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Football Recruiting: Irish add recruits over break

Chris Hine | Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Following one of the most historic losses in Notre Dame’s history, Michael Floyd and Jonas Gray reminded Irish fans that shutout losses to USC and Michigan should be a thing of the past.

Floyd, a wide receiver from Saint Paul, Minn., and Gray, a running back from Beverly Hills, Mich., verbally committed to Notre Dame last week after USC’s 38-0 drubbing of the Irish, and added their names to the top-rated recruiting class in the country. Mike Frank, who covers Notre Dame recruiting for irisheyes.com, said the coaching staff did a great job telling Floyd and Gray that the future looks bright, despite a 1-7 performance so far this season.

“It’s really quite amazing to have a loss like that they were able to land two of these guys on an unofficial visit,” Frank said. “I think that says a lot about the coaching staff and their ability to sell the future of this program. There wasn’t a whole lot to grasp onto in that game, so they had to do an excellent job selling them on the future of the program.”

Floyd was one of Notre Dame’s top targets from the beginning. The 6-foot-3, 200-pound receiver should add more size to Notre Dame’s receiving corps. Aside from tight end John Carlson, Notre Dame’s leading receivers are 6-foot-4 sophomore Robbie Parris and 6-foot-5 freshman Duval Kamara. Floyd’s size and athleticism should make him a contender to play right away, Frank said, and his commitment to Notre Dame helped fill its need for a top-tier receiver in this class.

“The sky is the limit for him,” Frank said. “A lot of people have said a lot of things about him but to me, he reminds me a whole lot of Terrell Owens. He’s a big, physical kid that moves a lot faster than a lot of people think … He has unbelievable potential. He’s a good route-runner, good in special teams. He’s just going to be a great player. That was such a big commitment for Notre Dame. That’s just a huge commitment for Notre Dame. That was probably the best thing that could’ve happened to Charlie Weis other than beating USC.”

While the Irish offered Floyd a scholarship as soon as NCAA rules said they could, they were reluctant at first to offer a scholarship to Gray because he did not attend Notre Dame’s camp for prospective recruits over the summer.

In August, Gray committed to Nebraska. But since former coach Tom Osborne became athletic director at Nebraska, the future of current coach Bill Callahan’s job is in question, causing Gray and other recruits at Nebraska to take back their commitments. The unstable situation at Nebraska, combined with the longtime affection Gray has for Notre Dame, caused him to commit once the Irish made the offer.

“He went to Nebraska and really liked the coaching staff and really liked the players and said ‘I like what I see here,’ and he went ahead and pulled the trigger with Nebraska,” Frank said. “Then when things there got a little bit shaky, Notre Dame said, ‘Hey why don’t you come take a look down here. Just take a look.’ I think we all had a suspicion that if they offered him, Notre Dame would be a tough school to beat because he just had such a high opinion of Notre Dame.”

With the slow start and lack of offensive production this season, the coaching staff gained 21 verbal commitments from highly-touted recruits by selling the fact that they can come in and make a difference right away. It also helps that Notre Dame has other attractions to offer its recruits, Frank said.

“They did a good job of letting these kids now that, ‘Hey we’re going through some times right now that really aren’t a whole lot of fun, but look at the talent that we had coming in, look at our track record, look at what we’re doing on defense. We’re not afraid to play young guys, and if you come here, you can play right away,'” Frank said. “Of course, Notre Dame has a lot of advantages when it comes to academics and things like that already built in, so you throw that in with the opportunity to play early, play on national television.”