The first thing we should look at is the schedule for Tyrone Willingham this week. Last night, he was visiting Chase Anastasio. I spoke with Mrs. Antastasio last night and she said "We have a very special visitor tonight, Tyrone Willingham." I would say that was a pretty good sign. Chase is supposed to visit Virginia this weekend (17th) and his father told me that he would decide sometime shortly after. Chase was scheduled to visit Va. Tech on the 24th but Chase's father told me they were trying to move that visit up. I will try to reach him tonight. As I reported earlier, I think both parents like Notre Dame and Willingham a great deal and Notre Dame should have a good shot to land him.
Willingham is supposed to be visiting Victor Abiamiri and Ambrose Wooden tonight. These two visits will be vital. We all know Victor's situation with two brothers at Maryland and the in-state school being close to home. I have felt for a very long time that Wooden will sign with Notre Dame. Ty has his final word tonight. Freidgen is supposed to visit Ambrose tomorrow night. O'Brien has already visited Ambrose. I would assume Freidgen will likely visit Victor tomorrow night as well. Willingham needs a solid, strong close on both players and I expect a decision from both either later this week or early next week.
On Tuesday night, Willingham will be visiting Greg Olsen. Miami had their shot last night and Ty has his word tonight. A Tennessee coach is supposed to be there on Friday but I bet that gets canceled. Willingham should have the last word with Greg. Greg should announce later this week or early next week. I think he will choose Notre Dame.
On Wednesday, Willingham will be visiting Tom Zbikowski. Zbikowski had his in-home with Ferentz last night. I am going to bet that Iowa will be out of it soon. Solich and likely Turner Gill be visiting Tommy Zbikowski on Thursday. Zbikowski was born to play at Notre Dame. Ty just needs to remind him of that and make him feel wanted and I think they will get Zbikowski. I hope they land him.
These in-home visits are as far as I know at this point. I am sure some others will be getting visits from Willingham and he will likely be heading to the homes of the some of the committed players as well. I will see if I can find out where he will be on Thursday. Mike Jones is always a possibility but I think Ty will wait until he is done visiting. Joe Thomas is as well but I also think he will wait for him. If I had to guess, I would say it will be John Sullivan. I talked to John's dad last night and forgot to ask. I will call him tonight as well. Talking to the family and answering all questions before the visit might make a commitment while at Notre Dame more probable.
The visit list is small right now but I bet the staff tries to sneak a few players in this weekend. John Sullivan, Mark Bradford and Ira Guilford are the only confirmed visitors. Dwight Stephenson and Emmanuel Awofadeju have been linked with January 17th. I will try to confirm both tonight. I expect a few more names to sneak in this week and I will be chasing that story all week.
Sullivan should be a no-brainer and hopefully they can close on him this weekend. Notre Dame has been leading for a long time and hopefully all questions will be answered. Bradford visited Stanford and really liked it. I think Bradford is going to really like Notre Dame as well. I think Freddie Parish will help Notre Dame here because Freddie and Mark have a nice friendship going. Notre Dame will give Mark the academic situation he is looking for and the better football program at this point (I am obviously biased). Moving that far away from home could be a factor but I don't see it as a big factor for Bradford. USC and UCLA could have a say in this in the end. I expect Guilford to commit to OSU soon. I bet he doesn't visit Notre Dame this weekend although I know his Dad likes Willingham a great deal. If he visits Notre Dame, they have a shot. I am going to guess he commits to OSU very soon.
Stepehenson and Awofadeju will be interesting. Stephenson is rumored to like Notre Dame quite a bit but how long will Zook sit back while he is visiting other schools? I expect Florida to have their say in this before we know for sure if he will even visit. Awofadeju is interesting. I admit not knowing him well so I can't really give an accurate picture of what I think he will do. Notre Dame and Stanford will likely compete for his signature. He is a great kid and would fit in well at either school. Will Stanford be too far? Will Notre Dame go after him very hard?
What about the rest of the prospects? This should be a fun ride until the end. I won't begin to predict what Wesley Jefferson will do. I don't think we can guess until he visits Notre Dame on January 24th. Maryland is the team to beat. I am hopeful that Willingham can work some magic but it might be wishful thinking.
Mike Jones is interesting. I think Iowa was the main competition. I am not sure what he will do with Iowa now. I think Tennessee was also a threat but they just lost their offensive line coach. I think Jones likes Notre Dame but isn't sold on the offensive line at Notre Dame at this point. Landing some key players will only help. This is just my guess based on rumors I have heard. I am hopeful that the Irish can win this race.
My conversation with Joe Thomas' dad was interesting and I think it gave us some good information about what Joe is thinking right now. I am hopeful Notre Dame can secure and official visit from Joe and I will be checking on that this week. The Irish are looking good here but we can't be certain at this point. Track is very important to Joe and will have an impact on his decision.
Mitchell Thomas is going to be an interesting race. His Auburn visit didn't seem to make a major impact on his thinking. He visits Vanderbilt mid-week this week and is at Alabama this weekend. This week will be critical I believe for Notre Dame's chances. If he gets by Alabama without a commitment, the Irish have a good shot to land him. He will also visit Georgia January 24th. They could really use this player at linebacker.
LaBrose Hedgemon should be an interesting race as well. He has already visited Colorado and North Carolina. Neither seemed to make much of an impact on him. He visits Auburn this weekend and finishes with Notre Dame on the 24th. I like having the last word on the visit list but he has to make it out of Auburn without committing. I think Auburn has the slight lead here but LaBrose does seem very interested in Notre Dame. I hope they can get him in to visit because I think they will have a solid chance to land him if he does visit. You can never have too many corner prospects.
So who are the new names that could surface? Plenty of possibilities out there. Matt Malele is a defensive tackle from California. Kevin Brown is an offensive guard/defensive tackle prospect from Long Beach Poly. Mark Washington is a linebacker prospect from Long Beach Poly. Courtney Tennial is a running back with excellent grades. Derrick Williams is another running back from California. Alan Abrams is a running back from Florida. Aaron Fyer is another back from Florida. Tashard Choice could visit. I would not be surprised to see a new name at linebacker and corner that surfaced as well as running back. I will keep searching for new names.
This week is very critical for the Irish. Next week will also be critical. I expect quite a few decisions to be coming soon so this week and next could make or break the 2003 recruiting class. We have to pray Willingham can work some of his magic.