Notre Dame is putting the finishing touches on it's 2006 recruiting class, and they are turning their attention to the top juniors in the nation. One player they the Irish are going to make a big push for is offensive lineman John Elliott (6-5, 290-pounds).
"They haven't been in touch with me, which I'm surprised about," East Meadow head coach Vincent Mascia said when asked if the Notre Dame coaches had contacted him about Elliott." They've sent me mail and they've sent him a tremendous amount of mail. I did just send them a film last week."
Although the Notre Dame staff hasn't contact coach Mascia at this time, it's likely they will have his number on speed dial soon. Notre Dame is hosting it's first junior day for the 2007 recruiting class this weekend and his standout offensive lineman was on the guest list.
"They did send me the invitation to the junior day this coming weekend," coach Mascia said. "I can't make it, but John is definitely coming. He's going with his dad and he's looking forward to it."
While the Irish have taken an early interest in Elliott, Notre Dame isn't the only school that has taken notice of the big offensive lineman. John already has scholarship offers from Rutgers, Syracuse, North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia and Temple.
"We sent film out on him and I got a call back from West Virginia in April of his sophomore year," coach Mascia said of the immediate response he received from colleges. "They told me they were offering right now, off his sophomore film. Right off the bat I knew we had something special.
"I've been doing this for 23 years. I've had about five division one players and nobody has hit the recruiting scene in April and May of their sophomore year. We had a player here a couple years ago, Rich Ohrnberger, who went to Penn State. He received numerous scholarship offers, but nothing kicked in until the end of his junior year. I've never seen it before, so I was kind of taken back a little by it. People came in and said they were going to offer, but it couldn't be official until September 1. Then on September 1, he had three official scholarship offers in hand."
There are a lot of big kids that play high school football, but there is always something the elite players have that make them special and worthy of the early scholarship offers.
"He's just a tremendous, physical force," Mascia said of Elliott. "He is really a dominating player and blocker. He gets off the ball and the lighter kids, the linebacker types and the safeties, just fly off him. I'm talking absolutely airborne. Then the down-linemen, he takes them for a ride and pancakes them five yards off the ball.
"He's just an explosive player. He's got long arms a tremendous punch, and he just takes people off their feet. The way people react when he hits them separates him from other players. At that size and that ability, when you combine his speed, his strength and his power, it separates him from the field."
"Last week I sat down with three different recruiters," Mascia continued. "As we watched his film all of them were literally laughing out loud. They were chuckling watching the film and said, ‘You shouldn't be able to do this to people.'
"John was at the Elite combine last year and he went up against some big-time kids," coach Mascia said of the May combine held in New Jersey. "He went up against Marvin Austin and after he did great on his first two one-on-ones. Then they brought over Phillip Taylor. John got dumped on his back but Phillip Taylor is a beast. John was pretty upset by that, but I told him that in a year from now he'd hang in there with him.
"As well as he did and with all the compliments that he got, the whole ride home he wasn't talking to me. He was annoyed that Phillip Taylor dumped him. He was completely agitated. He's an offensive lineman with a nose guards mean streak, without a doubt."
Based on the results of Charlie Weis' first recruiting class, he has proven he can be an outstanding recruiting. The fact that he was a success coach in the NFL is important, but his ability to identify with high school coaches may be just as valuable.
"Being a New York guy, I'm obviously familiar with coach Weis when he was with the Giants," Mascia said. "When he was at New England is when he really took off and got that genius label, but I was always intrigued by the story of where he came from. His story of coming through the high school ranks is an unbelievable story. How he sacrificed everything just to learn. Saying ‘I just want to be part of this' by starting out with Parcells. Just learning the game and working his way up; as a coach it's an incredible story. To start where he started and to now be the head coach of Notre Dame -- you can't do much better than that."
While coach Mascia knows the history of the Notre Dame head coach, Elliot is going to get his first exposure to Charlie Weis and Notre Dame when he attends the junior day in South Bend.
"I know he's supposed to be a great coach," Elliott responded when asked about coach Weis. "Obviously what he's done in his first year, he is a great coach. I just know that he has a great reputation."
"I know Notre Dame has a great tradition," Elliott said of the Irish program. "It's a great program. Everything I hear from other people is great. I'm really looking forward to the trip."
This is an important weekend for the staff to make an impression on Elliott. Even though he is only at the mid-point of his junior year in high school, he has already visited several campuses including one of Notre Dame's recruiting rivals.
"I've been down to Michigan," Elliott replied when asked if he had visited any other schools. "Last year at the beginning of spring. They invited me to one of their junior days. I thought it was a great place. I didn't know what to expect going down there, but I had a good time. I got to meet the coaching staff and I enjoyed myself. I was at Rutgers last weekend. I've been to Maryland and I've seen a little of Syracuse because I went to camp there."
Coach Mascia talked about John's drive and his competitiveness during the Elite combine. Those memories are still fresh in Elliott's mind to this day.
"It was in New Jersey," John replied when I asked if he remembered the Elite combine. "I remember being extremely nervous. I remember seeing all those guys there and competing. I was so nervous doing one-on-ones, but I did all right. I only got beaten once.
"It was definitely a great experience for me. I was younger than a lot of those kids and it did give me more confidence that I could compete at the next level. I felt like it was something that I had to do. I'm going to be playing with them in a couple of years, so it was like getting something off my back and finally competing with them. It was tough getting thrown down, but overall it was a great experience for me."
Although he has seven scholarship offers, he is going to take his time with the recruiting process.
"I don't really want to throw things out there," Elliott said when asked if he favored any schools at this juncture. "I obviously like Notre Dame, Maryland, Michigan, Virginia, Rutgers, West Virginia, and North Carolina. There are a lot of schools that I like, but I haven't really narrowed it down yet."