O.J. Tucker knows what a Mike Elko defense would look like. That’s because he’s had Mike Elko explain it, back when Notre Dame’s new defensive coordinator was still Wake Forest’s old defensive coordinator and he made an in-home visit to Ocala, Fla.
Last month the 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback from Vanguard High School hosted Elko as he sorted through his late list of finalists that had focused on Maryland, Wake Forest and UCF, with all three set to get official visits this month.
Then Elko left for Notre Dame, news Tucker learned while playing Madden with one of his cousins.
And now the three-star prospect, a former Georgia Tech commitment, wants to know if Elko’s interest may travel from Winston-Salem to South Bend.
“They’ve definitely got a shot,” Tucker said. “If they offer me, I’ll definitely look into it. I know Notre Dame is a great program, real prestigious. I’m hoping to get an offer from them. Notre Dame is a program I used to watch on TV a lot. I like the way they do things with the stadium and Touchdown Jesus.”
Tucker gave Elko high marks as a recruiter, an area where he’ll face a different challenge at Notre Dame than previous stops at Wake Forest and Bowling Green. As for selling Wake Forest, Tucker liked what he heard and how Elko said it.
“Real cool dude,” Tucker said. “Kept it real. He talked a lot about how you can’t let minor things decide where you go, pretty girls and nicer uniforms. Everybody’s got nice facilities. He told me at Wake Forest that they liked to recruit hometown kids and kids from areas like Ocala.
“If he’s running the same defense he ran at Wake then it definitely would fit me well.”
Tucker said Elko liked him as a boundary corner with his size, which isn’t dissimilar to commitment Paulson Adebo, who put his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame to work at receiver during the Under Armour All-America Game last weekend.
There’s no question the Irish want at least one more defensive back in this class, with Tucker likely worth a second look from Notre Dame staff once the dead period ends next week. While scoring an official visit would likely mean displacing Maryland, Wake Forest or UCF, it’s clear Tucker sees Elko as an intriguing potential coordinator.
“I talked to him the day that he took the job, texted him,” Tucker said. “I’m not mad at him taking that job and let him know. Notre Dame has a real good program, that’s just a step higher for him.”
Tucker might have a better understanding of making a career move than most. Before his senior year he transferred into Vanguard, in part to better prepare for the next level. There, he played with four-star quarterback N’Kosi Perry, a Miami commitment, and two-star defensive back Tyree Gillespie, who has offers from Louisville and Iowa State.
While the uptick in quality teammates gave Tucker a more realistic look for the next level, it didn’t give him a maximum chance to make big plays. That’s a trade off Tucker was willing to make.
“I learned a lot about the game,” Tucker said. “Everybody in our defensive backs corps has offers. I think I learned a lot about technique. I think my senior season was good.”
Now comes the harder part.
Figuring out where Tucker will play his freshman one.