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Tuesday, June 25, 2024
The Observer

Notre Dame adds first cornerback commit

Notre Dame obtained a commitment at its most-needed position this week, as cornerback Joe Wilkins Jr. verbally committed with the Irish.

The Irish did not ink any cornerbacks in the class of 2017 and had not earned a single commitment yet at the position for 2018 until Wilkins, who committed following an official visit to Notre Dame to watch the Irish beat Wake Forest, 48-37. Wilkins, a three-star prospect out of North Fort Meyers, Florida, fills that gap as a rangy athlete with track speed and a background at wide receiver that should mean impressive ball skills.

Irish sophomore cornerback Julian Love breaks on a route during Notre Dame's 35-14 win over North Carolina State on Oct. 28 at Notre Dame Stadium.
Irish sophomore cornerback Julian Love breaks on a route during Notre Dame's 35-14 win over North Carolina State on Oct. 28 at Notre Dame Stadium.

Dave McKinney, recruiting analyst at Blue and Gold Illustrated, said his commitment is a huge boost to the Irish because of the lack of signees at the position previously.

“That was huge,” McKinney said of the signing. “They needed to get someone in this class, they got Joe Wilkins on campus last week, made a push for him to commit and now they’ve landed him. It’s really big for Notre Dame to get a cornerback in the class to get this going, getting things started at a position of need after not getting anyone in 2017 and not having anyone committed.”

“Joe Wilkins is a really talented two-way player. He’s about 6-2 so he’s very long, he can do a lot of different things on the football field. He runs track as well, he’s a multi-dimensional athlete who should be really big for Notre Dame at a position of need.”

Although the Irish did not earn any other commitments this week, a key decommitment may give the Irish a chance to land its highest-rated commitment of the cycle so far. Five-star offensive tackle Cade Mays — a Knoxville native and Tennessee legacy — committed to the Volunteers in July of 2015, but the team has struggled this year to a 4-5 overall record and an 0-5 record in SEC play, putting the job of head coach Butch Jones in jeopardy as he fights to avoid the first eight-loss season in program history. Although the Irish have pursued Mays and remain a possibility for his commitment, McKinney said the Irish staff still have a lot of work to do as other southern schools including Georgia and Clemson remain more likely to earn his signature.

“I don’t know how I would put Notre Dame’s chances of getting him here,” McKinney said. “He’s certainly one of those prospects you want to take a chance on no matter what and he’s scheduled to visit Dec. 9 for the postseason banquet, so getting him on campus will obviously be a big deal. But we’ll see. Getting him on campus always gives him a chance, but I think it’s still a longer shot for now. We’ll see after he makes his visit.”

“I think Georgia is probably the leader right now. Clemson I know is a big contender too. I’d say Georgia, Clemson and Tennessee are all probably more likely at this point.”

With the Irish playing No. 7 Miami in a matchup that is likely to have a major impact on the playoff race, this week’s game will be an important recruiting event for both teams. Not only will the Irish have a chance to gain a win in the national spotlight, but that marquee win could come with many possible recruits in attendance in the fertile recruiting ground of south Florida, as the Hurricanes have arranged visits for many players looking at the Irish. McKinney said that gives the game some added importance, especially with 2019 four-star running back Cesare Mellusi back in attendence.

“It’s a top-10 matchup, so that alone makes a difference, but then it’s obviously also a team in south Florida that a lot of guys down there have an eye on and there’s going to be guys visiting Miami who are also involved with Notre Dame,” McKinney said. “I know running back Cesare Mellusi is going to be there, he’s a 2019 Rivals 250 guy, a four-star prospect, Notre Dame is his leader and he told me that he’ll be visiting Miami this weekend but he’s going to be rooting for Notre Dame. There’s definitely going to be a lot of guys, a lot of recruits visiting Miami for the game and Notre Dame making a statement could certainly help a lot down the road.”

“Getting a win at Miami for Notre Dame would be really big in the eyes of south Florida recruits. Notre Dame’s in the middle of a huge turnaround season and winning a huge game like that on the road in such a fertile recruiting ground would be really big.”