When Irish head coach Charlie Weis and his staff hit the recruiting trail looking for the top pass catchers in the country this season, all they'll likely have to do is bring along the stat sheets from 2006. 71 receptions, 1,190 yards and 15 touchdowns, 60 receptions, 1,023 yards and 11 touchdowns, and 45 receptions, 564 yards and two touchdowns. These stats represent the season numbers of wide receivers Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall, and the numbers for tight end Anthony Fasano for the 2006 season.
This shouldn't be a hard sell, especially if Weis already has a top quarterback like Jimmy Clausen locked up for next season.
Let's take a look at some of the top targets that have shown some interest in Notre Dame, and the Irish also appear to be recruiting early in the game.
Wide receiver Arrelious Benn, 6-1, 208, 4.45--Washington D.C. (Dunbar high school) has already received an offer from Notre Dame as well as teams like Florida, Florida State, Ohio State and Tennessee. Benn will likely be considered one of the top wide receiver prospects in the nation, and Notre Dame is said to be high on his favorites list at this time. We expect Benn to make an unofficial visit to Notre Dame some time in the near future.
Texas prospect Terrance Toliver, 6-5, 190, 4.5--Hempstead, TX (Hempstead high school) already has an offer from Texas A&M. Tolliver nabbed six touchdowns on the season and had over 500 receiving yards on the season. Notre Dame has already stopped by his school and the Irish are listed as one of his early favorites.
Omaha native Niles Paul, 6-1, 185, 4.5--Omaha, Neb. (Omaha North high school) already has logged his first offer from Nebraska. Paul recorded 32 receptions for 623 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Paul plans to attend Notre Dame's camp this season and has the Irish high on his wish list.
Toney Clemons is a name the Irish will certainly take a look at. The 6-3, 190-pound New Kensington, Pa. native is said to be one of top wide receiver prospects in the East coast area. We haven't spoken to Clemons yet, but we're sure the Irish will recruit him, and he's already indicated an interest in Notre Dame.
Many will wonder who will likely be the top wide receiver in the nation in 2007. A name to keep an eye on is Deonte Thompson, 6-0, 185 pounds, Belle Glade, Fla., (Glades Central). Thompson clocked 4.29 at a recent Scout combine and dominated the state of Florida on the gridiron this season. We haven't spoken to Thompson yet, but you can bet the Irish will certainly stop down to see him in the future if they haven't already.
Another Florida prospect to keep an eye on is Dion Lecorn. The 6-0, 200-pound Ocala, Fla. native grabbed 51 receptions for 1,060 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. He already has a couple of offers under his belt and Notre Dame's strong season has opened his eyes. Notre Dame has been in contact and appears to be recruiting Lecorn heavily.
South Carolina native Mark Barnes is another player the Irish appear to be chasing. The 6-3, 190-pound Columbia, S.C. native already has a host of offers from teams like Clemson, Maryland, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia Tech. The Irish have been in contact and Barnes plans to take an unofficial visit to South Bend some time in the near future.
The tight end picture is a little more murky at this early stage, but with commitments from their two top tight ends this year, Paddy Mullen and Konrad Reuland, tight end likely won't be a top priority for the Irish in 2007.
One name to keep an eye on is Dante Pinchback. The 6-5, 245-pound Irving, Texas native has already had a lot of contact with the Irish and a number of other top schools appear to be interested. Pinchback is a guy to watch.
Another top tight end to watch is Mike Ragone. The 6-5, 230-pound Camden, N.J. native seems very interested in Notre Dame. Ragone is said to have 4.5 speed and had some impressive stats to boot (30 receptions, 800 yards, eight touchdowns). Ragone is attending Notre Dame's junior day on January 14th and the Irish are one of his top schools at this early stage of recruiting.
Expect a lot of new names to surface at both wide receiver and tight end in the future, but this should be a solid list to keep you going until more information is available.
We'll take a look at some top offensive linemen on Monday.