There's no question that teams in Division IA hotbeds possess advantages. Texas, Florida and California schools annually dot the Scout.com top 25 recruiting lists. In 2006, nine of the top twenty-five schools came from those three states alone. Other schools must range farther afield in order to pick up the recruits necessary to compete.
One area in which Notre Dame traditionally fared well in the past was Chicago. In the years preceding Charlie Weis, some of those Chicago pipelines became less productive. Weis has made re-establishing Notre Dame in Chicago a priority. Last year, the Irish pulled top recruits, Demetrius Jones and Sergio Brown, out of the Windy City. This year they have their eyes on several more. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?
Robert Hughes (RB, 5-11, 227 pounds) from Hubbard High School, Chicago IL is a big and powerful back in the Jerome Bettis mold. He's a four-star prospect and the 17th ranked running back in the nation. Notre Dame fans that have been clamoring for Hughes to get an offer from the staff can now rest easy. Coach Weis extended a scholarship offer to Hughes last week, much to the young running back's delight.
"I called Coach (Rob) Ianello and he put me on the phone with Coach Weis," said Hughes. "He said that he wanted me to come there. I was like, ‘Whoa!' It was a big deal."
As excited as Hughes was about the offer, he's still going to take his time with the recruiting process.
"We'll see what happens from here," explained Hughes. "I told him that I just wanted to wait a little while and make sure everything is cool and go through the whole process. They're a great program. They're still in the same place."
Hughes has unofficially visited Notre Dame several times so he knows South Bend quite well. He has indicated that he's done with unofficial visits and will wait until the season begins and take his official visits.
"I pretty much have everything that I need to know [about the schools]," said Hughes. "I'll probably just wait and take some official visits."
Hughes possesses a large offer list, including traditional Midwest powers Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan and, of course, Notre Dame. His 2005 statistics explain why. As a junior, he gained 1,920 yards and earned All-State honors.
One of the first players that Hughes called when the Notre Dame offer came was fellow Chicagoan and five-star standout Martez Wilson. Wilson (DE, 6-4, 228 pounds) from Simeon Vocational High School, Chicago, IL currently holds an Irish offer and in an interview with Irish Eyes made clear his priority.
"Winning is important and I want to win," explained Wilson. "I'm trying to find the best situation that will get me to the draft because that's my goal."
Wilson has narrowed his list of schools to a top five, sort of.
"I've kind of got a top five," said Wilson of his recruitment. "Illinois, Notre Dame, Michigan, Wisconsin and the last spot is between USC and Tennessee. I'm not favoring any school right now. I like all of them. I'm going to take an official visit to Notre Dame and Illinois and most likely the other schools too."
Recruiting boards have been filled with informed and not-so-informed speculation about Wilson's preferred position in college. Schools are either recruiting him to play outside linebacker or defensive end. Wilson made his preferences known.
"I'm going to play outside linebacker in college," said Wilson. "The majority of the schools are recruiting me to play that. Defensive end and outside linebacker are similar. I like both. They're both fun and I get to hit people. I like outside linebacker. I've been playing it in practice, so I'll be playing both during the season."
Notre Dame has been recruiting Wilson hard and is undoubtedly high on his list.
"Charlie Weis, he's a good coach," said Wilson. "Of course I like their tradition. I think I can come in and be a good impact linebacker for them. Coach Ianello texted me today when I was in a team meeting. Sometimes we text, sometimes we talk. We've been doing both."
Wilson's high ranking resulted not just from his impressive combine performances but also from his 2005 statistics. As a junior, Wilson recorded 99 tackles, 25 for loss, 18 sacks, seven forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two sacks.
These two summaries are just a sample of the outstanding recruiting information that is available each week on Irish Eyes.