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Notre Dame set to shift focus to secondary

| Friday, October 27, 2017

No. 9 Notre Dame’s 49-14 blowout win over No. 21 USC was a big one for the program in more ways than one.

The victory vaulted the Irish to a top-10 spot in the AP poll and returned the Jeweled Shillelagh to the Notre Dame trophy room.

Irish junior running back Josh Adams sprints down the field during Notre Dame's 49-14 victory over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.Anna Mason | The Observer
Irish junior running back Josh Adams sprints down the field during Notre Dame’s 49-14 victory over USC on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.

But the win over the Trojans also came during the biggest recruiting weekend of the year for Notre Dame, and the big win had a big impact on a few key recruits, Blue and Gold Illustrated recruiting analyst David McKinney said.

“Something I mentioned last week, three big kids from California were coming in, and two of whom were considering USC as their favorite in Amon-Ra St. Brown and Solomon Tuliaupupu,” McKinney said. “I think it made a big impression on those guys, Amon-Ra for sure being one. It definitely helps.

“Having that many big name guys in town and winning in such a convincing fashion like that is always a good thing.”

Some concrete proof of last Saturday’s success was the commitment of Rivals.com two-star safety Paul Moala. Moala, who attends Penn High School in Mishawaka, announced his commitment via Twitter on Sunday. McKinney said Moala’s biggest asset is speed.

“I think he’s going to be a safety,” McKinney said. “He’s got really good size and speed. He really stuck out at Irish Invasion. I know he ran a real fast 40 [yard dash]. He stuck out and got the coaching staff’s attention. I think he has the chance to be a really good player. Obviously Mishawaka, Indiana isn’t a national hotbed for recruiting so maybe he’s a little under the radar. But Notre Dame caught on to him, really liked him and made a push for him.”

Moala is the first member of the 2018 class to hail from Indiana and will be the first Penn High School graduate to play football for the Irish since offensive lineman Braxston Cave, who started at Notre Dame during the 2012 championship season.

Though Moala will strengthen Notre Dame’s class at safety, neither he nor Florida safety target Avonta Crim — who received an offer from Notre Dame over the weekend — is likely to switch over to cornerback at Notre Dame, according to McKinney. To fill their need at the position, McKinney said the Irish will look to a pair of cornerbacks coming in for official visits this weekend.

Rivals.com four-star prospects Alontae Taylor and Noah Boykin are intriguing as they have already committed to Tennessee and Maryland respectively, but both have recently received offers from Notre Dame.

“Alontae Taylor is a cornerback, he committed to Tennessee,” McKinney said. “Obviously a position of need, that’s something to keep an eye on. He’s still committed, he’s just taking a visit so we’ll see what happens.

“And then Noah Boykin is a four-star cornerback. He’s committed to Maryland, from Washington D.C., Woodson High School. He’ll be in town, so two big four-star cornerbacks who are committed elsewhere coming to check out Notre Dame. I think that’s certainly noteworthy.”

Taylor especially has received interest from top programs as of late, as Tennessee’s season has gone downhill and head coach Butch Jones remains on the hot seat. McKinney, however, said that while many Tennessee commits may explore their options, it’s unlikely that a sizable contingent of Tennessee commits change their minds and go elsewhere.

“I wouldn’t say it’s likely,” McKinney said. “Alontae Taylor at least making a visit, at least he’s looking around. And then there’s Cade Mays, who’s a five-star offensive lineman, the No. 14 player in the country. He’s working on a visit to Notre Dame, they’re making a run at him. I think a lot of these Tennessee guys could start looking around.”

If Taylor remains committed to Tennessee, Notre Dame’s search for its first cornerback in the class of 2018 will continue. And though fans may be getting anxious over the lack of bodies at the position, McKinney said current prospects shouldn’t be perturbed by the lack of current commits.

“I wouldn’t see [the lack of cornerback commits] really mattering to a prospect if they want to come to Notre Dame,” McKinney said. “I think it’s more about if the school is the right fit for you. I don’t think kids look at depth charts a lot. They obviously want to play early, but if they want to play early, they need to understand you come in with time. I don’t think it has a big factor for kids looking at Notre Dame.”

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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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