Recruiting week in review.

When Notre Dame went from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4, their need for playmaking linebackers increased significantly. The staff has made noteworthy strides in the last two recruiting classes to improve both their numbers and athleticism at linebacker. The results have been promising to date.

Brian Smith and Kerry Neal from the 2007 recruiting class have both earned starting roles coming out of spring practice and Irish fans are eager to see 2008 recruits Darius Fleming, Steven Filer, David Pozluszny and Anthony McDonald once fall practice begins. However, a 3-4 demands tremendous depth so the Notre Dame coaching staff is looking to add even more top-notch players at the linebacker position. Irish Eyes' Steve Wiltfong spoke with two young men that are at the top of Notre Dame's linebacker recruiting wish list. What have you been missing by not being a member of Irish Eyes?

Manti Te'o, LB, 6-2, 225, Punahou School, Honolulu, HI currently holds twenty-seven scholarship offers, including one from Notre Dame. With so many offers, Te'o has already grown weary of the recruiting process. He has let his father handle the recruiting evaluation period phone calls, with one notable exception.

"When coach (Charlie) Weis called, he called my dad's phone, and my dad came in the front door of the house with a smile and said, ‘it's coach Charlie Weis," explained Te'o. "Basically the coaches can call now. He said he wanted to make an impression on me by being one of the first coaches to get a hold of me. We talked about the program and where I could fit in. It was a good talk. I took away that coach Weis really knows what he's doing and knows what he wants, and is trying to get his program back to that level. It's just a matter of time before they get back to where they've been."

According to Te'o Notre Dame is recruiting him the hardest and that effort is paying off. The young Hawaiian lists the Irish as among his favorites.

"Notre Dame, I would have to say, is one of my favorite schools, just because I know a lot about them through contact with the coaches via e-mail," said Te'o. "They are always in contact with me, and it's not that hard to like a school if you know what they're all about."

Weis made a one-day visit to Te'o in January and that effort on Weis's part really made an impression on him.

"When the head coach shows that level of commitment and interest, especially when he came down in January, he just came down to say hi," said Te'o. "I was like you came all the way here just to say hi? It was really an honor for him just to come down here to say hi and he was flying back to Indiana that same day."

Though Te'o has yet to cut his list of schools down to a more manageable level, he says that Notre Dame is looking very good to get a visit. Te'o's junior statistics reflect his outstanding ability and explain his five-star rating. He recorded 92 tackles, five sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He also averaged 11.1 yards per carry on offense.

Notre Dame did not have to travel quite as far afield in identifying another one of its top linebacker prospects. Mike Gilliard, 6-2, 205, Valdosta High School, Valdosta, GA got on Notre Dame's radar when his high school coach, Rick Tomberlin, brought a tape of Gilliard when he attended Notre Dame's 2008 coaches' clinic in April. The Irish coaching staff was impressed and immediately began recruiting Gilliard. An offer is likely to be soon forthcoming.

"They said they really like me," Gilliard said. "They should offer me when they come down here on April 29th."

Though Gilliard has yet to directly talk to a member of Notre Dame's coaching staff, he has spoken with Irish linebacker/defensive end Morrice Richardson. Richardson called Gilliard a few days ago and the two had a productive talk.

"Basically he was telling me all the things he had to go through leaving out of state," said Gilliard. "He told me about the recruiting process, and he told me some good things about Notre Dame."

Gilliard continued.

"He was like, I know he kept saying a degree from Notre Dame, you can do what you want in life. He said the people are great. He was telling me a lot of real good stuff about Notre Dame and the history."

Gilliard played WILL linebacker on Valdosta's 9-3 team last season. He registered 112 tackles, eight sacks and two interceptions in helping his team to the second round of the playoffs.

"College programs see I have a nose for the ball, and I'm real fast for a linebacker," explained Gilliard. "I'm a sideline to sideline player, and I make plays."

If the Irish do offer, Gilliard has plans to make a summer visit to Notre Dame, as well as to other schools that have offered him. He would like to make a decision before his senior year.

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