Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Your Regularly Scheduled Programming

When news rains on the recruiting front, it pours. Perhaps it's because of all the ominous signs of the noose around Charlie Weis' neck, or maybe because of it, that recruiting has taken on a more aching, desperate tone this offseason. With each day passing by without a big name highlight reel to chew over, Irish fans resorted more and more to chewing off their own fingernails.

Well, rest easy and chew on this. In the last 7 days the Irish secured four verbal pledges, each one addressing a key need in the construction of a class that, like the one preceding it which just entered summer school, needs to bring in solid reinforcements rather than ready-to-go standouts at every position (though certainly some positions have a more urgent need than others during this recruiting calendar). But we can do some amateur depth chart engineering at a later. Here are the fab four in no particular order:
  • Andrew Hendrix, QB, Cincinnati, OH (Moeller High School). You all remember Moeller as the school which gave Notre Dame Gerry Faust - and boy, was that the gift that kept on giving. Moeller's far from the De La Salle-type juggernaut it was during Faust's heyday of the late-'70s, when the Crusaders went unbeaten five tims in six years and were four times picked as the mythical national champions of prep football. Faust then was plucked from Ohio to lead the most storied college football program in the country...and perhaps it is fair to say neither school has been the same since. The word that seems to define Hendrix at this point is "raw", which I guess could be seen as either unproven, or simplyuntapped - obviously a lot of programs saw potential that could be built on with his junior years numbers: 1,700 yards, 11 TDs, and 7 INTs. A far cry from 50+ touchdown throws for recent signal-calling studs, but nonetheless Hendrix fielded offers from the in-state Buckeyes, Purdue, Stanford, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Miami, Nebraska, Northwestern, and Maryland. He certainly isn't a finished product from a physical standpoint and isn't the best athlete Weis has recruited at the position - that honor goes to Dayne Crist...yes, even ahead of Demetrius Jones. There's been plenty of positive buzz around Hendrix that ought to only grow with his commitment to the Irish. ESPN's recruit index raved about his arm strength and the possibility of him being "the biggest sleeper of this class", by which they meant nationwide, not strictly Notre Dame.
  • Blake Lueders, DT, Zionsville, IN (Zionsville HS). An imposing 6'5", Lueders picked Notre Dame over a host of ACC and Big 10 schools. Ranked as a four-star prospect and the #14 player in the nation for his position by Rivals, the story of his commitment phone call fired up a round of chatty internet message board posts about the net gain of having new defensive line coach Randy Hart out on the recruiting trail - Lueders specifically mentioned taking another unofficial visit to South Bend just so his parent could meet Hart and hear his vision for the Irish defense:
“You know the energy he has,” Lueders said. “He exploded with enthusiasm, and started going crazy. He said I made his night and went on and on.”
  • Lo Wood, CB, Apopka, FL (Apopka HS). It's slightly unfortunate that yes, his name is "Lo" and he hails from "FloRida", prompting what hopefully will be many choruses of "Shawty got low, low, low, low..." from the slightly inebriated students during his upcoming career. The cost of doing business in the era of never-ending one-hit wonders. But I digress. Wood, a 5'10" corner with speed, talent, and plenty of opinions on both, drew almost instant comparisons with RJ Blanton, the locquacious freshman who stepped into the #2 corner spot by season's end and figures to be a starter when the '09 campaign opens. Wood also conducted probably the most theatrical commitment since Jimmy Clausen, calling and then cancelling a press conference at his high school before revealing he was actually at Notre Dame on a second unofficial visit with his father. Notre Dame made the final cut over Michigan, Georgia Tech, and Ole Miss, and another new addition to Weis's staff received special praise as Wood broke down the decision, singling out his primary recruiter Tony Alford in addition to his future position coach Corwin Brown. What the Irish staff may be lacking in big-stars early on in this campaign they at least make up for with the kind of high-energy recruiting you need to compete in today's college landscape.
  • Chris Badger, FS, Provo, UT (Timpview HS). If there's one school that knows the perils that come with a committed prospect agreeing to go on a visit to other schools, it's Notre Dame. Some awfully big fish got away like this: Justin Trattou, Omar Hunter, Marlon Pollard, etc. When all the recruitnik headlines the following Monday lead with a variation on "He was blown away", it's even worse news. So it was with Badger, a bruiser in the middle from Utah who had previously committed to Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. That's where Randy Hart enters the picture once again, giving Badger the hard sell to get him to visit, then selling him harder on the beauty and tradition of the Irish program that had Badger's dad (an alum of The Farm and a "big skeptic" on Notre Dame, to use the prospect's own words) wearing a shirt from the Bookstore before the visit ended. Interesting footnote: as one might have guessed given his Utah residency, Badger is Mormon and made a point of spending time on campus with Manti Te'o, who was wrapping up the first week of summer school:
"We went to church together on Sunday for a little while," Badger said. "We both think it's great being out here and representing our church and doing our best to represent our church and being great people and great football players."
All told, a great start to the stretch run of summertime. As tomorrow marks the turn into July, it's hard to believe that the season is just 66 days away. Yet paradoxically it's driving me crazy having to wait 66 more days.

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