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Following commitment of J.D. Bertrand, rivalry week provides opportunity to seal deal of class of 2019

| Friday, November 23, 2018

With both programs sharing an illustrious history and national reputation within, the Notre Dame–USC rivalry has always attracted top-tier high school talent. As both teams look to make their final recruiting push before the early-signing period in mid-December, not even the lopsided success of the two teams this season can stop that competition from building.

The Irish (11-0) enter the Coliseum on Saturday with momentum on the recruiting trail, following the recent commitment of four-star offensive lineman J.D. Bertrand. Bertrand, a native of Roswell, Georgia who de-committed from Georgia in early October, and announced Monday that he would join Notre Dame’s No. 10 ranked recruiting class for 2019. David McKinney, recruiting analyst for Blue and Gold Illustrated, said the addition of Bertrand is indicative of the continued presence the Irish have established in the Peach State, citing freshmen defensive back Derrik Allen, tight end Tommy Tremble and running back C’Bo Flemister on the current roster as well fellow members of the class of 2019, safety Kyle Hamilton and cornerback K.J. Wallace, all hailing from Georgia.

“Notre Dame really doing well at the linebacker position,” McKinney said. “I think Clark Lea, obviously being the defensive coordinator and the linebackers coach has a lot to do with it.”

Bertrand’s commitment could not have come at a better time, as rumblings among the Notre Dame fanbase were starting to emerge surrounding the necessity and advantage of giving up a home game in favor of a high-profile Shamrock Series game in Yankee Stadium. However, the location certainly exposed more potential recruits to the Irish.

Ann Curtis | The Observer
Irish senior wide receiver Chris Finke takes the handoff from junior quarterback Ian Book during Notre Dame’s 36-3 win over Syracuse on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.

“It’s not a typically highly recruited area, compared to states like Georgia, Texas, California and Florida but there are guys in that area that Notre Dame likes,” McKinney said. “They pulled in three guys from New Jersey in last year’s class alone.”

As the Irish look to put the finishing touches on the class of 2019 and shift their focus to the class of 2020, several players have moved to the forefront of Notre Dame’s search. One of these players is four-star outside linebacker Kalel Mullings from Milton, Massachusetts, who was in attendance during Notre Dame’s season-opening win over Michigan and returned on Saturday for the Syracause game.

McKinney said although there are some mixed feelings about the Shamrock Series among the fanbase, for recruits in that area it’s an opportunity for them to see Notre Dame.

Meanwhile, the Trojans (4-5, 5-6 Pac-12) have struggled to mount a successful playoff campaign this season, losing four of their last five matchups, and the effects are starting to show on the recruiting trail. Despite boasting the fourth-best recruiting class for this upcoming year, the class of 2019 and 2020 seem to be lagging behind, ranked No. 29 and No. 18, respectively.

McKinney said although the Irish have wrapped up their home season, this perennial matchup can always provide key exposure to potential recruits. In fact, the last time Brian Kelly and co. travelled to southern California, the Irish were spiraling in the midst of a 4-8 record in 2016. Although this trip delivered the Irish that eighth and final defeat, it also marked the first time they saw sophomore defensive lineman Myron Tagovailoa-Amosa, at the time in the tunnel of the Coliseum. Tagovailoa-Amosa would go on to join the Irish in the No. 10 ranked class of 2017. Now, in the midst of an undefeated season, the Irish could potentially sway more individuals this weekend in Los Angeles.

“I don’t necessarily think there’s anyone specifically right now,” McKinney said. “But I mean, their last two targets in the class of 2019 are from California with Asa Turner and Isaiah Foskey. Always good for them to go on the road and get a big win on the road in a big state like California.”

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