Donald Down To Two

If you were to sum up Huntingdon linebacker Chris Donald's recruiting status in football terms, you could say the home team has a lead late in the game, and the visitors have the ball with a long way to go.

Of course, when the visitors are the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame you can never discount their chances of pulling out the win, especially with their fortunes on the rise under second-year head coach Charlie Weis.

Donald leaves no doubt he's a lifelong Volunteer football fan, who hails from a Big Orange stronghold in west Tennessee. Still he's intrigued by Notre Dame's storied program and is looking forward to getting his first visit to the campus in South Bend, Ind., this week.

The visit to Notre Dame will give him a side-by-side comparisons to Tennessee which he visited last week with his parents.

"I just got back from Tennessee Thursday," he told Jeff Baumhower of IrishEyes. "I took my mom up there because it was her first time. My dad went up there last year when they played Georgia. I've been up there four or five times, so I've pretty much seen everything, but it was a chance for my parents to sit down and talk to the coaches."

This latest trip to The Hill was an opportunity for the Donalds to explore academics as much as athletics.

"My mom is a teacher so academics are the main thing that [my parents] focused on," he said. "They were very impressed with their academic center and the way they make their players go to so many hours of study hall. They were excited about that."

Obviously, the Vols rolled out the orange carpet to make Chris and his parents feel welcomed and a part of the Tennessee football family.

"They showed them the whole campus," Donald related to Baumhower. "They got to meet some of the top prospects in Tennessee. They talked to the coordinators of the academics centers. They met players and recruits."

Donald, who also considered offers from Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Clemson will be a four-year starter this fall. The two-way star last season, he played middle linebacker for the Mustangs and amassed 120 tackles, 32 for losses, 14 sacks, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and an interception. He played running back on offense, rushing 1,637 yards on the ground and another 287 receiving yards with 27 total touchdowns.

The 6-foot-3, 220-pound linebacker has 4.5 speed and exceptional strength. Many recruiting authorities regarded him as the top prospect in the state coming into this year, however recently dropped him from a four-star to a three star rating.

That has done nothing to dampen college coaches' enthusiasm for a player that appears to be the complete package. His only drawback may be playing Class-2A football, although he comes from a highly competitive conference and the Mustangs have been playoff participants during his first three years in the program.

Notre Dame has already received a couple of linebacker commitments, while UT has none. That could factor in the Vols favor, but if the Fighting Irish hit a home run during his visit this one could go to overtime.

"They don't have to do anything," Donald said of his trip to South Bend. "I just need to go in there and see everything and see if I'm comfortable. If I am comfortable it's going to be a hard decision to make, but I'll eventually have to make it."

Even though he'll be in Indiana this week, eventually, Donald will have to come home.

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