Courting the Carolinas
Notre Dame has been no stranger to recruiting the Carolinas under Brian Kelly.
Consider the players from that region to head to South Bend: Everett Golson, Ben Councell, Matthias Farley, Chris Brown, Romeo Okwara, Mark Harrell, Greer Martini, Julian Okwara and Troy Pride.
Linebackers coach Mike Elston has been working the region for most of that time although defensive line coach Keith Gilmore has made an impact as well.
That’s meant several trips to the Charlotte area specifically. Farley, Harrell and both Okwaras hail from Charlotte. So did former five-star running back Elijah Hood, a onetime Irish commitment who ultimately stayed home with the Tar Heels.
“I think we’ll still be along the coast,” Kelly said. “That’s not a change at all for us. Obviously, we just talked about Julian, right? Romeo and Julian both coming from the Charlotte area, I think that’s been a really good place for us and I think will continue to be. I don’t see that changing any time. It’s still a growing area, still an area we’ve had past success in.
“South Carolina with Troy Pride, obviously. Just this past year we’re playing two true freshmen on our defense that are from North Carolina and South Carolina.”
Most of those recruitments came and went before Notre Dame tied itself to the ACC with a loose affiliation. Now exposure in the region has increased.
Notre Dame played a primetime game with playoff implications at Clemson last season. This week it heads to N.C. State. Next season is a road trip to North Carolina. The 2018 schedule includes trips to Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Having a game yearly in the Carolinas helps the Irish build on a strong foothold in the region.
“They’ll go anywhere to get kids and for good reason,” said Michael Clark, a regional recruiting analyst for Scout covering the Carolinas. “They’re one of the most well known football programs in the country. They’ve got a great coach. They’ve got a lot going for them as a program. I think when Notre Dame comes down to play North Carolina or N.C. State, that game is gonna attract a lot of top kids. They wanna go visit the big in-state school or the school close to home but they also wanna see Notre Dame. Those kids just having a chance to see them in person, without having to go up there, you really get two-for-one.”
That could very well happen this weekend.
Five-star junior running back Zamir White, who’s from Laurinburg, N.C., is among those expected to visit N.C. State on Saturday. White has an Irish offer and visited South Bend over the summer.
Scout currently lists White as its No. 7 prospect overall for the Class of 2018. Auburn, Clemson, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Ohio State, Oklahoma and Tennessee are among his other scholarship offers.
“He’s taking his time,” Clark said. “Schools will wait as long as they need to when it comes to Zamir. But the schools I continuously hear, and this is subject to change, but the main two schools are Clemson and Georgia. Those are the ones that I think in the end, if he were gonna make a decision today, I think he’d choose between those two schools. That’s not saying other schools won’t be able to get in and they may to a certain extent already be there.”
Notre Dame is also involved with another elite prospect in the Class of 2018: Five-star defensive end Xavier Thomas. Irish coaches have been in contact, as have current commitments.
Thomas hails from Florence, S.C., and has offers from Clemson, Florida State, Ohio State, South Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Oregon and Texas, among others.
“He’s elite,” Clark said. “That’s for sure. We’ve got him extremely high. I think him and Zamir are like top seven or eight kids in the country. He’s just a big time athlete first of all. He’s put on a lot of muscle in the last year or so. He’s up to like 250 or 255 pounds, very explosive. He’s a guy that plays extremely fast.”
One coach’s perspective on Irish commits
Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz has helped develop Notre Dame quarterback commitment Phil Jurkovec into one of the nation’s top prospects in the Class of 2018.
Last weekend, Kasperowicz had the chance to see two other Irish commitments in action as the Rams dropped a 48-35 game to state powerhouse Pittsburgh Central Catholic. David Adams and Kurt Hinish anchor the Central Catholic defense.
“They're both obviously really good players,” Kasperowicz said. “We're kind of unique in what we do offensively so we really don't per se game plan for anybody, we just do what we do and take what they give us. That being said, we always knew where they were lined up.”
