Notre Dame had the attention of Jacob Lacey before his first visit.
The 6-foot-2, 295-pound defensive tackle grew up with the Irish program playing in the background because the late Dave Duerson is a cousin on the family tree. Duerson’s picture was framed and displayed on trips to the grandparents. Lacey couldn’t wear No. 22 in high school as a lineman, so he opted for No. 55 because it was a double number like Duerson.
“That was the first time I really got to hear about Notre Dame,” Lacey said. “Watching them, football was always stuck in the back of my mind. Once I got up there, it was everything I wanted it to be and more.”
The Bowling Green, Ky., product visited last summer for Irish Invasion. He returned for a couple home games, including the finale against Virginia Tech. How packed the cold stadium remained during a down season stuck with Lacey, who also holds offers from Tennessee, Penn State, Louisville and Michigan State.
But what hit Lacey more was the meeting defensive line coach Mike Elston arranged outside of football. Notre Dame got Lacey in front of an engineering professor to talk about that academic track for student-athletes in that department. The discussion was a hit for both Lacey and his dad.
Both will be back in South Bend on Friday for another look at Notre Dame.
“That was very important,” Lacey said. “You don’t think about going on a football visit an talking to a civil engineering professor. That was a great experience.”
Lacey will revisit the academic side of Notre Dame this weekend, but getting to know the new coaching staff will be critical too. When Elston started recruiting Lacey he was still the linebackers coach under coordinator Brian VanGorder. Now Elston will pitch himself as a potential position coach with Mike Elko running the scheme.
“Probably most important thing is getting a good relationship with the new defensive coordinator,” Lacey said. “I’ve talked to coach Elston and he said that when (Elko) watched my film he liked me even more. That was good to hear. I want to keep those ties and those relationships.”
While Lacey has the potential to be the first commitment in Notre Dame’s Class of 2019, the Irish may have to wait a while if that happens. Lacey said he’ll likely cut his list this summer to a final group, but the timetable for a decision isn’t clear. Regardless, don’t look for Lacey to string out his recruitment any longer than necessary.
He’s already visited Tennessee, Penn State and Clemson this spring.
Stanford could get a look this summer.
“For me with favorites and things like that, it would be good to have some kind of a decision at the end of the summer,” Lacey said. “I’ll probably have a good feel for where I’d like to go.”