Micah Jones always intended to end the recruiting process earlier than most.
Even now as a junior, Jones has been recruited for long enough. College programs first started reaching out to the three-star wide receiver from Gurnee, Ill., before he played varsity ball. So the decision to make an early commitment, one way or another, was an easy one.
“I’ve been in the recruiting process I feel like for awhile now,” Jones said. “I’ve been in it since eighth grade or ninth grade. It’s been a long process, so I’m just ready to get it over with right now and get down to work, get down to work for the college I’m going to and also my high school.”
Jones first thought about announcing in April.
But after visiting Notre Dame last weekend, he’d seen enough.
Earlier this week Jones talked things over with his family and set an announcement time for 4 p.m. today. He’ll reveal his college choice during a ceremony at Warren Township High School in front of family, friends, teammates and media.
Iowa, Notre Dame, Michigan State, Nebraska, Ole Miss, Illinois and Northwestern are finalists.
“At this point I really looked at all my offers then just getting Nebraska,” Jones said. “These are all the schools I really wanted to go to. I didn’t really think that any other school could come in and change my opinion on the schools I have right now. I’m set with the schools I have right now. That’s really why right now.”
Indiana, Iowa State, Minnesota, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Syracuse and a couple MAC programs also extended scholarship offers.
Notre Dame is considered the heavy favorite.
Jones has a relationship with the Irish that dates back almost a year. He worked out for the coaching staff at Irish Invasion last summer, earning an offer from former wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock shortly thereafter.
Denbrock has since departed the program. Head coach Brian Kelly maintained a relationship during the offseason transition and new wide receivers coach Del Alexander has continued it.
Jones talked with Kelly, Alexander and new offensive coordinator Chip Long at length during last week’s visit. He also got around players already on the roster and current commitments, a major part of the decision-marking process.
“That was a big factor for me,” Jones said. “I really wanted to get around the guys and see if I bonded with them and liked them as well. It was just a good way to get around and see if I bonded with the people at the university.”
But football is just one part of a larger process. Jones has stuck with a couple principles while sorting through his options. They’ve guided him toward today’s announcement.
“Really with the whole process I’m blessed to have the parents that I have,” Jones said. “They really made me look at the right things and it was more education based and the family atmosphere type things. I never really changed what I was looking at. I’ve really kept the same outlook on universities since I was a little kid. That’s just what I’ve been looking for the whole time.”
Irish Illustrated prediction: Frankly, it’s a no-brainer. Jones will pick Notre Dame over the other finalists today. He’s been predisposed to the Irish since they offered, no matter how last season went or the coaching transition that followed. As one current commitment said after last weekend, Jones is a seamless fit into the program. He’ll make four commitments for Notre Dame in the last week and add to a Chicagoland run that includes Cole Kmet, Miles Boykin and Julian Love in previous classes.
Lenzy hits the road again
Four-star athlete Braden Lenzy is back on the road the next few days for Oregon and USC visits.
Lenzy, who spent last weekend in South Bend for Junior Day, added the Trojans to his offer list earlier this week. USC will be getting a return trip after a previous camp visit. Lenzy wants to get a better grip on the Los Angeles power this time.
“It’s just to get a better feel for what it’d be like to be at USC,” Lenzy said in a text message.
USC likes the 6-foot-1, 160-pound prospect as either a cornerback or safety.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, offered Lenzy at receiver. Offensive coordinator Chip Long talked to Lenzy during Junior Day about being a speedy deep threat and handling returns.
Other trips on the schedule include Oregon State (March 18), Michigan State (April 1) and Oregon again for its spring game. In terms of the bigger picture, it’s likely only Notre Dame and Michigan State could pull Lenzy off the West Coast.
Allen Liked Irish Options
Derrik Allen’s commitment to Notre Dame on Monday night came as a surprise, at least when it comes to timing.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound four-star safety from Marietta, Ga., visited Notre Dame last spring and left South Bend very impressed, but he had scholarship offers from some of college football’s top programs.
Smart money had Allen taking his time to sort out all of his options but he had other ideas and put an early end to the recruiting process.
He did so largely in part to the options he’d have in Notre Dame’s defensive backfield.
“They want to start me off at safety and then I can move around to all three positions, but I'm definitely playing DB,” Allen said. “I'm happy to have the chance to play all three.”
Allen also attributed his early commitment to the relationship he developed with Irish defensive backs coach Todd Lyght.
“He was one of the first coaches that started recruiting me after my freshman year,” Allen said. “He's a good hard-nosed coach, just like my coach now.”
New Irish defensive coordinator Mike Elko did his part by becoming a routine part of Allen’s day.
“I talked to coach Elko almost every day,” Allen said. “That didn’t play too big of a role, but it played a role.”
Allen hopes to return to South Bend for the Irish’s annual Blue-Gold Game this spring.
Vann Likes Look Of Irish Class
With the addition of three (and maybe four) commitments this week, Notre Dame is off to a great start to the Class of 2018.
The Irish moved up to No. 2 in the Scout.com Team Rankings and that run has caught the attention of four-star defensive end Malik Vann.
“I've definitely taken notice of that class,” said Vann, a 6-foot-3, 250-pounder from Fairfield, Ohio. “It's only going to get better over the next few weeks because of other recruits who have taken notice.”
Vann was unable to attend Notre Dame’s Junior Day last weekend but he has been to South Bend several times and considers the Irish among his early favorites.
The buzz around the Irish commitments has Vann seriously considering the Notre Dame but it won’t be the deciding factor in his recruitment.
“It's not overly important,” he said. “I need to find the right fit for me because ultimately I'll be there for four or five years.”
Vann, the nation’s 22nd best defensive end, has begun the process of narrowing his list of options down to a manageable number.
He hopes to commit this spring or early summer. When that happens, he plans to shut down his recruitment.
“My commitment will be anywhere from May to June,” he said. “I’m starting to trim the list, but I’m still open to other schools. Once I'm committed I'm done, unless something happens with the coaches or the university.”