USAAAB: Days 1-3 notebook
On the recruiting front *** The biggest storyline so far this week surrounding Irish recruiting has been that of Alize Jones and his upcoming decision between UCLA and Notre Dame. Two key events are still the plate for the five-star Bruins tight end commit before a final decision is rendered: Jones will take his official to UCLA on Jan. 16, and he'll welcome Brian Kelly into his home likely shortly thereafter. No doubt Notre Dame continues to pick up steam here, especially as Jones spends quality time with Irish recruits this week, but there's still plenty to play out before Notre Dame gets coined as the unquestioned leader. History is the best teacher? One only has to read the interviews with Jones to discover Notre Dame’s utilization of tight ends is its biggest selling point. He loves what Notre Dame has done in the past with Tyler Eifert, Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack. He’s made it clear he doesn’t merely want to be a flex guy, which has been UCLA’s bread and butter for tight ends in recent years. Has Jones already made up his mind? Perhaps that’s the vibe in San Antonio, but you can bet Mora & Co. will have an aggressive game plan to present to Jones on his official. Whether or not Jones will completely buy in is the question. His decision process is best summed up with this quote: "Notre Dame is planning on using me just like [former Notre Dame tight end] (Tyler) Eifert. That's why it's a hard decision for me. UCLA has done a lot of flex stuff this year, and they haven't really put tight ends on the ground. At UCLA, they said they would do it for me. I just want to be able to see it. They are telling me that they have a plan, and all of these schools are telling me that they have a plan for me, but I want to be able to see that. Notre Dame showed me on film, and I've seen what they've done in the past with Troy Niklas and Ben Koyack and those guys. UCLA - that's where my heart is at, but at the end of the day I'm going to do what's best for me, and that's what I'll decide after I take this official." – Jones Jones breaks down decision process Video: Jones on Notre Dame, UCLA Jones sees end in sight *** In San Antonio, along with Jones, running back Jordan Cronkrite is still squarely on the table for Notre Dame. The latest here is that Cronkrite would prefer to stay in the state of Florida. If the Gators and Jim Mcelwein present a committable offer, it would be difficult to see Cronkrite inking anywhere else. However, that remains to be seen, and Louisville, Notre Dame and West Virginia currently appear as the most likely destinations for the Miami native. Some work off the field for Cronkrite could be an obstacle to him landing in South Bend. We’ll see if both parties have enough interest in each other to make the push for him to join the 2015 class. Florida in the mix for Cronkrite? Cronkrite still contemplating three visits *** Cornerback target Ykili Ross and linebacker target Porter Gustin are both expected to ink with the Trojans over the Irish. Ross is set to announce on Saturday, and a signing day decision could be on tap for Gustin. More on Ross here, and more on Gustin here. *** Irish commits Jerry Tillery, Josh Barajas and Tristen Hoge discuss their experiences in San Antonio. Be on the lookout for interviews with safety commit Nicco Fertitta and linebacker commit Asmar Bilal later this week. Tillery: ‘I knew what I wanted from the beginning’ Barajas drops insight on five-star TE target Hoge embraces elite competition Notes on the field - Josh Barajas: Named to Scout’s list of top five West defenders on Monday… Has been one of the West’s best linebackers through two days of practice… Showing great coverage skills in mid-range passing game… Aggressive in man coverage… Capable of sniffing out play development in the backfield in run game… Registered multiple tackles for loss… Lining up as first team SAM linebacker for the West - Asmar Bilal: Named to Scout’s list of top five West defenders on Tuesday… Physical player but will only become increasingly so with added weight to his rangy frame… Outstanding lateral movement and closing speed… Similarities to Jaylon Smith very evident this week… Excels at taking away any check down options in the flats… Biggest strength lies in tackling in space… Was burned once in one-v-one coverage by Ohio State running back commit Mike Weber… Lining up as first team WILL linebacker for the West - Tristen Hoge: Named to Scout’s list of top five West offensive players on Tuesday… Named to Scout’s list of top five rebounders from day one to day two… Improved mightily on Tuesday going against No. 1 player defensive tackle Kahlil McKenzie. (split reps in one-v-one)... Polished technique and fundamentals… Great feet… Block-like build… Moves extremely well… Lining up as first team center for the West - Nicco Fertitta: Playing with a cast on his left hand after suffering a break in playoffs… Expects to get the four pins taken out within the next three weeks… Came close to a pick in man coverage on Tuesday… Inseparable with “best friend” Alize Jones off the field… Lining up as second team safety for the West - Jerry Tillery: Needs to tighten up physically but has great length to build upon… Athletically gifted across the board… Needs to improve finishing off blocks… Enters and exits stance with ease… Lining up as first team left guard for the West Up next in Texas... Tomorrow (Thursday) practice will be held from 10: 30 a.m. to 12: 15 p.m. CST. Friday there will be no media availability. The U.S. Army All-American Bowl will take place on Saturday at 12 p.m. CST and will be broadcast live on NBC. Meanwhile in Orlando... Equanimeous St. Brown eyeing signing day decision Two-team race for five-star running back Soso Jamabo? Ronald Jones to decide between USC and Notre Dame on Friday Shaun Crawford addresses Harbaugh hire
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