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Irish out to record pace for 2017 class

| Friday, April 15, 2016

This time last year, Notre Dame had five commitments in its 2016 recruiting class.

This year, the Irish have jumped out to a quick start, with nine commitments in the class of 2017, putting them at the No. 7-ranked class thus far, per Rivals.

“The class started off pretty well,” Irish recruiting expert for Blue & Gold Illustrated and Rivals Andrew Ivins said. “It was kind of a faster start — they had more commits than they had ever had as early as they did this cycle when they had four or five. They lost some momentum there a couple months ago when [defensive end] Robert Beal decommitted, [but] they’ve rebounded nicely.”

Apart from Beal’s decommitment — which Ivins said is largely due to his desire to go to school with his sister, who did not get in to Notre Dame — the Irish have been largely successful in their effort to lock players in early in the recruiting cycle. This push, however, is not unique to Notre Dame and has largely changed the way the Irish recruit athletes, he added.

“That’s kind of the new trend: to get these kids to commit earlier and earlier, and Notre Dame’s kind of stepped up what they’re doing with that,” Ivins said. “Notre Dame’s never going to push a kid to commit, but they’re doing a better job of finding the kids that they think are going to be fits, getting them on campus [and] getting them locked up early in the process.”

And at no position has this been more clear for Notre Dame than linebacker, Ivins said. The Irish made a significant push this recruiting cycle at the position after missing out on the likes of Caleb Kelly and Ben Davis last time around, and they have been able to land most of their top targets so far.

The three linebackers who have committed thus far to Notre Dame — David Adams, Pete Werner and Drew White — are expected to fill out the Mike, Will and Sam linebacker spots, respectively. Of the group, Ivins said Adams, who is ranked in the top 100 amongst all players per Rivals, is the one who can have the most immediate impact for the Irish.

“They think [Adams] is a Mike linebacker, very talented high school prospect — top 100-type kid,” Ivins said. “I expect him to be in the middle of the defense. He just kind of fits: blue collar, tough-mentality guy who can hit. He’s not the best in coverage, but he can stop you, and he’s going to be great in those games against the triple option.”

Werner, however, is the player Ivins thinks has the most potential at the position for Notre Dame, he added.

“He, out of those guys, probably has the best upside,” Ivins said.

Another important pickup for the Irish was dual-threat quarterback Avery Davis, who was ranked the No. 72-overall prospect in the ESPN 300 rankings. For the Irish, Davis offers another prospect who will come in and willingly compete for playing time rather than expect to inherit it, Ivins said.

“I think what really got Notre Dame excited about him was that he’s a competitor,” Ivins said. “What he does is he gives you a durable body — someone that’s okay with coming in and competing for playing time, and I think that’s really important for Mike Sanford, and that’s what he’s looking for in his quarterback room.”

Notre Dame also struck gold in the tight end department, signing two of the top five players at the position per Rivals. Despite their level of talent, signing the two athletes was relatively easy for Notre Dame, according to Ivins.

“Brock Wright and Cole Kmet are both Notre Dame-type kids, so I think once Notre Dame realized that, it was easy for them to get them,” Ivins said. “But this time last year, Notre Dame was always planning to take a tight end in the class of 2016, but then they got a commitment from Brock Wright really early, and they fell in love with Cole Kmet, so they said, ‘We’re going to take two in 2017 and just kind of pass on the position’ last year.”

After addressing their biggest priority in the linebacker slots and inking nine commitments thus far, Notre Dame will continue to hit the recruiting trail throughout the rest of this summer and upcoming season.

“Offensive line is the one position that’s really the big focus right now,” he said. “ … After offensive line, I think the next priority is wide receiver, and they’re going to probably take four, but right now they’ve got none committed, so it will be interesting to see how that shakes out.”

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About Benjamin Padanilam

Ben is a senior and The Observer’s former Editor-in-Chief, now serving as its interim Sports Editor. He is in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and also pursuing minors in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and Business Economics. He hails from Toledo, Ohio, and has enjoyed the few highs and many lows of being a Cleveland sports fan.

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