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Thursday, Feb. 29, 2024
The Observer

Wimbush, Jones highlight Notre Dame flips

Notre Dame signed several players formerly committed to other schools, including top quarterback prospect Brandon Wimbush on Wednesday.

Wimbush committed to the Irish on Oct. 7, 2014 after previously committing to Penn State. It was part of an overall successful recruiting process for Notre Dame, said Andrew Ivins, a recruiting analyst for Blue & Gold Illustrated and The Irish signed 24 players overall.

“Notre Dame’s done a strong job addressing some needs and concerns in certain areas,” Ivins said. “They’ve made some pushes. They’ve got a lot of guys from solid high school programs who can win games and played for some championship programs, so they’ve gone out, and I think they’ve done a great job of getting high-caliber kids.”

Like Wimbush, tight end Alizé Jones of Las Vegas had committed earlier to a different school. Jones had committed to UCLA but flipped to Notre Dame on Dec. 12, 2014.

“Notre Dame’s just done a good job of sticking with these kids," Ivins said. "They made Alizé feel like a priority despite his commitment."

Flipping commitments has become somewhat of a "trend in the industry," Ivins said, as recruits make earlier commitments, but securing a player like Wimbush was a bit different.

"It’s really impressive when you can do it with a guy like Brandon Wimbush because once the quarterback dominoes fall in the summer, no one really shuffles around, but Notre Dame stuck with him, they got him on campus, and they flipped him," Ivins said. "They’re selling a product that these kids are buying into."

Wimbush played for St. Peter's Prep, a state champion in New Jersey last season. Jones and defensive back Nicco Fertitta, played for Bishop Gorman, a state champion from Las Vegas, Nevada.

“I’m a firm believer in that," Ivins said of recruiting players from winning programs. "I believe that you want to get guys from strong programs who are ... 'winners' and know what it takes because those are the guys that are getting good coaching."

Recruiting from a big-name high school can also create important relationships.

“I’ve had multiple coaches tell me that from [Bishop Gorman], that Notre Dame’s done a great job recruiting Bishop Gorman and that bodes well down the line because they have a lot of good players that are coming out of there," Ivins said.

In terms of the best signings in the class, Ivins named defensive back Mykelti Williams from Warren Central in Indianapolis and linebacker Te'von Coney from Palm Beach Gardens High School in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

"What you like about Mykelti is he's an explosive player with a really good frame," Ivins said. "He's a guy who could probably step on the field and play right now but has just loads of potential. He could play strong safety, free safety, cornerback, nickel, so he can be really versatile in the secondary, and obviously, as most Notre Dame fans know, depth is an issue there right now.”

Ivins said Coney, who is already enrolled, stood out at the high school All-American game.

"He was a late addition to the Under Armour All-American Game [but] looked like in my opinion the best linebacker out there, and I stood out there and watched practices for five days," Ivins said.

Ivins said Jones, outside linebacker Tristen Hoge from Highland High School in Pocatello, Idaho, and defensive lineman Bo Wallace from John Curtis Christian High School in New Orleans all have the potential to be impact players in a couple years.

Much of Notre Dame's recruiting success has come from the type of players and students the Irish target, Ivins said.

"They seem to find this mold of kid who’s, whether it’s faith-based, whether it’s a champion, whether it’s someone who’s just drawn to the lure of Notre Dame and the tradition, they do a good job of locking them up early in the process."

Although Notre Dame has done a good job selling "the academic side of things," Ivins said, that same strength can also present a recruiting challenge.

“Notre Dame shops in a different aisle," Ivins said. "It’s clear that they have to find a different breed of kid. Test scores are obviously a big [challenge]. … You have to identify kids early in the process that, ‘Hey, this kid’s going to make the grades,' and you have to identify kids, ‘Hey, this kid’s going to want to be able to move to Indiana.’ In some of those recruiting hot beds, that’s a hard sell to go after kids in Atlanta, Florida and Arizona.”

In addition, the Midwest recruiting scene will only become harder as Jim Harbaugh settles in at Michigan and as Urban Meyer continues to work at Ohio State, Ivins said.

Despite these challenges, Notre Dame succeeded in securing top-priority signees.

“I think this class clearly is a step in the right direction," Ivins said. "Like I said, they locked a lot of these kids up early, got them to Notre Dame, which was really good, and they’ve been able to manage to hold on to a lot of kids. If you look around the country, that’s not the case. … They did an extremely good job getting their guys and holding on to them.”