Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football’s 2021 Defensive Back Class Is Coming Together Nicely
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Notre Dame’s 2021 Defensive Back Class Is Coming Together Nicely

Notre Dame’s three-man defensive back haul of Ramon Henderson, Clarence Lewis and Caleb Offord in the last recruiting cycle has some upside, but the Fighting Irish’s 2021 secondary class is clearly a step above.

Notre Dame has landed talented players with solid offer sheets from coast to coast.

With Encino (Calif.) Crespi cornerback Chance Tucker’s commitment to the Fighting Irish on Wednesday, they added their fourth defensive back pledge of the class.

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Valrico (Fla.) Bloomingdale cornerback and Notre Dame commit Philip Riley
The Fighting Irish's highest-ranked defensive back pledge of the 2021 class is four-star Philip Riley. (

Let’s review these four class of 2021 defensive back pledges for the Irish.

Bolingbrook (Ill.) High safety Justin Walters — hard-hitting defender and a really nice prospect. He comes down in the box and lays the wood on ball carriers, and is more than capable in coverage as well. Former Eastern Illinois defensive back Pete Houlihan, who trains Walters, raved about him in a recent interview with

“Justin is going to be a special guy,” Houlihan said. “Justin Walters is going to be a big name in South Bend for a long time. He’s one of the most gifted kids I’ve ever been around.

“He’s the most advanced, humble, good high school football player I've ever been around, and I've been around some ‘dogs.’”

Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Michigan State, Missouri, Nebraska and Wisconsin were among the schools that offered Walters before his commitment to the Irish.

Valrico (Fla.) Bloomingdale cornerback Philip Riley — bona fide four-star, lockdown player. Riley is from the state of Washington, but he already has that Florida “dog” in him after living in the Sunshine State for a year and a half. Riley is big and physical with his 6-1, 190-pound frame. He picked Notre Dame over Clemson, Florida State, Mississippi State, Oregon, Texas, USC, Washington and others.

Gaithersburg (Md.) Quince Orchard defensive back Ryan Barnes — an underrated, versatile stud. The only stock I take in his 5.6 three-star ranking on Rivals is that the analysts haven’t been able to evaluate him in person, but I think he could see a bump in future updates. Barnes can be a rangy cornerback or a really nice free safety prospect. Standing at 6-2, 180 pounds, Barnes picked Notre Dame over Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Tennessee, USC and many others.

Encino (Calif.) Crespi cornerback Chance Tucker — pure cover ability. How he flew under the radar his junior year is unbeknownst to me. He picked up an early offer from BYU last summer, but otherwise, the rest of his 20 offers have come since March 23. Tucker doesn’t have the most impressive offer list, but when you consider that Jimmy Lake and Washington really wanted the young man from Los Angeles, it’s a really impressive recruiting win. Tucker has solid speed and his one-on-one cover abilities are excellent.

Cornerbacks coach Mike Mickens was hired by Notre Dame in early March and has quickly made his presence known. He was the primary recruiter for the Irish in going after Barnes, Riley and Tucker, and did an incredible job building close bonds with all three despite not being able to actually meet them in person due to the coronavirus dead period.

From here, Notre Dame’s defensive back corps in the 2021 class could only get stronger.



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