This weekend's big game between Notre Dame and Southern California will have more than ramifications for this season, but it will also help project up to the next five seasons for the Irish as well. Head coach Charlie Weis and his assistant coaching staff will be doing an all-important balancing act to entertain official visitors while also playing a somewhat meaningful football game. I kid, I kid…
Matt Carufel – Nothing has apparently changed with Carufel since this summer. He has listed the same group of schools throughout the summer and now into fall – Notre Dame, Iowa, Minnesota, Miami and Florida. Notre Dame has been a good bet since this spring; and I still personally feel that he will ink with the Irish when all is said and done.
Richard Jackson – Miami was and still is the biggest competition for Notre Dame. The key for Notre Dame to land Jackson is simply how well he likes Notre Dame during his official visit. Jackson has never been to Notre Dame before. Still, he has a strong relationship with coach Weis and the Notre Dame assistant coaching staff. If Miami was to be his choice, proverbial wisdom would say why wait? Miami has always been the safe choice, but still Jackson has waited to take his official visit to Notre Dame. Do not be surprised if he commits to Notre Dame during or shortly after his official visit. Notre Dame is never a slam dunk with a Florida recruit, but this is as confident as I can remember ever being about a recruit from the Sunshine State.
Laron Moore – Moore has been open about his feelings towards Notre Dame for quite some time. Unless something happens before or during his official visit that makes him feel uncomfortable, look for him to pledge to Notre Dame in the near future.
Riding the Fence
Terrence Austin – While many schools are making a concerted effort to land Austin's services, this race has always been about UCLA and Notre Dame, who rank No. 1 and No. 2 on Austin's list of schools right now. Will Austin feel comfortable enough with his official visit to Notre Dame to vault the Irish into his No. 1 position?
Lou Eliades – Eliades liked Notre Dame growing up as a kid. Now that he has a scholarship offer from the Irish and the opportunity to see the campus first hand he will be able to judge for himself whether or not it is the place for him. Virginia Tech (Nov. 5) is probably the team to beat right now.
Toryan Smith – With Oklahoma having such a down year the race to land Smith should come down to Florida or Notre Dame. Georgia is the wild card because his father played for the Dawgs, but Florida and Notre Dame have always had Smith's attention. Smith has been to Notre Dame three times before – 2004 summer football camp, 2004 Boston College game, and an unofficial visit earlier this year. Smith wants to see the game environment at Notre Dame. He will receive his money's worth this weekend.
Anthony Lewis - Lewis has listed four schools for a considerable amount of time – Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Texas A&M and Notre Dame. Look for the latter two schools to duke it out for his signature. He took an unofficial visit to Notre Dame this past summer so he is already familiar with the campus. Lewis has seen College Station already so it would not be shocking if he decided between the two schools without taking official visits to Oklahoma or Oklahoma State.
Visit Tells the Tale
Butch Lewis – There are several schools still within reach to land Lewis this Feb. 1. Georgia, Notre Dame and Southern California are the best bets to be his finalists, but Lewis is fairly mum about his favorites when being interviewed. Nebraska (Oct. 28), California and Michigan are also options for Lewis. Look for Lewis to make a late decision.
Lawrence Marsh – Marsh may be the most difficult recruit to read from all of the official visitors this weekend. He keeps his thoughts close to the vest for the most part. Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and several other schools are recruiting Marsh in addition to Notre Dame. Since Marsh lists a group of schools from down South, this could be a case of either he loves his visit and Notre Dame jumps into the lead or, Marsh does not enjoy his visit and the Irish fall out of the race.
Jacques McClendon – Auburn and Notre Dame appear to have the best shot to steal McClendon away from Tennessee, the school McClendon made a very early pledge to. He takes academics seriously so that should aid Notre Dame's chances right away.
Gerald McCoy – Until otherwise proven, Oklahoma is the team to beat. McCoy does not plan to take an official visit to Norman, but he has been there countless times as he lives roughly 20 minutes away. McCoy plans to take all five of his official visits, with Notre Dame and Southern California (Nov. 5) as possibly the two best bets to challenge the Sooners. Both schools have a legitimate shot to land McCoy, but they will have to truly impress him during his official visit to each school to seal the deal. Miami, Tennessee and Oklahoma State are also in the running. McCoy is not expected to make a decision before January.
During all the years I have followed or covered Notre Dame football recruiting there has not been one significant recruiting weekend without at least one or two recruits being nothing more than a long shot to sign with Notre Dame. That trend comes to an end this weekend. From my perspective not even McCoy or McClendon are long shots for Notre Dame. Hats off to the Notre Dame coaching staff and everyone involved with the Notre Dame football program for bringing Notre Dame back to the point where competing for elite recruits will be the expected norm from year-to-year.
There are four committed recruits taking their official visits to Notre Dame this weekend: Zach Frazer, Raeshon McNeil, Darrin Walls and George West. It never hurts to have a handful of commitments at the game to speak with the uncommitted recruits that are also attending. Several other committed recruits will be taking unofficial visits this weekend as well.