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Recruiting: H.S. juniors to flock to Alamodome

Matt Gamber | Friday, October 30, 2009

Calling Saturday’s contest an “offsite home game” for Notre Dame is more than just semantics, at least for recruiting purposes.

Because the Irish are technically the host team in San Antonio this weekend, they are permitted to offer recruits tickets to the game. They may not, however, talk to the recruits after the game like they would after a normal home game at Notre Dame, Charlie Weis said at his Tuesday press conference.

According to Irish recruiting analyst Mike Frank, the Washington State game will be an important opportunity for several of the top high school juniors in Texas to be exposed to Notre Dame football, in person, for the first time.

“So many of those guys down in Texas know one thing, Texas,” said Frank, who runs the ESPN-affiliated irishsportsdaily.com. “If you don’t go to Texas, it’s which other school around the area do you end up going to? There’s certainly a lot of talent in the state, but [Texas coach] Mack Brown has done such a great job of locking up the talent down there before anyone can even find out about them.”

Because the Irish coaches can’t actually speak with players, and because most, if not all, the players set to attend are only juniors, Notre Dame won’t expect to gain anything near a commitment after Saturday, Frank said. But it may give the Irish program a head start in recruiting players in the Lone Star state.

“With this game, players can come find out a little about you, watch Notre Dame play, watch the fans. Notre Dame fans are unique — very friendly, very cordial, very welcoming,” Frank said. “That puts a very positive image of Notre Dame out there for a lot of the players in Texas to get a chance to see what Notre Dame is about. It’s a place they have heard of but don’t know a whole lot about.”

And while the players in attendance won’t have the benefit of touring Notre Dame’s campus and experiencing all that is game day in South Bend, Frank said just watching the team on the field should be enough to pique interest for several of the high school juniors.

“The players get a chance to be around that whole Notre Dame experience and get an idea of what the team is about,” Frank said. “It’s a chance for Notre Dame to show there’s some athletes up here too and we’re just a few away from competing with the big dogs down [in Texas].”

Though the class of 2011 will be the main focus this weekend, the Irish staff enjoyed one major recruiting win this week with the committment of Giovanni Bernard, a four-star running back out of St. Thomas Aquinas (Fla.), the nation’s No. 1 high school team.

“He runs a lot like [former Irish running back] Darius Walker. He’s really instinctive and has great vision and a very nice burst,” Frank said. “The one thing he does that Darius didn’t really do is run for power. He’ll run some guys over, and he’s got a lot of ability catching the ball out of the backfield.”

Bernard might also help the Irish gain committments from a few of his highly touted teammates. Defensive backs Lamarcus Joyner and Cody Riggs and offensive tackle Brandon Lindner are also high on Notre Dame’s list of priorities.

“[Lindner’s] a guy I think Notre Dame’s got a real good shot at,” Frank said of the four-star prospect. “I think he really likes what [offensive line coach Frank] Verducci has done with the line and likes the progress they have made.”

Frank also said Notre Dame has a good shot at the five-star Joyner, but probably not at Riggs, who has Florida and Georgia as his leaders.

“[Joyner’s] one of the most explosive players in the entire country,” Frank said. “He’s a great corner back who loves to hit, has incredible acceleration and is just a really explosive player. I’m not sure if he’s 100-percent qualified for Notre Dame yet, but he’s pretty close and hopefully that won’t be a road block for him.”