Notre Dame signed six offensive linemen in the 2006 recruiting class, but they will need more in 2007. Jack Cornell (6-6, 285 pounds) is one of the best offensive linemen in the Midwest and he visited Notre Dame for their January 14 junior day.
"I was really impressed with everything they had," Cornell replied when asked about his trip to Notre Dame. "They just built the Gug and that was really nice. It's one of the nicer facilities I've seen. I liked all the coaches; the fact that they are all very experienced -- they have a connection going on."
"I‘ve heard of coach Weis of course," Cornell said when asked what he knew about the Notre Dame coaching staff. "Just from the way he was talking to everybody before the junior day started, he sounded like a great coach. I didn't get a lot of one-on-one like I did at Mizzou, but I did get a chance to talk to him a little bit. I thanked him for having me and he sounded like a really cool guy.
"I had heard of coach Latina, the offensive line coach. I was researching all the o-line coaches and he was one of them. I really like his philosophy of sticking to the basics. I really liked that. Everything that I was taught is what he stresses and teaches to his players. That's awesome because there aren't new techniques and that's all you really need.
"He had a great personality," Cornell said of Latina. "He's definitely one of the coaches that stuck out in my mind that really wanted to win. That's important to any athlete, in any sport. He just has that winning mentality."
With Cornell growing up in the Midwest and attending a Catholic high school, the odds are high that he is a Notre Dame fan. Although he does like the Irish, Jack grew up a Florida Gator fan.
"Steve Spurrier," Cornell answered without hesitation when asked how he became a Gator fan. "When I think of a college football coach, I think of Steve Spurrier. It's his all-around attitude and mentality. He went into every game hating who he was going to play and he wanted to beat the crap out of them. That's how I like to play."
Cornell's play was good enough to earn him first team all-state honors in 2005 from almost every publication in Illinois, a rare achievement for a junior offensive lineman.
"I think the reason I got all-state is because of my team," Cornell said. "The guys around me wanted to win, they wanted to get to the next level. I see myself as a team player. I live and die out on the field with my team, not just for myself. I think that's how everyone should play the game. I don't think there is anything more to it. You play as a team…as a family.
"I grew up hearing that football is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. It's a mind game. I didn't put that into perspective until this last summer when I went to the University of Florida's football camp. One of the last things the coaches said to us before we broke camp was: ‘you have to have a mental toughness.' You have to know that you can beat the guy across the line from you. If he's smaller or 20 times your size, you have to know in your head that you can beat him. I've tried as hard as possible to instill that into my game… in practice, in work ethic and everything. I tried to put that into perspective and then execute."
Cornell benefited from the Florida staff's advice, but he also gained confidence by competing against some of the best high school talent in the country.
"Going down to that (Florida) camp, it's the best of the best" Cornell said of the Florida prep talent. "Going down there and working against guys that have played this (game) basically since they could walk, competing against the best of the best, I really felt I did all right. My dad went down there with me and watched me from the sidelines. He said that I looked great against them. I was out there, so I don't know how I did. There are good guys up here, but down there it is life.
"There was one guy that I know got the best of me, Charles Deas. I think he's going to LSU. He got the best of me. I'll admit it. I lost my feet, but I'll admit he got the best of me. I could hang with all the guys down there. I could hang with Deas, but as much as it kills me to say it, he got the best of me. I just hope, if I went up against him, the next time that I could get him."
Cornell will have to wait a little until that next opportunity presents itself, but with the amount of recruiting attention that he's receiving, that opportunity will likely come.
"It's picked up a little bit," Cornell responded when asked about recruiting. "I've heard from more Big Ten schools, some more SEC schools and a couple more Big 12 schools. My only offer is from Mizzou, but it looks like I'll get an offer soon from Michigan State, Northwestern and Illinois. I'm going to (Illinois) junior day on Saturday.
"I talked to (Florida) coach Hevesy today. They're just starting to get in touch with me. He watched some of my film today and I think he's going to watch the rest with coach Meyer on Monday. I think he'll text me and let me know what's up."
"I've talked with coach Ianello through email and stuff," he said when asked if the Notre Dame staff had been in touch with him. "I've gotten a lot of Big Ten schools getting in touch and that's what I've been leaning towards. That's kind of what I've been getting the feel for the last few weeks. I really think if Florida hadn't gotten into the mix, I could see myself leaning more toward the Big Ten and wanting to stay closer to home.
"I'm not going to commit early. I'll definitely go through the whole process. Come the first Wednesday of February next year, that's probably when I'll commit. I'm not planning on committing any time soon."