The Fighting Irish are two wins away from a national championship.
Jordan Guskey, IndyStar
With his primary focus on the Dec. 29 Cotton Bowl against Clemson in the College Football Playoff, Brian Kelly is expected to sign at least 21 players on Wednesday’s early signing day. 247Sports ranks the Fighting Irish class 11th in the nation with 15 four-star prospects.
Here’s a closer look this year’s signees.
(This story will be updated as letters-of-intent are reported by Notre Dame. Players listed in alphabetical order.)
ATH Kendall Abdur-Rahman
City (School): Edwardsville, Ill. (Edwardsville)
247 ranks: 3 stars, seventh in state, 30th at position, 519th in nation
Notes: “What school is better than Notre Dame? Even if my football career doesn’t work out, it’s a great school and I’ll get a great education,’’ Abdur-Rahman told the Belleville News-Democrat. “In a way, it was a tough decision because you always want to see what other offers are out there, but not many people have an opportunity like this.” He was the News-Democrat’s Large School Player of the Year as a junior after rushing for 1,399 yards and 26 touchdowns and throwing for 580 yards and eight scores. He earned first team all-state state honors and led his team to the Class 8A state semifinals. “I like quarterback a lot, but I know I’m probably not going to be one in college, truthfully,” Abdur-Rahman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I am open to any other position.”
S Litchfield Ajavon
City (School): Alexandria, Va. (Episcopal)
247 ranks: 4 stars, sixth in state, 19th at position and 223rd in nation
Notes: Ajavon picked the Fighting Irish over Clemson, Michigan, Virginia Tech, Penn State, Wisconsin and Georgia. 247Sports national recruiting analyst Brian Dohn on Ajavon: “He is everything Notre Dame should want in a football player. He’s a good player. Academics are incredibly important. He comes from a very challenging high school. He’s going to fit in from that regard. On the field, you’re excited. Physically, he’ll be ready to play as a freshman. The question is if he can get the playbook down and assimilate to college. He can go play as soon as he gets on campus from a physical standpoint.”
OLB J.D. Bertrand
City (School): Roswell, Ga. (Blessed Trinity Catholic)
247 ranks: 4 stars, 34th in state, 18th at position, 318th in nation
Notes: Former Georgia commit, Bertrand chose the Fighting Irish ahead of 16 other scholarship offers, including one still outstanding from the Bulldogs. He helped his team to back-to-back Class AAAA state titles his junior and senior years as linebacker and tight end. He had 83 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, four sacks and an interception as a senior and was the all-region 7-AAAA Defensive Player of the Year.
P Jay Bramblett
City (School): Tuscaloosa, Ala. (Hillcrest)
247 ranks: 3 stars, 59th in state, second at position, N/A in nation
Notes: Irish lose punter and team captain Tyler Newsome to graduation, so Bramblett will have an early opportunity. “It’s good to have that feeling they need you to come in and be the guy, and I am going to work really hard to be able to do that, because that would be a dream come true to be able to start as a punter for four years for that team on that level,” Bramblett told the Tuscaloosa News. Bramblett also played quarterback this season for Hillcrest and is a member of the baseball team. He is rated the No. 4 punter in the nation by Kohl’s Kicking. “The technical progress he’s made has been outstanding,” the website writes. “He has been very impressive at previous Kohl’s events, but his athletic and technical progress was different this spring. He is one of the more college ready punters we have seen in the last couple of years.”
OT Quinn Carroll
City (School): Minneapolis (Edina Senior)
247 ranks: 4 stars, first in state, 12th at position, 108th in nation
Notes: Carroll wasn’t for a lack of options. He had 34 scholarship offers. “There are a lot of things that come into the recruiting process, and… the decision process,” Carroll told Minneapolis CBS affiliate WCCO. “But, you know, very unique experience with Notre Dame. There’s nothing like it. You think of all the schools in the nation that may have offered me and stuff like that, there’s nothing like Notre Dame.” An AP first-team All-State selection, he was also first-team All-Metro by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
QB Brendon Clark
City (School): Midlothian, Va. (Manchester)
247 ranks: 3 stars, 15th in state, 21st at position, 506th in nation
Notes: Originally a Wake Forest commit, Clark passed for 7,148 yards in his career and 85 touchdowns and rushed for 2,067 yards and scored another 34 times. As a senior, he threw for 2,327 yards and 35 touchdowns and ran for 774 yards and 17 scores and led his team to Virginia’s Class 6 state title. He was the Class 6 Region B Offensive Player of the Year and was MVP at the Charlotte regional of the Elite 11 QB. Clark picked the Irish over offers from Clemson, Tennessee and North Carolina.
From Notre Dame QBs coach Tom Rees: “Brendon has an innate ability to beat you both passing and running, paired with his blue collar competitive and tough nature, led his team to an undefeated season and state title. The guy is dripping grit.”
