Insider Report: Sophomore Day Focus

Notre Dame will innovate its recruiting process next month with a Sophomore Day event. A handful of the top prospects scheduled to attend talked to Irish Illustrated about the concept. If the reviews are as good as the previews, the Irish might be on to something.

It’s never too early in recruiting to build relationships.

More and more prospects are making important decisions — trimming their list of contenders, making verbal commitments — by the middle of their junior years. So why not start getting to know these potential targets a full year in advance?

Hosting Junior Days has been common practice for years. Notre Dame is taking it one step farther, putting together its first Sophomore Day on April 2. Several prospects in the Class of 2019 are expected to be in South Bend for a closer look at the program.

“I feel like schools are smart to start it early because so many kids are committing by their junior year,” said Quinn Carroll, an offensive tackle from Edina, Minn. “They can’t really be recruited as much anymore. Starting earlier is better for them and especially for some of the hometown kids or near the area so that they can get them to campus as much as possible and start building relationships then hopefully land those recruits.”

Carroll, one of the top prospects regardless of position in the Class of 2019, plans to be in South Bend on April 2 for Sophomore Day. He’s hoping to add Notre Dame to an offer list that’s already north of 20 with Georgia, LSU, Miami, Michigan, Ohio State and USC among them.

Others planning to attend include St. Louis linebacker Shammond Cooper, Ohio cornerback Moses Douglass, Tennessee defensive end Joseph Anderson, Illinois offensive lineman Will Putnam, Alabama quarterback Paul Tyson, Indiana defensive end George Karlaftis and Ohio defensive tackle Jowon Briggs.

Even more prospects are expected to join that list as the event nears.

Cooper, Anderson and Briggs already hold scholarship offers.

Douglass, Karlaftis and Putnam have been to campus for previous visits.

“Hopefully I’ll see a lot more of what they have to offer,” said Douglass, who visited for Irish Invasion last summer. “A lot more of the facilities and the campus. I wanna see the dorms and all that.”

Douglass already holds scholarship offers from Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Rutgers, Cincinnati, Iowa State, Purdue, Syracuse and some MAC programs. Like most of the prospects headed to Notre Dame for Sophomore Day, he’s eager to see if the Irish might make their move.

“If they did pull the trigger it would make me think about them a lot more,” Douglass said. “I’d probably put them in the top three if they offer.”

But actually extending new offers might not be the most important part of organizing a Sophomore Day from a Notre Dame perspective.

Doing so puts several potential top targets on campus at the same time. They can mingle with each other while getting to know the program from a more in-depth perspective. There’s no camp or game day, just spring practice to observe.

Combining those things should make for a fuller visit experience.

“It’s something great,” said Tyson, who’s been in contact with offensive coordinator Chip Long dating back to his stint at Memphis. “People are coming around from really all over the country and coming together in this class. You never know, you could go to Notre Dame with some of the guys that come there or you could end up at a different school. It’s something that’s really cool to get to meet these players and get to see Notre Dame’s campus. I think that’s awesome.”

Fostering camaraderie among recruits is one of the most important yet less publicized parts of the recruiting process. Prospective targets aren’t just evaluating their own fit in the program. They’re taking a look at the other players being recruited and trying to see how they fit together.

Getting a group of them on campus early in the process helps with that piece to the puzzle.

“It’s very important to me,” Carroll said. “I’m a huge team player. I love getting to know the guys so I know who I’d possibly be playing next to or across from or protecting or whatever. I believe building a relationship off the field is just as important so when you’re on the field you’re more comfortable together.”

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