High Risk, High Reward for Notre Dame Recruiting Mega Weekends

Here we are again.  Huge, prime time match for Notre Dame against a marquee opponent and Notre Dame has a group of elite recruits lined up for official and unofficial visits including a few that could propel this class into legit elite status.  Notre Dame does this almost every year and when they win, the results are generally very good.  When they lose? Not so much.

This is nothing new for Notre Dame.  They do this every year and some years it’s worked and in others it hasn’t.  If Notre Dame can knock off Georgia this weekend the Irish should be in pretty good shape here.  With the expected invasion of Georgia fans this weekend though, if Notre Dame comes out and lays an egg in front of say 25,000 or more opposing fans, how many of these uncommitted kids do you think will ultimately end up at Notre Dame?

Recent history tells us not to expect many and if any and to be scared about losing commitments from those already in the fold who are also visiting.

Notre Dame loaded up on elite recruits last year for the Michigan State game and not only did they only land one recruit – Aaron Brooks – they ended up losing one of their best defensive recruits – Donovan Jeter – to Michigan.  Jaiden Cole, Salvon Ahmed, Jacob Phillips, Hezekiah Jones, Thomas Graham (who Notre Dame was leading for), and Shaun Wade all went elsewhere.

For Stanford, Notre Dame had another set of big time visitors and after losing to the Cardinal on the field they lost commit Paulson Adebo to them on the recruiting trail a couple months later.  Notre Dame didn’t land a single recruit from that weekend who wasn’t previously committed but did lose three – Adebo, Elijah Hicks, and Jordan Pouncey.  Foster Sarell visited that weekend too and the 5-star offensive lineman ended up at… Stanford. So not only did the Irish fail to land any recruits that weekend, but they lost two to the team they were playing.

With Georgia native Jamaree Salyer (uncommitted) and Derrik Allen (committed to Notre Dame) lined up this weekend that should be a cautionary tale.

Now this can work out in Notre Dame’s favor as well.  Two years ago Notre Dame loaded up for the USC weekend and after an impressive win over the Trojans, the Irish cleaned house that weekend.  They ended up with Daelin Hayes, Devin Studstill, Javon McKinley, Khalid Kareem, Troy Pride Jr, AND Deon McIntosh all from that weekend.  Ian Book, Kevin Stepherson, and Jalen Elliott were also in attendance, but they had all committed already.  That is a ridiculous haul from a single weekend.  Hayes and Kareem were both 4-star DEs.  Studstill a 4-star safety.  McKinley a 4-star wide receiver.  Pride a 4-star cornerback.

In 2014, Notre Dame’s two big recruiting weekends were Michigan and Stanford.  When the Irish blanked the Wolverines they ended up with Tevon Coney and when they knocked off the Cardinal in thrilling fashion, they did it in front of Equanimeous St. Brown who had not committed anywhere to that point.b

We could go back further too.  In 2011 when Notre Dame played USC for the first night game in Notre Dame Stadium in over 20 years and started this trend, they laid an egg against USC with Deontay Greenberry in attendance.  He ultimately spurred the Irish on Signing Day.  Also on the sidelines that day where Shaq Thompson, Keith Marshall, John Theus, Tee Shepard, Brian Poole, Zach Banner, Bryce Treggs, and Jordan Payton among others.  None of those names ring a bell?  That’s because none of them ended up at Notre Dame.

Notre Dame did manage to pull Keivarae Russell out of that weekend, but with 14 official visitors on hand, they landed one recruit they didn’t already have.  Tee Shepard was still committed at the time – and did enroll early at Notre Dame – and Justin Ferguson was committed already too, but both eventually transferred from Notre Dame.

So that brings us to this weekend. Recent history tells us that Notre Dame can expect to do well with this weekend’s visitors if they win.  It’s no guarantee for multiple commitments, but we have seen that when the Irish lose one of these big prime time games in which they have a ton of top prospects on hand, they are guaranteed for mediocre at best returns.

With some very crucial recruits such as Jamaree Salyer, Houston Griffith, Kalon Gervin, Chase Cota, and Julius Irvin on top of some of their best current commitments, Notre Dame can’t afford to lay another egg in primetime like we’ve seen happen all too often over the last few years.

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  1. TERENCE MCMANUS 9 months ago

    Ask yourself – if you were an 18 year old kid and you’d been watching Notre Dame on NBC your whole life and you were offered the chance to watch a game from a privileged point really near the action – wouldn’t you take it?

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  2. BookstoreisEverything 9 months ago

    This article is a bit misleading. Often times many recruits who sign up for the big games at ND don’t have a strong interest in ND but want to take a free trip to see a big game, sometimes because they’re more interested in ND’s opponent than ND. For example this year I suspect that’s the case with Salyer and Griffith for this game, and Amin-Ra St Brown for the USC game. Others like Irvin may be near-committed to a school, but want to take a nice free cross country visit to experience one of the games of the year. They feel “why not?” but might not really be that interested in ND. So for many of those recruits, they’re highly unlikely to come to ND no matter how the game turns out. Also, for many other recruits, they have strong interest in ND no matter how their official game visit turns out. Stories are legion of top recruits who saw ND lose in their official visit but came to ND anyway – many ND players themselves have talked about that. Frankly it’s kind of offensive to the recruits to suggest that they’re so shallow and stupid to base their decision on whether ND wins their official visit game. Does it help if ND plays well and wins the game? Absolutely. Just like it helps if the weather is nice when they visit. But there are so many other factors in the recruits’ decisions, and it’s just not fair or accurate to suggest that the outcome of their official visit game was the deciding factor for all these past recruits or will be for the recruits coming this weekend.

