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Football Recruiting: Dozens of prospects to attend USC game

Mike Gilloon | Friday, October 14, 2005

There is much at stake for No. 9 Notre Dame in its game Saturday with No. 1 Southern California. But it concerns more than Saturday’s final score.

With 30 recruits on both unofficial and official visits to campus scheduled for this weekend, the Irish hope to give a good look to the 23 seniors and seven juniors in attendance.

“If Notre Dame wins, they’ll have a huge impression on these guys,” recruiting expert Mike Frank of Irisheyes.com said. “Even if the Irish lose, but play well, they’ll have a positive impression.”

Among the recruits who will be watching to see if the Irish can break a streak of three straight 31-point losses to the Trojans will be 11 players who have already verbally committed to Notre Dame. The group will be highlighted by quarterback Zach Frazer and running back James Aldridge. Both verballed to the Irish last spring and are rated No. 10 and 7 in the nation by Scout.com at their positions, respectively.

“All of the guys coming in are big-time guys,” Frank said. “They’re guys that are wanted very much so by this coaching staff.”

Quarterback Jimmy Clausen is the highest-profile junior coming in for the game. Frank expects him to be the No. 1 recruited signal-caller in the nation next season. Scout.com lists Southern California as another school that is showing interest in him besides Notre Dame.

Two of Notre Dame’s top three defensive tackle prospects, Butch Lewis and Gerald McCoy, will be present. So will a couple of blue-chip linebackers in Toryan Smith and Anthony Lewis.

The main problem, according to Frank, with bringing in such marquee recruits for the USC game is there is a possibility the game will turn out like it has the past three seasons.

“It’s a gamble – if they get blown out like they have the past three years I don’t think [the game] will make a good impression in the slightest,” Frank said. “They have to play well and look good while playing well. It’s a gamble, but I think [Irish coach] Charlie Weis and his staff know what they’re doing.”

However, if tight end Paddy Mullen is right, Notre Dame should have nothing to worry about.

“I think their chances to win are very high,” said Mullen, who verbally committed to Notre Dame in April. “I think the Irish are really confident coming in, and they should be.”

For Mullen, the weekend will be a thrilling one. After his St. Louis-area high school plays tonight at 7 p.m., Mullen will drive with his parents part of the way. He will arrive in South Bend Saturday morning in time to get his tickets around 10 a.m.

“I can’t wait,” Mullen said. “It’s going to be an unbelievable atmosphere.”