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Projected defensive end joins class of 2017 for Irish

| Friday, November 6, 2015

One wouldn’t ordinarily think of the week between road games against Temple and Pittsburgh as a particularly noteworthy one on the recruiting front, but Notre Dame did learn more good news about the class of 2017 this week.

Robert Beal, a four-star outside linebacker from Norcross, Georgia, announced his commitment to the Irish on Sunday. Listed at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds, Beal is the No. 6 outside linebacker in the class of 2017 and 129th-rated player nationally, according to Rivals.com.

“I just committed to Notre Dame,” Beal told Rivals’ Woody Wommack on Sunday. “I felt like it was the best school that fit everything me and my parents were looking for.”

Although listed as a linebacker, Beal will develop into more of a pass-rush defensive end, according to Andrew Ivins, Rivals.com and BlueandGold.com recruiting analyst. Ivins also said getting the verbal commitment from Beal was really important for Notre Dame, which traditionally struggles to attract top defensive ends.

“If you look at Notre Dame, its recruiting efforts the last few cycles, you listen to Notre Dame fans, they’ll tell you that pass-rushing defensive ends have kind of been the Achilles heel for Notre Dame when it comes to recruiting,” Ivins said. “For [the Irish] to be able to lock up, in my opinion, a top-100 talent at defensive end in Robert Beal is exactly what they needed to do.

“ … There were three recruits at defensive end Notre Dame really couldn’t afford to miss at in the class of 2017, and Beal was one of those guys.”

Beal has family ties to the University — his grandmother worked at Notre Dame for 30 years — but Ivins said the family connection only opened the door for the Irish.

“Schools from around the country came calling, so this wasn’t a prospect that fell in Notre Dame’s lap,” Ivins said. “They went and saw him during the bye week.”

Ivins also mentioned Notre Dame’s efforts to get Beal on campus over the summer for Irish Invasion were a large factor in securing Beal’s commitment Sunday. Nonetheless, Ivins said a commitment from Beal so early surprised many.

“[The Notre Dame coaching staff were] a little surprised themselves when he did commit, but they’re very excited about him,” Ivins said. “ … Notre Dame didn’t press him for a commitment. He called them and said, ‘Hey, I’m committing.’ Obviously they accepted that bid with open arms.”

Beal becomes the fifth verbal commitment in Notre Dame’s recruiting class of 2017. He joins four-star Brock Wright — the nation’s top tight end recruit — three-star tight end Cole Kmet, four-star offensive lineman Joshua Lugg and three-star offensive lineman Dillan Gibbons.

Ivins said the early commitments can be in part attributed to the Irish Invasion event that took place on campus over the summer.

“All five [commits] are out-of-state, and all five of them were at Irish Invasion [over the summer],” Ivins said. “That says a lot about the success of that event. Fans always look at these big recruiting weekends, and they say, ‘Well if we don’t get commits right away, it’s a failure.’ But in hindsight, if you take a step back a couple months, it looks like the Irish Invasion has been very fruitful.”

Ivins also said this is the most commitments the Irish have had a cycle ahead under head coach Brian Kelly.

“It’s shaping up to be an excellent class just based off what they have right now,” Ivins said of the potential haul of 2017 recruits for the Irish. “The recruiting process is becoming more and more accelerated. I don’t think Notre Dame is pressing to get these commitments; it’s just more of these kids like what they see in Notre Dame, and they want to secure their spot. That’s kind of the impression I’ve gotten, and it’s really setting the foundation for Notre Dame to have somewhat of a banner year if the staff stays in shape and [it continues] to win games.

“I think 2017, they could have a very, very good class.”

Ivins’ contingency about the Irish coaching staff staying in shape is noteworthy because of how the next coaching carousel is shaping up, with 10 FBS head coach openings already open.

“We see this every year: the coaching carousel and recruits shifting around,” Ivins said. “So right now you’re just kind of seeing it more and more.”

Although Notre Dame may eventually be more directly affected by the shifts in college football — offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford is one name that has been linked to a number of these openings — Ivins said the Irish may be able to benefit in the short run by flipping recruits from schools where there will be a new head coach next season.

Ivins in particular noted the potential to flip three-star cornerback Troy Pride away from Virginia Tech after head coach Frank Beamer announced his retirement Sunday, as well as a possibility of the Irish stealing a USC commit, three-star receiver Velus Jones.

“I think Notre Dame has a very good chance with Troy Pride,” Ivins said. “He took an official visit here [for USC]. That’s the only official visit he’s taken. And based on everything I’m hearing, [Jones is] wide open, so if Notre Dame wants to make a move on him, he certainly could be a guy he could flip.”

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About Zach Klonsinski

A History graduate, Zach spent all four of his years on campus as a resident of Knott Hall. Hailing from Belgrade, Montana, he covered a wide variety of sports in his time at Notre Dame, including Football, Hockey, Men's Basketball, Men's Soccer, Women's Tennis, Fencing, Rowing, Women's Lacrosse and other events around campus. You can contact him in his post-graduation travels and job search at [email protected]

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