The Final Seven?

With only two months left in the 2009 recruiting season, the Irish coaching staff is trying to zero in on their remaining targets while still paying close attention to those currently committed. Will it be 18 commitments for 2009, or will the Irish land a few more along the way?

There aren't too many names left of the 2009 recruiting board at this time for the Irish, but there is some solid interest from those prospects left. Let's take a look at those left on the board and see where ND might be standing with each other them.

Notre Dame held their annual football banquet this past weekend and nine Irish prospects were in attendance. Seven of the players were already committed to Notre Dame, but two prospects remain uncommitted at this point.

Four-star defensive end Davon Custis was in for his official visit to Notre Dame this past weekend. Custis has listed Boston College as his favorite over the past few months, but the Irish pulled even with the Eagles after his visit this past weekend. Custis has two visits left to Stanford and Northwestern, but the Irish and Boston College appear to be the front-runners at this point.

With Custis, I think it's going to come down to the Irish building a stronger bond with both Davon and his mom. The ND staff did a nice job with that this past weekend, but they'll need to continue along that path from here on out. Defensive line coach Jappy Oliver will visit Custis and his mom this coming Thursday. The Irish need a defensive end in this class and Custis appears to be the only prospect left. I believe Notre Dame can land him if they put in the work.

Three-star fullback prospect Toben Opurum also visited last weekend. The Plano, Texas native also has visits scheduled to Kansas and Florida coming up, but the Irish made a strong impression on Opurum this past weekend.

The question for Opurum is if he wants to be a fullback or a halfback prospect. Most players don't like switching from halfback to fullback, which is what he'll have to do if he wants to attend Notre Dame. I believe if the Irish wanted him at running back that they'd be sitting in the lead at this point after his visit.

There's a long way to go before Opurum decides. The ND staff has a lot of work left to do on the 6-foot-2, 225-pound prospect. The good news is the Irish have one of their best recruiters in Rob Ianello recruiting him the rest of the way. I wouldn't be overly optimistic about Opurum at this point, but I do think the Irish opened his eyes this past weekend. I think "fullback" is the biggest hurdle for the Irish, and they may not be able to overcome that.

The Irish are also recruiting another fullback prospect in Tyler Gaffney. The 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gaffney has narrowed his list down to Notre Dame, USC and Stanford at this point. Gaffney has already visited Notre Dame for the Syracuse game and came away impressed with the Irish. However, my read is distance may be a factor in Gaffney's decision, and the Irish could be fading a bit at this point. Gaffney has yet to visit Stanford and will in January, so the Irish do have time, but I don't get the idea that the Irish are in his top two at this point, and that's never a good sign if the player has already visited ND.

The name everyone is talking about is five-star linebacker Manti Te'o. Te'o visited Notre Dame for the Syracuse game and the Irish did a nice job of grabbing his attention on the visit. Has that interest continued?

By all accounts it seems the Irish are very much in the race for Te'o, but the 6-foot-2, 225-pound linebacker has a lot of visits left on his schedule. Te'o has yet to visit USC, BYU and Stanford and will in January.

I've been quite impressed with both head coach Charlie Weis and Brian Polian in the job they've done in recruiting Te'o. The Honolulu, Hawaii native has said many glowing things about Notre Dame, Weis and Polian. Can they weather the storm? There are a lot of great recruiters that will be recruiting Te'o down the stretch. Each team is going to bring in the big guns to try to land Te'o. Notre Dame simply has to keep working hard, and a bowl win out in Hawaii certainly wouldn't hurt. I used to think it was a long shot at best with Te'o, but I think Notre Dame has as good a chance as anyone at this point to land him.

Five-star linebacker Jelani Jenkins is also on the board at this time. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound linebacker plans to visit Florida this weekend, and is in the process of setting his remaining visits currently. Penn State, Michigan, Illinois, Stanford and Notre Dame are all hopeful for a visit as well. At this point the Irish haven't had much luck getting Jenkins to schedule a visit.

Notre Dame appears to be in the back of the pack in this race currently. Jenkins has already visited Notre Dame unofficially over the summer, so he's familiar with Notre Dame. He may set a visit for Notre Dame, but I wouldn't be overly optimistic the Irish can land Jenkins. They appear to have some considerable ground to make up on his rumored leaders of Florida and Penn State.

The Irish hosted four-start safety Byron Moore for the Syracuse game as well. Moore is currently committed to ND rival USC, but Moore wanted to check out the Irish as well and took a trip last month. While the Irish did impress Moore, I'm thinking distance and the cold weather may be too much to overcome at this point for landing Moore. The race isn't over yet for Moore's signature, but my guess is ND appears to be fading at this point.

Finally, the Irish are hopeful in hosting four-star safety prospect Jawanza Starling for an official visit in January. The Tallahassee, Fla. native currently is playing in the state playoffs and hasn't officially scheduled any visits at this point, but Notre Dame continues to impress Starling and may just end up with a visit.

With any Florida prospect, we simply won't know how he truly feels about Notre Dame until he actually visits Notre Dame. The first obstacle is to get a visit schedule. The Irish are working hard to make that happen, and there's a good chance he'll visit Notre Dame.

But like all top Florida prospects, he'll be hard to take from the big three in Florida, and Florida State and Florida in particular. If the Irish can get him to visit, they should have a chance as we hear he's the type of kid who would fit in well at Notre Dame.

As with any recruiting season, these final seven likely won't be the only names that pop up between now at signing day. I'm certain Irish fans will get excited about "X" player whose visiting who they didn't expect, and they'll be devastated when they hear current commitment "Y" may visit another school. Just know that it happens every year.

Every year ND usually loses one, and sometimes they gain one or two they didn't expect. That's just part of recruiting and I don't expect it to be any different this year. It should be a fun ride the rest of the way. The good news is this staff usually is very good at keeping those they have, even though many schools will be trying to poach these prospects along the way.

The best case scenario for the Irish will be to land one of the linebackers and Custis. Adding Starling would be gravy at this point, as would anyone left on the list. Top Stories