Recruiting Week in Review

Most recruiting experts agree that if Notre Dame is going to come close to duplicating its outstanding 2008 recruiting class in 2009 then the on the field product must improve. Irish coaches successfully convinced last year's recruits that the combination of youth and a brutal schedule caused the 3-9 meltdown that constituted the 2007 season.

This year, though, the team must show marked improvement and demonstrate to recruits that the ship has been righted. If they are able to do so then 2009 could be another banner recruiting year if the early offers are any indication of the caliber of players the Irish are targeting.

As is typically the case, Notre Dame has cast a wide recruiting net early in this 2009 recruiting process. They have issued offers to players from New Jersey to Hawaii. Irish Eyes spoke with two of the 2009 recruits that have received an early Notre Dame offer. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?

Notre Dame's current roster is so geographically diverse it could almost represent a roll call in the United States Senate. However, one state that is not represented is Hawaii. That could change in 2009 if the Irish coaches have their way. Dalton Hilliard, RB, 5-11.5, 185, Punahou School, Honolulu, HI received a special visitor a couple of weeks ago when Charlie Weis stopped by his school. Big time college coaches are common at Punahou School because of the recruitment of Manti Te'o, a Scout.com five-star linebacker in the class of 2009. Te'o, who has been offered by Notre Dame, wasn't Weis's only target on that visit. He also took the opportunity to offer Hilliard a scholarship to Notre Dame that was "… a pleasant surprise," said Hilliard.

Hilliard's interest in Notre Dame is apparent and extends beyond the football program. Like many Irish recruits he recognizes the value of a Notre Dame education.

"I know there is a lot of tradition at Notre Dame," said Hilliard. "It's a very well known football school. They are known for football and academics. I just know with my family it's very important to have good academics. With them being a good academic school, they are high on my list because I need a fall back plan if my dream of going to the pros falls through. I'll be in good hands if I go to Notre Dame."

Hilliard, like many recruits, is willing to view last year's record as an anomaly caused by youth.

"I know this year didn't go the way they planned," said Hilliard. "This year was a rebuilding year for them, but I know they have a good future ahead of them. In my case that's a good thing because I hopefully could come in and contribute to the program whatever I can."

Hilliard hopes to make a decision before the start of his senior season, taking the summer to visit some campuses. In addition to Notre Dame, Hilliard has scholarship offers from Colorado and Stanford and has been receiving heavy interest from USC, California, Auburn and Florida. Though he currently lives in Hawaii, Hilliard has lived all over the United States. His father, Larry, is a major in the United States Marine Corps and as a result of his career, the family has moved frequently. Relocating to South Bend would not represent any major problem for Hilliard.

"I'm comfortable in any location and any weather," explained Hilliard. "People think that Notre Dame is so far away from Hawaii that I wouldn't be interested, but that is definitely a place that I am going to be interested in."

From Hawaii to New Jersey, the Notre Dame coaching staff has been busy visiting recruits and issuing offers. When Isaac Holmes, DT, 6-3, 290, Hoboken High School, Hoboken, NJ was called down to his coach's office last week it wasn't because he was in some kind of trouble. In fact, had he been in trouble every time he got called down last week, his academic career might well have been in danger of being cut short. Instead, Holmes made the trek to head coach Lou Taglieri's office every time a new football scholarship offer came. Last week alone he received seven scholarship offers. One of those came from Notre Dame.

"I talked to an assistant coach," explained Holmes. "I can't remember his name. I've been dealing with so many names this week. He was just letting me know that they're going to recruit me very heavy. They just lost a couple of linemen and if I come in and with a hard work ethic, I'll have a chance to come in and play as a true freshman."

Holmes has been on Notre Dame's campus and has a connection to the Irish through his cousin, Duval Kamara.

"I texted him (Kamara) a couple of times," Holmes said. "He never really responded. I guess he was busy."

Holmes hopes to make it in for Notre Dame's 24 February Junior Day, but isn't yet certain of that.

"Really, right now I'm not going to make any promises," he said. "I should be there. I'm going to get in touch with my coaches and see if I can make it out there."

The avalanche of interest has obviously been overwhelming, but also encouraging. Holmes hasn't named any favorites at this point, but expects to narrow things down in the future.

"It's really early," Holmes said. "I have a lot of favorites right now. Hopefully, late on, I can narrow it down to a top five or something like that. This week has been a real big difference. I had people interested in me, but I was like next year I have to go out and work hard and show colleges that I have what it takes. After this, seeing that I have the offers, it shows me that I have what it takes to play on the next level."

These two summaries represent just a sample of the Notre Dame football recruiting information available each week on Irish Eyes.


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