Booker "Blown Away" in Visit

Tyrone Willingham's first recruiting weekend at Notre Dame did not bear any fruit -- no commitments as of 10 a.m. Monday -- but the new head coach made a huge impression on the nation's top prep running back, Lorenzo Booker. "There was no way I wasn't going to Washington," said Booker, "but then came this visit." IrishEyes has the complete report from team of recruiting experts.

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January 21, 2002

 Campus Visit
Wows Phenom Booker

By The IrishEyes.Com News Service

NOTRE DAME, Ind. (IE) Tyrone Willingham nearly brought down the Joyce Center Saturday afternoon when he made an impassioned 90-second address at halftime of the Notre Dame-Kentucky basketball game.

Nattily dressed in blue slacks, a tan dress shirt and tie with a blue ND vest, the 5-8, trim Willingham looked like he stepped out of a catalog for the Hammes Bookstore. But this is no empty suit.

"I am excited, and honored and eager to be your coach," Willingham said. "We are not waiting on success, we’re building on success right now with our recruiting and the work our football team is doing. We are driven to be the best."

With that, Willingham departed to a standing ovation, blasts of the 1812 Overture from the band, and into a critical recruiting weekend. And while the new head coach didn’t secure any commitments from the 15 players who visited campus this weekend, he did score points with the best prospect of the bunch.

The campus and Willingham tremendously impressed the nation’s best running back, Lorenzo Booker from St. Bonaventure (Calif.). He has eliminated Florida State from consideration and will now choose between Notre Dame, Washington (visited on Dec. 14) and USC (visits next weekend).

"It was everything you pictured Notre Dame would be and more," Booker told Greg Biggins of, part of recruiting network. "To say I was blown away by it would be an understatement."

Booker is convinced that Willingham is the right man for the job at Notre Dame and the Irish have a bright future.

"Coach Willingham is the man," said Booker. "I like the running back coach, Buzz Preston. I met all the returning offensive linemen and I couldn’t believe how big they were. They had the top OL class in the nation last year.

"They are going to win there."

Booker said the trip might have changed his mind about his school of choice.

"Going into the trip," he told Biggins, "there was no way I wasn’t going to Washington. But Notre Dame is right up there now. After I (visit) USC, I’ll have plenty of time to sit back and think about what I’m doing. Then I’ll be ready to decide on signing day (Feb. 6)."

Booker is 5-11, 175 pounds with a 4.43 time in the 40. He rushed for over 5,000 yards in his final two seasons at St. Bonaventure High School.

Willingham wasn’t as successful with Lancaster, Texas lineman prospect Larry Dibbles. The 6-2, 275-pounder has committed to Texas.

"It was a decent trip," Dibbles told David Garvin of HeartlandRecruting and TheInsiders.Com. "Cedric Hilliard was my guest host. But it was pretty cold and I’m committed to Texas."

Top receiver candidate Maurice Stovall from Radnor, Pennsylvania had a strong visit, but Georgia Tech still leads, according to Jamie Newberg of NewburgRecruiting and

Notre Dame currently has 12 firm commitments for Willingham’s first recruiting class. For a complete look at the list, click on "Commit List" in the left-hand navigation bar of the IrishEyes home page. If you are not a subscriber, you’ll be prompted with subscription information.

Currently six blue-chip prospects are scheduled to visit Notre Dame this coming weekend, including defensive tackle prospect Fred Matua of Banning, California. Preston played at Banning High in 1975.

"Buzz is someone we all know will take good care of Fred if he goes there and academically, Notre Dame is hard to top," a Banning assistant coach who asked not to be identified told PacWestFootball’s Biggins. Matua is considered one of the top 10 players in California.

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