Everett: Notre Dame recruits just the class it needs
Joe Everett | Thursday, February 7, 2019
Unlike in years past, Brian Kelly and his staff enjoyed a very peaceful National Signing Day.
With essentially the entirety of #FightClub19 already committed, the Irish were already enjoying the fruits of the labor. All Wednesday provided was the cherry on top.
At 3 p.m. on ESPNU, Notre Dame earned the commitment of four-star weak-side defensive end Isaiah Foskey, a product of De La Salle High School who ranks as the 13th best player in the country at his position. Foskey’s commitment finalized the Class of 2019 for head coach Brian Kelly and his staff: 22 commits for the Irish, all with a lot of promise and potential.
Notre Dame’s real work came in December, when 21 of those individuals committed to the program during the early signing period — 10 of them opting to leave high school a semester early and enroll at Notre Dame in January. Back in December, both Kelly and Notre Dame recruiting coordinator Brian Polian expressed excitement towards the group, and were enthusiastic about the newfound reality around the program: the Irish were beginning to stack quality draft class on top of quality draft class, and both coaches believed the fruits would soon show.
I believe this class fits all the needs the Irish needed to address within their incoming freshman class, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Let’s take a look.
On the offensive side of things, the biggest thing that stands out about this class is the haul of offensive lineman Coach Quinn and the Irish managed to recruit. After previous offensive line coach Harry Heistand left, many questioned Quinn’s ability to recruit and maintain the standard of offensive lineman that Notre Dame has enjoyed over the last decade or so.
Now, it’s safe to say that Quinn has exceeded the expectations of many, as his may very well be the best group of offensive line recruits in the entire country. Zeke Correll, Quinn Carroll, Andrew Kristofic and John Olmstead are all huge maulers that will fit right into Notre Dame’s tradition of molding excellent offensive lineman. As a bonus, all four are already on campus after enrolling early — each getting the opportunity for a full semester of getting stronger with strength and conditioning coach Matt Balis. We’ll see how long it takes them each of them to get onto the field, but reloading in the offensive trenches is huge for the program and will help Notre Dame down the road against elite defensive lines.
Although it wasn’t as big a priority in this class as it was in 2018, I still like the skill position players the Irish picked up along the recruiting process. Kyren Williams is an underrated back who I believe will have a very productive career at Notre Dame (and who has the benefit of being an early enrollee). Athlete Kendall-Abdur Rahman is electric in the open field, and wide receiver Cam Hart has the tools to develop into a nice weapon for the Irish as well.
However, as mentioned previously, the real meat and overall strength of this class is on defense.
Thirteen of the 22 commits will play defense for Notre Dame, adding much needed depth and talent to the program. The Irish defense was great in 2018, but lacked the necessary depth in key areas, as seen most glaringly against Clemson. This defensive class should start to contribute next season.
The work defensive line coach Mike Elston did on the recruiting trail has to be commended once again. Capped off by Foskey, the Irish are getting five outstanding guys to insert into the defensive trench rotation, and that’s important given the current structure of the position on the Irish roster. Next season, Khalid Kareem, Julian Okwara and Daelin Hayes will all be seniors. After they leave, these five will be ready to take over as sophomores.
The linebacker corps also earned much-needed depth after losing Drue Tranquill and Te’von Coney. Kiser, Bertrand, Ekwonu and Liufao each bring a unique skill set to the table and should complement each other well down the road.
The secondary also receives four new guys, highlighted by rising four-star safety Kyle Hamilton. Fellow four-star safety Litchfield Ajavon is tough as can be, and both KJ Wallace and Isaiah Rutherford are talented four-star cornerbacks. With Julian Love gone and much of the current secondary set to depart after next season, these guys will be crucial as sophomores.
Even in special teams, the Irish filled the gaps they needed to. Long-time punter Tyler Newsome is gone, so the Irish went and recruited Jay Bramblett — ranked the fifth-best punter in the nation.
Wherever there appeared to be potential chinks in the Irish armor, this recruiting class mitigates them. The Irish added a lot of talent to the program, particularly in the trenches and on defense, and continue to recruit individuals who are excited about both the challenges and opportunities of being a student-athlete at Notre Dame will present.
It appears the one rule of Fight Club is set to be broken: these guys will soon have everybody talking.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.