Mark Jones didn’t just think about his son landing major scholarship offers.
He planned for it.
Jones, who played college ball at Prairie View A&M, knew the path. College coaches had to see his son, Micah, for themselves. That meant hitting the camp circuit to go along with training.
“We started going camping in the eighth grade,” Mark said. “I did that intentionally to start to get him to compete. With his size, he always played up. Even in youth he played two or three levels above. Over time, two or three things are going to happen. You’re either gonna love it and continue with it or you’re not gonna go with it. He went with it.”
Went with it, indeed.
Micah Jones eventually grew to about 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds as a junior in high school. Several major programs came calling, yet the family didn’t bounce around the country seeking out dozens of scholarship offers. They stayed regional.
Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern pursued the Chicagoland wide receiver prospect. Ole Miss and Mississippi State did as well.
Notre Dame expressed interest. But again Jones would have to put his plan back into action. They camped with the Irish staff last summer. Former wide receivers coach Mike Denbrock, now the offensive coordinator at Cincinnati, offered a few days later.
“We had a strategy,” Mark said. “We did not go all over the country looking for offers. He knew the top schools he wanted. Notre Dame was one of those. He trained extremely hard to go to that camp and perform well. They didn’t give it to him. None of his offers were given to him. He had to go to camp and earn it.”
Offering didn’t necessarily lock up a commitment.
That would take another eight months. Notre Dame landed a pledge from Micah last week, surviving a down season and coaching turnover along the way. Doing so required continued effort and one last visit. Jones stayed overnight during Junior Day earlier this month.
“We’d seen enough weight rooms,” Mark said. “We’d seen enough academic centers. We’d seen enough coaching rooms. It was really if he could see himself in that environment on that campus. That’s what the stay overs were all about.”
And yet it took a little more prodding from dad to bring about a commitment.
Micah admitted to liking the Irish quite a bit during the visit and after its conclusion. Just how much? Mark pulled that information out of his son back home. By the time those discussions ended, they put together a plan for announcing the commitment.
There couldn’t have been a more fitting way to wrap up this particular recruitment.
“He’s very laid back, very quiet,” Jones said. “I kinda had to go and say, ‘Do you think this is it?’ He said yes. That’s all you can ask for. I just wanted to give him the arena to play in and let him do his thing. Whether that was assessing the programs or going out camping, my job was to give him the support and resources.”
Lenzy ready to recruit
Four-star athlete Braden Lenzy already had a pair of uncommitted prospects at the forefront of his mind this week shortly after announcing his commitment.
“Thomas Booker and Malik Vann are who I’m going after right now,” Lenzy said.
Vann is a longtime Irish target and has visited campus on multiple occasions. He took note after the Irish continued their recruiting run by adding Lenzy to the fold earlier this week. Lenzy wasted little time reaching out.
Booker is a less familiar target but one the staff covets. Listed as an athlete, Booker is likely destined to rush the passer in college. Clemson, LSU, Michigan, Ohio State, Penn State and Louisville are among his scholarship offers. He’s also self-reported a 4.0 GPA with interest in Stanford, Vanderbilt and Northwestern.
Irish make first Hollifield’s first cut
Shelby, N.C., linebacker Dax Hollifield landed a scholarship offer from Notre Dame earlier this month and on Thursday the Irish made the first cut.
Hollifield, a 6-foot-2, 230-pound four-star linebacker, posted on Twitter a top nine that included Alabama, Florida State, LSU, North Carolina, Notre Dame, South Carolina, Stanford, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.
Notre Dame is recruiting Hollifield as a Mike linebacker.
Hollifield discussed his role with new defensive coordinator Mike Elko and linebackers coach Clark Lea, who began recruiting him during their time at Wake Forest.
“I think I'd fit good at the Mike,” he said. “I don’t know much about what they have done in the past but coach Elko and Lea said I would have been perfect at Wake.”
Notre Dame’s interest in Hollifield was minimal prior to Elko’s and Lea’s arrival in South Bend. Since then things have moved very quickly and Hollifield hopes to visit in the near future.
“It's Notre Dame,” Hollifield said. “It's the place that everybody dreams to go play at as a kid.”
Hayes targeting spring ball visit
Four-star offensive tackle Ryan Hayes will start another round of visits once spring ball gets rolling. Notre Dame is likely to hit the schedule.
“Probably late March,” Hayes said.
Michigan State and Michigan are also likely spring visit destinations. Michigan offered earlier this week. Hayes last visited Notre Dame during the season for a game.