Recruiting Week in Review

This week in Notre Dame recruiting primarily focused on the class of 2007. With the 27-man class of 2006 nearly ready to put to bed, Irish coaches have focused on the preliminary stages of next year's recruiting, and if the early information emerging is any indicator, Charlie Weis and staff appear to be casting an even wider net than this year. What have you been missing out on by not being a member of Irish Eyes?

While that type of drama is most likely still months away for the class of 2007, recruiting is heating up and more and more prospect are emerging. Obviously, the Irish staff has been quite busy and has successfully gained the attention of several top-level recruits all across the United States. However, the staff didn't need to look any farther than their own backyard for one of the more impressive members of this year's junior class.

Here's a look at just some of the stories you've missed out on by not being a member of Irish Eyes.

Darren Evans, RB, 6-0, 210 from Warren Central High School, Indianapolis, Ind., was the EA Sports National Player of the Year after his sophomore season. Last year Evans rushed for 2,200 yards and scored 39 touchdowns. His coach likens him to a LenDale White type back that makes most of his yards the hard way, between the tackles. Evans also attended Notre Dame's recent junior day.

"He's a physical kid," said his head coach, Kevin Wright. "He's got good size. He runs with a lot of authority. He's the type that will literally take over games."

Though the Irish locked up the top Indiana running back last year when they gained a verbal commitment from James Aldridge, competition for Evans' signature will be intense.

"Michigan, Ohio State," as Coach Wright began listing Evans' list of suitors. "Everyone from UCLA to Miami, Florida State, Auburn and LSU. When you're a top 100 kid that's on everyone's list—everyone is interested."

Taurian Washington WR, Saint Mary's Prep School, Orchard Lake, Mich., is another Midwestern kid with game breaking abilities that has gained early recruiting attention from Notre Dame. Washington did not have exact statistics from last year but estimated that he had 1000 yards receiving and 12 touchdowns. The Irish might just have a recruiting ace up their sleeve in Notre Dame freshman receiver David Grimes. Grimes and Washington went to school together and Grimes gave Washington the lowdown on playing at Notre Dame for Charlie Weis.

"He [Grimes] told me to take a look at Notre Dame," said Washington. "He said the program is very nice and to take a look into it. He said that they had a great staff."

Washington took that advice and accepted an invitation to Notre Dame's January 14th Junior Day. He came away impressed with the University and the staff.

"I took a tour around campus," Washington said. "I talked to the staff and then went to a basketball game. I thought it was a nice school. It reminded me a little of St. Mary's."

Washington also gave high marks to his impressions of Charlie Weis and the Irish staff.

"I liked the coaching staff. They told you the truth. They didn't just tell you what you wanted to hear. I talked to coach Weis after eating and he told me, if I was waiting to hear what I wanted to hear, that I'd be waiting a long time. I had to laugh on that. He's a good guy though."

Washington is currently being recruited by Wisconsin, Michigan State, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Oregon, Ohio State and Michigan. He claims offers from Wisconsin and Michigan State.

Notre Dame has cast their net a little farther on another wide receiver prospect. Terrance Toliver, WR, 6-4, 180, Hempstead (Texas) High School has the ability to take over a game according to his head coach Ricky Sargent.

"He's one of those special kids," coach Sargent said of Toliver. "He has the ability to take it to the end zone at any point, whether it's a punt return, kick-off return or receiving. He's a tremendous talent…."

Though Toliver's athleticism might allow him to play several positions in college, Sargent is pretty convinced where he'll see his star play at the next level.

"Most definitely wide receiver," said Sargent when asked where Toliver would end up. "He has tremendous body control…. One of the biggest things I admire about him is that he doesn't mind going across the middle."

Offensive coordinator Mike Haywood has already been to visit Sargent and the Irish have apparently joined a long list of suitors for Toliver's signature.

"There are a lot of major universities that are taking interest in him," said Sargent. "He's got an open mind and the ultimate decision will be his."

Jake Goray, TE, 6-4, 240, Choctawhatchee High School, Fort Walton Beach, Fla. left the comfortable climes of sunny Florida for the South Bend winter in order to attend Notre Dame's January 14th Junior Day. Attracting talent out of Florida, for an unofficial visit, in the middle of a midwestern winter speaks volumes about Notre Dame's current prestige on the recruiting trail. Though Goray and his family generally follow the SEC and ACC, once Notre Dame began sending recruiting materials, Goray took interest. That interest eventually landed him in South Bend for Junior Day.

"I was very impressed with the coaches," opined Goray. "They were very nice. They took good care of us. They answered any questions that we had. They did a good job of not only explaining their philosophy but how they run things up at Notre Dame.

