Football: Gray, top high school corner, verbally commits to Weis, ND
Ken Fowler | Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Despite Notre Dame’s 47-21 blowout loss to Michigan Saturday, the Irish came out of the weekend with a victory on at least one front – the recruiting war.
Cornerback Gary Gray of Columbia, S.C. (Richland Northeast High School) verbally committed to Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis and defensive backs coach Bill Lewis this weekend on his official recruiting visit to campus. Gray said he would enroll at Notre Dame for the spring semester.
“I will fit into the defensive system,” Gray said in a telephone interview with The Observer Monday. “I talked to Coach Lewis numerous times. I fit in with this defense [and] know the schemes they run.”
Mike Frank, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for IrishEyes.com, said Gray – who stands at 5-foot-11 and 165 pounds, and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.49 seconds – brings power and explosiveness not often associated with athletes his size.
“He’s a guy that can run with the best players out there,” Frank said. “He’s also a very physical player for his size.”
Gray, a quarterback and defensive back in high school, initially committed to South Carolina and head coach Steve Spurrier after his first round of unofficial visits to schools, including Notre Dame. But Gray rescinded his verbal commitment to the Gamecocks in July. Gray and his mother traveled to Notre Dame on an unofficial visit at the end of that month.
“The first time I came, my mom wasn’t able to come, but the second time I came, I was already committed to [South Carolina],” Gray said. “We went up there secretly but word came out, she enjoyed the trip, really liked it, so I de-committed [from South Carolina] and waited a little while so I could take my official visit.”
With his mother steering him towards the Irish, Gray picked up quick on Notre Dame’s academic support system for athletes.
“Everyone who goes there graduates,” Gray said succinctly.
But Notre Dame won’t expect Gray simply to graduate. Notre Dame will expect him to compete immediately for roles in a secondary that has been beaten by opponents repeatedly over the past three years.
“He thinks there’s a very good opportunity [for playing time with fifth-year senior] Mike Richardson being gone next year,” Frank said.
Frank said Notre Dame’s coaches were successful in recruiting Gray by not forcing him to make a hasty decision.
“I think he started talking with Bill Lewis and Charlie Weis and felt really comfortable with both coaches,” Frank said. “They just did a real nice job of not pressuring him.”
Gray had praise for both Lewis and Weis Monday. He called Lewis “soft-spoken” and “well-rounded” and referred to Weis as “straight-forward.”
“Coach Weis … he’s not going to tell you what you want to hear,” Gray said. “He’s going to tell you the truth.”
Gray said watching the Irish lose to Michigan served no harm to Notre Dame’s chances in his decision-making process.
“The atmosphere was great,” he said. “Even though they went down 21, 28 points, everyone stays [and] supports the team.”
Kate Gales contributed to this article.