Matt Cashore /

Junior standouts check out Irish

Junior teammates Tahj Rice and Jairus Brents visited Notre Dame on Saturday. The standout defenders liked what they saw on and off the field.

Notre Dame’s 38-35 loss to Duke on Saturday led to a shakeup on the Irish coaching staff but it didn’t have an effect on the unofficial visits of junior teammates Tahj Rice and Jairus Brents.

Rice, a 6-foot-2, 290-pound defensive lineman from Waggener Traditional High School in Louisville, Ky., enjoyed the game day environment.

“It was great up there,” he said. “The fans are crazy. I got to see what the coaches were doing and got to meet them. It was nice.”

Notre Dame assistant coach Mike Elston first reached out to Rice and Brents on Sept. 1, the first day the NCAA allows college coaches to speak to junior prospects.

Since then, Rice and Elston have remained in contact.

“He said to keep doing what I’m doing,” Rice said. “He said go out there and keep playing and balling out. They’re going to have a meeting and see if I have an offer. I’m not sure what they’re going to do.”

Rice could play either defensive tackle or defensive end at the next level.

At Notre Dame, Rice spent a lot of time watching the Irish defensive linemen.

“I saw a lot of big bodies up front,” he said. “They were really strong and rushing the quarterback really good. I could see myself up there.”

Rice also has visited Duke, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia Tech, Tennessee, Indiana, Cincinnati and Ohio State and he plans to see several more schools this fall.

He holds offers from Boston College, Cincinnati, Duke, Louisville and a handful of others.

Notre Dame is among his early favorites.

“To be honest, the schools that are sticking out to me are the same schools that I’m sticking out to,” he said. “The ones showing me love are the ones I’m showing love to.”

Brents, a 5-foot-11, 180-pounder, teams up with Rice in the Waggener defense.

The two traveled to South Bend together.

“(The visit) went good,” Brents said. “I liked the crowd and all of the tradition. The fan support is crazy.”

Brents had the opportunity to speak with Elston on campus.

“He said I’m close (to an offer),” Brents said. “I should hear from them in the next week. They love my tape and aggressiveness and speed. They think I play like the corner, (Shaun) Crawford, who got hurt.”

Boston College, Duke, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisville, Tennessee, Wisconsin and several other programs already have offered Brents and he has drawn interest from a host of other top college programs.

“I’ve heard from Florida State, Oklahoma, USC, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Alabama, UCLA and all the schools that have already offered me a lot lately,” he said. “Really, I haven't narrowed my choices down as of right now so I'm considering everyone.”

Brents’ brother, Nick Dawson-Brents, currently plays at Western Kentucky University. The former high school All-American originally signed with Louisville.

Rice and Brents work out at Aspirations Fitness Institution under the guidance of former Notre Dame and Louisville wide receiver Chris Vaughn. Top Stories