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Irish remain hot on recruiting trail despite biggest games behind them

| Friday, November 8, 2019

Although their two biggest matchups of the season — Georgia and Michigan — are behind them, the Irish remain hot on the recruiting trail, making moves at several different positions and grade levels.

While last week’s win was certainly more of a nail biter than many had anticipated, Bryan Driskell — publisher and recruiting specialist for Irish Maven, the Notre Dame channel for Sports Illustrated — was confident that Notre Dame has made strides improving their presence in the area.

“Virginia’s a state where Notre Dame is trying to get a stronger foothold. We see that with Chris Tyree, who is arguably the top signing in this 2020 class for Notre Dame, top-50 player and all that,” Driskell said. “When you can play both … of the major teams from Virginia and beat them both, even if it’s an ugly fashion, that’s pretty good for recruiting that area.”

Driskell continued to explain that the ability to recruit in this part of the country was a big reason the Irish joined the ACC.

“That’s part of the reason Notre Dame joined the ACC was to get a stronger foothold in that Mid-Atlantic region. I think being able to beat Virginia Tech — who came in hot — being able to beat Virginia earlier in the season is certainly something that’s going to catch the attention of players from that state for sure.”

As previously mentioned with the Georgia and Michigan games, away games can also provide a different opportunity for Notre Dame to make its mark on potential recruits. However, Driskell said this will not likely be the case come Saturday.

“Very rarely do they kind of go after the same guy, and usually guys that will visit Duke this early or at this point in time are underclassmen who are not on Notre Dame’s radar,” he said.

Although their recruiting efforts are primarily focused on the incoming classes of 2020 and 2021, they’ve continued to make strides among potential transfers, recently earning the commitment of current Ohio State safety Isaiah Pryor. Currently a junior with the Buckeyes, Pryor attended high school with current Notre Dame players junior offensive lineman and captain Robert Hainsey and freshman defensive back Houston Griffith.

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish senior offensive lineman Liam Eichenberg blocks a pass rusher during Notre Dame’s 21-20 win over Virginia Tech on Nov. 2 at Notre Dame Stadium.

“He decided to go to Ohio State, played for coach Meyer, started eight games in 2018. … I think he wanted a different challenge academically,” Driskell said. “He’s going to graduate from Ohio State here in May. One of the places that I think will better fit what he does as a football player is Notre Dame and that system.”

According to Driskell, when Pryor hit the transfer market, Notre Dame immediately re-established a connection. After visiting for the USC game with his dad, Pryor essentially guaranteed his commitment after he had the opportunity to revisit with his mom two weeks later for Virginia Tech.

“Isaiah sort of zeroed in on Notre Dame right away when he visited back for the USC game,” Driskell said. “He essentially told Notre Dame then that this is where he wanted to be, but he needed to get mom to sign off.”

This commitment comes at an especially important time as many question marks remain about the future of the Notre Dame secondary. Current safeties and captains Jalen Elliott and Alohi Gilman are likely to not return come next year. Elliott will have used all his eligibility as he plays in his final season with the Irish. Meanwhile, Gilman technically still has another year of eligibility, but the Navy transfer will be starting his sixth year out of high school, having spent a year at the Naval Academy Prep School before one season with the Midshipmen.

“To get a player who was a three-year player at Ohio State and has two years of eligibility left is certainly a big pickup for Notre Dame in regards to solidifying that depth chart next year, and it’s certainly better than bringing in another true freshman,” Driskell said. “You’re bringing in a more veteran, experienced player, which helps make for an easier transition than you might get from just a typical freshman.”

With the majority of their heavy recruiting in the past, Driskell said it’s important Notre Dame remains focused on the task at hand with recruiting still very much at play the remainder of this season.

“I certainly think that there’s still a lot to play from a recruiting standpoint,” he said. “Notre Dame is well advanced that they’re pretty much done in 2020. They’ve already got, I think seven guys committed in the 2021 class. So their role now is about closing and how you finish in the momentum because look, a big part of this is protection. You know, when Notre Dame beat LSU at the end of the 2014 season, a lot of people went into that offseason feeling really good about the football team, even though they lost their last four regular-season games because how you finish is usually how people remember you. … They remember how you finished at the end of the year and the reverse is true.”

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