In Top Ten Shape

Just for a second, sit back and think about the months of January and February.

The Notre Dame coaching staff was putting the finishing touches on what is now's top-ranked recruiting class in 2008, and beginning to really turn their attention to the class of 2009.

Coming off a 3-9 season, and with a roster stockpiled with young talent, most thought that under the circumstances, it would be tough for Notre Dame to reel in a top-10 recruiting haul for a second-straight year.

Now back to the present.

You can't help but smile because now it's mid-October, and head coach Charlie Weis and company have verbal commitments from 16 of the nation's best players, and currently sit in the 10-spot of's up-to-date recruiting rankings.

That's impressive, and it can still get better.

Notre Dame is sitting high on the lists of quite a few blue-chip prospects that will be making college decisions in the coming months. A few more calls to Weis to say I'm in the fold, and the Irish coaching staff could be looking at another top-five finish on signing day.

Obviously these recruiting results are starting to be seen on the field, as the Irish head into the bye week with a 4-2 record..

Receiver Shaquelle Evans could be the next player Notre Dame is recruiting to pop. The four-star talent out of Inglewood, California had an exceptional time on his official visit to Notre Dame a couple weeks ago, and the Irish are right in the thick of things with USC for his services.

After Evans, Notre Dame might have to wait awhile on decisions from their remaining prospects.

Gabe Ikard is likely the next player to make a decision after Evans. The four-star defensive end from Oklahoma City took in Notre Dame for the first time on an official visit for the Michigan game. Before deciding, he still wants to go out to Stanford again, and take a more behind the scenes look at Oklahoma, his favorite team since he was a little boy.

The Sooners are recruiting Ikard as a tight end. Notre Dame likes him coming off the edge on defense. Stanford said he could play both. Ikard isn't sure what he likes best.

The rest of the guys on the list, likely won't decide until around the holiday season or after the New Year.

Four-star defensive end Davon Custis also attended the Notre Dame-Michigan game. It was his first time in South Bend. It won't be his last. Custis will take an official visit to the Irish campus in the coming months to take a more in-depth look at things. Custis and his mother were at Notre Dame for less than 24 hours that day, and they both came away very impressed. A successful official visit could supplant Boston College as Custis' leader.

The Columbus, Ohio product plans on deciding in late December or early January. Another thing the Custis family likes about Notre Dame is the similarities the University has with their current school, St. Francis DeSales High.

Staying with defensive ends, the Irish are in good shape with Chris Bonds. The four-star standout from Richland Northeast High (the same school that produced current sophomore cornerback Gary Gray) in Columbia, S.C. really enjoyed his official visit to South Bend the weekend of the Michigan game. Assistant coaches Jappy Oliver and Rob Ianello were at his game on Friday. Could be a Notre Dame, Alabama, USC battle, with a decision coming in January.

Five-star defensive end Nick Kasa is currently trying to get an official visit set up to South Bend. He has never been to Notre Dame, and could attend the Pittsburgh or Syracuse games. It all depends on how his team, Legacy High in Broomfield, Colo., does in the state playoffs. Kasa is also considering Florida, Colorado, Oregon and California, and the Irish staff won't know how they stand until after a visit.

Five-star linebacker Manti Te'o recently put Notre Dame in his top five along with USC, UCLA, BYU and Stanford. The Honolulu standout has said in multiple interviews he will take an official visit to South Bend. A decision isn't expected to come until around signing day.

Another five-star linebacker, Jelani Jenkins, recently trimmed his list of scholarship offers to 15. Notre Dame made the first cut. The Olney, Md. product took in South Bend for the first time this summer, and assistant coach Ron Powlus is trying to line him up for the banquet. The Jenkins family was also impressed by Corwin Brown. Now that they have a list down to a more manageable 15, Jenkins is going to take the next month and build better relationships with each school. The next round of cuts could come in that month, so it's crucial coaching staffs make themselves attractive to the Good Counsel High standout.

Fullback Tyler Gaffney could be in South Bend for the Syracuse game. The San Diego product is favoring USC, Notre Dame and Stanford. He visited the Irish campus back in February for a junior day.

A player we don't know much about, but a guy Notre Dame is definitely in on, is four-star safety Jawanza Starling. The Tallahassee (Fla.) Lincoln star has Notre Dame in his top 11.

If a few of the players listed above give a verbal pledge, than Notre Dame is sitting on a top-five class. With that being said, I think the Irish get Evans and Custis. I wouldn't be surprised if Bonds joins the mix, and one of Te'o or Jenkins also gives a pledge.

At this time, the Irish appear to be out of the mix with Xavier Nixon and Frankie Telfort.

Another name to watch for an evenutal offer is Roderick Goodlow. Notre Dame is paying his way to visit for the Pittsburgh game. The Irish staff will also keep an eye on rising seniors and de-commit's the rest of the way, but it's tough to speculate on those names.

It's not tough to speculate that Weis and his staff are some of the best recruiters in the country. Top Stories