Sunday, January 11, 2009

Carrousel, Recruiting Edition

Perhaps it was inevitable, but for a third straight season Notre Dame lost a recruit in January, although this time it could hardly qualify as an earth-shattering development. The recruit in question was Marlon Pollard, cornerback out of San Bernadino, CA. Pollard had once been a UCLA commit - since the end of his sophomore season - but opened things back up after the dismissal of Karl Dorrell, then pledged to join the Irish last July. Beyond that, however, he's been something of an invisible man on the recruiting front, and things finally came to a head when Rick Neuheisel convinced him to make an official visit to Westwood this weekend.

Every year there's kids who change their minds (Notre Dame still has one in their camp, wideout Shaquelle Evans) and every case is different. Unlike the past two years, where it seemed that a little bit of subterfuge and deliberate misleads marked the cases of Justin Trattou and Omar Hunter, Pollard's situation seems pretty cut and dry. He committed after an impromptu visit to campus last summer and finally met, in person, most of the key coaches and players for Notre Dame once he made his official visit for the Stanford game. At the time it just seemed like a fortunate bounce of the ball for the Irish, having a top player out on the market after a coaching change at his program of choice, but from the get-go there's a concern that once somebody changes his mind once, he's liable to change it again (see Kapron Lewis-Moore from last year's recruting cycle). And Rick Neuheisel is nothing if not an aggressive recruiter, clearly winning over Pollard's mother in the process. Explaining the decision to switch back once more, the 6'1" Pollard stated, "I've just always been a Bruin." Browsing through his photos at Rivals and Scout, it's tough to find a picture of him where he's not decked out in UCLA gear, so it's not hard to see where he's coming from.

What remains to be seen is how or if this changes the landscape of Notre Dame's 2009 recruiting class. With regard to defensive backs, the Irish looked pretty set over the summer when they landed Pollard and Pennsylvania's EJ Banks. Now Pollard has gone back home and Banks will be in the middle of rehabbing a torn ACL when he enrolls early along with Tyler Stockton and Zeke Motta. Still, it's not like cornerback is a place where the Irish need a ton of talent and need it now - they have Raeshon McNeil & Sergio Brown, plus Darrin Walls (with two years of eligibility), Robert Blanton (3 years) and Jamoris Slaughter (4 years). The depth issue would be a little clearer if there was a resolution on Jashaad Gaines, who's in the same class as Walls and McNeil but was not in school this past semester; unlike Walls there's been no indication he will return. The same goes for Gary Gray, who did not make the bowl trip and will not be enrolled this coming semester according to the South Bend Tribune (the Trib noted that "the expectation [for Gray] is a return to school and the team this summer").

With just over three weeks to go until Signing Day, there are still a few key prospects the Irish are in on, but now comes the added intrigue of if they'll try late to add another target, as they did a year ago in last-minute pushes to secure Kapron Lewis-Moore and almost snare Milton Knox away from UCLA. Stay tuned.

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