"I kind of researched the place before I went up there, so I wouldn't say that I learned a lot," Goray said. "But really I was surprised at how personable the coaches were. They were very humble and very personable as I said. You would think a great school like that, that they might be arrogant, but they weren't in the least. I think that might have been the biggest surprise."

Goray has yet to pick up his first offer though he has received considerable recruiting attention. Besides Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, Auburn, Miami, Florida State, LSU and Alabama are recruiting him.

With two-thirds of the 2006 verbal commitments on the offensive side of the ball, the Irish will obviously target and attempt to sign more defensive players in the class of 2007. Some of the early names that have emerged will almost certainly be high on Notre Dame's wish list for February of 2007.

The Irish appear as if they will not sign any defensive tackles in the 2006 class so one would surmise that this position will be a priority in 2007. One very large name has surfaced early in the recruiting process.

Joseph Barksdale, DT, 6-4, 310, Cass Technical High School, Detroit Mich., turned heads at the Army All-American game junior combine. By the end of the weekend, his name was highlighted on nearly every coach's clipboard.

"It was definitely a learning experience," explained Barksdale. "It gave me an idea of what to look forward to in college. Knowing that these are the best players in the country and actually doing well against them give you a little bit of confidence."

It was Barksdale's composure and confidence that especially stood out. His demeanor certainly marked him as mature beyond his junior in high school years. However, one should not confuse Barksdale's calm for complacency.

"I think if you use your time well and spend it well, anything can be accomplished." My goal is to make it to the Army All-American East team next year."

Barksdale has been consistently receiving mail from Florida State, Tennessee, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Conspicuously absent from this list was Notre Dame. Barksdale seemed understanding about the current lack of attention from the Irish.

"They stopped by during the season last year," Barksdale said of the Fighting Irish. "I know most colleges are focusing on seniors because national signing day is real close, so I understand." I'm interested in any school that's in the hunt for the national championship year in and year out. I can tell that it won't be their (Notre Dame's) last year."

Barksdale recorded 83 tackles, 20 for loss, 8 sacks and 2 deflected passes last year.

Another area where the Irish obviously need to improve is at cornerback. Despite gaining verbal commitments from arguably the top pair of cornerbacks for 2006 and three safeties, the explosion of spread offenses forces teams to be able to confidently field five and six defensive backs on any given play. The Irish staff has not ignored this fact and is already recruiting several defensive backs for 2007. Two names that have emerged are Lamont Smith, CB, 5-9, 175, Central Catholic High School, Pittsburgh, Pa. and Doug Beaumont, ATH, 5-9, 175, Male High School, Louisville, Ky.

Smith didn't receive much attention from Notre Dame until he returned from the Army All-American game junior combine. Irish interest picked up considerably after that, especially when they got a look at Smith's highlight tape. Of course, a player who runs a 4.4 forty holds the potential to impress anyone.

"I sent my highlight tape to them about a month ago and they got back to my dad and they told him they were going to be recruiting me," Smith said. Then the invitation to the junior day came in the mail when I got back from Texas and I was like ‘dang' they must be interested."

Smith clearly enjoyed his Junior Day visit and is interested in the Irish.

"We took a tour around campus. The facilities and weight room were unbelievable," Smith said. "It was fun. I liked it…I'd like to come back. My parents liked it too. They liked it a lot."

In addition to Notre Dame, Boston College, Virginia Tech, Virginia and Pitt are currently recruiting Smith. He plans to attend junior days at Boston College and Virginia Tech.

Doug Beaumont's legendary coach Bobby Redman warns that it would be a mistake to overlook Beaumont because of his size. Beaumont is a player who gets it done on both sides of the ball, rarely coming out of a game. He rushed for 1000 yards on only 93 carries, had 44 receptions for 850 yards, scored a total of 30 touchdowns and was the team's best defensive and special teams player.

"For those that get caught up in sizes, don't look at him," conceded Redman. "To me, production is the most important part and this kid does it all."

Notre Dame and Charlie Weis certainly haven't overlooked Beaumont. His invitation to Notre Dame's rather exclusive January 14 junior day demonstrated the Irish's high degree of interest. While it's not clear whether Notre Dame is looking at Beaumont as a receiver or defensive back, Redman believes that his star's future is on the offensive side of the ball.

"Probably as wide receiver," Redman responded when asked where Beaumont would play at the college level. "That's probably where he's going to fit into someone's scheme best. He's got the best hands, and he makes those circus catches."


IrishIllustrated.com Top Stories