Mixing It Up With The Locals

Right there, heavily in the mix with area schools like Alabama, Tennessee and Vanderbilt, is the Notre Dame coaching staff, trying to recruit James Stone to their school.

"They're recruiting me hard," James Stone said of the Irish. "I talk to coach (Rob) Ianello and coach (Frank) Verducci once a week or so. They just ask me how I'm doing and stuff like that."

Ianello also remains in touch with Stone's Maplewood High (Nashville, Tenn.) head coach Ralph Thompson. It's obvious, the 6-foot-5, 295-pound offensive linemen is one of Notre Dame's top prospects.

Though Stone says he currently doesn't have any favorites, it's also obvious that he is turned on by the Irish football program as well.

"I feel like it's a great place, and a really good school," Stone said. "Some good coaches."

A man of few words, Stone plans to lean on Thompson and his aunt, throughout the recruiting process in hopes of verbally committing somewhere before his senior season kicks off.

Stone and Thompson have talked about Notre Dame a few times .

"I tell you what, the only thing he's ever said negative is the distance from here," Thompson began. "As far as everything else, he really likes the prestige, and he really likes how coach Weis, and Rob, and the new o-line coach, Verducci, have talked to him, and what direction the program is headed in. And of course he likes the exposure of being on television every week, and of course the top-notch education that goes with it."

Besides being a top-notch offensive lineman, Stone is also a scholar, sporting a 3.7 GPA and a 24 ACT score. He would like to major in agriculture or education in college.

Other than the schools recruiting him the hardest, Stone has raked in scholarship offers from the likes of Georgia, LSU, North Carolina, Stanford and Florida State. The Irish offer came back in early January, and later that month he was hoping to visit the South Bend campus for the first time.

"Something came up and I wasn't able to make the trip," Stone said. "It's a place I want to visit before I make a decision. I heard it's a great campus."

Thompson said that he might be able to bring Stone up for Notre Dame's spring game on April 18th. He is still looking at their schedules to see if that's a possibility.

"Even if we don't get up there for the spring game, we have to at least go up there during the summer, maybe during one of the camp times," Thompson explained. "That will give him a chance to get in front of the coaches, and see how they coach. That's definitely one trip we have to make.

"I want to see the place."

Maplewood's starter at left tackle the past two seasons, Stone hasn't allowed a sack since his first varsity game. College coaches tell him he is capable of playing all three offensive line positions on the next level.

"I think it's my ability to bend, and my ability to move," Stone said. "I prefer to be on the left side, but I just want to get in and play well where the team needs me."

Whatever program that will be at, will be one that fills some of Stone's needs.

"It's going to have to have a good coaching staff, that is going in a positive direction, and a great academic program as well."

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