Irish Cruising

The Notre Dame coaching staff continues to impress on the recruiting trail this season. A month ago we looked at some important pieces to the 2007 Irish recruiting class that I felt the Irish must land before the start of the 2007 football season. So far, Weis & Co. are knocking it out of the park.

For those that remember, I put together a list of positions I felt were vital for Notre Dame to land a quality recruit before the football season begins. Since that time, Notre Dame has landed six more commitments, and has gone a long way towards filling those needs.

I identified a number of positions I felt were important. I felt the Irish had to get up to three linebackers committed before the start of the season. I also felt it was important for the Irish to land a third offensive lineman, preferably an offensive tackle. Landing at least one more defensive lineman, hopefully one that could play nose guard, was also high on my list. I also felt it was important to land a top-tier wide receiver and a top corner prospect.

I put together some names I also felt the Irish had a great shot at, and I felt were important to this class. Players like Anthony McDonald and Darius Fleming were on the list. A player like Dayne Crist was not, but what a pleasant surprise addition he is to the 2007 recruiting class.

Landing Lane Clelland was very important to this Irish recruiting class. The Irish had two quality offensive linemen committed in Braxston Cave and Mike Golic, Jr., but they didn't have any tackle prospects committed, and there weren't many tackle prospects left on the board for the Irish. Clelland fills a huge need for the Irish, and is being recruited to play left tackle for Notre Dame. The Irish beat out quality teams like Michigan, Florida, Florida State and Nebraska. Now the Irish can be patient and wait for players like Art Forst, Kenny Page and Matt Patchan….three players they'd also like to have. It appears the Irish will likely only take four offensive linemen in this class, so landing another elite player at this position is important.

I can't remember the last time the Irish had two quality defensive linemen committed before the month of June. I'm going to guess that's never happened. The Irish have struggled to land their top defensive line targets for years, but in Hafis Williams and Sean Cwynar, they landed two of their very top players. Adding a third, like Kentucky native Brandon Newman, would put the Irish in great shape heading into the season.

Notre Dame would be in outstanding shape with a third commitment at D-line. Newman has said he'll most likely make a decision before his senior season. The 6-foot-1, 295-pounder would be an ideal addition to this class, but he might not be the only guy that's a possibility. Ethan Johnson, a 6-foot-4, 255-pound defensive end prospect, plans to attend Notre Dame's camp next month and spend three full days at Notre Dame. Johnson is another elite player the Irish would love to land. Also slated to visit Notre Dame again soon is newly offered Garrett Goebel, who I also feel is a possibility to end up at Notre Dame.

If the Irish can land one more D-lineman before the season, they can comfortably wait for the decisions of players like Johnson (provided he doesn't commit somewhere before the season), and nose guard prospects Omar Hunter and Marcus Forston. Goebel, Kapron Lewis-Moore and Datone Jones are three defensive ends strongly considering the Irish as well. I can't remember the last time the Irish were in such a great position when it comes to defensive line recruiting. Outstanding job by the Irish staff so far.

I also felt it was very important for the Irish to land one quality corner prospect before the start of the season. Notre Dame previously has struggled recruiting elite defensive backs until just recently. Notre Dame's recent success appears likely to continue as the Irish are in a great position for all the defensive backs they've offered.

Robert Blanton has already visited Notre Dame, and I believe the Irish are the team to beat for his services. Blanton has mentioned he might make an early decision. The Irish will try to get him back to Notre Dame sometime over the summer, and they just might be able to pull the talented 6-foot-1, 175-pound Matthews, N.C. native from the south.

Another player who the Irish appear to be leading for is Jamoris Slaughter. Slaughter is another elite name with offers from every SEC team and a whole host of others. Slaughter visited ND for the Blue/Gold game and the Irish appeared to jump out in front for him as well. Will he make an early decision? It's quite possible he will. I also think his family is very high on Notre Dame, which always is a big plus when trying to pull an elite prospect from Georgia. The 6-foot-1, 170 pound corner prospect would be a real steal for the Irish.

Another name to remember is Jeremy Brown. The 5-foot-10, 165-pound speedster currently holds offers from teams like Auburn, Florida and Tennessee as well as Notre Dame. He'll visit South Bend sometime over the summer, and we also believe the Irish will be tough to beat with a good visit this summer. He also could make an early decision.

Notre Dame has only offered one safety prospect, Dan McCarthy, brother of current Irish safety Kyle McCarthy. Previously, we felt Ohio State would be difficult to beat, but recently the Irish appear to be climbing with McCarthy. He also could make an early decision, and the Irish should be in his final two when he makes his decision.

The Irish were said to be only taking two corners and one safety in this class, so they're in outstanding shape here with those that have been offered.

Lastly, landing an outstanding receiver prospect is vital for the Irish, I believe. Notre Dame has taken a number of receiver prospects over the past two years, and they currently have a commitment from 6-foot-4, 200-pound John Goodman, who recently ran a 10.7 100 meters. But they'd really like to land another elite player at wide receiver before the start of the season.

That player could be Mike Floyd, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound receiver from Cretin Derham high school in St. Paul, Minn. The same high school has sent the Irish players like Ryan Harris, Marcus Freeman, Rashon Powers-Neal and current Irish player Matt Carufel. The Irish are battling offers from Florida, Michigan and Ohio State, but they appear to be the team to beat for Floyd. He could decide early and plans to camp at Notre Dame again this year. Can the Irish secure his commitment then?

Another player to keep an eye on is Brice Butler. Butler recently visited Notre Dame for the spring game and came away very impressed. Butler loves the fact that the Irish are loaded at quarterback and offensive line, but are lacking in elite talent at wide receiver at this point. The Irish are fighting offers from USC, Florida, Florida State, Tennessee, Georgia and every other elite team, but they appear to be very much in the race. Some expect the Irish and USC and will go head-to-head for Butler. Don't be surprised if the Irish pull the upset. He also could make a decision before his senior season.

So if you're keeping score at home, at every single position I identified as important positions, the Irish appear to be in outstanding shape currently. Now it becomes a numbers crunch.

With 12 commitments already in fold, the Irish likely can take only 10-11 more. While that seems like a lot, I currently think the Irish have a good shot at landing the following players.

RB Carlton Thomas
RB Ryan Williams
WR Mike Floyd
WR Brice Butler
OL Kenny Page
OL Art Forst
DL Brandon Newman
DE Ethan Johnson
DE Garrett Goebel
LB Steve Filer
LB Etienne Sabino
CB Jamoris Slaughter
CB Jeremy Brown
CB Robert Blanton
S Dan McCarthy

That's 15 players. Which guys do you tell no? That doesn't take into account players like (WR) Johnathan Baldwin, who will visit Notre Dame very soon. And, some elite players like (NG) Marcus Forston, (NG) Omar Hunter, (LB) Shayne Hale (visiting this summer), (LB) Arthur Brown, (DE) Kapron Lewis-Moore, (DE) Datone Jones, (RB) Cyrus Gray, (OL) Matt Patchan, who have all said they plan to visit Notre Dame very soon.

It also becomes a position crunch. Will the Irish take five D-linemen? What about five linebackers? Would they take three receivers? They can't take all and still fill their needs at other positions. But how can you turn away so many great prospects that you just might have a shot at?

Before anyone gets too excited, remember that we felt this way at this time last year as well. You still have to get them to commit, and then you still have to hold onto them until the end, something much easier said than done. However, the Irish appear to be in outstanding shape to land many of the top players they've targeted in this recruiting season.


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