When Tyrone Willingham finally slid into the driver's seat as Irish football coach after the firing of Bob Davie after the 2001 season, Irish fans started to hear a lot of new names surface as possible recruiting prospects as well as some past loves.
The excitement of a new coach usually sparks a lot of interest among recruiting prospects, and nobody could probably capitalize on that more than Notre Dame.
We expect a number of new names to surface no matter who might take over as head coach for the Irish and we wanted to give you a quick look at some of the prospects that might pop up as real targets for the Irish.
A number of these names we'll look at have previously listed Notre Dame as a school they had interest in. Some are still considering the Irish, but Notre Dame is not considered likely to sign them, at least until yesterday's news of the firing of Tyrone Willingham.
We also want to alert our new subscribers to a great feature on Scout.com before we get into some new names. When you see a name highlighted in this article, you can click on their names to their profiles. At the top of the profile you will see "add player to my hotlist." Click on that link and every article written about that player will automatically be e-mailed to you. Now you can follow all these top prospects to see if the Irish do get involved with them in the future.
Also before we begin, we need to say that a number of players Notre Dame is already recruiting won't be mentioned in this article. We expect the Irish to continue to recruit players like Dan Doering, D.J. Hord and the like. This article will look at players that are either a long shot or had interest but no longer are interested in Notre Dame.
Some New and Old Names to Look Out For
The Irish already have one quarterback committed in Evan Sharpley and Sharpley is a great prospect. However, with the recent non-signing of Duke basketball commit Greg Paulus, many speculate Paulus is interested in playing both football and basketball for Notre Dame. Keep an eye on Paulus as we wouldn't be surprised if a new coach investigated the situation.
A new coach might also take a look at Rashard Mendenhall. Mendenall is a running back from Skokie, Ill. that has been committed to Illinois for over a year. Mendenhall has a brother currently at Illinios, so he'll likely want to stick with his commitment, but with the shakeup at both Notre Dame and Illinois, he might be a guy who a new staff would take a shot at.
We also expect any new coach to take a hard push for athlete Reggie Smith. Smith has been on Notre Dame's radar all along, but they haven't been considered one of his top schools. We believe Smith will likely be one of the first called when a new staff comes in.
Running back Maurice Wells will also likely get a call. Wells had mentioned Notre Dame most of the recruiting season but recently dropped the Irish from consideration. He had mentioned often that he would be visiting Notre Dame early in the process. We expect him to be targeted by the new coaching staff.
Tight End Anthony Moeaki is another prospect the Irish had some success recruiting early. Moeaki hasn't listed the Irish high on his list recently, but has been to Notre Dame on unofficial visits and appeared strongly interested early in the process.
Antonio Bass is another prospect that Notre Dame will likely go after. Bass can play a number of positions and has shown interest in visiting Notre Dame. Bass might be committed elsewhere by the time a new staff takes over, however.
Offensive linemen David Moosman, Dace Richardson, Brian Roche and Chris Scott will also likely be revisited. Moosman has a visit scheduled for Notre Dame already. Richardson and Scott showed early interest but have appeared to drop the Irish recently. Roche had been committed to Notre Dame
Linebackers Ryan Reynolds and Brian Cushing are two top prospects that will also probably get a strong push from the new Irish coaching staff. Both have mentioned they'd visit Notre Dame before Willingham's firing, but many speculated both would look for greener pastures and BCS opportunities at other schools.
Ndamukong Suh and Ekom Udofia are two big defensive tackles to keep an eye on. Both had previously shown some interest in Notre Dame and we expect both to be contacted.
Defensive ends James McKinney and Raymond Henderson are two defensive ends likely to be pursued highly. Henderson was scheduled to visit, but many didn't expect the Irish to be a real player in the race for his signature. McKinney has shown some interest in Notre Dame, but we're not certain he can get in at this point. We expect both to be contacted.
We also expect Cary Harris and Michael Ray Garvin to be pursued heavily. Harris has mentioned he would visit Notre Dame as had Garvin, but the Irish weren't considered their likely destinations. Both will likely be recruited heavily by the next staff.