New Jersey defensive lineman following the 2017 season. ✦ FILM ANALYSIS Strengths Howard Cross has a great pedigree, with his dad playing 13 years in the NFL for the New York Giants … Lacks ideal size, but he is a high-motor player that shows a dogged de- termination when it comes to making plays on the ball … Understands how important it is to play with good pad level and leverage against bigger players … Shows an impressive punch and really good natural strength, which helps him play bigger than his current size … Ability to use his hands to get off blocks and explode to the football is impressive. Areas For Improvement Lacks the size to be a strongside end right now, so filling out his frame is vitally important … Length isn't ideal so he'll have to be more consistent firing off the ball with quickness and speed in order to maximize his skills … At times he'll stop his feet when engaged, which must be corrected. — Bryan Driskell COMMITMENT PROFILE HOWARD CROSS III New Jersey Defensive End Finds A Fit At Notre Dame Rivals rates Cross as a four-star talent, the No. 7 prospect in New Jersey, and the No. 26 strongside defensive end and No. 238 overall player nationally. PHOTO COURTESY RIVALS.COM "It was just really everything I'm looking for in a school with the 'Four For 40.' Notre Dame will benefit me for the rest of my life." CROSS

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