Ready to Play Some Poker?

<P>The Irish have another recruiting visit weekend this weekend and we're well enough into the game to bring out the poker cards. Are the Irish ready to play some poker? </P>

With the race coming down to the wire, the Irish have 30 players still left on the board and only 10-12 scholarships left to give. Landing the best class with the right players will involve some poker-playing by the Irish coaching staff.

The Irish are expecting a number of visits this weekend. Ronnie Palmer, Nate Lyles, Junior Jabbie, Ryan Baker, Maurice Crum Jr, Jaimie Thomas, Cortney Grixby, Justin Brown and Samson Taylor are the uncommitted players visiting this weekend. The Irish might have to make some difficult decisions this weekend.

By most accounts, the Irish have 10-12 scholarships left to give. Considering 5th-year players said to be returning, we can't see Notre Dame taking more than 20, we could be wrong, however. At least one will go to a quarterback. At least one running back and probably two offensive linemen will be taken. The Irish need three defensive backs, a linebacker, and another defensive lineman or two. At least one wide receiver will be taken.

Judging by early offers, the Irish appear to be waiting on players like Brian Brohm, Jae Thaxton, Darius Walker, Terrail Lambert, Nate Lyles, Allen Smith, Darryl Richard, Bobby McCoy, Maurice Crum Jr., Brian Toal, Phillip Mbakogu and Courtney Grixby. All have had offers on the table for quite a while.

The problem is most of these players won't be deciding for a while. Brohm should announce next week. His decision will decide what the Irish do at quarterback. The Irish are patiently waiting for the decision of Darius Walker, but Walker won't visit until the 23rd and has recently scheduled an official visit to Arkansas on January 30th.

Nate Lyles will decide shortly after his visit to Notre Dame and his decision could decide what the Irish do at defensive back. Allen Smith says he might not decide until signing day. Darryl Richard is visiting Miami this weekend, has LSU the following weekend, and might take a visit on the 30th.

Thaxton won't be visiting until January 23rd, and has a visit scheduled for the 30th. Bobby McCoy won't visit Notre Dame until the 30th. Brian Toal hasn't even set a visit to Notre Dame yet. Crum visits Notre Dame this weekend, but has another visit schedule for January 23rd to Tennessee.

Terrail Lambert is said to be deciding between Notre Dame and Florida State. He hasn't given any indication as to when he might announce, and chances are it will be late. Grixby visits this weekend, and a decision should come shortly.

Mbakogu will visit LSU this weekend, and decide sometime in the future. The Irish appear to still be in the race for him.

The idea of recruiting is to land the best available players. Notre Dame's problem is many of their top targets might be deciding late in the process and that puts Notre Dame in a precarious position.

What will happen if players like Junior Jabbie, Justin Brown, Samson Taylor, Ronnie Palmer, Jaimie Thomas and Ryan Baker all want to commit? All have offers from Notre Dame, but judging by early offers, they were not offered early in the process, and might not be as high on the wish list as some others mentioned above. They could be now as players emerge later in the process that are excellent players, but based on early offers, one has to assume that those mentioned above are their top candidates.

The Irish could have a problem on their hands.

Brohm, Lyles, Grixby and Thomas have all indicated that a decision is likely coming next week. We believe the Irish would accept a commitment from any of these players. All fit needs at need positions and have been high on the wish list. After that, we don't know what the Irish will do.

Let's say the Irish get lucky and land all four players, that would leave 6-8 scholarships left to give. The remaining scholarships would have to be given to the likes of Darius Walker, Jae Thaxton, Ronnie Palmer, Maurice Crum Jr, Samson Taylor, Ryan Baker, Darryl Richard, Justin Brown, Allen Smith, Bobby McCoy, Terrail Lambert, Brian Toal, Junior Jabbie, Chris Vaughn, Darcel McBath, Phillip Mbakogu, Bryant Creamer, Marcus Everett, Leo Ferrine, Ell Ash, and Chancellor Young.

OK, now I invite you to narrow this list down to 6-8 players filling all the needs the Irish have. It's not an easy task.

What if Brohm chooses another school? Do the Irish take two quarterbacks shrinking this list even more?

Can the Irish holdout and wait for decisions from players like Jae Thaxton, Allen Smith, Terrail Lambert, Darryl Richard, Phillip Mbakogu, Bobby McCoy, Darius Walker, Brian Toal and Maurice Crum Jr.? Are they still the top players left on the board? Is Ronnie Palmer as good as Jae Thaxton? Is Darcel McBath as good as Terrail Lambert? Is Ell Ash as good as Allen Smith?

The Irish will have some interesting decisions to be made this weekend, and the following weeks ahead. I will say this is a nice problem to have. The Notre Dame coaches did do a good job of getting plenty of prospects scheduled to visit in January. This class might not end up as many had hoped for, but they did do a good job of putting a large number of quality players on the visit list.

The final weeks is what we recruiting junkies live for. The poker game is the best part of recruiting. This is shaping up to be one of the best poker games in years. Are you betting on Willingham? Top Stories