With the 2017 signing day (well) in the rearview mirror, it’s time to unleash the annual superlative special for the new class of Notre Dame Football players (aka #IRISHEl17E). Similar to last year’s class, this group offers a wide variety of talent and personality. As it stands on the 247 recruiting composite rankings, the Irish just cracked the Top 10 – coming in at 10th. Given the tumultuous 2016 season and the mass turnover on the coaching staff, a 10th ranked class is fairly impressive. With that being said and wasting no more time, I present to you, The Recruiting Class of 2017 Superlatives:
Most likely to…make an immediate impact: Darnell Ewell
After knocking last year’s “Most likely to make an immediate impact…” out of the park with Devin Studstill, we’re sticking to the defensive side of the ball again. Ewell is a defensive tackle listed at 6’4 295 lbs. Ewell hails from Virginia and was highly recruited holding offers from top football programs including Alabama, LSU, Michigan, and Ohio State. Paraphrasing Notre Dame’s own new defensive coordinator, Mike Elko, “He will provide an immediate impact on our defensive line. He’s a big kid who’s extremely athletic for his size…extremely dynamic, extremely explosive, and really controls the line of scrimmage.” It’s no secret that the defensive line has become a frustrating position for the Irish, but recruiting analysts have likened Ewell to former ND defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Couple these two sentiments (along with Elko’s comments), and it’s easy to project that Ewell will be afforded an opportunity to see significant playing time as a freshman. Fun fact: Ewell recently joined his high school swim team expecting to compete in the 50 & 100 yard freestyle – speaking volumes of his athleticism.
Most likely to…become a household name: CJ Holmes
The Irish have had a healthy influx of C.J.s in the past few years. This CJ (note the lack of punctuation) joins current Irish wide receiver C.J. Sanders and former Irish/current Seattle Seahawk running back C.J. Prosise. Holmes is a 4 start running back from Connecticut, and has drawn many similarities to Prosise due to their extreme versatility. Like Sanders, he is elusive and has just the right amount of flash to become a fan favorite. Running backs Coach Autry Denson agrees saying, “Mr. anything, anytime, can do it all. CJ is as complete of a player as I have been able to be around and recruit.” Paired with redshirt freshman Tony Jones, the Irish could be looking at a future “thunder & lightning” combination at running back. It is likely that CJ utilizes a redshirt given the amount of talent returning at the running back position, but make no mistake, he will become a game changer just as the C.J.s before him.
Like watching CJ Prosise play?
— Brian Kelly (@CoachBrianKelly) February 1, 2017
Most likely to…be first in line at training table: Aaron Banks
Mike Elston went into California and pulled out a big recruit – quite literally one of the most physically massive recruits in the country. Aaron Banks is a 6’5, 4 star offensive linemen, weighing in at 320 lbs. To provide context, senior Quenton Nelson tips the scale at 325 lbs. on the spring roster, and is the only member of the team to outweigh Banks. Ideally, Banks, who is also an early enrollee, will redshirt behind a mature group of offensive linemen – including Mike McGlinchey, Quenton Nelson and Alex Bars. He is also a nice compliment to the 2016 offensive line recruits giving Harry Hiestand a bountiful cupboard of large human beings to mold into successful offensive lines for the coming years. With the addition of Aaron
Banks, it’s safe to assume the training table food budget will increase. On the aesthetic side, Banks provides the Irish with added street cred much in thanks to rocking the popular “man bun” (waiting for @TheSubwayDomer to provide spring ball hairstyle power rankings).
Most likely to…benefit from the recent coaching shakeup: Brock Wright & Cole Kmet
The Irish reeled in two big fish with Wright and Kmet. Both were among the nation’s best tight ends – Wright arguably the nation’s top recruit at the position. Both won the Notre Dame coaching lottery when Brian Kelly hired Chip Long (previously offensive coordinator at Memphis) as offensive coordinator and tight ends coach. In a surprising plot twist, Kelly publicly stated that he’ll be turning over all play calling duties to Long. This intriguing development bodes well for the young tight ends. Also according to Kelly, “Chip’s play-calling created mismatches all over the field and did it in a number of different ways. He likes to use players who can fill numerous roles in an array of formations, whether that be two and three tight ends or multiple running backs.” Formations utilizing multiple tight ends?!? The hearts of Domers everywhere warmed at the thought of this idea. Wright and Kmet round out an already talented – yet unproven – group of tight ends. Alize Mack (Jones) returns from a season long academic suspension, and is expected fit a tight end/wide receiver hybrid role similar to former Irish tight end Tyler Eifert. Durham Smythe returns as a graduate student hoping to improve on an underwhelming 2016 campaign. With so many unknowns heading into the 2017 season, it’s difficult to say what kind of impression this talented duo will have as true freshmen. Regardless, this pair’s value instantly went up with the hiring of Chip Long.
This completes the Recruiting Class of 2017 Superlatives. The 2018 edition waits in the wings as the class of high school juniors (aka IrishBouND18) continues to build momentum – currently holding the third best class in the country.
Cheers and Go Irish!