National signing day is the collegiate version of the NFL draft, where a full year of hard work comes to a final, dramatic close. And the wild recruiting finishes appear to get crazier by the season.
Two years ago Auburn landed a commitment from linebacker Cassanova McKinzy over Clemson due in part to Auburn having a Chic-fil-A restaurant closer to campus. Last year Landon Collins, the #1 safety in America, chose Alabama over in-state LSU, causing his mother to disagree with the decision on national television by saying, “Tigers are number one – Go Tigers!” Even stranger, Collins’ mother has yet another blue chip son in the current recruiting cycle, Rivals 4-star defensive end, Gerald Willis. After Willis selected the Florida Gators over in-state LSU, his infamous mother was at it again, telling the media, “LSU is still number one.”
Only a few short days remain until national signing day and Notre Dame is still in the mix for a bevy of recruits, offering plenty of opportunity for drama. Below are the recruits who could offer the biggest surprises when it comes time to sign the dotted line.
- Position: Safety
- Vitals: 6’1”, 207 lbs
- Hometown: Long Beach, CA
- Best Offers: Alabama, Ohio State, USC
The more signing day draws closer the more Smith’s recruitment seems to mirror that of former Notre Dame great Manti Te’o. Smith, a five-star defender, is widely considered to have narrowed his choices down to USC and Notre Dame, with every recruiting service predicting Southern Cal as the eventual choice.
Smith has been considered a USC “lock” for weeks yet the Trojans staff has been unable to land a commitment, even during a recent weekend visit. Adding intriguing, the Notre Dame coaching staff has refused to quit, truly believing they have the ability to pull an upset.
Will Smith follow Teo’s example and spurn the Trojans on signing day?
- Position: Wide Receiver
- Vitals: 6’0”, 170 lbs
- Hometown: Fresno, CA
- Best Offers: Alabama, Oregon, USC
Another year and another recruit from Fresno has Notre Dame as a finalist. Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly has had a rough history with Fresno, with natives Tee Shepard enrolling at Notre Dame for less than one semester before transferring and wide receiver Deontay Greenbery committing to ND before jilting the Irish on signing day to attend Houston. Could this finally be the year things break Notre Dame’s way?
Quick has narrowed his choice down to joining his old high school teammate and former Notre Dame target, L.J. Moore, at Oklahoma or breaking Kelly’s Fresno curse. While Oklahoma is considered the frontrunner, Kelly knocked his in-home visit with Quick out of the park, stressing academics and leaving the talented athlete with plenty to ponder.
Was Kelly’s education-centric recruiting pitch enough to tip the scales?
- Position: Cornerback
- Vitals: 5’10”, 178 lbs
- Hometown: River Ridge, LA
- Best Offers: Ohio State, Stanford, Tennessee
Brian Kelly’s march to acquire more Southern talent has led him to Terrence Alexander’s home in Louisiana. Though Notre Dame came in very late in the process, Alexander and his family are serious about academics, with most outlets believing it’s a two-way race between Notre Dame and Stanford.
While Stanford has recruited Alexander far longer, Stanford defensive coordinator Derek Mason’s departure to be the next head coach at Vanderbilt certainly can’t hurt Notre Dame’s chances.
Will Notre Dame be able to edge out Stanford for the talented John Curtis High School standout?
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- Vitals: 6’2”, 280 lbs
- Hometown: New Orleans, LA
- Best Offers: Oklahoma, Texas, USC
Garnett’s recruitment has taken a strange trajectory. The Rivals 3-star was a one-time Texas commitment but had a change of heart after head coach Mack Brown was let go. Since then Garnett has narrowed his choices to Oklahoma and Notre Dame, though the New Orleans native committed to the Sooners 24 hours prior to his visit to South Bend. As if things weren’t strange enough, Garnett informed Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops he still intended to make the trek to Indiana to visit as he gave his verbal commitment to the Sooners.
Initial reports from his weekend visit indicate Notre Dame will be a serious player, with academics being a focal point for Garnett. It will be a battle of Oklahoma’s established relationships against Notre Dame’s top-ranked business program, Garnett’s eventual major.
Who will win out?
- Position: Defensive Tackle
- Vitals: 6’3”, 275 lbs
- Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
- Best Offers: Florida, Michigan State, Tennessee
Cage, a Rivals 3-star, was another late offer by Notre Dame, and one who held initial interest in the Fighting Irish. The delayed offer has caused Brian Kelly and staff to play catch-up, with Cage visiting mid-week with Michigan State as his leader. Perhaps the biggest indicator of Cage’s eventual college destination will be outside of Notre Dame’s hands, as Michigan State continues to pursue blue chip defensive lineman, Malik McDowell. Should McDowell make his pledge to the Spartans, Cage may be on the outside looking in.
Will Cage wait to see how the situation in East Lansing plays out or will he make South Bend his new home?
Many questions remain before signing day, providing lots of entertainment come February 5th.
Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, as well as appeared on MSNBC as a sports contributor. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.