With no immediate matchup looming during the bye week, Notre Dame coaches fanned out across the country on recruiting trips, garnering the class of 2016’s 17th commitment and making progress on several other key targets.
Defensive lineman Khalid Kareem, a four-star prospect per Rivals.com, pledged to the Irish last Friday after a visit from head coach Brian Kelly to his hometown of Farmington Hills, Michigan, according to Irish recruiting analyst Andrew Ivins.
“Defensive end is a position of great need, and when he committed to Alabama, a lot of Notre Dame fans thought they had no chance,” Ivins, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for Rivals.com’s Blue and Gold Illustrated, said. “ … This is a huge commitment because Notre Dame needs defensive ends, and this is a guy who, out of all their defensive end commits, he’s the closest to being able to play right away.”
Four-star defensive lineman Khalid Kareem committed to Notre Dame over the bye week after a visit from head coach Brian Kelly.
Kareem had previously been committed to Alabama since June and Michigan State before that, but he backed away from the Crimson Tide on Oct. 14. He is slated to enroll in Notre Dame this January, which will help him gain playing time, Ivins said.
“He seems to be a quick learner and a high academic kid,” Ivins said. “He had offers from Yale and some other Ivy League schools. … Getting him on campus early, getting him around Keith Gilmore, the defensive line coach, will definitely help.”
Kareem is the fifth Irish commit in the class of 2016 to back away from a previous pledge. In the class of 2015, that number was eight, and Ivins said it is likely this year’s class will end up with a similar total.
That ability to pull players in even after they have verbally committed elsewhere seems to be a growing talent of Brian Kelly and his staff, according to Ivins.
“What Notre Dame does a really good job of is pursuing guys who have committed to other schools without putting pressure on them,” Ivins said. “They haven’t made it an exact science, but they seem to have figured out how to go after kids at the right times and wait to make your move at the right times.”
Two of the top targets remaining on Notre Dame’s boards were once set to play for other programs. Receiver Demetris Robinson and linebacker Daelin Hayes were at one time committed to Alabama and USC, respectively.
Both Hayes and Robinson are five-star recruits, per Rivals.com, and Hayes in particular seems likely to end up with the Irish, according to Ivins. He decommitted from the Trojans on Oct. 11 in the wake of head coach Steve Sarkisian’s dismissal and also was on campus for the USC game.
“Notre Dame hit it out of the park with that USC visit,” Ivins said. “I’ve always thought once he decommitted, Notre Dame was going to be the team to beat. He’s going to take some other visits, but right now Notre Dame has the lead, I think.”
During the bye week, Kelly visited Hayes in Ann Arbor, Michigan, as part of his swing through the state.
But Hayes was far from the only linebacker the Irish scouted over the break. Linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Mike Elston visited four-star recruit Jeffrey McCulloch in Houston and three-star recruit Jonathan Jones in Orlando, Florida.
“Notre Dame, right now, doesn’t have a true linebacker in the class committed, so it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out,” Ivins said. “They really made up a lot of ground on a lot of guys.”
Meanwhile, offensive coordinator Mike Sanford went to Texas, where he offered a scholarship to class of 2017 quarterback Avery Davis. Davis, a three-star recruit per Rivals.com, is the second quarterback the Irish have offered in this class, but the other, five-star Hunter Johnson, has pledged to Tennessee.
While the recruiting trail will likely go cold for the next few weeks until the Irish return home for a matchup with Wake Forest, Ivins said Notre Dame’s list of prospects could grow as head coaches are fired throughout the season. He pointed to the dismissal of Miami (Fla.) coach Al Golden as the most recent example.