Adams spent most of the game shadowing Jurkovec in an attempt to limit the dual-threat quarterback’s production. Hinish saw several double and triple teams in the game.
“The Adams kid was obviously over there mirroring Phil the whole time so we did some things to eliminate that,” Kasperowicz said. “Hinish, a lot of times we would slide our protection towards him because he's so explosive and so good. They're both extremely good players, high level players. Two of the best we'll see all year.”
Hinish, a 6-foot-3, 285-pound defensive tackle, recorded four tackles and a sack.
“He's a violent player,” Kasperowicz said. “He's extremely quick for his size. He put on some weight from last year, some good weight, and he's very stout. He's got a very good first move to get some penetration. He's very tough to block one-on-one.”
Adams made several key stops in the fourth quarter as the Vikings outscored the Rams, 20-7, to seal their win.
“Adams, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker, is extremely athletic and big and strong and smart,” Kasperowicz said. “He reads his keys extremely well and he's always around the football.”
Jurkovec sidelined with thumb injury
Phil Jurkovec suffered a thumb injury early in that loss to Central Catholic but still completed 25-of-36 passes for 350 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 111 yards on 22 carries with two more scores.
Kasperowicz said the injury, to the thumb on his passing hand, could keep Jurkovec on the sideline.
“He's got a little thumb injury right now,” Kasperowicz said. “We're taking it day by day and we'll see what happens.”
Jurkovec’s father told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that surgery could be in his son’s future.
“We don’t know anything definitive yet,” Jim Jurkovec said. “We’ll know more later in the week. But it looks like he will probably be out several weeks. We can’t make a firm determination yet, but if there is surgery, it would probably be in the next few days.”
In 18 games as Pine-Richland’s starting quarterback, Jurkovec has accumulated 5,932 yards offense. Through six games this season, Jurkovec has completed 104-of-167 passes (62-percent) for 1,673 yards and has thrown 12 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also has rushed for 481 yards and eight touchdowns on 82 carries.
New offer report
Notre Dame offered four-star junior wide receivers Manuel Allen and Joshua Moore this week along with sophomore athlete Derick Hunter.
Allen plays for powerhouse Centennial High in Corona, Calif., and is already one of the top receivers on the West Coast. BYU, Cal, Colorado, Nebraska, UNLV, USC, Washington and Washington State are some other offers on the table.
“Good length and body control,” said Greg Biggins, a Scout national recruiting analyst based in California. “Runs well, needs to be more consistent with his hands but physically he has everything you’re looking for. Works really hard off the field as well. I know his trainer and he says he’s a grinder who really wants to be a great player.”
Notre Dame became the third offer to Hunter, a potential tight end or defensive end at the next level from Fort Myers, Fla. Florida and South Florida have also jumped on board with the 6-foot-5, 222-pound prospect.
Moore is one of the top prospects in Texas for the Class of 2018. He’s slotted at No. 138 overall in the latest Scout rankings and the No. 23 receiver.
Other offers to the 6-foot-2, 173-pound prospect include Florida State, Michigan, Ohio State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas, Texas A&M, Baylor, Houston, Louisville, Michigan State, Ole Miss, Tennessee and UCLA, among others.
It’s also worth noting that Moore’s brother, Jordan, is a four-star athlete with a similar offer sheet.
Sarell moves up Alabama visit
Five-star offensive tackle Foster Sarell is close to embarking on a couple more official visits.
Notre Dame gets Sarell back on campus next weekend for the Stanford game. Both parents will make the trip too. He previously visited for Irish Invasion.
Sarell is now scheduled to visit Alabama the following week for its game against Texas A&M. There’d previously been a plan for the 6-foot-6, 300-pound prospect to make the trek to Tuscaloosa in November for the Iron Bowl.
Moving up the trip helps Sarell move toward a late November or early December decision. Washington is likely to get an official visit between now and then as well.