Potential National Signing Day Surprises for Notre Dame

Wide receiver John "JuJu" Smith (9) tries to avoid the tackle of linebacker Jamadre Cobb (20) during the Nike 7on7 pool play at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon on Tuesday July, 2, 2013. (Photo: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports)
Wide receiver John “JuJu” Smith (9) tries to avoid the tackle of linebacker Jamadre Cobb (20) during the Nike 7on7 pool play at Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon on Tuesday July, 2, 2013. (Photo: Steve Dykes-USA TODAY Sports)

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.

JuJu Smith

  • 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?

Michiah Quick

  • 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?

Terrence Alexander

  • 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?

Courtney Garnett

  • 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?

Daniel Cage

  • 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 scottjanssenhp@gmail.com.

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  1. Some very, very good players on the above list. If ND could get 2 or 3 it would probably benefit the program greatly. The one thing going against ND is that if you choose the Irish you will have to attend class. Unlike many top notch football programs, ND’s athletes do need to attend classes. A perfect example, Golson and this year in basketball the 20+ point guard who was recently asked to leave the program. Academics is real at ND, not just something to do when not playing football or any other sport for that matter. They say the admissions have gotten a little easier but getting into ND is way tougher then getting into USC and a many other colleges. Go Irish!

  2. Not football, but worth noting.

    At a wondrous place called the Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, there were four headliners who appeared 55 years ago tonight.

    A kid from Lubbock, Charles Harden Holley (most know him as Buddy Holly)

    Ricardo Valenzuela (most know him for singing La Bamba as Richie Valens)

    Jiles Perry Richardson, or J.P. Richardson or the Big Bopper who regaled us about Chantilly Lace.

    There was another kid from Texas with the troupe, his name was Waylon Jennings.

    the group was flying East from Clear Lake to another concert, and the small prop plane couldn’t accommodate them all. So the kid, Waylon Jennings got bumped.

    And that night in a storm in Northeastern Iowa some, but not all of the music died. Don Mclean sung about it in American Pie, but if you want the best version, then download “Buddy Holly and the Pharaohs of Rhythm” from Garrison Keilor. Quite seriously it’s the best performance art I’ve ever heard.

    And it was kind of sweet, in a weird way. Once upon a time in America we only lost our stars to accidents, and then came Joplin, Hendrix, and Morrison, and yet today Phillip Seymour Hoffman, leaving three orphaned kids, vanishes in a puff of white powder.

    February 3, 1959

  3. There’s one thing different about Quick. Remember, Watkins, Quick and Nathan Starks accompanied their high school coaches for Kelly’s coaching soiree in the Spring. And Kelly spent a LOT of time with each of them during the clinic. We got Watkins, Starks was leaning to us before his problems at Gorman, and we shall see about Quick. If he shows up at Notre Dame then the summer coaching clinic and the 3-4 studs whose coaches “coincidentally” are selected to teach at the clinic will be a leading indicator of highly targeted, highly likely 2015 studs.

    And I’d be remiss if, while watching Percy Harvin yesterday, I didn’t mutter “Isaiah McKenzie” under my breath.

    1. What I noticed yesterday was how pressure on a QB, even a Peyton Manning, is the great equalizer. Of course, it helps if your LBs and safeties tackle after forcing short passes because of the pressure. Seattle led the league in fewest yards allowed after completions; Denver led the league in gaining most yards after a reception- until yesterday. Here’s hoping BK was reminded how necessary maximizing D’ pressure on the QB is to being successful in modern football. Bears taught us that
      30 years ago. Turn ’em loose, Coach Van Gorder. Hopefully Buddy Ryan’s son showed you last season what his daddy showed us all 30 years ago, and what Seattle showed us again yesterday – that pressure D forces TOs and mistakes, even among the great ones.

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