Today, the emphasis on strength remains but coaches now consider speed to be equally important. On defense, especially, the trend is for smaller and faster players who still possess outstanding strength. The Notre Dame staff has obviously bought into that notion. Their early offer list reflects their desire to add both speed and strength to the defense and two players offered last week might well fulfill those needs. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?
High school safeties often become college linebackers and high school linebackers become defensive ends. Early Irish commit, Aaron Nagel is a perfect example of that principle. Though he plays free safety for his Lamont Township High School team, he projects as an outside linebacker at the college level. The same potentially applies to Irish recruit Lorenzo Edwards of Edgewater High School, Orlando Fla. Because those two outstanding safeties are projected as linebackers at the next level, Notre Dame still needs to sign at least one safety. One player high on the Irish wish list is Michael Williams, S, 5-10, 175, St. Bonaventure High School, Ventura, Calif. The Irish offered the talented defensive back last week and immediately vaulted to the top of Williams' list.
"I got great news from Notre Dame," Williams said with obvious excitement. "They offered me. I was never expecting it when I got the letter. I was just blown away. When I went to camp, I didn't even know I was on his (Weis') radar. I'll look at everyone else but Notre Dame is at the top of my list right now."
Williams' father echoed his son's excitement at the Irish offer. In fact, he learned of the offer before Michael. If his father's reaction is any indication, Notre Dame is in great position.
"I got it in the mail (the offer) last Friday," Williams explained. "My dad got it that morning and he called everyone. He got a pretty big phone bill that day. He came and picked me up from school because he had to tell me something—randomly. I thought ‘this was weird' because I have a car."
Despite his obvious glee at the Irish offer, Williams is taking his time and keeping his priorities straight.
"Maintain my grades," Williams responded to the question of what he would do now. "It's kind of a process. You have to look at your options and not commit too early. You don't want to get into a bind and not be able to go to any other schools. I have to look at my options right now."
Williams turned in a very strong junior season, recording 98 tackles, three sacks and two interceptions. This performance has earned him numerous scholarship offers. In addition to Notre Dame, he has offers from Michigan, Arizona, Arizona State, Washington and Ole Miss.
The one defensive position where speed is perhaps less of an issue than any other is defensive tackle. There, size and strength are valued and Joseph Barksdale, DT, 6-4, 310, Cass Technical High School, Detroit MI brings plenty of both to the position. The talented young tackle received a Notre Dame offer last week.
"Notre Dame offered me today," said Barksdale. "I talked to Coach Weis personally. He told me he was calling to give me the official offer. He said ‘we feel that you could come in and play at Notre Dame and that we'd love to have you here.'"
Barksdale recently trekked to South Bend for a junior day. That trip represented his first time at Notre Dame and his first meeting with the Irish coaching staff. Though the staff assured him they would offer after looking at his tape, Barksdale still wondered if perhaps they had doubts.
"They said as soon as they saw some tape they were going to offer, but there is always that doubt in the back of their mind," Barksdale opined. "I came this close to a scholarship offer and that being the first time communicating with any of the coaches. That was the first time ever seeing me period."
Though Barksdale seems quite pleased with the scholarship offer, Notre Dame still has quite a bit of work to do in his recruiting.
"I'm really happy to have the scholarship offer," said Barksdale. "I'm only the third defensive tackle that they've offered, actually only one of the few players they've offered across the nation, period."
Notre Dame was pretty low on my list at the beginning of the recruiting process," Barksdale continued. "After visiting the school and just seeing what they have to offer, academically as well as athletically, Notre Dame is on the ‘come up'—well they've already come up. Notre Dame is one of the teams that's going to be playing for the National Championship this year…. When you look at their season, people were able to maintain these grades, while winning this many games…it's a great school so that really moved Notre Dame up on my list."