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Michigan State offers Notre Dame chance to sure up cornerback position

| Friday, September 22, 2017

Three games into the 2017 season and Notre Dame’s defense is giving up 18.7 points and 352 yards per game.

Those stats are solid, but not outstanding.

But combined with Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s presence on the recruiting trail, they may be enough to bring high-caliber defensive recruits to South Bend, according to Blue and Gold recruiting analyst David McKinney.

Irish sophomore defensive lineman Daelin Hayes reacts to a play during Notre Dame's 49-20 win over Boston College on Sept. 16 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.Eddie Griesedieck | The Observer
Irish sophomore defensive lineman Daelin Hayes reacts to a play during Notre Dame’s 49-20 win over Boston College on Sept. 16 in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts.

“Mike Elko’s made a huge difference in recruiting already, but in just three games, he’s made such a difference on the field,” McKinney said. “You look at these guys who came to the Georgia game, Kalon Gervin and Houston Griffith, these are guys that totally cast Notre Dame aside. And then Notre Dame goes out against Temple and plays the defense that they do and then goes and plays Georgia and stops Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, two of the best running backs in the country. I definitely think the defensive guys have bought into what Mike Elko’s said he’s going to do.”

The next step for the Irish is for Elko’s defensive turnaround to make a mark on Notre Dame’s recruiting board.

Notre Dame’s biggest need continues to be cornerback, as the Irish currently have no commits at the position in the class of 2018. However, this week’s game at Michigan State offers a great chance to change that.

Kalon Gervin, a four-star cornerback prospect according to Rivals.com, will be making an official visit to Michigan State on Saturday. Gervin, a Detroit native, originally committed to Notre Dame, but has since reopened his recruitment. Gervin was on campus for the Georgia game, and McKinney said Gervin getting another chance to see Notre Dame’s defense is a good thing for the Irish.

“The selling point for him has been the turnaround Mike Elko has been able to manufacture so far,” McKinney said. “That was something that really stuck out to him when he was here for the Georgia game. He’ll be visiting Michigan State so he’ll get all the things that come with a visit to that school, but it’s another chance for him to see Notre Dame’s defense up close. You can’t look at that as a negative.”

While Gervin is one of Elko’s top recruiting targets, Notre Dame also made scholarship offers to a slew of recruits in the past week. One recruit — Noah Boykin — is a cornerback prospect committed to Maryland. McKinney said it’s uncertain how an offer to Boykin will affect his decision to stay with Maryland.

“[Bokyin] told [Blue and Gold Illustrated] that he’s planning on visiting at least,” McKinney said. “A lot of times Notre Dame offers a kid and no matter what Notre Dame’s doing on the field at the time, that’s something you take into account.”

While a lack of cornerbacks is a big concern for the Irish currently, there are other positions which Notre Dame would love to add to. McKinney said he feels that another threat at the wide receiver slot would be Notre Dame’s biggest area of need behind cornerback.

“A lot of people would tend to say you can never have enough defensive linemen,” McKinney said. “I think that’s a good point, but you can make an argument that Notre Dame got their top two guys at the defensive tackle position in Jayson and Justin Ademilola.

“I would say possibly one more impact wide receiver, that’s where I would lean. A guy like Chase Cota or Geordon Porter who can really stretch the field with his speed. Now they have a really good wide receiver class with Micah Jones … and Kevin Austin.”

Something Notre Dame can offer recruits that few other schools can is a slew of big rivalry games each and every year, McKinney said. Saturday’s contest with Michigan State marks the second of a home-and-home series with the Spartans and next year, the Irish open the season at home versus Michigan. Notre Dame currently has five players on its roster from the state of Michigan, including defensive lineman Daelin Hayes — a former five-star prospect.

“Playing these games against Michigan and Michigan State and going on road games to play these teams is a huge boost in recruitment,” McKinney said. “I’ve talked to a lot of the current commits who have said, ‘Yeah, that was one of the many reason I picked Notre Dame, I’ll play Michigan to start the season in 2018 with these guys coming in this year.’ That’s something that appeals to these guys, and I’m sure the state of Michigan kids take a look at that.”

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About Marek Mazurek

Marek is a senior history major and is a former resident of Carroll Hall. He has lived in Mishawaka or South Bend for all 21 years of his life and covers Notre Dame football and men's basketball. He has loads of hand-eye coordination but lacks the height to be any good. Marek is also a proud esports supporter.

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