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Football: Irish say aloha to top linebacking recruit in country

Lorenzo Reyes | Friday, November 21, 2008

Hailing from Honolulu, Hawaii and Punahou High School, Manti Te’o is perhaps the most sought-after outside linebacker prospect in the nation, thanks to his speed and tackling instinct. The blue-chip talent has received special treatment from coach Charlie Weis, as he has personally flown to Hawaii twice in the past year to recruit Te’o.

Mike Frank, who covers Notre Dame football for Scout.com thinks very highly of Te’o, and would be an excellent addition to an already solid class of 2009.

“Manti is a game-changing type of linebacker,” Frank said. “He’s a guy that can make big, big plays. He’s a guy with incredible speed and the ability to run sideline to sideline. He’s got the kind of speed and athleticism that they’ve been looking for at linebacker.”

If Te’o were to give his verbal commitment to Notre Dame, Frank believes that the linebacker would have an immediate impact, even as a freshman.

“He’s the type of guy that if he comes in as a true freshman, he has the ability to get on the field quickly, maybe even start,” Frank said. “He really has that kind of skill.”

One of the more interesting aspects of Te’o’s recruitment is that the high-school senior wishes to go on a Mormon missionary trip in between his sophomore and junior seasons. Coach Weis has already granted Te’o approval to embark on the mission if he pleases.

Te’o will be on campus this weekend for the Syracuse game.

Another 2009 recruit that will be on hand is fullback Tyler Gaffney out of San Diego, Calif. Part of the reason as to why Gaffney is interested in Notre Dame is thanks to special teams coach Brian Polian’s efforts in the Golden State.

“Brian Polian’s done a great job of recruiting him all throughout, and Gaffney has always said he’d visit,” Frank said. “It’s just a matter of finding the right time since a lot of these guys are still in their playoffs. It’s really hard to know when they’re going to be able to get out and take a look. I think Tyler Gaffney likes Notre Dame quite a bit. He likes the tradition and the school, and he likes the fact that it’s a strong academic institution. He’s got a lot of options, but I think he likes the idea of Notre Dame.”

In addition, a pair of junior wide receivers from the Chicagoland area is visiting this weekend. Corey Cooper, who committed early to the University of Illinois, is still keeping his options open and will take his second unofficial visit to Notre Dame Saturday. Cooper is from the same high school as Irish safety Sergio Brown, Proviso East High.

The other receiver is Kyle Prater who is a teammate of Cooper’s and has had a solid junior campaign thus far.

“Kyle’s had a really nice year,” Frank said. “He’s put up some good numbers and he’s a guy to keep an eye on because I know Notre Dame is pretty interested.”