ND Shows Its Face To Long

Before recruiting hit the fan, Austin Long wanted to verbally commit somewhere early in the summer. That's now proving to be impossible for the four-star offensive tackle from Memphis, Tenn.

Last week, Miami became the 14th program to offer Austin Long a scholarship, joining the likes of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Tennessee. The 6-foot-6, 270-pound Long is finding it harder and harder to weigh the pros and cons of each big-time program.

"It's kind of gotten out of hand," Long said. "It keeps getting harder and harder everyday."

Then Notre Dame had to show its face and make things even more difficult.

Long hadn't been hearing anything at all from Notre Dame until last week. A coach on the staff called Briarcrest Christian head coach Major Wright to say they were coming by the school for a visit. On Monday, Irish offensive coordinator Mike Haywood dropped in for awhile to ask a few questions, pick up film, and drop off his card.

Notre Dame didn't offer, and Long has no favorites at this point, but a full-ride from the Irish would certainly throw head coach Charlie Weis and his program into the race.

"I've never been down there," Long said. He also holds offers from Auburn, Florida State, Arkansas, Ole' Miss, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Southern Miss and Louisville. "I definitely want to go down there maybe for a game or practice, and meet all the coaches and develop a relationship with them. It would definitely mix things up a lot more.

"Just the tradition, they are a big-time football program, what's not to like?"

Long is still hoping to make a decision before his senior season starts.

"But if it takes longer, it takes longer."

Long didn't allow a sack this past season, and graded out at a 94 percent or better for each game. His father Tim played at Memphis before enjoying an NFL career as an offensive lineman for the Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts and San Francisco 49ers. He was equally impressed that Notre Dame dropped by the school to see his son.

"He couldn't believe it, coming from that far away, just by calling one time and coming that far," Long said. "That's pretty cool."

Long wasn't really able to talk to Haywood, but coach Wright was.

"He just was inquiring about Austin academically and what kind of kid he was, just the typical stuff," Wright explained. Long has a 2.6 GPA and has already scored a 23 on the ACT.

Wright takes over at Briarcrest, after a 4-6 season a year ago. He hasn't had the opportunity to coach Long yet, but he has seen the film he sent Haywood home with.

"He is 6-6 and long, but he has real good feet," Wright began. "Good athleticism. Really a kid who's best football I think is ahead of him.

"I'll tell you one thing Austin does have that you can see on film is a mean streak, kind of an attitude you have to dig out of kids his size usually, but it's just in him. I think it helps him finish blocks."

Long can rep out 185 pounds 15 times on the bench press. His squat max is 500 pounds, and he runs the 40-yard dash in 5.1 seconds. He has had the opportunity to visit Alabama, Georgia and Tennessee several times. He has also been to Florida, Florida State and Auburn.

After spring practice, Long hopes to have a list of favorites, and this summer he will hit the road again and check out schools that have offered.

"I definitely have to fit in," Long said of wherever he decides. "Great tradition, great coaches. I'm not really looking to start as a freshman. I don't mind backing somebody up or even red-shirting if I get a chance to compete or work for a position."

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