Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blood in the Water?

The losses are piling up on the field, the attackers are circling over the carcass, but the Irish coaching staff seems to thrive on the bunker mentality, discovering some true 'love among the ruins' for Notre Dame from the current high school seniors. Though it's only November (and we know from prior experience how certain coaches hold the heavy ammunition until very late in the recruiting cycle), the Irish are in a "Tiger On the Back 9 of a Major" zone with regards to recruiting - a spot as one of the Top 5 classes is assured provided they suffer no defections (always a possibility). More tantalizing, though, is the psychological edge and the jump-start on the next cycle the Irish can earn if they lock up the number one recruiting class. With 20 commitments as of November 1st, the Irish have the luxury of zeroing in on a select few elite targets to round out the class, such as five-star wide receiver Deion Walker from Christchurch, VA (left). Of course, inevitably, some recruitniks just can't help themselves when it comes to sizing up Notre Dame's chances versus 'the field'.

The most recent in-depth conversation between Walker and a recruiting service proved the point. Shortly after he wrapped up his official visit to ND this weekend, out came an interview from the totally-unbiased, full-service website WeAreSC.com, which seems quite proud of its designation as an ESPN affiliate. (You think we should apply for similar royal treatment?) Anyway, it was apparently this article that prompted Walker to slip a text message to one of the recruiting gurus at Irish Illustrated, letting him know he'd been mis-quoted.

What, I wonder, was Walker trying to clear up so quickly? I'm no expert, but I'm guessing it was the part of the interview with the WeAreSC folk in which Walker apparently stopped one syllable shy of calling South Bend a cow town:
Dealing with the cold can potentially be a negative for a prospect from warmer climate, but the one negative potentially working against Notre Dame is the city it’s located in.

“It’s a lot like Christchurch,” Walker said about South Bend. “I consider myself a big-city guy, being I’m from Charlotte (NC), and it was a culture shock when we moved there. There is absolutely nothing to do in Christchurch. There are two gas stations, a market and a Hardees. That's it. I mean, we find things to do with our friends, but we have to drive 25 minutes to McDonalds, 35 minutes to Walmart and an hour to a mall. I don’t think you could find where we live with a GPS system.

“I knew they would arrange things for us to do because we were on an official visit, but it didn’t seem like there was much to do in South Bend. I hope it’s not like Christchurch, because I don’t want to go to a school in a city like Christchurch. That could be the biggest negative with Notre Dame. I know there will be a lot more to do in L.A."

You could see why, just for the sake of not wanting to tick people off, Walker would want it out there that he'd been the victim of a 'lost in translation' moment. Or perhaps he took offense with the last sentence seeming to be framed as a plan to matriculate at USC, a school he's yet to visit. In all honesty though, who would've been offended or put off by Walker acknowledging that, if you're looking for a wild-and-crazy E-ticket atmosphere, you could do better than Club Fever and Rocco's Pizza?

Curiously, Walker went on to say his overall best visit so far had been to Penn State, but he either didn't have any concerns about Happy Valley being smack in the middle of Pennsylvania, 3 hours from anything resembling a big city, or he didn't mention any to the ESPN affiliate. Or he did and they didn't care, since everybody gets a good chuckle out of Notre Dame losing top athletes because the neighborhood is cold and pathetic - that line doesn't go over nearly as well in analyzing the recruiting of Penn State, Michigan, or Ohio State, even though it's just as true.

Maybe 'WeAreSC' was just trying to do what any good premium service website catering to program diehards does: paint USC's chance to land Walker in as positive a light as possible, and use a really easy shot at the glorious landscape of Northern Indiana in the process. With Notre Dame struggling the way it is, there'll probably be more examples of opposing forces taking their best shot, which was of course what Weis offered them the chance to do in his post-game USC comments:
I'm going to answer that very cautiously, okay, because I don't want to be called sarcastic, using New Jersey rhetoric. So let me just say: people better enjoy it now. Have their fun now.
Weis remains absolutely convinced he and Notre Dame will get the last laugh. The results will tell the story however, and just like how a lot of people who can't stand Notre Dame shook their heads and declared Weis wasn't that good even as he opened his coaching career 19-4, Weis should get a chance to prove he can rebound from a stretch where he goes 1-10. And who knows - if Deion Walker is out there trying to clarify his true feelings about Notre Dame (or South Bend, either one), it's a sign that there's still at least a few of the people who really matter willing to do the same.

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