The 2018 recruiting cycle is officially in full throttle. The 2017 signing day was just over a week ago, and Notre Dame will hold “one of” their Junior Days this weekend for the 2018 class. As far as recruits go, Notre Dame is expecting a smaller group on campus. From all reports, this was by design from the staff in order to have more one-on-one time with their commits and multiple top targets.
Notre Dame is expecting all six of their current 2018 commits to be on campus this weekend along with five uncommitted targets. It is possible this list expands by a few, but at the moment I do not see any other recruits making their way to South Bend. Let’s run through the list starting with the commits:
QB Phil Jurkovec, Pennsylvania
Depending on the site, Jurkovec is either a five-star or high four-star prospect, but no matter how it shows he is one of the best 2018 QBs in the country. Jurkovec committed to Notre Dame on May 16th over offers from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State and many others. This should be a great opportunity for OC Chip Long and QB Coach Tommy Rees to build a relationship with Jurkovec, as he originally committed to former OC/QB Coach Mike Sanford.
ILB Matthew Bauer, Pennsylvania
Bauer is one of the top inside linebacker recruits in the the 2018 class and a consensus four-star. Bauer committed to the Irish on August 3rd over offers from Penn State, Michigan State and Pittsburgh. Like all of the current 2018 commits, Bauer committed to Notre Dame before the staff changes. He speaks highly of new DC Mike Elko and Linebackers Coach Clark Lea, but getting him on campus this weekend will only help strengthen the relationship he has developed in a short period of time.
RB Markese Stepp, Indiana
Notre Dame might be seeing a trend with their running back commits as Stepp has been relentless on social media and to other recruits promoting the Irish. He committed on June 19th and holds offers from Georgia, Michigan and LSU just to name a few. His position coach, Autry Denson, remained intact during the staff turnover, and Stepp is as solid as it gets to Notre Dame. Look for Stepp to build stronger relationships with many of the targets on campus this weekend.
DT Jayson Ademilola and DE Justin Ademilola, New Jersey
Twin brothers Jayson and Justin committed to Notre Dame on June 26th. Jayson is a four-star recruit on most sites while Justin has some varying opinions floating around. I’ve seen him as high as a four-star and as low as an unranked prospect. Reigning from the same high school that produced Irish QB Brandon Wimbush, Jayson and Justin look to continue the pipeline of St. Peter’s Prep to Notre Dame. Both brothers had a great relationship with previous defensive line coach Keith Gilmore. Therefore, meeting the new defensive staff and furthering their relationship with Mike Elston will be key this weekend.
OLB Ovie Oghoufo, Michigan
Oghoufo committed to Notre Dame on July 22 despite offers from in-state powerhouses Michigan and Michigan State. Like many of the other commits, Oghoufo will have a chance to connect with the new staff while on campus. He is very active on twitter in support of Notre Dame, but it is always important to feel wanted and appreciated when a new staff is in place. I expect Oghoufo will spend plenty of time with DC Mike Elko and LB Coach Clark Lea while on campus.
OLB Dallas Gant, Ohio
Headlining the list of uncommitted targets is four-star linebacker Dallas Gant. Gant holds offers from many top programs including Ohio State, Michigan and UCLA. Notre Dame is certainly a serious threat here, and it is always telling when a kid pays their own way to come on campus. With that said, Ohio State is definitely the team to beat. Meeting the new defensive staff is critical, and Notre Dame hopes to give Gant a lot to think about.
CB Kalon Gervin, Michigan
Gervin holds offers from schools is every power 5 conference including Michigan, Oklahoma, Florida, LSU and Oregon. He was offered by Notre Dame earlier this week and quickly set up a visit for Junior Day confirming his high interest in the program. Gervin’s high school, Cass Technical in Detroit sends many of their athletes to Ann Arbor, therefore, Michigan is a strong player here. However, Notre Dame is making him a major priority and they feels good where they stand.
ATH Braden Lenzy, Oregon
Lenzy is a versatile recruit that can end up on either side of the ball in college. At the moment, Oregon and Stanford are the biggest threats to Notre Dame, but his interest seems genuine. As I mentioned above, the staff is keeping this weekend small on purpose and the fact that Lenzy is apart of this group is telling. Distance is always a factor with West Coast athletes, therefore, Lenzy will have to approve of the midwest weather and atmosphere to end up Irish.
WR Micah Jones, Illinois
Jones once seemed like a top target of the staff and a lock to be Irish, but questions about his athleticism have given the new staff pause. This weekend will be huge for Jones. He is eager to form a relationship with new wide receivers coach DelVaughn Alexander. I’ve heard the Miles Boykin comparison thrown around to describe Jones, but he definitely needs to show it on the field and in workouts. Jones could be a Notre Dame commit soon if the staff likes what they see.
DT Aeneas Hawkins, Ohio
Much like Gant, Hawkins will be a tough pull from Ohio State if they pursue him heavily, but Notre Dame is strongly in the mix. He goes to the same high school as current Notre Dame defensive tackle Elijah Taylor and the two have a good relationship. Hawkins also speaks highly of Irish commit Markese Stepp. He raves about Stepp’s passion and love for the university and how he is constantly recruiting him. These factors will certainly help when Hawkins makes his final decision.
Notre Dame has started the 2018 cycle strong, and this weekend should only help improve the class. I don’t expect any recruit to pull the trigger and commit, but the new staff will have a perfect opportunity to connect and preach their message to the commits and targets. When February 2018 rolls around, don’t be surprised if many of these players are inking with the Irish.