Will the Irish Finish Strong?

<P>The Irish have another recruiting weekend this weekend, and the 2004 recruiting class is starting to take shape. Can the Irish finish strong and land a good class? </P>

The Darius Walker announcement gave the Irish some momentum heading into this weekend. Walker's decision to choose Notre Dame gives Tyrone Willingham some star quality in this class, and a top prospect he's been wanting since the beginning. Will the Walker decision give the Irish the momentum they need to finish strong?

The numbers are shrinking and quite a few decisions will be made next week. Let's take a look at some of those decisions.

Willingham made in-homes visits with linebacker Ronnie Palmer and running back Samson Taylor last night. We were not able to reach either player after their in-home visits. Palmer had said earlier that Arizona was his leader. Was he able to change his mind? Taylor will visit Texas A&M this weekend. Will the Walker decision impact his decision? We'll have to wait and see how those visits went.

Defensive back Junior Jabbie has one final visit left. He'll visit Penn State this weekend. Jabbie's decision will likely come down to if he wants to play running back or defensive back. We believe he likes the Irish a lot, but the Irish want him to play defensive back. Penn State is talking to Jabbie about playing running back. Jabbie would be a good pickup for the Irish at a need position.

Defensive end Justin Brown is also scheduled to visit Penn State this weekend. The Irish had an in-home visit with him last night. He was also unavailable after his in-home visit. Did the Irish talk him out of taking that visit? We hope to know soon enough. He'll likely decide sometime soon.

The Irish are patiently waiting the decision of Cortney Grixby. Grixby is down to Nebraska and Notre Dame. Grixby will take an unofficial visit to Nebraska on Saturday. This unofficial visit will likely decide which school Grixby will attend. The Irish have done everything they can to land Grixby. We should know his decision very soon. He will likely hold a press conference to announce his decision next week according to his brother Deante.

Defensive end Ryan Baker is trying to decide between the Irish and Purdue. Baker says he should decide sometime next week. We have no idea which way he might be leaning at this point.

Terrail Lambert remains undecided. He's considering Notre Dame and Florida State. He plans to announce on signing day. The Irish usually do not have much luck on signing day.

Nate Lyles appears to have cut off all outside communication while trying to make his final decision. Nobody that we know of has spoken to Lyles since his last official visit last weekend to Notre Dame. We have no idea when he might be making his final decision. We also don't know which schools made the final cut. We'll try to find out today.

Darrell Richard told Insiders expert Jamie Newberg that he is down to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. Richard would be a coup for the Irish if they can get his commitment. Richard was one of the first to be offered by Notre Dame and would be a fine addition to this class. As of now, we don't know when to expect a decision from Richard.

Wide receivers Bobby McCoy and Chancellor Young still have two visits remaining. McCoy will visit Texas A&M this weekend before visiting the Irish on January 30th. Young visits UCLA before visiting Notre Dame the following weekend. The Irish are hoping McCoy remains interested and takes his final visit to Notre Dame. We're sure Young will make his visit. We don't expect decisions from either next week, but McCoy could decide before visiting Notre Dame. Arizona appears to be the team to beat for McCoy at this point.

Lineman Ell Ash has one final visit left to Notre Dame on January 30th. North Carolina State and Tennessee appear to be the competition. Ash might be a late surprise for the Irish. If he waits to decide and takes the visit to Notre Dame, he must have a strong interest in the Irish. Could he be a late surprise?

The Irish are set to host Darcel McBath, Christopher Vaughn, Darrin Bragg, Leo Ferrine, Darius Walker, Brandon Nicolas, David Wolke, and Allen Smith this weekend.

Walker, Nicolas and Wolke are already committed to Notre Dame. We expect them to do some recruiting of their own this weekend.

Allen Smith is taking an unofficial visit to give the Irish one last look before deciding next week. We expect the Irish or Stanford to land him in the end. This last visit will likely decide where he ends up.

McBath appears to be down to Notre Dame, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. McBath told us earlier in the week that a good visit could end up with him committing to Notre Dame. The Irish are hoping that happens because McBath is a corner prospect, and the Irish need corners.

Vaughn is a wide receiver with great size and speed. Vaughn also has indicated a good visit could make him commit. He'll likely decide between Notre Dame, Iowa, and Michigan State.

Darrin Bragg looks to be the only option as the second quarterback for this class. Expect the Irish to push hard to get a commitment from Bragg. Notre Dame won't want to give Utah another chance at Bragg.

Leo Ferrine had been waiting for an offer from Notre Dame, now he has it. He'll visit this weekend, and we expect him to commit. He'll likely choose between the Irish and Penn State. Ferrine has also indicated a good visit will seal the deal with the Irish.

Overall, the Irish could finish strong if some decisions go their way. We expect a number of decision to be coming shortly or within the next week. Grixby, Brown, Ferrine, Vaughn, Richard, Bragg, McBath, Taylor, Lyles, Jabbie, Palmer, and Smith all should decide within the next week.

The Irish probably have nine scholarships left to give. With three visitors expected next weekend, they might have to hold a few. With Baker and Lambert waiting to decide, will the Irish wait on them? Should be an exciting week next week.

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