The Final Stretch of 2009

It's one of the quietest Januarys in recent memory for Notre Dame recruiting.

The Irish coaching staff has just about wrapped up their recruiting class in 2009, and only a few names remain on the board as targets.

The news of Marlon Pollard de-committing this weekend from Notre Dame to UCLA was obviously tough to take, but there is still a chance for some more good news before signing day comes in less than a month.

Notre Dame currently has 17 verbal commits, and is still actively recruiting Manti Te'o, Byron Moore, Tyler Gaffney, Jelani Jenkins and Jawanza Starling. Irish Eyes takes a look at where the program stands with each prospect.

The best bet to eventually become Irish in this group is the five-star Te'o. Scout.com's top-ranked strong-side linebacker, the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Honolulu product is considering five programs, USC, BYU, Stanford, UCLA and obviously Notre Dame.

Te'o has already taken an official visit to UCLA and Notre Dame, for the Syracuse game, and plans to for sure take trips to Stanford and USC. He's been to BYU a few times, and isn't sure if he needs to take an official to Provo.

Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis is recruiting Te'o harder than any other recruit in his four years in South Bend, including Jimmy Clausen. He's been to Hawaii on a couple of occasions, impressing not only Te'o, but all of the natives. Te'o is in regular contact with the Irish staff, and is definitely high on Weis and Notre Dame. So is his family.

Te'o eventually signing with Notre Dame wouldn't be a huge surprise, but look for USC and BYU to be the main competition. He plans to announce on signing day.

The sleeper of this group is the four-star Moore.

Out of the Los Angeles area, the 6-foot-1, 187-pound safety is a soft verbal commit to USC, but is still considering Notre Dame and LSU.

Moore took an official visit to South Bend for the Syracuse game, and is listening to the Notre Dame program. Weis has made an in-home visit, and assistant coach Brian Polian has been out to the West Coast on almost a weekly basis to check in on Moore. Irish verbal commits Shaquelle Evans and Cierre Wood are also trying to get Moore to flip on his verbal.

At the U.S. Army All-American game, Moore said one of the main reasons why he committed to USC was because they're close to home. Perhaps Notre Dame or LSU can talk him into leaving California. One thing that isn't lost on anybody, is that USC already has verbal commitments from three other safeties, and they're still recruiting Starling as well.

Speaking of the 6-foot-2, 190-pound Starling, it looks like he will be taking a visit to Notre Dame in the near future. The four-star safety out of Tallahassee, Fla., is still looking at the Irish, Florida, Florida State, Stanford, Georgia, LSU and USC.

Starling's recruitment has been mostly undercover, but Irish Eyes has spoken with his Lincoln High head coach a couple times. A great student, Starling realizes the opportunities he would have at Notre Dame. However, he sees potential at all his other finalists as well.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Corwin Brown, and assistant Bernie Parmalee have made several trips to Florida to see Starling. Following Starling's visit to South Bend, Weis will try and seal the deal with an in-home visit.

Gaffney, a four-star fullback from San Diego, has also seen a lot of Polian over the last couple months, and Weis has made an in-home visit with the family. The other two finalists are USC and Stanford.

It's tough to tell where the Irish stand with the 6-foot, 213-pound Gaffney, who took an official visit to South Bend for the Syracuse game, and the general consensus is that Stanford is the leader. Gaffney also wants to play baseball in college.

The biggest long shot of this group is the five-star Jenkins.

At the UnderArmour All-American game, Jenkins mentioned six schools that look to have a real shot to land his services. The 6-foot-1, 200-pound linebacker from Maryland has already taken an official visit to Florida, and has one set up for Penn State. Those look to be the two clear cut leaders.

While Florida and Penn State are in great shape with Jenkins, it looks like three other lucky programs will at least get a chance to draw even. Jenkins said he might take a trip to Notre Dame, USC, Illinois and Boston College. Obviously with only five allowed visits, at least one of those schools will get left out.

Notre Dame assistant coach Ron Powlus has been in regular touch with Jenkins' father, and look for Weis to make an in-home if they feel like they have a chance.


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