Irish 2017 recruiting class loses steam
Zach Klonsinski | Friday, November 18, 2016
To classify Notre Dame’s recruiting class of 2017 as a disappointment is only a relative way of looking at the future of the Irish program, according to Blue and Gold recruiting analyst Bryan Driskell.
“I think this recruiting class is going to ultimately be viewed like the season, which is a disappointment and a missed opportunity,” Driskell said. “ … This is still a good recruiting class even if they don’t add another guy, but I think the frustration is had Notre Dame had the kind of season they were capable of, and the kind of season they should have, this could have been an elite class. This could have been a class that could have competed for top 5. When you look at the fact that they were able to get so many kids on board early, they were in a perfect position to just go after some big-time players an d close this class off with some real impact talent.”
That’s not to say Notre Dame is done adding players, Driskell pointed out, looking to recruits like Rivals four-stars cornerback Thomas Graham out of Rancho Cucamonga, California, and defensive end Joshua Paschal out of Olney, Maryland.
“I think, at this point in time, they’re just looking to add impact players at every position except offensive line,” Driskell said. “And those two guys would be that type of player.”
The offensive line is one area of concern for Notre Dame, not because of a lack of talent but rather from “a numbers standpoint,” according to Driskell.
“Right now, they’ve landed three offensive lineman [Rivals four-stars Robert Hainsey and Joshua Lugg as well as three-star Dillan Gibbons], and I think all three are good players,” Driskell said. “ … Those are three talented kids, and they landed three talented kids last year and then the year before, they landed two talented kids. So all the kids they’re bringing in are good players who can start at Notre Dame — the problem is their numbers have always been short.”
Driskell expressed similar sentiments about the edge of the Irish defensive line, secondary and receiving corps, emphasizing the talent is all there; there just isn’t a lot of depth still.
However, the Irish are more than set at tight end, Driskell said. Between Brock Wright and Cole Kmet, both of whom have been committed to Notre Dame since 2015, the Irish have the top- and third-rated players at that position. Driskell called tight end a “huge strength” of this class, one that could make an immediate impact, especially Wright.
“[Wright is] more of an in-line blocker, more of an old-school tight end, and he would really fit well with a guy like Alize Jones and then Nic Weishar, guys who are more pass catchers first,” Driskell said. “He could be a really good complement to them.”
Darnell Ewell, a 6-foot-5, 315-pound defensive tackle could also make an immediate impact, according to Driskell.
“[Ewell is] just a huge kid,” Driskell said. “He’s very strong. He’s physically ready to play as a freshman which not many linemen are. He’s a guy I think could come in right away and provide some early playing time.”
Driskell said the other main strength of this class is the trio of linebackers — four-stars Pete Werner and David Adams along with three-star Drew White — that has committed to Notre Dame.
“I know the staff really loves the linebacking corps that they’re bringing in next year,” Driskell said. “I think those [tight end and linebacker] are probably the two top strengths in this class right now. There are some other areas that are good, but those are the two you can point to and say, ‘That’s darn impressive.’”
Driskell even said all the adversity the team has gone through on the field this season has motivated the class of 2017 even before any of them have officially enrolled.
“In a weird way, it’s solidified their resolve — it’s strengthened their resolve as a class to say, ‘Hey, we’re not going to jump ship,’” Driskell said. “‘We’re going to stick through it, we’re going to come in, and we’re going to get this thing turned around.’”