Notre Dame's top commitment

The Irish picked up commitment No. 14 yesterday, and while all these commitments are important, probably the biggest commitment the Irish received so far in this recruiting season happened in January of this year—when Irish head coach Charlie Weis hired defensive coordinator Corwin Brown.

The Irish have had a lot of recent recruiting success over the past two years, but most would argue they've had more success on the offensive side of the ball than the defensive side. "Defense wins championships," or so they say, and I think clear example of that was last year's National Championship game where the Florida defense throttled the powerful Ohio State offense.

It's simple, for the Irish to get back to that level, they'll have to have an excellent defense, and the only way to get there is by landing some elite players on defense.

Ask any Irish recruiting nut and they'll tell you that Notre Dame has struggled signing quality defensive lineman—they have for years. Notre Dame has had recent success signing some quality D-linemen like Trevor Laws, Derek Landri and Victor Abiamiri, but where they've really struggled was finding quality depth to compete with these elite players, and to give them a breather when needed.

Most of these elite players have had to play almost every snap of every game for the Irish recently. While they have certainly been battle warriors for Notre Dame, even the best players get tired, especially at the end of close games when the outcome is decided.

The Irish have also struggled to land quality interior defensive lineman, and so far they could have as many as three committed on the interior already this season.

The Irish failed to meet their needs the two previous years at defensive line, so landing some talented players who could compete early was priority No. 1 heading into this recruiting season.

With a total of four commitments along the line already, in June mind you, Notre Dame has addressed a vital need, not only in numbers, but it quality talent as well.

I'd be surprised if at least three out of these four commitments along the defensive line don't end up being four-star recruits or higher as the season goes on—maybe all four—and the Irish likely aren't done yet with other big fish out there left to fry.

In fact, I can't remember the Irish ever doing this well in both numbers and quality talent in commitments on defense.

What has changed from the previous two years when the Irish were having a lot of success on the field to now? It's simple, Corwin Brown.

Ask any Irish prospect on defense who is recruiting him the hardest and the answer most likely will be Corwin Brown. The man is everywhere, and more importantly, he seems to be communicating his message very well.

"The thing I really liked about Coach (Corwin) Brown is that he wasn't trying to sell me when we talked," said four-star defensive end Sean Cwynar the day he committed to Notre Dame. "He was a genuinely nice person who just gave me the facts and didn't speak in a negative light about any other programs I was looking at. He just helped to answer all of my questions and make me feel comfortable with Notre Dame in general."

"My father actually disliked Notre Dame at first and didn't want me to commit to any school early, but after we visited there together, he told me if I was going to commit early to anywhere, let it be there," four-star linebacker Darius Fleming said the day he committed to Notre Dame. "He really fell in love with it like I did when we were on campus, and both of my parents are really excited about it.

"Coach (Corwin) Brown and I had a good relationship built and have a lot in common being from Chicago, so that helped too. I already look up to him because he's a good coach, he's building a family atmosphere on the defensive side of the ball, and he's just bringing everything together up there."

Consider that…..Darius Fleming's dad didn't even like Notre Dame before he met Brown.

"When I spoke with coach Brown he got me all excited to play a game, but there wasn't a game to play" Hafis Williams said about his first meeting with Brown. "I could definitely play for him. He was asking me when we were walking around campus if I could see myself going to school there and I said, ‘ Yeah, definitely.'

"You could see it when I went out there," Williams said of Brown. "He's a really animated coach. It's the spring game and he's super excited. He's getting everyone fired up. He's a really enthusiastic coach, and that's the type of coach I love to play for."

"We hit it off and we exchanged numbers," nose guard commitment Brandon Newman said of his very first conversation with Corwin Brown. "We've texted and talked pretty heavily ever since.

"He said I'd fit perfectly in their defense, it wouldn't be too big a stretch from what we run here at Pleasure Ridge. He told me he is trying to get a No. 1 caliber defense in, and get a 12th national title by the time I come in and graduate. He wants me to be a part of that."

