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JaDon Blair commits to Notre Dame: What does the 4-star safety bring to the Irish?

Notre Dame was a loner during college football's recruiting wave in June, but not in the way Marcus Freeman would have expected.

The Irish were the only Power 4 program not to receive a verbal commitment to the 2025 class last month, a byproduct of the work already done in assembling a class that was ranked No. 1 for much of the offseason. For whatever that dry spell was worth, it ended Friday when four-star safety JaDon Blair chose Notre Dame, ruling out finalists Penn State, Michigan, Florida State and South Carolina.

The 6-foot-4, 195-pound athlete from Mount Tabor High School in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, is the 22nd incoming freshman in Notre Dame's class, which moved up one spot to third in the 247Sports Composite rankings, overtaking Georgia (17 pledges) but still trailing Ohio State (22 pledges) and Alabama (21 pledges) for No. 1.

With the signing of the talent from North Carolina, Notre Dame receives six commitments for the defensive back position from five US states, while Blair joins Ivan Taylor (Florida), Dallas Golden (Florida), Mark Zackery IV (Indiana), Cree Thomas (Arizona) and Ethan Long (Connecticut).

Blair's signing also means the Irish have four defensive backs ranked among the top 200 prospects in the 247Sports Composite. That's the same number of top 200 defensive backs the Irish signed in the 2019-24 classes combined: Kyle Hamilton, Isaiah Rutherford, Christian Grey and Brauntae Johnson. The highest-rated defensive backs in this cycle are Taylor (No. 50), Golden (No. 92), Zackery (No. 131) and Blair (No. 161).

How does Blair fit into Notre Dame's class?

Blair's longer frame stands out for a defensive back and is comparable to Hamilton's signing six cycles earlier. While this is hardly a prediction that Blair will develop into a first-round pick and potential Pro Bowl safety, range is never a bad thing in the back of the defense. Hamilton's range allowed Notre Dame's defense to operate with him more in the middle of the field than at one of the classic boundary or field positions, essentially allowing former defensive coordinator Clark Lea to gamble with coverages, something Freeman was able to do in his only season leading the Irish defense.

Even though safety has seemed like an Irish strength of late after Hamilton traded for unanimous All-American Xavier Watts, there's a reason Notre Dame signed Rod Heard II out of the transfer portal this winter. The safety recruiting needed an influx of talent after taking more of a developmental path in recent cycles.

If Watts and Heard leave after this season, Notre Dame will be left with sophomores Adon Shuler, Ben Minich and Luke Talich and incoming freshmen Brauntae Johnson, Taebron Bennie-Powell and Kennedy Urlacher. Aside from Shuler, all of those who came to Notre Dame were more developmental prospects. Talich was a preferred walk-on who received a scholarship after his freshman season.

It's not that Notre Dame can't develop the talent it has; it's just that there are no Hamiltons in the group who are considered safeties. The smart move is to attack the problem with numbers, which means signing nine safeties over three cycles.

What’s next for the Irish in this cycle?

The most important summer recruiting development for Notre Dame is retaining safety Ivan Taylor after he took an official visit to Alabama last month before returning to South Bend. Taylor also visited Michigan.

Freeman had a loose policy that committed young players should not take additional visits if they wanted to stay in the class. But Notre Dame will not find comparable talent to Taylor on the market. In addition, his father, Ike Taylor, has two former teammates on the Pittsburgh Steelers whose sons are in the Irish class: Elijah Burress and Jerome Bettis Jr.

Notre Dame hosted five undecided juniors in June and remains a serious contender for all five: receivers Derek Meadows (Las Vegas), Tanook Hines (Houston) and Dylan Robinson (LaVerne, Calif.) and linebackers Madden Faraimo (San Juan Capistrano, Calif.) and Nathaniel Owusu-Boateng (Bradenton, Fla.).

Meadows, Robinson and Hines are expected to come off the board in July, which will clear the wideout space. The Irish would ideally take two, as long as one is Meadows, the unlikely five-star prospect from Bishop Gorman. Notre Dame will have room for Faraimo and Owusu-Boateng as long as they want to let their recruitment run its course. Faraimo also took officials with him to Washington and Texas. Owusu-Boateng visited Ohio State, Michigan and USC.

If the Irish could land Meadows, Hines, Faraimo and Owusu-Boateng, they would have 289.21 points in the 247Sports Composite and would have finished No. 5 in the last cycle. The point total would also be Notre Dame's highest in the 247Sports era.

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(Photo: Sam Wasson / Getty Images)