The Notre Dame staff took huge strides towards insuring their pass rush for years to come with the additions of Kallen Wade, John Ryan and Morrice Richardson to the class of 2006. They looked to the future of the running game with the signings of James Aldridge, Munir Prince and Luke Schmidt in that same class. This year, the Irish staff is heavily recruiting several defensive linemen and running backs. And though they already have verbal commitments from two defensive ends, nothing is set in stone until signing day. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?
Serious recruitniks know that the deal isn't done until the recruit puts his name on the dotted line and that can't happen for several months. As a result, the staff continues to recruit verbal commitments until signing day. Kerry Neal, DE, 6-3, 220, Bunn High School, Bunn NC took his official visit to South Bend for the Purdue game. Though the four-star Neal committed to Notre Dame without ever having been on campus, eight months and several visits later, he already feels Irish.
"The first time I visited I didn't know what to expect and I was nervous," said Neal of his first visit in March. "I was nervous around the coaches. I'm from Bunn and I'd never seen anything like Notre Dame. When I talked to the coaches, I didn't say much, so I didn't have long conversations with them. It was the same way around the players."
"It was much different this time," Neal continued. "I felt like I was at home. We [Neal and the players] talked a lot. I was relaxed and worry free. I knew I wanted to be there the first time, but I was really, really comfortable this time."
Often, selling the parents represents as important of a task as selling the players. Neal's mother proved to be an easy sell.
"My mom loved it," Neal explained. "She liked the academics at Notre Dame. She always thought that I could get the best education there, so she wasn't worried. We were walking toward the stadium after the team went to mass and I had my Bunn sweatshirt on, and people knew who I was, but they were actually welcoming my mom. They were telling her that they were so happy to have your son. It felt like home."
"I had Leonard Gordon the first night and then Saturday night I had Raeshon McNeil," said Neal. "It was really the first time I had a chance to talk to Raeshon. He's a good guy and we have a lot in common…a whole lot in common. Stuff he does, I do. The reason he picked Notre Dame and I picked Notre Dame are the same. We even talked about how we were going to move my stuff in. We talked about which dorm you wanted to get in."
Neal doesn't have to look far for a role model, no farther than the current Irish roster.
"I try to watch the position that I'm going to play," said Neal. "I watched Victor (Abiamiri). He's a great player. If you watch the stuff that he does, you can learn a lot. You can learn from watching Victor, (Chris) Frome and (Ronald) Talley."
The coaching staff has been completely up front with Neal about where he stands once he formally becomes part of the team.
"Me and coach Weis and coach Minter had a meeting," Neal said. "They told me who was leaving and which positions would be open. They said those jobs would be open and the best player would win the position. I want to play as a freshman so I'm going to work to win one of those jobs. It comes down to who wants it the most."
While keeping committed players in the fold is important, successful recruiting means getting new commitments as well. Notre Dame's successful running back haul in 2006 provided some much needed depth to a thin position but they hope to bring in at least two more backs in the class of 2007. They would like one of those to be Armando Allen, 5-10, 195 pounds, Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School, Hialeah, FL. The Scout.com four-star prospect is a potential game-breaker with blazing sub 4.4 forty speed. His explosiveness makes him a top target for the Irish.
"I'm pretty much down to USC, Florida, Georgia, Florida State and Notre Dame," said Allen. "I'm taking my first official visit this weekend to Notre Dame. I'm just looking at the environment around Notre Dame. I want to meet all the coaches, see everything on campus, see how the coaches treat me and basically see if I'm comfortable there."
Allen has been carefully watching those teams that he's considering and he's liked what he's seen thus far from Notre Dame.
"I've actually been watching Notre Dame a lot," said Allen. "I've been trying to watch them very closely. With the type of offense they run I feel pretty good about it. They run a pro-style offense. I think that with the way they utilize the running back I'd fit in perfect. They run both inside and outside. They don't put their running back out at receiver, which I like, but I can handle that. I do like how they get their running back the ball though."
Allen has been sidelined this year with an injury but concern about his future has abated with the injury healing nicely.
"Everything is fine," said Allen of his recovery. "I'm going through my rehab stages, so everything is going well. I'm pretty comfortable because everything is going fine. My coach just wants me to get healthy and not rush back. Everything is fine with the team, so he just wants me to get mentally and physically prepared for college."
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame recruiting information available each week on Irish Eyes.