Though the recruiting process occurs earlier and earlier, a team's success during the season still plays a significant role in the decisions of many recruits, particularly the very best ones. And often even the most persuasive recruiters can't overcome poor on-the-field performances.
Notre Dame appears to be close to landing a number of top players. Two of these top recruits seemed headed for the in-state school, but have delayed their decision until the season. Another BCS year could put the Irish over the top for these two dynamic young athletes. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?
Harrison Smith, LB, 6-3, 215, Knoxville Catholic High School, Knoxville, TN is the Scout.com's number nineteen linebacker and a four star recruit though Notre Dame may be more interested in him as a safety. Smith wants primarily to focus on his upcoming season but realizes that the recruiting process isn't going to go away.
"Recruiting has cooled off a little bit, but I still get text messages, in fact I just got some from coach Lewis and coach Weis," said Smith. "I still get them from Tennessee and the other schools. I'm pretty much in the same place that I was. I'm waiting on the season to see a couple games and take some visits."
Smith had narrowed his choices to four at this point but hasn't quite completed the process.
"It's Notre Dame and Tennessee, and I also like Auburn and Stanford," said Smith. "Those are the main ones that have separated from everyone else. I haven't told anyone that I'm done because I haven't scheduled all my visits. I'm kind of in the middle but I need to figure it out pretty quick."
One visit that Smith has set up is a September 9th trip to South Bend for the Penn State game.
"I'm coming to South Bend for the Penn State game," Smith answered when asked about his visit schedule. "My dad has it all set up. I really don't know if it's an official visit or not, but I know I'm coming up for that game. I figure it will be an official, I'm just not certain."
Notre Dame's main competition for Smith's signature appears to be Tennessee at this point but Stanford and Auburn have been making headway as of late.
"The main thing with Stanford was the campus was incredible," said Smith of his visit to Palo Alto. "When I went there everything seemed too good to be real. It had a lot of things in common with Notre Dame."
Smith continued. "I like how the [Auburn] coaches handle stuff," Smith said of his attraction to the Tigers. "They're kind of more old fashioned and tough. I kind of like that style. They have real tough defenses and they always seem like a tough SEC team."
Smith's performance as a junior explains the attention he's been receiving from major programs across the nation. He rushed the ball 155 times for 1312 yard and 17 touchdowns. He caught 32 passes for 446 yards and six more touchdowns. On defense he recorded 61 tackles, including 11 for loss. He snared six interceptions and returned two for touchdowns, forced three fumbles and recovered two.
Smith isn't the only high profile player Notre Dame is recruiting from Tennessee. They hope to hit the daily double with both Smith and Chris Donald. Donald, LB, 6-3, 220, Huntingdon High School, Huntingdon, TN is Scout.com's fifteenth ranked linebacker, a four star recruit and one of Notre Dame's top prospects at the position. The race has been a two team one between Notre Dame and Tennessee for quite some time with the home-state Vols appearing to hold a comfortable lead. An unofficial visit to South Bend changed all of that. Now, Donald is planning to use his official visits to help make his final choice.
"I'm going to take my official visits to Tennessee and Notre Dame," said Donald. "I really haven't had a chance to talk to anybody, school just started. I've got to get back in the groove with school and football and everything else that comes along with it. I really haven't had a chance to [talk to the Notre Dame coaches], but I'll probably try to come to one of their early games. I'm going to meet with my parents and decide. I'll probably go after one of my games on Friday."
Donald also has a couple of dates in mind for official visits to Tennessee and clearly wishes to get recruiting out of the way as soon as possible so that he can concentrate on other things.
"I really haven't talk to anybody because after football I come home and study," Donald explained. "By the time I get done studying, I go to bed. I guess a lot of recruiters and web sites have been calling but I really haven't had a chance to call them back. Sometimes I just want to lay low. I'm trying to take a step back from recruiting but it's going to follow me regardless. I'm with my team for another year so I'm trying to focus on that."
As a junior Donald recorded 120 tackles, 14 sacks, 32 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception. On offense he rushed for 1637 yards and had 287 receiving yards. He totaled 27 touchdowns.
These two summaries are just a sample of the recruiting information available each week on Irish Eyes.