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Recruits continue to commit

Mike Gilloon | Thursday, January 20, 2005

Patrick Kuntz eagerly dialed his phone at 3 o’clock Tues-day morning. He was calling Jappy Oliver to let the Irish defensive line coach know he will be playing football for Notre Dame.

“Coach Oliver and I had this joke going where he said he never turns his phone off,” Kuntz, a defensive tackle from Indianapolis, said. “I wanted to see what he’d say. Fortunately he wasn’t mad. He was actually pretty happy.”

The 6-foot-3, 255-pound Kuntz verbally committed to the Irish over Louisville and Michigan State. However, he cannot sign an official letter of intent until Feb. 2.

He joins West Philadelphia Catholic product Derrell Hand as the 12th and 13th verbal commitments for Notre Dame this year. Hand, who announced he will be playing for the Irish Wednesday afternoon, is a 6-foot-4, 305-pound defensive tackle. He chose Notre Dame over Michigan State and Wisconsin.

Mike Frank of Irisheyes.com said Hand is a solid pick-up for Notre Dame.

“He’s a big body,” Frank said. “He has very good size and plays hard.”

Hand could not be reached Wednesday night but his mother was thrilled by her son’s choice.

“I’m very excited about [Hand’s commitment],” Deborah Middleton said. “We had a really great time on our trip to campus. We met all the coaches except [Irish head] coach [Charlie] Weis, and I was really impressed with them. They seem like they have been working together for years. They are recruiting a lot of strong young men and I’m really excited about the future of the program.”

Hand will most likely play defensive tackle for the Irish. Kuntz had been recruited by some schools as a defensive end but Frank expects him to play on the inside of the line as well.

Kuntz said he was attracted to Notre Dame for many reasons, one being the coaching staff.

“I love all the coaches,” Kuntz said. “They want nasty football players, and I’m an old-school guy. I’m the type of guy who will go in there and punch you in the face.”

Kuntz, who along with Hand received a three-star rating from Scout.com, also raved about the traditions at Notre Dame.

“The tradition there is unlike anywhere else,” Kuntz said. “It’s such a prestigious school, not only athletically but academically. A degree from there opens up a lot of doors for you.”

Frank agreed that Kuntz, who racked up 114 tackles, 14 sacks and 27 tackles for loss during his senior season at Roncalli High School, will fit nicely with Weis’ aggressive style.

“He’s the type of guy you can build a team around,” Frank said. “He’s one of those lunch pail guys that are going to work and work and work.”

With the interior defensive line covered for 2005, Irish coaches are looking to sign at least one defensive end. Lawrence Wilson, a defensive end from Akron, Ohio, had verbally committed to Notre Dame but uncommitted when Tyrone Willingham was fired as head coach.

“Wilson is a big-time player and he’s going to take a visit to Michigan this weekend,” Frank said. “He’s also looking at Ohio State and Florida but Notre Dame still has a shot.”

Another player on the Irish radar is Youngstown, Ohio quarterback/defensive back Kyle McCarthy. Notre Dame just offered him a scholarship on Wednesday and Frank expects the two-way star to accept.

“He is taking a visit to campus this weekend,” Frank said. “He has a brother [who doesn’t play football] who is a junior at Notre Dame. He’s really excited about his visit and I expect he’ll commit to us pretty soon here.”

One player who could be the jewel of the Irish class is New Jersey linebacker Brian Cushing. The Scout.com five-star player was leaning towards Southern California but lately has been reconsidering his decision.

“Now I don’t think he’ll go to USC,” Frank said about Cushing, who made 120 tackles, 9.5 sacks and 7 interceptions his senior season at Bergen Catholic High School. “SC is just too far and I don’t think his parents want him to go so far from home.”

Cushing is now looking at Notre Dame along with Miami, Florida, Penn State, Louisville and Virginia.

“It’s a tough race to handicap because of all the big schools that are after him,” Frank said.