G Zeke Correll
City (School): Cincinnati (Anderson)
247 ranks: 4 stars, fourth in state, seventh at position, 119th in nation
Notes: An Under Armour All-American, Correll settled on Notre Dame in June. In doing so, he bypassed several official visits offered by some of college football’s elite. In the end, his mother may have known best. Seeing the gold helmets take the field in South Bend sold Lisa Correll. “She’s all about the colors,” Correll told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “She’s like, ‘I don’t know if I like that color or not,’ Notre Dame, she’s always talking about how she loves the golden helmets. That was the only offer that I got, that when I got the offer my Mom started crying. I felt like we got touched by God and I knew in my heart that was the right offer for me eventually.”
From Notre Dame offensive line coach Jeff Quinn: “Excited to have Zeke Correll join the ND FB family, as he continues his families tradition of playing college football. He understands what sacrifice and teamwork is all about. When you flip on the film he blocks with tremendous effort and competes to the echo of the whistle.”
DE Howard Cross
City (School): Montvale, N.J. (St. Joseph Regional)
247 ranks: 4 stars, eighth in state, 25th at position, 336th in nation
Notes: His dad, by the same name, played 13 seasons with the New York Giants, started 207 games at tight end. The younger Cross put up up 76 tackles and 9.5 sacks this season for a St. Joseph team that won its 19th state title. He was named NJ.com’s Player of the Year. As a junior, Cross was a third team All-State selection after finishing with 103 tackles and 5.5 sacks. “I couldn’t be any happier for Howard,” St. Joseph coach Augie Hoffmann told NJ.com. “He’s worked about as hard as a kid could work to get to where he is today. I know a lot of schools had reservations about his height, but I can guarantee you’ll be hard-pressed to find a more complete and explosive defensive lineman. The crazy thing is that his best football is ahead of him.”
ILB Osita Ekwonu
City (School): Charlotte, N.C. (Providence Day)
247 ranks: 4 stars, seventh in state, 13th at position, 215th in nation
Notes: A two-way standout, Ekwonu had 90 solo tackles, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries and 765 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns as a senior. His junior year, Ekwonu had 101 tackles, three sacks and three pass breakups and rushed for 500 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was a three-time All-CISAA team honoree. He was an honorable mention all-state pick as a junior and first-team selection his senior year.
From Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: “Talk about a kid ready for this level – Osita Ekwonu has the ELITE traits that we look for in each of our players. Have to give a ton of credit to his family – they’ve prepared him for the big stage!”
S Kyle Hamilton
City (School): Atlanta (Marist)
247 ranks: 4 stars, 10th in state, eighth at position, 103rd in nation
Notes: A member of the Atlanta Journal Constitution’s Super 11, he played receiver and defensive back for Marist. As a senior on defense, he had 72 tackles, four interceptions, eight pass breakups and two blocked kicks. He posted 1,076 yards on offense with nine total touchdowns and returned a punt and a kickoff for scores this past season. He was named 7-AAAA all-region Special Teams Player of the Year.
WR Cam Hart
City (School): Olney, Md. (Good Counsel)
247 ranks: 3 stars, 12th in state, 96th at position, 706th in nation
Notes: Hart was an honorable mention All-Met selection by the Washington Post the past two seasons. He picked the Irish over Virginia Tech, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Indiana.
OLB Jack Kiser
City (School): Royal Center, Ind. (Pioneer)
247 ranks: 3 stars, 12th in state, 66th at position, 962nd in nation
Notes: The first Class A player to win IndyStar’s Mr. Football, Kiser was a two-way star and led the Pioneers to back-to-back state titles. As a defensive force at linebacker, he made 159 tackles, seven interceptions, caused six fumbles and recovered five fumbles. In a regional win over Triton, Kiser showed all elements of his strength, speed and playmaking when he ripped the ball from a ballcarrier and took it in stride the other way for a 60-yard touchdown. As a quarterback on offense, Kiser passed for 1,183 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior and rushed for 2,109 yards and 44 TDs. For his high school career, Kiser passed for 3,771 yards and 59 touchdowns and rushed for 7,364 yards and 139 TDs. He also intercepted 20 passes. There is a family connection to Notre Dame. Jack’s grandmother on his mother’s side, Bonnie Motter, worked as an office manager and bookkeeper for former Notre Dame coach Ara Parseghian in the old downtown South Bend Bank building after he retired from coaching.
From Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: “Smart and gritty with a laser focus that fits our scheme. Jack Kiser is staying in his own backyard and will be a fan favorite for sure.”
OT Andrew Kristofic
City (School): Gibsonia, Penn. (Pine-Richland)
247 ranks: 4 stars, first in state, 21st in nation, 229th in nation
Notes: A starter since his sophomore year, he blocked for current Fighting Irish QB Phil Jurkovec for two seasons at Pine-Richland. He picked Notre Dame over finalists Wisconsin, Ohio State and Clemson. He will graduate early and arrive in South Bend next month. Here’s why: “On top of all the academic benefits, athletically you get there with coach (Matt) Balis and his strength staff for a whole six months before most of my class gets there,” he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “For a person in my position and situation, that’s the best thing possible.”
From Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: “It’s hard to find young men with the athleticism and length to play left tackle. Andrew Kristofic joins us with a strong high school pedigree, and an eagerness to learn and grow.”
DT Jacob Lacey
City (School): Bowling Green, Ky. (South Warren)
247 ranks: 4 stars, third in state, 10th at position, 157th in nation
Notes: The Fighting Irish’s first commit of the Class of 2019, he declared for Notre Dame in the summer of 2017. “I know it’s a completely different level,” Lacey told the Bowling Green Daily News. “I’ve been preparing myself, even when we do high school lifts, to go extra hard just to keep that upper edge so when I get to Notre Dame, I’ll be as ready as I can.” He was All-State his junior year after posting 51 tackles (25 solo stops). “He’s really a freak athlete when it comes to his size and speed,” South Warren coach Brandon Smith told the Courier Journal. “He’s 300 pounds, but he runs like he’s 150 pounds. That’s what really stands out – how well he moves and his explosiveness off the ball. He has the ability to make big plays because he’s so powerful.”
OT John Olmstead
City (School): Metuchen, N.J. (Saint Joseph)
247 ranks: 4 stars, fourth in state, 19th at position, 180th in nation
Notes: A first-team All-State selection by NJ.com, Olmstead played both ways for Saint Joseph. “His dominance on defense forced opponents to constantly double-team him, and that ultimately created opportunities for teammates,” the website wrote. Some of the 35 schools that offered Olmstead include Ohio State, Arkansas, Arizona State, Florida, Florida State, LSU, Mississippi State, Nebraska, N.C. State, Missouri, Northwestern, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Wisconsin, Virginia Tech and UCLA. “It was a gut feeling,” Olmstead said about his selection of Notre Dame. “I was there four times and just fell in love with the place. I fell in love with the players, and the coaches and everything. I loved everything about the school. The tradition there is among the best, everything from Touchdown Jesus to the Golden Dome.”
DE NaNa Osafo-Mensah
City (School): Fort Worth, Texas (Nolan Catholic)
247 ranks: 4 stars, 20th in state, seventh at position, 138th in natoin
Notes: Osafo-Mensah posted 65 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss, 23 quarterback hurries and 14 sacks this season and was chosen to play in the All-American Bowl. The Fort Worth Star Telegram ranked him the No. 4 player in his class in the talent-rich Dallas/Fort Worth area. He was the TAPPS Division I District I Defensive Player of the Year. “I picked Notre Dame because it really just felt like home,” he told the Star Telegram. “I know it’s far away from Fort Worth, but I just felt comfortable with all those players. There’s nothing I’m not looking forward to. Playing on NBC every week will be cool, and playing an independent schedule is going to be amazing. So to do all that and play under Brian Kelly, is going to be really fun.”
DT Hunter Spears
City (School): Sachse, Texas (Sachse)
247 ranks: 4 stars, 36th in state, 20th at position, 292nd in nation
Notes: Spears had 58 tackles, 24 tackles for a loss and six sacks as a senior before his season was cut short by a torn ACL in November. He missed his junior season with a similar injury. The Fort Worth Star Telegram rated him the No. 19 prospect in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He also considered TCU, Baylor, Texas Tech and Alabama.
CB K.J. Wallace
City (School): Atlanta (Lovett)
247 ranks: 4 stars, 32nd in state, 32nd at position, 303rd in nation
Notes: Wallace played both ways for Lovett, finishing his senior year with 34 tackles, 1.5 sacks, two interceptions and six pass breakups on defense and 952 combined yards of offense and 10 touchdowns. He earned first-team 5-AAA all-region honors. Wallace played safety as a junior and led his team with 55 solo tackles. He also had a team-high 40 catches for 536 yards and six touchdowns and had team-high 1,116 total yards and 12 total touchdowns.
From Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly: “We’re continuously looking for dedicated student-athletes to join our defense. KJ Wallace steps into the ring and I know he will fit the mold perfectly.”
RB Kyren Williams
City (School): St. Louis (St. John Vianney)
247 ranks: 4 stars, sixth in state, 22nd at position, 380th in nation
Notes: Williams rushed for 289 yards and scored a touchdown in Vianney’s Class 5 state championship win this season. He finished the year with 2,035 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns and 774 receiving yards and 12 scores. On defense, he had eight interceptions, 92 tackles and scored another four times. He picked Notre Dame over Michigan and Missouri. “Ever since my official visit last week I felt a connection with the school and myself and my family,” Williams told STLhighschoolsports.com. “I felt comfortable up there. I texted my mom on the second day of my official, ‘Notre Dame is my new home.’” In his four-year prep career, Williams scored 114 touchdowns
IndyStar Preps Insider Kyle Neddenriep contributed to this story.