Five Things We Learned About Notre Dame Fighting Irish Recruiting In March
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Five Things We Learned About Notre Dame Recruiting In March

Despite recruiting visits being shut down for half the time, it was still a very busy month in the world of Notre Dame football recruiting. BlueandGold.com’s Mike Singer gives readers five things he learned from the month of March.

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Athens (Ga.) Academy wide receiver Deion Colzie
Athens (Ga.) Academy wide receiver Deion Colzie decommitted from Notre Dame March 20. (Rivals.com)

1. Recruiting Shut Down, March 20 Weekend Cancelled

There were a dozen four-star prospects expected on campus for the March 20-22 weekend, but it was cancelled by the NCAA because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Included in that group of 11 were five Notre Dame commits (six if you include defensive end David Abiara), four highly touted offensive line prospects (Nolan Rucci, Landon Tengwall, Rocco Spindler and Garrett Dellinger) and huge running back and defensive end targets in Will Shipley and Aaron Armitage, respectively.

A few notable class of 2022 prospects were also scheduled to visit that weekend, including safety Braelon Allen, defensive end Dani Dennis-Sutton and quarterback Chase Harrison.

Most of these prospects don’t live close to Notre Dame and haven’t been on campus in several months, so getting them all together for a big recruiting weekend was going to be crucial for the Irish.

Notre Dame was going to host official visitors for the April 3 weekend and other notable targets sprinkled in throughout March and April. The NCAA announced a recruiting dead period to run through at least April 15, and we’re expecting visits to be shut down for the rest of April and likely May as well.

2. Notre Dame Lands Texas DE David Abiara

While Abiara did plan to visit for the March 20 weekend, it was huge that Notre Dame got him on campus for Feb. 1 junior day weekend. If he wasn’t able to visit in February and had his March visit cancelled, he may have picked another school because he couldn’t see Notre Dame.

In Abiara, Notre Dame is getting a highly regarded prospect from the Lone Star State who could play strong-side end or vyper in Clark Lea’s defense. He committed to Notre Dame over Alabama, Baylor, LSU, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas Tech, Wisconsin and others.

“He’s so fast off the edge and is so physical,” Legacy head coach Chris Melson said. “With his length, he can really keep blockers off of him. He uses his hands and long arms really well. He can separate from tackles really quickly and go make plays. He’s really special.”

Rivals ranks Abiara on the cusp of four-star status, and analyst Sam Spiegelman had this to say about the new Irish commit on film: “Abiara loves to rely on a stab technique to go toe-to-toe with offensive tackles. It showcases his individual power and bends as he explodes through to the quarterback. Abiara often lines up as a wide-nine or straight over the tackle and consistently gets good pressure from his side of the ball.

“Last season, Abiara also added a dip move that helped contribute to some of those six sacks. He also added some necessary strength and mauled over some linemen in his path to the quarterback with a blend of both power and speed around the edge.”

3. Notre Dame Loses Out On Top OL Targets, Expands Board

Four-star offensive tackle Wyatt Milum committed to the in-state West Virginia Mountaineers in early March. He was planning to visit Notre Dame for the March 20 weekend, but he made his West Virginia selection and it was actually before the coronavirus had any impact on recruiting.

Milum had visited Notre Dame twice before and with a third visit on the horizon, we felt that the Irish were in a really good spot. His pick of the Mountaineers came as a surprise to us.

Two days before Milum’s commitment to West Virginia, the Irish extended an offer to Ocala (Fla.) Trinity Catholic offensive lineman Caleb Johnson. The 6-7, 290-pounder is from Indiana and was fired up to land the Notre Dame offer.

“I looked at their offer list, and they have not offered many O-linemen and people in general,” Johnson told BlueandGold.com. “It’s makes it even more special.”

Johnson is correct. Notre Dame has offered less than 20 offensive line recruits in the 2021 cycle, For comparison’s sake, Michigan has offered more than 40 O-line prospects, all per Rivals.

The day that longtime target Landon Tengwall announced his commitment (March 26) just happened to be the day that Notre Dame offered three new offensive line recruits. Chicagoland’s Pat Coogan, Detroit two-way talent Rayshaun Benny and Texas standout Matthew Wykoff all added Notre Dame to their offer sheet.

“I was definitely happy because I have been in contact with them since my sophomore year,” Benny said. “They have been watching me for awhile, then they had seen my grades and were happy with my performance. I definitely will give them a look.”

4. The Battle For RB Will Shipley Continues

Matthews (N.C.) Weddington running back Will Shipley has had plans that he wanted to follow during his recruiting process.

One was that he wanted to help lead his team to a second straight state championship and then narrow down his recruitment publicly to a few schools. Shipley did accomplish the first feat, but never did the latter. As the recruiting process took its twists and turns in the winter, Shipley decided not to announce any top schools.

But it has been clear who some of the contenders have been in his recruitment for several months. Clemson and Notre Dame are the two schools mentioned most for Shipley. His parents went to North Carolina State, and Shipley has love for the Wolfpack. North Carolina is considered a strong dark horse contender.

Shipley wanted to visit the schools he had assembled in his mind as top choices again before making a decision sooner rather than later. However, the coronavirus pandemic has altered Shipley’s plans and has left him in a holding pattern.

College coaches are still contacting the 5-11, 200-pound Rivals100 running back often and the battle rages on.

5. Deion Colzie Decommits, Notre Dame Offers New Receivers

Athens (Ga.) Academy wide receiver Deion Colzie announced his decommitment from Notre Dame March 20, ending a pledge he gave to the Irish last October.

“This has been weighing on me for about three weeks, so I called coach Kelly and decommitted,” Colzie told Rivals.com’s Chad Simmons. “It was not easy to do, but it was something I needed to do. It is the best decision for me.

“Notre Dame was my dream school and I feel I rushed my decision. I just didn’t think about it enough. I did not give the recruiting process enough time and that is why I am re-opening things back up now.

“I have thought a lot about this and I just want to take more time and explore my options.”

A few days after Colzie’s decision, Notre Dame fired out three new receiver offers in the 2021 class: Alabama’s Christian Lewis, Florida’s Jaden Alexis and Texas’ J. Michael Sturdivant.

“I was very surprised,” Lewis told BlueandGold.com about the Notre Dame offer. “You don’t really hear about players from Alabama getting an offer from Notre Dame. For [Del Alexander] to extend one to me was really special.”

Notre Dame will still continue to pursue Colzie as a receiver target in its 2021 class, among other several other prospects.

The Irish have Pickerington (Ohio) Central wide receiver Lorenzo Styles committed, and the staff will have to hold on to him as other schools have hoping to get him to flip from his Notre Dame pledge.

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