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    1. Frank Vitovitch 9 months ago

      The article literally says that playing well is no guarantee for success but the data suggests that when Notre Dame doesn’t play well on these weekends, they don’t do well with the recruits either. The angle of just wanting to see a big game is pure conjecture and speculation. It’s not “offensive” to recruits to suggest that when Notre Dame loses these big games in front of a lot of recruits that they typically do not do well. Elite recruits want to play for elite teams. By this logic, the official visit doesn’t even matter because recruits either know they are coming already or are just there for a free trip and are using Notre Dame.

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      1. BookstoreisEverything 9 months ago

        Frank, you write good articles and I enjoy your work. I like this site. Much better than many of the other sites. A few additional comments here though.

        Of course elite recruits want to play for elite teams. And of course going 4-8 is horrible for recruiting, and going 12-0 is fantastic for recruiting. No one disputes that.

        The problem I have with the article is that it makes it seem like recruits are making their decision based largely on whether ND wins or loses the recruit’s official visit game. That’s just not true. For one, no recruit would say that or ever has said that, and in fact in I think all of the recruit interviews I’ve seen or read (which is many), when that topic comes up, the recruits expressly say that’s not the case. So taking it from the horse’s mouth by itself undermines the premise that the outcome of the official visit game determines where they’ll go. And the recruits aren’t all lying about that. A lot goes into their decisions on what school to attend. That’s just common sense. Anyone who has sent a kid to college, or gone to college themselves, should know that.

        You say “the data” supports that whether ND wins their official visit game determines whether they’ll attend ND, but the article doesn’t do a comprehensive analysis of that theory, or present a fair and complete set of data on that, all it does is cherry pick a few games and certain recruit stories to try to suggest that’s the case. You could write the exact opposite article with the exact opposite conclusion by cherry picking games and recruit stories that go the other way – recruits who came to ND even when they saw ND lose during their official visit.
        Again there is no doubt that winning games, particularly big games, helps recruiting, and that losing big games is not good for recruiting — both for recruits who are there other official visits and who are not there. But whether ND wins or loses this game is not going to be the determining factor in whether Griffin, Salyer, Gervin, Irvin or anyone else comes to ND. It’s just one factor among many.

        And it’s not unbridled speculation to say that some kids aren’t coming to ND no matter what happens in the game. In fact, it would be naive to think that every recruit who takes an official visit is doing it as s blank slate, coming to ND with a completely open mind. Many are already strongly leaning one way or the other (like I and many recruiting experts believe Salyer is), and for recruits already leaning one way, the game’s outcome is at best another piece of information that gets put into the mix, and at worst hardly much of a factor at all, but in any case it is far from the determining factor.

        I hope like heck ND wins, because that may make the visiting recruits feel a little more comfortable about coming to ND. But if ND loses and Salyer and Griffin don’t come to ND, it would be preposterous to say that they would have come to ND had ND won, or even that ND losing was a significant factor in their decisions. THAT is what would actually be the unbridled and unreasonable speculation.

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  3. Damian 9 months ago

    I’m wondering if these mega weekends are worth it. It seems when they win, they may pull in a smattering of recruits (with one exception being the USC game noted above), but when they lose, they end up losing a number of recruits. Is it all worth it? I suppose you can argue too that ND needs to advertise itself, and game action is the best way to do that.

    What it comes down to is there is now more pressure to win this weekend. If they lose, the consequences will likely be greater than just a single game. The repercussions may be felt years to come.

    Greg makes a good point though. In this day and age, verbal commitments are not what they once were. Until they put their pen to paper and sign their commitment, they can, and frequently do change their minds. Kids today are very fickle and when something as simple as having a Chick-Fil-A on campus can bring a kid to your school, nothing is sacred (don’t get me wrong, I like Chick-Fil-A, they make great sweet iced tea BTW–but I wouldn’t base my school decision on that).

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    1. southside 9 months ago

      Damian , believe me , the pressure to win this Saturday by the players/coaches—–farthest thing from their minds is a handful of recruits in the stands and if Irish lose—repercussions felt for many years to come. All college teams invite recruits to their marquee games—-I just don;t think the players, coaches and fans — are thinking this is a “pressure game” because of few high school recruits are in the stands.

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    2. Frank Vitovitch 9 months ago

      The alternative is to host recruits on weekends with weaker opponents when the stadium environment isn’t what it is on big weekends. It comes down to Notre Dame needing to start winning these games. For the most part, the data shows that when Notre Dame plays well, they recruit well and not just on official visit weekends, but for seasons as a whole. There are exceptions of course, but it all comes down to winning these games.

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      1. Damian 9 months ago

        Southside, I agree to a point. Playing Georgia this weekend is pressure enough. And in general the players and fans probably won’t give too much thought to potential recruits during the game. However, I do think the coaches will probably be giving some thought to future recruiting based on the games outcome. They want to put on a good show. And Frank makes a good point. They need to start winning these games. That’s probably the best way to win over recruits whether it’s a mega recruiting weekend or not.

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  4. Greg Kelly 9 months ago

    I don’t care about commits. More importantly the one who takes pen in hand and signs.

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