Matt Cashore / IrishIllustrated.com

Recruiting Coaches Clinic

Notre Dame will stage one of spring’s biggest recruiting events around this weekend’s Coaches Clinic. And prep prospects aren’t the only targets. The Irish are working on some high school coaches too.

The Coaches Clinic will feature bigger names than Mac Stephens and Eric Kasperowicz.

New England Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia made sure of that. So did Minnesota head coach P.J Fleck. And former Oregon head coach Mark Helfrich. And Hall of Fame executive Bill Polian. When it came to creating a draw for the hundreds of coaches trekking to Notre Dame this weekend for the clinic, that combination of NFL and college football talent should do it.

Notre Dame’s own staff, including head coach Brian Kelly, will speak too.

As for the future of Notre Dame football, Stephens and Kasperowicz may hold more weight than those headliners. They’re part of a four-man group of high school coaches who will present Saturday. As has been custom at Notre Dame’s clinic (and just about everybody else’s), the event gives those coaches behind-the-scenes access to Kelly’s program while also serving a recruiting purpose.

Stephens is the head coach at Cleveland Heights High School in Ohio, home of four-star defensive lineman Tyreke Smith. Kasperowicz is the head coach at Pine-Richland in Pennsylvania and star Irish quarterback commitment Phil Jurkovec.

Corey Yeoman of Penn High School in nearby Mishawaka and Brandon Matich of East High School in Salt Lake City, Utah round out the high school coaching roster. The Irish aren’t targeting prospects from either program seriously, but Penn turned out former center Braxston Cave. Matich sent several players to Brian Polian during his four-year run at Nevada.

“When I get an opportunity like this, to come to Notre Dame, to share, to learn, how could you not take advantage of it?” said Stephens, who’s making his first trip to South Bend and will present on coaching player safety.

There’s no doubt Notre Dame will recruit Stephens during the weekend’s exchange of ideas considering Smith’s skills. The four-star defensive lineman didn’t make the trip with Stephens, but an April visit is likely.

“Tyreke has a very high academic acumen,” Stephens said. “He’s taking honors courses, A.P. courses. He comes from a great family. Mom and dad put some high academic expectations on him. He’s different than a lot of the other Division I guys that I’ve coached. When he talks about being a student-athlete, he really means that. He takes pride in his school work.”

Kasperowicz will present on Pine-Richland’s culture, although his usual clinic routine is more private than public. Last weekend Kasperowicz and his defensive staff travelled to Ann Arbor to meet with Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown. A year ago the offensive staff travelled to Baylor and Houston.

“We’re all doing the same things but dressing them up a little differently,” Kasperowicz said. “So it’s more process than anything. It’s how you do things, not what you’re doing. How do you implement that call? What’s your structure? What’s your organization?”

The Coaches Clinic includes access to two Notre Dame spring practices, which means Kasperowicz will get a look at the new Irish offensive staff in action before his quarterback. Jurkovec attended a Junior Day last month, but the Irish were still in off-season training mode. He’s likely to be back for the spring game.

Kasperowicz figures to offer a preview on Monday morning.

“I’m curious to see the change offensively,” Kasperowicz said. “I’m excited to get up there, watch the practice and relay it back to Phil. We were really tight with coach (Mike) Sanford. I’ve met coach (Chip) Long briefly when he came to the school with Brian Kelly.”

If there’s a recruiting payoff with Matich it could be down the road. The Utah program has a half-dozen prospects with Pac-12 and Mountain West offers. Matich is also a lifelong Notre Dame fan.

“Networking is big,” Matich said. “You meet a lot of different coaches from different backgrounds. I’m anxious to meet a lot of those guys and make connections and share ideas. And the other thing is it helps our team. We’re going to be really good this year, we’ve got a lot of very recruitable guys and Notre Dame could be a fit for some of our defensive linemen. So this allows me to continue networking for my guys.”

That’s the whole point of working the clinic for these four high school coaches from four different states. Done right, the event can be mutually beneficial for prep coach and college program.

Notre Dame wants to make sure that’s exactly what happens.

“One thing about being successful, whether it’s in business, every day life or football, it’s borrowing successful things other people do,” Stephens said. “If I can take a little tidbit on scheme, motivation or recruiting, I can make my program better. And I’m getting to know the (Notre Dame) staff a lot better and obviously they’re recruiting Tyreke.”


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