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Recruits respond to change

Mike Gilloon | Friday, December 3, 2004

Like the propellers on the plane flying University officials in their search for a new coach, the heads of Notre Dame’s eleven verbal recruits were spinning after Tyrone Willingham was fired Tuesday. “I was shocked,” Akron, Ohio defensive lineman Lawrence Wilson said. “I couldn’t believe it happened when I first heard about it.”Wilson, who was in class Tuesday afternoon when his father called with the news, has taken back his verbal commitment to play for the Irish next season. He is now considering Ohio State, Michigan and Pittsburgh along with the Irish. “No [school is in the lead right now]. I’m still pretty shocked,” Wilson said. The ten remaining recruits are still committed to Notre Dame but expressed disappointment along with surprise at the decision. “Three years is not enough,” Marshall, Mich. quarterback Evan Sharpley said. “The guys that were playing for [Willingham] were not his recruits. So we didn’t get to see what he could have done with the type of players that he wanted.””I was really surprised,” Highland Park, Ill. linebacker Scott Smith said. “It was just something that came up out of nowhere.”David Bruton was not so reserved.”Bulls–t,” the defensive back from Miamisburg, Ohio said when asked how he felt about Willingham’s firing. “I was comfortable with coach Willingham.”The 6’3″, 180 lb. Bruton chose Notre Dame over Louisville, Ohio State and Wisconsin. His commitment still stands but he will have to wait and see who the new coach is going to be. On the other hand Smith, who stands 6’5” and weighs 225 lbs, is set on coming to Notre Dame no matter who the new coach ends up being. “I chose Notre Dame for the education and the football tradition,” Smith said. “There are so many more things than the coaching staff. That’s something that I think you’ve got to understand when you go through this process.”Urban Meyer is the most popular candidate among Irish fans, but the recruits opinions ranged from positive to neutral on the possibility of the current Utah coach taking over at Notre Dame. “I hope if it’s anybody it’s Urban Meyer,” Columbia, S.C. wide receiver Martin Frierson said. Frierson was excited about possibly playing in Meyer’s pass-oriented attack. “I want somebody who’s going to throw the ball.””[Meyer] used to be the receivers coach at Notre Dame so I could relate to him as a receiver,” Bruton said. Sharpley was a little less excited. “I don’t really know too much,” Sharpley said. “I know he’s done pretty well at Utah but that’s about all I know about him.”Asaph Schwapp, a fullback from Hartford, Conn., was unsure if he would have a spot in the offense if Meyer came. “I know he runs a spread offense,” he said. “I’d have to find out from him what my place would be and see if he would still want me to come.”A handful of recruits were supposed to visit campus this weekend in conjunction with the football banquet. But with its cancellation, they will have to reschedule their visits, probably after the new coach is hired. Student protests, both pro- and anti-Willingham, have either been planned or taken place on campus this week. But the recruits did not view the controversy as a negative. “It just shows how much the students care about the football team,” Smith said.