Tuesday, February 05, 2008

One Day More

Tomorrow, the fax machine in the Guglielmino Athletics Complex will buzz early as committed recruits finally make it official with a signed letter-of-intent to attend and play football for the University of Notre Dame. We'd like to think Section 29 would be all you need to stay updated on any and all surprises (positive or negative) that might await, but as a former ND Sports Properties intern, I say we direct you to the professionals. UND.com will be launching the full-court press beginning at noon with Charlie Weis' press conference; he'll recap and toss superlatives on each of the (as of now) 23 commitments before taking questions that'll no doubt run a pretty wide gamut, from picking his brain about how well his "a commitment is a commitment" tour really worked, what really happened in the recruiting of Omar Hunter, how much he expects the incoming freshman to contribute immediately, and probably one or two questions on the following bits of news that broke over the previous week:
  • The surprise hire of Jon Tenuta, former defensive coordinator at Georgia Tech known for his mantra of "Blitz until your players can't feel their legs. Then, in the second quarter, keep blitzing." While such overly simplistic breakdowns of his style were good for a laugh over at Every Day Should Be Saturday, Tenuta does have a sharp mind known for confusing the heck out of college quarterbacks with creative (and yes, quite frequent) blitz packages. He was already a star within the Notre Dame community after two very strong defensive performances his Yellow Jacket defense put upon the Irish the past two years, allowing a total of 17 points, quickly and ruthlessly blowing up Weis' spread-option cocktail in the 2007 opener, and being the only team which did not allow a Brady Quinn touchdown pass in 2006.
  • The hire was announced in tandem with the resignation of coaching lifer Bill Lewis, who steps aside in order to get two hips replaced and eventually take up a position inside the ND athletics department on the community relations staff. One of the big unanswered questions sure to pop up tomorrow is how precisely the defensive staff will be organized - a year ago it was Corwin Brown as coordinator, Lewis as secondary coach & assistant head coach - defense, Brian Polian as linebackers coach, and Jappy Oliver as defensive line coach. While Oliver isn't likely to be shuffled anywhere, either Brown or Tenuta (who officially assumes Lewis' title as "Assistant Head Coach - Defense") figures to now be much closer to the the back 7 on a daily basis.
  • Less welcome news arrived earlier today with the announcement that Will Yeatman, the sophomore tight end most likely to seize a starting spot in the wake of John Carlson's graduation, has been "suspended indefinitely" for a "a violation of team policy", to quote Irish lacrosse coach Kevin Corrigan in a story posted at Irish Illustrated. The ND football office released a statement later, confirming Yeatman had been suspended from both sports, meaning the 5th-ranked lacrosse team will be without their leading scorer when the 2008 season opens next weekend at Loyola (MD), and that Yeatman is (for now) ineligible to participate in spring practices. So the $64,000 question (two of them, actually) was: what rule was broken? And for how long will Yeatman be out?
The South Bend Tribune quickly picked up on the answer to the first - Yeatman was cited by NDSP (that's the University-run police unit) on January 28th for operating while intoxicated. A similar incident occurred in Weis' first season as coach, when fullback Rashon Powers-Neal was cited while visiting his home in Minnesota. He was suspended indefinitely before the USC game and did not return to action the rest of the year. Yeatman's potential long-term absence deals another body-blow to a position searching to replace a top-notch graduated talent. The Irish will have only one scholarship tight end as things stand now for spring drills, freshman Mike Ragone - but barring a huge out-of-nowhere moment tomorrow will have the official commitments of two of the country's top freshman-to-be in Kyle Rudolph & Joseph Fauria. The depth-chart positioning is a secondary concern right now though; here's hoping Yeatman takes all appropriate measures to recognize the severity of that mistake and fulfill whichever obligations the university, lacrosse, and football teams expect in order to be reinstated.

