ND Notebook: National Underclassmen Combine

SAN ANTONIO - Khairi Fortt prefers the hand-written letters from college coaches, to the regular literature these programs send.

"It makes you feel great," the four-star linebacker from Stamford, Conn., said. Khairi Fortt was in San Antonio on Friday for the National Underclassmen Combine, a showcase for some of the nation's top juniors. "It really shows to me they're interested in me. Some colleges just send regular letters or whatever. Hand written, I know they took the time out to write it and send it to me."

One major college head coach taking the time out to write the 6-foot-2 ¼, 220-pound Fortt, is Notre Dame's Charlie Weis. Besides Weis, the Irish staff is sending a lot of mail.

"It says that they look forward to seeing me, and they heard I'm a great player and they want to see what I can do, because they heard a lot about me," Fortt explained. "They've seen my video tape and everything, but they want to see me in person."

Perhaps the they will see Fortt soon.

Already offered a scholarship by Penn State, Ohio State, North Carolina, Boston College, Rutgers, Maryland, Duke, Connecticut and Syracuse, Fortt plans on attending Notre Dame's junior day on Jan. 24th. It would be his first-time ever in South Bend.

"I know they come from a great tradition," Fortt said of Notre Dame. "I know they're young, and I think I'd be able to fit in because I'm young too, coming in. I'm trying to start, and I think I'd have a good chance of starting freshman year or sophomore year. They're coming up."

Fortt finished his junior season with 118 tackles, four forced fumbles and two interceptions.

***The more the merrier: Another Scout.com top-100 player hoping to attend Notre Dame's upcoming junior day is Dietrich Riley, a four-star athlete out of La Canada, Calif.

"Me and my parents have been talking about it, and we're trying to go up there for the junior day on the 24th of this month," Riley began. He holds scholarship offers from USC, UCLA and Arizona. "We're going to try and work something out and go up there and check it out, because I was very upset I couldn't make it to the Syracuse game because I had a playoff game.

"I'm definitely looking forward to going up there and meeting coach Weis and the whole staff."

Besides Notre Dame, Riley is hearing from plenty of other programs that have yet to offer. Alabama, Oklahoma, LSU, Michigan, Florida, Tennessee, Oregon and California are some of the schools Riley mentioned inside the Alamo Dome on Friday. Irish assistant coach Brian Polian is in regular touch, and Riley is very high on Notre Dame.

"Just the program," he stated. "Just to graduate from Notre Dame with a degree is a huge accomplishment. Other than football, I also want to graduate with a great degree from a prestigious school and all that, have a great future. Football, they say it only lasts, the average years is about six years, so after football, I want to have a backup plan, a great job and all that."

In helping lead St. Francis to a 6-4 record and a spot in the playoffs, the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Riley rushed for around 1,100 yards and seven touchdowns. He also had 40 tackles and two sacks from his weak-side linebacker spot.

"I don't know what position," Riley said of where Notre Dame is recruiting him. "I haven't been discussing that, but I'm guessing safety, but whatever position that gets me on the field, that's what I'm willing to play. But my favorite position to play right now is running back because I had a great season last year, so running back or safety, those are my two positions I'm looking at."

Riley said he also plans on attending UCLA's upcoming junior day.

***Trying to make it in: Like Riley, Beau Allen wasn't able to make it to the Notre Dame-Syracuse game the weekend of Nov. 22nd, but the 6-foot-2 ¾, 295-pound (National Combine measurements) defensive tackle from Minnetonka, Minn., is trying to make it in for the Irish's junior day as well.

"I think so," Allen said. The Notre Dame staff has been in regular contact through mail, and assistant coach Rob Ianello dropped by Minnetonka Senior High in the fall. "I have to get my schedule planned out, but that's definitely one of the ones I want to attend."

Allen has already been offered by Wisconsin, Iowa and Minnesota, and would like to hear more from Notre Dame.

"I like the good history," Allen said. "It's obviously a good school you know. Academics are really important to me, and they have a good coaching staff. I want to get to know those guys a little bit better."

Allen says he will likely go to Iowa's junior day as well. He has already visited Minnesota and Wisconsin in the past.

An invitation please: Connor Wood, a top-100 recruit and four-star quarterback from Houston, Texas, has been getting letters from Notre Dame. Already with offers from Stanford, Iowa, Duke and Rice, Wood said he'd be interested in taking a trip to South Bend.

"They just need to invite me," the 6-foot-4, 203-pound Wood said. "With Notre Dame's tradition in the past and the present, I'd definitely consider going up there."

During the season, the Second Baptist signal-caller threw for 2,248 yards and 20 touchdowns to just four interceptions. He completed nearly 63 percent of his passes and added 13 more rushing scores.

Wood plans on attending upcoming junior days and camps, and is plenty interested in Notre Dame.

"Charlie Weis, some people think that football team is going downhill, but his resume and his past has proven that through all that, that he can have a successful football team after a few years of getting things going. He probably doesn't have the right, I don't know what's going on up there, but he's a great coach, he's got a great coaching staff around him, it's Notre Dame."

***Whitmer To Check In Soon: College programs have told Chandler Whitmer that between their season finale and bowl game, they'd evaluate his film. The quarterback from Downers Grove, Ill., is hoping to hear back from these schools soon.

Notre Dame is one of the programs evaluating the 6-foot-1, 185-pound quarterback, who was one of the many talented signal-callers in San Antonio.

"Still waiting for after January," Whitmer said. He visited Notre Dame for the Michigan and Syracuse games. "This is a dead period. I'm going to call them later in the month and see where they stand after this is."

Whitmer is currently holding an offer from Illinois, but thinks a few more may be on the way.

"I think Arizona is probably the closest right now, and then Purdue and Notre Dame, and Iowa."

Whitmer has planned a trip for Iowa's junior day, and beyond that isn't sure where he'll go over the next couple months. He might make it back to South Bend for the Irish's junior day.

"We'll see if they're serious enough, and see how that goes and take it from there."

Combine nuggets: Check the Irish Eyes news board for updates on Dominic Espinosa, Jamaal Kearse, Daniel Blitch, Michael Dyer and Conor Hanratty, the son of former Notre Dame quarterback Terry Hanratty. All five players were at the combine and are receiving interest from Notre Dame.

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