It may have been the anticipation of seeing the Notre Dame football team again. It could have been the anticipation of seeing friends for the first time since last fall. It could have been the return of several legendary players to Notre Dame stadium. Really it was something different for everyone, but collectively it is the magic of Notre Dame. The recruits on hand might not have known about it before their visit, but they certainly are aware of it now.
Charlie Weis and his staff have done an incredible job of rebuilding and reconstructing the aura of Notre Dame. Part of all of that, the mystique of Notre Dame, is it's fans. The 41,000 fans that were in attendance enjoyed a fun-filled spring practice, but they also gave something back. In fact the fans gave something to Charlie Weis.
On hand for the Blue-Gold Football Game were eleven football prospects that had already received a scholarship offer. Those players are the cornerstones for the 2007 recruiting class and the building blocks of the Charlie Weis era. As the results of the recruiting weekend came in, it is clear is that Notre Dame took a huge step forward in the recruiting process with these prospects. Nearly to a man the prospects named the fans and the people at Notre Dame as the reason the trip was such a success.
Well, it happened. The waiting is over and quarterback Jimmy Clausen of Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village, Calif.) announced that he wanted to play football for Charlie Weis. There is a lot of hype surrounding Clausen, but it is earned. Not only has he excelled during his three years as Oak Christian's quarterback, but he has also gone out and competed in a number of passing camps. People have seen him throw and they have seen what he is capable of doing with a football.
Clausen now morphs from recruit to recruiter. Part of the reason Clausen wanted to end his recruitment early is so that he could attempt to draw top players to his program. He is well ahead of schedule as he's already developed a strong relationship with a most of the offered prospects Notre Dame had in this past weekend.
Clausen plans on graduating Oaks Christian early so that he can enroll in January.
Running Back Marc Tyler of Oaks Christian School (Westlake Village, Calif.) is widely considered one of the top five running backs in the country. He is not only the teammate of Notre Dame's latest commitment, but he is also a close friend. After Clausen announced his decision at the College Football Hall of Fame, the crowd started asking for Tyler. Marc said he was tempted to step up, but all in fun. He did say that this trip made a very strong impression on him and he overwhelmed by the support of the fans.
Prior to this weekend I thought Notre Dame had to make a big move with Tyler. USC and UCLA seemed to be pulling away from the Irish. Marc said that Clausen's decision would make a big impact on his decision. Notre Dame did what they needed to do. I don't think they lead, but they made up a lot of ground.
I really thought this weekend would make a strong impression on defensive tackle Joseph Barksdale of Cass Technical high school (Detroit, Mich.) Barksdale had skipped a combine and the Ohio State spring game in order to travel to South Bend. He came down early in the morning, but he left at half-time. I think that has to be a little disappointing. He said that he is strongly considering Notre Dame, but I'm not sure the Irish did what they needed to do.
What they didn't do with Barksdale, they did with the other top defensive tackle, Marvin Austin of Calvin Coolidge high school (Washington D.C.) Austin raved about crowd at the game and said that they made him feel welcome. He loved the campus, the players and the mystique of Notre Dame, but it was the fans that left a lasting impression with Marvin. He won't be deciding any time soon, but the Irish have likely embedded themselves at among his favorite schools.
Many people expected wide receiver Arrelious Benn of Dunbar high school (Washington, D.C.) to announce shortly after Jimmy Clausen. The two prospects have developed a very good relationship over the years and it only became stronger this weekend. Like Marvin Austin, Benn raved about the Notre Dame fans. Benn enjoyed his visit to South Bend in January, but this weekend seemed to make a very strong impression on him. Notre Dame did what they needed to do and although he said that he might not make his college decision until his football season, I think it might come much sooner.
Another top wide receiver and another top target Duvall Kamara of Hoboken high school (N.J.) that was very impressed with Notre Dame. Kamara mentioned the fans as something that made a lasting impression on him. He also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and speak with Coach Weis. Kamara said that he likes his New Jersey guys, and forged a strong bond with Mike Ragone and Justin Trattou. Duvall said that he'd take a little more time to look around. Notre Dame did very well with Kamara.
Offensive tackle Matt Romine of Union high school (Tulsa, Okla.) visited Notre Dame for the Tennessee game last fall, but he felt the trip for the Blue-Gold Game blew that experience out of the water. The biggest difference for Romine is that he was that he was the focal point for the Irish staff this time. Romine mentioned that offensive line coach John Latina made a strong impression on him. He also pointed out the turnout for the spring game was very impressive. Matt had a great visit but he won't rush into a decision. He'll likely take more trips and walk through the recruiting process.
Notre Dame didn't need to show defensive end Justin Trattou of Don Bosco prep school (Ramsey, N.J.) much this weekend. He really just wanted to get a feel for what the campus was like with the student body in school. Trattou was rather matter-of-fact in saying that he didn't think any school could match what Notre Dame had to offer. He is very close to committing, but he really would like to take a step back and possibly look at some other schools. Notre Dame needed a sacrifice fly, but they hit a double down the line. Notre Dame has a big lead with Justin.
Tight end Mike Ragone of Camden Catholic high school (Cherry Hill, N.J.) and Trattou met for the first time and they really hit it off. In addition to Ragone already speaking with Clausen, this friendship should help Notre Dame tremendously. Like Trattou, Notre Dame didn't need to show Mike much, he simply wanted to get a feel for the campus. The number of fans that attended the game shocked Mike. Notre Dame solidified their position here and I wouldn't think it would be long before Mike makes a decision.
Safety Major Wright of St. Thomas Aquinas High school (Fort Lauderdale, FL) came with his teammates Sam Young and Dan Wenger. I really wasn't sure where Notre Dame was with Wright, but after this weekend, they should be considered a major player. Wright was impressed with everything from the Irish coaching staff, the Notre Dame players, as well as the fans. Notre Dame had to get him on campus and they did. Notre Dame had to make a very strong impression and they did.
One of the recruits that was most anxious to get to Notre Dame was defensive back Michael Williams of St. Bonaventure high school (Ventura, Calif.) He visited Michigan and Northwestern prior to getting to South Bend. You could see by the smile on Michael's face that he had a very good time. Many people thought he would commit to the Irish but he was able to get out of coach Weis' office still open to other schools. That being said, I think he wanted to take some time and let everything settle. His decision could come at any time.
The Notre Dame staff was looking for a huge weekend and I believe they got it. A number of prospects said that Notre Dame didn't press them for a commitment. The recruits mentioned the coaches, the current Irish players, and the fans as to why the weekend was a success.
There were other players that visited this weekend, but at this time, we don't believe that any new offers were given out.