Notre Dame dipped into the Deep South to pull linebackers Morrice Richardson and Toryan Smith out of Georgia for the class of 2006. For the class of 2007, they hope to go next door to Alabama and grab Sidell Corley, DE, 6-4, 248 pounds from McGill-Toolen Catholic High School, Mobile, Ala..
Competition for Corley will be intense but Notre Dame's excellent recruiting class in 2006 and the reputation of Charlie Weis have given the Irish a solid chance with the preseason four star recruit.
"Coach Charlie Weis came from the NFL," said Corley when asked why he was interested in Notre Dame. "I know Notre Dame had a really good recruiting class. When I was in San Antonio (for the Army All-American Junior Combine) a lot of guys were going to Notre Dame."
Corley recognizes that last year's success for Notre Dame on the offensive side of the ball was not matched by equal success on the defensive side. Rather than be turned off by this, Corley, instead, sees it as a challenge.
"I feel I can go to Notre Dame and help change the system on defense and have them known for their defense."
Notre Dame's chief competition may come from Florida. Corley took an unofficial visit to the Swamp and came away impressed. Florida has yet to offer but Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Memphis and Louisville have.
Notre Dame is looking a little farther west to bolster a position of obvious need in 2007. Last year's signing of Chris Stewart demonstrated that Notre Dame had the ability to pull big men out of the state of Texas. This year Notre Dame hopes it can duplicate that success, but this time on the defensive side of the ball.
Andre Jones, DT, 6-4, 305 pounds from Andress High School, El Paso, Texas is an obvious Irish recruiting priority for 2007. The fact that the mammoth Scout.com Top 100 Junior and preseason five-star recruit already sports a Notre Dame offer speaks volumes for Notre Dame's interest in him. Jones enthusiastically returns this interest.
"Oh yes, they're really up there," Jones responded to a question concerning his interest in Notre Dame. "I talked to Coach Weis and defensive line coach Jappy Oliver. They offered me about two weeks ago and I already got it in the mail. I was shocked that I was getting the offer."
As with nearly any defensive tackle recruit, the depth chart, or rather lack of it, should be a major selling point. It certainly is for Jones.
"I was looking at the depth chart in the book they sent me and they have almost all seniors and a junior on there," said Jones regarding his chance to play early. "That makes me feel like I can go up there and play."
Jones will join a growing list of recruits who hope to enroll early.
"I'm graduating early, that gives me a chance to go to spring ball," Jones explained. "I talked to coach Oliver about it and he said he'd give me a fair chance."
Unquestionably, Notre Dame's primary competition will come from instate school and defending national champion, the Texas Longhorns. Still, Jones' connections to Indiana and with Charlie Weis could prove to be the difference.
"I grew up in Indianapolis so that's why I want to go to Notre Dame so much. My family is still in Indianapolis," said Jones.
About Weis, Jones said, "he's cool, he's real cool…he made me feel like they really wanted me and that we could build a strong relationship."
Besides Notre Dame, Jones currently holds offers from UTEP, New Mexico State, Texas A&M, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Louisville.
While the Irish have always had some success in targeting certain players in the South, they have been a dominating force in Minnesota. Seven Minnesotans, including Mark LeVoir, Rashad Powers-Neal, Ryan Harris and John Carlson dotted the 2005 Irish roster. Recent additions include Joey Hiben in 2005 and Matt Carufel in 2006. The Irish hope to continue their recruiting success in Minnesota with Bryce McNaul, LB, 6-4, 235 pounds from Eden Prairie High School, MN. If bloodlines mean anything at all, Notre Dame should be in good shape to win McNaul's services.
"My dad played for Cincinnati Moeller under Gerry Faust," said McNaul of his Notre Dame connections. "He played with guys like Bob Crable and Tony Hunter and other guys that went on to play at Notre Dame. So it's almost been a dream to play at Notre Dame. I know a lot about the tradition there."
McNaul attended Notre Dame's January 14th Junior Day but that wasn't his first time on the South Bend campus. He also made a visit for the BYU game last fall and got to pick the brain of Eden Prairie alum Mark LeVoir.
"It's a big help having Mark LeVoir there as well," McNaul said. "I went down there for the BYU game…It was nice because it gave me insight into what Notre Dame is all about from a player's standpoint instead of a coach's."
The Irish may be sitting atop McNaul's list, but there are definitely other schools in the mix. Louisville, Ohio State, Minnesota, Iowa, Northwestern are all recruiting McNaul. In addition to those, McNaul expresses an interest in Florida, Georgia, Virginia and Stanford.