For now, just sit back and breathe regular; in 10 hours the hair-pulling exercise that is high school recruiting will officially be over, before it starts back up again on Thursday in the push towards Signing Day, 2009. Again, while this list is still subject to last-minute changes of heart and the whims of impressionable 18-year olds everywhere, here is what tomorrow's official freshman roster should look like:

Quarterback
  • Dayne Crist (Sherman Oaks, CA -- Notre Dame High School)
  • Nathaniel Montana (Santa Rosa, CA -- Concord de la Salle HS; Note: Yes, he's related. And Nate will not sign a LOI as a scholarship prospect, but attend Notre Dame with preferred walk-on status. Good read on his story and his plans to blaze a trail different from that of his famous father here).
Running Back
  • Jonas Gray (Detroit, MI -- Detroit Country Day)
Wide Receiver
  • Michael Floyd (St. Paul, MN -- Cretin Derham Hall)
  • John Goodman (Ft. Wayne, IN -- Bishop Dwenger)
Tight End
  • Joseph Fauria (Encino, CA -- Crespi Carmelite)
  • Kyle Rudolph (Cincinnati, OH - Elder HS)
Offensive Line
  • Braxston Cave (Mishawaka, IN - Penn)
  • Lane Clelland (Owings Mills, MD - McDonogh)
  • Mike Golic, Jr. (West Hartford, CT - Northwest Catholic)
  • Trevor Robinson (Omaha, NE - Elkhorn)
Defensive Line
  • Sean Cwynar (Woodstock, IL - Marian Catholic)
  • Ethan Johnson (Portland, OR - Lincoln HS)
  • Brandon Newman (Louisville, KY - Pleasure Ridge Park HS)
  • Hafis Williams (Elizabeth, NJ - Elizabeth HS)
Linebacker
  • Steve Filer (Chicago, IL - Mt. Carmel)
  • Darius Fleming (Chicago, IL - St. Rita)
  • Anthony McDonald (Sherman Oaks, CA - Sherman Oaks Notre Dame)
  • David Posluszny (Aliquippa, PA - Hopewell)
Cornerback
  • Robert Blanton (Matthews, NC - Butler)
  • Jamoris Slaughter (Stone Mountain, GA - Tucker)
Safety
  • Dan McCarthy (Youngstown, OH - Cardinal Mooney)
Note that Cwynar and Robinson, while early-enrollees who've been at Notre Dame for a month already and will be part of spring drills, are just like any other recruit and must officially file the LOI tomorrow, at which point Weis will be free to comment on them and the other members of the class.

Discerning eyes will note that only 22 prospects are on this list, 21 public commitments in addition to Montana. There are two others who's name may or may not be on it when the dust finally settles. The first is Deion Walker, who told Rivals tonight that he has a LOI set for either Notre Dame, Tennessee, or Penn State, and that even though he announced his decision during last month's ESPN All-American game to be Irish, he's not yet made his final final decision and won't do so until the letter goes out tomorrow.

The second is defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore, who's recruitment took yet another bizarre third-act twist when Tom Lemming reported the other day that, despite having re-committed to his original destination (Texas A&M) following a visit to South Bend, Moore is in actuality a Notre Dame commitment. Like Walker, you won't know where precisely Moore lands tomorrow until the letter physically arrives in some lucky coaches' fax bin, so he's not on the official list.

Lastly, upon concluding his press conference tomorrow afternoon and making a round of congratulatory phone calls, Weis will be awaiting word from one final prospect, running backĀ Milton Knox of Lake Balboa, CA. Knox, a self-described Irish fan growing up, had committed to Karl Dorrell at UCLA very early on in the process before going on to a spectacular senior season, rushing for an absurd 39 touchdowns in leading Birmingham to the LA City Section title. He's also very close friends with both Crist and Fauria, who've been vocal about their personal efforts to get him into Notre Dame blue; in spite of all the good signs (that he's close buds with two top ND commits, that he took an official visit on the last available weekend, that he reported the ND student section at the DePaul basketball game was chanting his name and asking for his autograph), the pull of his original commitment to the hometown Bruins could prove too strong. If you have FSN West, tune in at 4 PM West Coast time to see his announcement, while trying to block out the memories of the last time a highly-touted running back from southern California was picking between Notre Dame and other schools live on TV.

Breathe regular, folks. This time tomorrow, it'll all be over.

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