"He makes me feel comfortable talking to him without yet meeting him face-to- face," Newman said.

"Notre Dame had been in my top five, but I always thought that I'd end up at Michigan," Omar Hunter said just yesterday after committing to the Irish.

"I'd definitely say that coach Brown had a big impact in my decision," he added. "I really liked him once I got a chance to talk to him. He seemed like a guy that I really wanted to play for. He seems real fun and energetic on the field, and I really like that."

Consider that…Hunter had his mind made up he'd likely be heading to Michigan before meeting Brown.

And Brown's impact doesn't stop with players that have committed to Notre Dame. He's lighting up the phone lines with all the defensive players left on the board.

"I talk to coach Brown almost every day. He keeps it real," four-star linebacker Etienne Sabino said recently of Brown. "He keeps me updated with everything. Every time someone commits he lets me know. If I ask him a question he doesn't sugar coat things, he'll tell me the truth. That's hard to find, especially in recruiting. Most recruiters are going to tell me what I want to hear. He's very straightforward with me, and I respect that a lot."

"I've been talking to coach Brown the last couple weeks," four-star cornerback prospect Robert Blanton said of his first impression of Brown. "I think he's a great guy. We've had a lot of great conversations. I looked him up on the internet and I like his style. He's pretty wise, and he knows a lot about football. Sometimes we talk about family. We talk about the campus, and about the type of players they recruit. He seems like a great person."

"I met with the defensive coordinator, coach Brown. I was really comfortable with him," said four-star corner prospect Jamoris Slaughter after his first meeting with Brown. "We have a real good relationship and he could teach me a lot of stuff. He played in the pros and coached in the pros. He said that he could just look at me and tell that I was a player.

"He talked about personal stuff and about life," Slaughter said of his conversation with the Notre Dame defensive coordinator. "He likes coaching in college because he likes to see kids grow and he wants to be a part of that. He's a real good coach, and there's a personal side to him that I like. We already have a good relationship."

Not only has Brown made an impact with those he's been recruiting, but I also think his presence has helped Irish recruiting in general. Nobody wants to look bad in the eyes of their superiors. Brown, like Weis, has set the bar high when it comes to recruiting. His work ethic in recruiting has likely been noticed by other members of the staff, and I'm certain that drive has been contagious to other members of the staff.

Brown certainly hasn't done it alone. All the coaches seem to having good success so far this season. It seems every member of the staff has kicked it up a notch to try to make this recruiting season a big success.

Right now the Irish sit at 14 commitments. Not only is the number impressive, but they Irish have addressed needs in the most vital areas…defensive line and linebackers with seven total commitments in both positions. Not just commitments, but players they offered and targeted very early. There are no "B-listers" here. These are the elite players they targeted early and coveted.

Earlier in the season I kind of made a list I shared with the members of Irish Eyes that I felt was important. I mentioned it would be important to have a good number of commitments before the season and so far they'd done an outstanding job filling those needs.

I felt for the Irish to set themselves up for a strong finish in recruiting they'd need to land three O-linemen, three D-linemen and three linebackers—the three most critical needs as I saw it besides wide receiver—before the start of the season. So far they've done that and landed some very talented players in the process.

I still feel there are two areas the Irish need to address before the season—wide receiver and defensive back. Robert Blanton is coming up for another visit this month and could be the answer at defensive back, so could Dan McCarthy, who plans to make a decision before his senior season. Michael Floyd is coming for camp and could fill the need at wide receiver, but so far he hasn't indicated he'd make a decision before his senior season.

Regardless, the most important needs of this recruiting class appear to already be filled, and the Irish are not done yet. There are still a lot of elite players left on the board on the defensive side of the ball, and you can bet they've been watching how the Irish class is shaping up. I'd say the ball is definitely rolling, and you'll likely see more success in the future in regards to defensive recruiting. What a difference one guy can make……


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