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Irish continue recruiting hot streak with commitments of Kollie, Spindler

| Wednesday, August 12, 2020

It was a big weekend on the recruiting trail for Notre Dame football. The Irish locked up back-to-back commitments from four-star Jonesborough, Tenn. outside linebacker Prince Kollie and four-star Clarkston, Mich. offensive guard Rocco Spindler, both commits in the 2021 class.

Kollie and Spindler are two high-level pickups in the 2021 cycle. 247Sports ranks Kollie a top-300 player and the No. 16 outside linebacker nationally, as well as the sixth-best recruit in the state of Tennessee.

“Although the process of deciding where to play college football has been at times exciting, it is stressful,” Kollie said in his commitment video released via Twitter Friday night. “Because I have God, family, friends, coaches and the entire community of Jonesborough, I know that I am making the right decision for me.”

Spindler is a consensus top-100 player nationally, the No. 5 offensive guard in the country, and the No. 4 recruit out of Michigan. His commitment to the Irish was particularly moving, as it represented the realization of a promise to a loved one.

“Grandpa, I know you’re watching over me every step of the way,” Spindler said. “I truly miss you so much. I made you a promise, and I’m gonna fulfill that promise.”

That promise was one Spindler made his grandfather, a Notre Dame fan, when he was only five years old that he would commit to play for the Irish. He chose them over Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and LSU.

“I’m blessed to go to the original O-line U,” he said. “… It was a bittersweet moment, but I’m really excited to get there.”

Allison Thornton | The Observer
Irish senior offensive lineman Josh Lugg and former offensive lineman Trevor Ruhland prepare to line up during Notre Dame’s 33-9 win over Iowa State in the Camping World Bowl on Dec. 28. The Irish recently picked up an offensive line commit from four-star guard and consensus top-100 recruit Rocco Spindler.

Aside from what they’ll do for the Irish in the recruiting rankings, Spindler and Kollie were much-needed wins for a Notre Dame program that had been floundering on the recruiting front for months, albeit one that was picking up momentum in recent weeks.

The Irish felt the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic particularly hard this recruiting cycle, as it prevented them from using arguably their greatest asset in bringing players to campus since in-person visits were prohibited. Additionally, the Irish had been missing out on their highest priority targets at the same positions.

Despite landing Blake Fisher — the No. 15 offensive tackle nationally per 247Sports out of Avon, Ind. –– offensive line recruiting was subpar by Notre Dame standards. They lost out on Landon Tengwall, 247’s No. 12 offensive tackle prospect, to Penn State; Warwick, PA product Nolan Rucci, the No. 5 offensive tackle and No. 16 player nationally per 247, is not likely to head to South Bend. Landing those four-stars would have put the Irish within reach of landing a top-five recruiting class.

Kollie’s commitment is important in terms of numbers. As an outside linebacker, he fits Notre Dame’s trademark rover position well, and would fill the shoes of current senior rover Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah should he leave after either the 2020-2021 or 2021-2022 academic years.

Additionally, the Irish currently boast 11 scholarship linebackers, but lose one to exhausted eligibility after this season, and could lose more if players like Owusu-Koramoah and senior linebacker Drew White elect to enter the NFL draft, or the younger athletes behind them decide to transfer out of the program. Kollie was a must-get as the Irish were severely lacking in the sheer number of linebackers to whom they had dealt scholarship offers.

247Sports currently ranks Notre Dame’s 2021 recruiting class 12th nationally with 17 total commitments, nine four-stars and eight three-stars. There are two more key players the Irish have their sights set on in this cycle: wide receiver Jayden Thomas of Pace Academy in Atlanta, and athlete Titus Mokiao-Atimalala of James Campbell High School in Ewa Beach, Hawaii.

The Irish are battling their rival to the north in Michigan for Thomas’ talents. He is a two-sport athlete who reportedly wants to play both football and baseball in college, which would allow him to follow in the footsteps of former Irish dual-sport athletes Golden Tate and Cole Kmet, who also played both football and baseball in South Bend.

Thomas is also seen as a must-get after the Irish suffered the decommitment of four-star Georgia receiver Deion Colzie back in March after the coronavirus pandemic worsened. The only receiver commit in Notre Dame’s current class is four-star Pickerington, Ohio prospect Lorenzo Styles Jr.

Mokiao-Atimalala could play either receiver or defensive back for the Irish. The four-star prospect is 247’s No. 20 athlete nationally and the No. 2 recruit from the state of Hawaii. He is being courted by Pac-12 schools such as Utah, UCLA, California and Arizona State, but Notre Dame has been seen as a favorite as their recruiting momentum has picked up the last few weeks.

Mokiao-Atimalala and Thomas have yet to announce commitment dates, but landing both would be the cherry on top of a recent hot streak that has relieved whatever ailed Notre Dame’s months-long recruiting woes.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

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