When Notre Dame takes the field Saturday for its season-opener against Rice, the program will already be off and running in the recruiting world.
The Irish have already landed 17 commitments in the class of 2015, with all pledging to Notre Dame by July 2. There’s still room to add more bodies, as Irish recruiting analyst Tom Loy said he expects the class to finish with 23 members.
As for the current 17-player contingent, Loy pointed to the offensive line and the receivers as the strengths of Notre Dame’s class of 2015.
“I love what they’ve done across the offensive line,” said Loy, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for Blue and Gold Illustrated, part of the 247Sports family.
Offensive lineman Jerry Tillery, who hails from Shreveport, La., became Notre Dame’s first member in the class of 2015 when he committed to the Irish on June 22, 2013. The 6-foot-5.5, 315-pounder is the No. 12 offensive tackle in the nation, according to 247Sports.
“Getting him out of LSU country … that’s big time,” Loy said. “He’s one of the best tackles in the country. He’s got to mold his body a little bit better. He’s got kind of a softness to his body right now. So when he gets in the weight room and starts working with [director of football strength and conditioning] Coach [Paul] Longo and then getting with [offensive line] Coach [Harry] Hiestand, the sky is the limit for that kid.”
Center Tristen Hoge joined Tillery by the end of the 2013 calendar year. The 6-foot-5, 292-pound Hoge, whom Loy referred to as a “brick,” ranks as the top center in the nation and the No. 92 player overall, per 247Sports.
“He’ll be a multi-year starter and a guy you look down the road as a captain, at least in the discussion,” Loy said.
Three-star guard Trevor Ruhland rounds out the current crop of offensive lineman commits. Loy described Ruhland as a “blue-collar, hard-nosed, old-school kind of throwback player that just wants to punch you in the mouth.”
“He’s the perfect complement to what they got in Hoge and Tillery,” Loy said.
The receivers sit three strong right now, as well, with Miles Boykin, C.J. Sanders and Jalen Guyton. The lengthy Boykin could profile as a tight end, Loy said, but the 6-foot-4, 220-pounder has underrated speed. Sanders, meanwhile, brings high-end athleticism, and Loy tabbed him as a polished receiver. Guyton, a three-star prospect from Allen, Texas, is becoming a more versatile receiver after a strong run in the state playoffs last season, according to Loy.
Notre Dame’s overall class may be large in numbers, but the Irish don’t have a 2015 quarterback pledge after former commitment Blake Barnett decommitted and later gave his verbal to Alabama. The seven quarterbacks among 247Sports’ top 100 prospects in the class of 2015 have all committed elsewhere. Loy said it’s looking as if Notre Dame will pass on a quarterback in the 2015 recruiting cycle.
“If there’s a guy that emerges they won’t shy away from it,” Loy said. “It does happen, those kids that come out of nowhere during their senior seasons and go on to have great college careers, pick up offers.”
In turn, the 2015 quarterback void can serve as a selling point for the Irish, Loy explained, as they target top 2016 signal-callers such as Malik Henry, Shea Patterson and Jawon Pass, all of whom rank among the top 58 players in the country, according to 247Sports.
“There’s not going to be a kid right in front of you,” Loy said of the possible recruiting pitch. “That’s a huge selling point.”
Loy said he really likes where Notre Dame stands with Patterson, the No. 25 player in the 2016 class, per 247Sports. As for Henry, currently slotted as the No. 3 overall prospect in the class, Loy said he has been told Notre Dame is running second behind Florida State. As it stands now, Henry is scheduled to visit when the Irish battle Michigan on Sept. 6, Loy said.
Michigan and Stanford are expected to be the two major home weekends for recruiting visits, Loy said. On Saturday, the Irish will host a small group of commitments, including Boykin and defensive tackle Brandon Tiassum, according to Loy.
“That’s just as important as recruiting the guys that are not committed,” Loy said. “You’ve got to keep those guys happy. Just because they’re committed, obviously you know they’re not signed. You can’t just stop recruiting these kids.”
For more on Notre Dame recruiting, check out BlueAndGold.com. Email Andrew Owens at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell him The Observer sent you.