On Thursday, Christmas Eve, 5-foot-11, 166-pound Troy Pride Jr. from Greer, S.C. will announce his college choice. It is expected to be Notre Dame over North Carolina State, Virginia Tech, North Carolina and Tennessee.
Pride would be Irish commitment No. 21 on the heels of safety Devin Studstill’s pledge to Notre Dame on Dec. 15. That would be the seventh defensive back – a full one-third of the class – to choose the Irish with Julian Love (La Grange Park, Ill) and Donte Vaughn (Memphis, Tenn.) also expected to work at the cornerback position.
A one-time Virginia Tech commitment, Pride re-opened the recruiting process when long-time Hokie head coach Frank Beamer announced on Nov. 1 that he would retire upon the conclusion of the 2015 season. Notre Dame already had made inroads with Pride during his October visit for the home tilt against USC.
Virginia Tech remains in the running and North Carolina State received an official visit from Pride. But when Pride makes his Christmas Eve announcement, Notre Dame is the strong favorite to come out on top, which largely would be attributed to the impression Notre Dame secondary coach Todd Lyght made during Pride’s campus visit as well as running backs coach Autry Denson on the recruiting trail.
In an interview by Irish Illustrated’s Anna Hickey with Pride’s mother, Angie, she talked about the comfort zone with Notre Dame.
“Coach Denson makes us feel pretty special,” she said. “Some schools tell you something and go cold. Notre Dame took longer with their evaluation of Troy, but they have been very consistent.
“Denson feels like a brother to me. We are just very comfortable around him. He sends me motivational stuff that’s probably different than what he sends Troy, and I like all of that. We can laugh and talk about it.
“During his visit, he was seriously here for three hours – from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. We were just talking and laughing. He was comfortable around us. We really like his personality. He’s not all business and we can ask him anything. I love his transparency.”
Listed as the No. 62 cornerback in the country by Scout and the No. 2 cornerback in the state, the Greer, S.C. product is a smooth, gliding athlete whose effortless running style allows him to ease his way past those who pursue him with the football when he’s running it, catching it or returning it.
This is a quality athlete with very good if not great speed. There’s a subtle explosiveness to his ability to run with a long running stride in the open field that belies his dimensions. Listed as a cornerback prospect, Pride is an athletic football player first and foremost with a wide array of assets that includes punt returns and the ability to block a kick coming off the edge.
There is a free-and-easy nature to Pride’s game. It seldom looks as if he’s fully exerting himself running the football, and then he’s past everyone.
What impresses scouts on the defensive side of the football is his smooth backpedal, the turn of the hips as the receiver makes his break, and then the ability to press the receiver to the sideline with his back side as he runs with the wideout stride-for-stride.
He flashes that speed as a take-the-top-off slot receiver as well. At Greer High School, he got plenty of opportunities to touch the football in a variety of ways in the passing game, most notably on quick-outs to the wide side of the field and on tunnel screens.
For a defensive player without a lot of ballast, Pride is a solid tackler who sinks his hips, bends his knees, widens his tackling base, and then explodes into the lower body of the ball carrier. Pretty impressive for a kid listed at 166 pounds.
One might be inclined to say that Pride is a poor man’s Shaun Crawford, although Crawford offers more pure speed. Ideally, you’d like to preserve a year of eligibility with Pride as a freshman and allow him to add some bulk and armor to the exterior. The Irish should have enough bodies at cornerback to follow that course with Pride, particularly with the healthy return of Crawford in 2016.
Listed appropriately as a three-star prospect, Pride’s verbal commitment to the Irish wouldn’t rock the recruiting world. But it would give the Irish a much-needed third prospect at the cornerback position while still competing for four-star cornerback prospects Damar Hamlin (Pittsburgh, Pa.) and Jordan Fuller (Old Tappan, N.J., who also is a safety candidate).