(UHND.com) – If you’ve scoured the various Notre Dame message boards over the last week and a half you get the sense that recruiting is just about to heat up for the Irish. You can almost sense it in reading post after post of positive news that things are setting up nicely for a stretch run in recruiting unlike anything we’ve seen since the days of Lou Holtz.
As recently as a few weeks ago though, things were not seeming quite as optimistic.
Nearly two months had passed in between verbal commitments for Notre Dame before Emeka Nwankwo broke the drought and committed to the Irish back on November 6th. Since then the Irish have added a pair of tremendous athletes in wide receiver Greg Little and running back Armando Allen, and tide seems to be turning back in Notre Dame’s favor.
After storming out of the gates early in recruiting with commitments from Top 100 prospects such as Jimmy Clausen, Mike Ragone, Duval Kamara, and Justin Trattou; Notre Dame cooled off considerably during the season. Many pundits felt Notre Dame’s rather humbling loss at the hands of Michigan was going to be a major bump in the road for the Irish, but lately things have definitely picked up.
Things would, however, get worse before they got better.
Notre Dame had long been considered a lock for Arrelious Benn, the nation’s top wide receiver. Benn would announce for Illinois on the same day the Irish picked up the commitment of Greg Little. While the addition of Little was definitely a boost, some people felt the loss of Benn was a sign that the Irish would lose out on more of their top prospects.
Since Little committed to Notre Dame back in early November, its been all good news for Notre Dame recruiting with the highlight being the recent verbal commitment from Armando Allen. Allen, an elite running back from Florida, is a true game-breaker who will enroll early and should see the field next year.
Most Notre Dame fans, however, are concerned with the defensive side of the ball after seeing Michigan and USC combine for 91 points against the Irish (albeit if 21 came via special teams or defensive touchdowns).
This past weekend, one of the biggest defensive recruits for the Irish this year, Martez Wilson, was on hand for the annual football banquet. Wilson was joined by Robert Hughes, Golden Tate, and current commitment Aaron Nagel. The visit was apparently a great success based on a South Bend Tribune report quoting Tom Lemming as saying all of the prospects left possibly leaning towards Notre Dame.
Considering Wilson was thought to be a long shot for the Irish for the past few months, seeing that Notre Dame may be leading for him is huge right now. (Note, I said may – the quote from Lemming in the SBT had no quotes from Wilson himself, so take it for what its worth).
Landing blue chip recruits like Wilson, who can play linebacker, defensive end, or wide receiver, is what is going to make the difference between a top 10-15 class and a top 5 class. Last year’s class was a heck of a start in restocking the shelves so to speak, but adding elite prospects at key positions is what is going to close the gap between Notre Dame and the USC’s and Michigan’s.
Notre Dame fans won’t have to wait too much longer to find out where Wilson is headed though – he is supposed to make his announcement on December 22nd after he finishes up taking his official visits.
The other visitors this weekend – Golden Tate and Robert Hughes – would also make excellent additions to this year’s class. Tate’s got great speed and if there’s one thing the offenses Weis has had in his first two years have been missing, its pure speed. Tate’s got plenty of it and can play wide receiver or running back.
Hughes meanwhile is a punishing runner who has the ability to be an Eddie George-style workhorse back that can carry the ball 25-30 times if necessary and convert short yardage situations. He’s not the kind of back that is going to win any track meets, but he’s tough to bring down and is at his best running between the tackles. Hughes would be the perfect compliment to Armando Allen in the backfield of this year’s class.
Another prospect on defense that would bring a smile to Notre Dame fans’ faces is Chris Donald. Donald is considered one of the best linebackers in the country, and with the state of the linebackers for next season, he could start from day one should he decide on Notre Dame. He’s down to Tennessee and Notre Dame and has apparently made his decision, but will wait until the All American Bowl to announce it.
One thing is for sure, with the way recruiting is going, there are bound to be more ups and downs between now and Signing Day. I can’t remember a recruiting season that has been this volatile since I started writing for UHND.com back in 1999.
Early on it looked like Notre Dame was going to land every blue chip prospect they wanted and would have a commitment list made up entirely from the top 100 lists from Scout and Rivals.com. Then things started to really slow down and the panic started to set in among the Notre Dame faithful.
Recruits like Armando Allen, however, should help erase the pain of losing a five star receiver like Benn to a school like Illinois. Allen is a big time player for Notre Dame and has the kind of game-breaking ability that this team has been sorely lacking for the better part of a decade. Hopefully his commitment last week is just the start of slew of announcements that land in Notre Dame’s favor.
The one thing that should keep all Notre Dame fans optimistic is that the adults are in charge of recruiting now, and Weis and his staff obviously have a plan they believe in. That plan is starting to unfold and with 14 spots available in this class, the next two months are going to be quite a ride.
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