Georgia Is On Notre Dame’s Football Recruiting Mind
Over the past 20 years, no state has made a greater ascent in Notre Dame’s football recruiting than Georgia.
That continued this Monday when Milton, Ga., native and tight end Jack Nickel became the second verbal commit to the 2022 Fighting Irish class. Since 2018, he is the eighth student-athlete from the Peach State to verbally pledge or sign with Notre Dame.
In the five recruiting cycles since then in which 31 states plus Germany have been represented among those Irish players, only California has matched that total. New Jersey (seven), Florida (five) and Illinois (five) also have been relatively fertile areas during that span.
Georgia natives who made impacts last season were Freshman All-American safety Kyle Hamilton (Atlanta), tight end Tommy Tremble (Norcross) and running back C’Bo Flemister (Zebulon), whose five rushing touchdowns as a sophomore were the second most on the team.
Prior to 2014, only 31 players from Georgia had seen game action at Notre Dame. However, since 2001, that number has dramatically escalated.
In the 14 recruiting classes from 2001-14, Notre Dame signed a minimum of one player from Georgia in 11 of them, with exceptions coming in 2007, 2009 and 2012. Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly and his staff have prioritized Georgia as an area where Notre Dame wants to make greater inroads.
Beyond the “Big Three” of California, Florida and Texas, this state, along with Louisiana, might be the most coveted for big-time talent. It’s never going to be easy recruiting top-flight talent in SEC country, but reeling in one per year in talent-rich Georgia shouldn’t be unrealistic either. A minimum of four or five Peach State natives on the roster in any given year could become the norm.
Here are our top 15 Notre Dame players from Georgia. (Note how most are from the past 20 years.)
15. Kyle Hamilton (Atlanta, 2019-)
It’s not too early to include him already after his sterling debut in a part-time role which included leading the team in interceptions (four), tying for second in passes broken up (six) and placing seventh in tackles (41).
When all is said and done, he likely will be at least among the top five.
14. Jamoris Slaughter (Stone Mountain, 2008-12)
Part of the No. 2-ranked class in 2008, the safety/cornerback recorded 98 career tackles before his final season was cut way short by an injury.
13. Ivory Covington (Decatur, 1994-97)
Although only 5-10, 169 pounds, this diminutive cornerback was tenacious (156 career stops) and made the memorable game-saving stop of a two-point conversion attempt inches short of the goal line in the closing seconds to preserve a 28-27 win over Army in 1995.
12. Mike Richardson (Warner Robins, 2002-06)
Our defensive back onslaught in this countdown concludes with the two-year starting corner that had 170 stops, 15 passes broken up and eight interceptions during his career. He had a strong senior campaign for the 10-3 Irish in 2006 to become a sixth-round pick.
11. Tyler Newsome (Carrollton, 2014-18)
Four-year starting punter not only posted the second highest career average at the school (44.0), but he became the first strictly kicking specialist at Notre Dame to be named a captain by his teammates.
10. Adrian Jarrell (Athens, 1989-93)
Ravaged by injuries a good part of his career, Jarrell still caught the game-winning touchdown in traffic with 1:40 left to defeat Michigan in 1990, and followed the next week with the “Immaculate Deflection” in the final minute to set up the 20-19 win at Michigan State.
In the 1993 victory versus No. 1 Florida State, he scored on a 32-yard reverse and also had a 58-yard punt, another area where he helped.
9. Dusty Zeigler (Rincon, 1992-95)
A starter at center his junior year and then guard as a senior captain, he went on to a seven-year career in the NFL, the longest so far by a Notre Dame player from Georgia — although No. 5 on this list will tie it this year.
8. Jabari Holloway (Riverdale, 1997-2000)
Another captain, the engineering major’s 37 career starts at tight end netted 41 receptions that averaged 16.9 yards per catch and included seven touchdowns. The fourth-round pick was on the roster but an inactive member on New England’s 2002 Super Bowl champs.
7. Ken Adamson (Atlanta, 1957-59)
A starter at center and on defense, he was the first of seven Notre Dame players from Georgia to hold a captaincy position, serving as the lone one for first-year coach Joe Kuharich’s 1959 team that finished No. 17 in the Associated Press poll. He was third in tackles as a junior (53) and second as a senior (84).
6. Isaac Rochell (McDonough, 2013-16)
Entering his fourth NFL season, the Iron Man in the interior of a depth-depleted Notre Dame line recorded 166 career tackles (21 for loss) and was a senior captain. He also blocked a field goal attempt by LSU to help preserve a 31-28 Music City Bowl win in 2014.
5. Stephon Tuitt (Monroe, 2011-13)
The first Notre Dame defensive lineman to earn first-team All-America recognition as a sophomore from at least two outlets (ESPN and Sports Illustrated), Tuitt also was a second-team Associated Press pick in 2012.
Drafted in the second round after his junior year, he might have topped this list with a knockout senior campaign.
4. TJ Jones (Gainesville, 2010-13)
The 2013 team MVP (70 catches, 15.8 yards per catch and nine touchdowns, plus two other scores off runs) finished his career second on Notre Dame’s all-time receiving chart with 181.
He tied Tyler Eifert for the team lead in receptions (50) during the 2012 campaign that resulted in a berth to the BCS National Championship Game and earned him a captaincy in 2013.
3. Wes Pritchett (Atlanta, 1984-88)
Although overshadowed on defense by fellow “Amigos” and first-team All-Americans Frank Stams and Michael Stonebreaker, the middle linebacker Pritchett paced the 1988 national champs in tackles with 112 while providing toughness and physical prowess with his 6-6, 251-pound frame.
1. Jim Carroll (Atlanta, 1962-64) & Darius Walker (Lawrenceville, 2004-06)
One on offense and another on defense
The lone captain and Team MVP of the “Resurrection” campaign in 1964 under first-year head coach Ara Parseghian, All-American Carroll’s 140 tackles at linebacker that year were 52 more than anyone else. As a sophomore and junior, he started at both offensive guard and linebacker, recording 59 tackles each season.
As for Walker, after setting the freshman rushing record at Notre Dame with 786 yards (since broken by Josh Adams in 2015), he was a centerpiece of new head coach Charlie Weis’ prolific offenses in 2005-06 that helped lead the Irish to back-to-back BCS bids.
He rushed for more than 1,000 yards each year — one of four Irish backs to accomplish that in consecutive years — and his 109 career receptions are the second-most by a Notre Dame back. He turned pro after his junior year but was not drafted.