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irish insider

Perception overshadows deep class for Notre Dame

| Thursday, February 2, 2017

One year ago, Notre Dame finished National Signing Day with the 13th-ranked class in the nation, per Rivals.

One season later, that number did not change. But the perception and makeup of the class did, with a 4-8 season souring the promise of a top-10 class, according to Blue and Gold Illustrated recruiting analyst Bryan Driskell.

“When you get excited for what a class should be — and they spent the whole year in the top 10, all year they’re in the top 10 — and you’re thinking, ‘This is going to be a really good class, and if we can just win some games, we can add this guy and that guy and the other guy,” Driskell said. “ … Obviously this class is not going to meet the goals and objectives as far as adding impact players that it could have and should have had they had a better season. Simple as that.”

However, that disappointment has also led to the perception of this year’s class being blown far out of proportion by many Notre Dame fans.

“[This class is] not as good as it should have been, but it’s also not this disaster, ‘Oh my god, this sets Notre Dame back’ class that people are making it out to be,” Driskell said. “It’s right in between those two.

“ … It’s not going to be that high impact class, but what it does is it infuses the roster with good depth and some really quality football players.”

Amongst those quality players are the likes of Brock Wright — the No. 44-ranked overall prospect and top-ranked tight end according to Rivals — and offensive lineman Joshua Lugg, who, like Wright, is among the total of eight Rivals’ four-star recruits Notre Dame landed in the 2017 class. Driskell believes several of those players could see the field and make an impact as soon as next season.

“You’re still adding good football players. You’re adding guys that have a chance to come in and be impactful,” he said. “You look at a Brock Wright; he could play next season. Darnell Ewell, he could play next season. I have Josh Lugg as the second- or third-best offensive tackle in the country on my grading scale.

“So you’re adding guys who can flat-out come in and play. C.J. Holmes is a highly-ranked running back. Isaiah Robertson’s a highly ranked safety. They’ve added two linebackers who I think can play for them.

“There’s some guys coming in — the offensive line class is one of the five, six best in the country. So they’re adding good football players.”

The one thing that the class is lacking, however, is a clear star recruit at a skill position, which has been an area the Irish have had a lot of success in the recent past, according to Driskell.

“What they’re not adding are some of the elite, top-end skill players like they have in previous seasons like an Equanimeous St. Brown, a Javon McKinley, a Chase Claypool, a Donte Vaughn, a Troy Pride [or] a Jalen Elliott; guys along those lines,” he said.

But even without that elite talent, the Irish were able to build the depth of their class late. After looking as though it would settle for as few as 15 recruits, Notre Dame added six more recruits over the final week to bring its final total to 21.

So for now, Driskell said the 2017 recruiting class will be remembered much like the 2016 Irish season: a disappointment with the late infusion of youth to serve as a silver lining.

“It’s disappointing that the class is not what it should have been, but at the end of the day, this is still a good recruiting class filled with very good depth and some very good football players,” he said.

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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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