Serious depth issues at positions like offensive line, tight end and wide receiver forced the Irish coaching staff to aggressively pursue top-notch recruits that could play early. While there's no doubt that Notre Dame will continue to recruit the top players, now it's for competition and depth instead of needing players to contribute immediately.
Still, perhaps the most basic philosophy under which Charlie Weis operates is that the best players play, regardless of year in school or the number of stars they earned from the recruiting services. This week Irish Eyes spoke with two players that look to have the ability to step from high school football directly to the college two deep. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?
Kyle Rudolph, TE, 6-6, 225, Elder High School, Cincinnati, OH represents one of Notre Dame's top offensive targets. Rudolph is no secret, though, in recruiting circles. He currently holds over twenty offers, so many that he can't even remember all the schools that have offered. When it comes to Notre Dame, Rudolph possesses no such amnesia. Rudolph attended the first Notre Dame Junior Day and then also came back for the latest one. This last one gave him the chance to see Notre Dame in a whole other light.
"They were definitely run well and they were put together really well," said Rudolph of Notre Dame's Junior Days. "I especially liked this one. They brought in five or six players and you were able to ask them questions and get feedback from them on what it was like to go through the recruiting process and what it was like to be a football player at Notre Dame. I just thought it was really nice because you could ask them questions that the coaches really couldn't answer. It was nice to get their feedback on how they made the best of their situations."
Rudolph also had the opportunity to talk to an acknowledged expert on how Notre Dame uses its tight ends.
"After that I got to talk to John Carlson," said Rudolph. "I got to talk to him about what it was like to get recruited by Notre Dame and why he made the decision to go to Notre Dame. He talked about his decision to come back for a fifth year and why he made that decision. He said that Notre Dame was such a good situation for him that there was no reason to leave. He said that he has more to learn and that there was no better place to learn than there."
Rudolph also had the opportunity to get to know his recruiting coach, Corwin Brown, better. The young Ohioan continues to be impressed with Brown.
"Coach Brown is recruiting this area and I interact with him well," explained Rudolph. "I think he's great for the program. He seems like he's pretty energetic and excited about the opportunity at Notre Dame."
Rudolph plans an early decision but wants to visit Michigan and Virginia before making that choice. He will not be able to take those visits until his basketball season ends. A 67-51 District victory over Huber Heights Wayne on Saturday enables Elder to continue their quest for a state basketball championship and will push Rudolph's football decision back.
"I know that I'm definitely getting closer [to a decision]," said Rudolph. "But I haven't been able to get to them [Michigan and Virginia] because of the distance and my basketball schedule. When my basketball season is over I will be able to sit down with my coaches and my parents and make a decision."
As a junior, Rudolph caught 30 passes for over 400 yards and seven touchdowns.
Rudolph isn't the only highly sought after offensive recruit on Notre Dame's radar. Trevor Robinson, OL, 6-5, 300, Elkhorn High School, Elkhorn, NE received an early offer from the Irish who continue to recruit him heavily. He has named three early favorites and the Irish have made that elite company.
"I think Michigan, Notre Dame and Nebraska can offer some things football-wise and academic-wise that I'm looking for," Robinson said. "If another coach texts me and asks me to give them a call, I'll give them a call. I'm certainly not going to turn my back on anyone but those three probably lead."
That Robinson and his family battled blizzard conditions to make their way to South Bend for the latest Notre Dame Junior Day certainly portends good things for the Irish. That Robinson came away impressed perhaps means even more.
"I thought the visit went really well," said Robinson of his Notre Dame Junior Day visit. "We had a meeting with coach Weis in the morning before everyone got there. Then we got an opportunity to talk with coach Latina. We met with coach Latina for the majority of the time and really [the purpose of the visit] was about building a relationship with him. I think we have a really good relationship and I feel that he's been completely honest with me with everything. All the way back in June I felt like he was someone that I could get along with really well."
The Irish already have two offensive line verbal commitments for the 2008 class and plan to take two or three more. They've made it clear to Robinson, though, that at this point there is no really timetable for him to make a decision.
"I think coach Latina said my timetable was as long as I wanted it to be," said Robinson. "If a situation came up where they get another interior commitment and a tackle to commit, that would obviously speed things up a little bit if [Notre Dame] was the direction I wanted to go. I talk to coach Latina pretty regularly, so I keep up on the depth situation. The depth is something that will definitely come into play, but right now it isn't that pressing of a situation where it is going to press me to make a decision earlier than I would like to."
Robinson doesn't plan on making a decision until fairly late in the process, probably after the end of his senior season.
These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Eyes.
Recruiting week in review.
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