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Recruiting: Atkinsons, Tuitt commit to Irish

Douglas Farmer | Thursday, September 16, 2010

Notre Dame may have lost to Michigan Saturday, but the Irish still impressed three of the four visiting recruits well enough that they committed to Notre Dame within the week. Two even offered their commitments before leaving campus over the weekend.

George and Josh Atkinson gave Irish coach Brian Kelly their verbal commitments Sunday, followed by defensive end Stephon Tuitt Wednesday night, and in doing so strengthened Notre Dame’s already stellar recruiting class, Irish recruiting expert Mike Frank said.

“In landing the two quality caliber of players in George and Josh, that is the kind of player you are looking for,” said Frank, who heads the online ESPN affiliate Irish Sports Daily. “Notre Dame needed some of those guys who can just make things happen in space, and [George] is certainly one of those guys.”

Also visiting last weekend, both safety Wayne Lyons and defensive end Stephon Tuitt were impressed by Notre Dame and their experience during the weekend, Frank said. Tuitt has since committed to the Irish, calling Brian Kelly with his decision late Wednesday night.

“If I had to guess, I’d say Notre Dame probably leads for [Lyons] right now,” Frank said. “More importantly, I think both of their moms are very excited about Notre Dame, and that really is one of the bigger battles you have to face.”

Tuitt, ranked as the top strongside defensive end in the country by Yahoo! Sports’ rivals.com, joins Aaron Lynch — No. 7 on the rivals.com list — in strengthening an Irish defensive line that has lacked depth in recent years.

The commitments bring the tally for the 2011 recruiting class to 19 commitments. Frank does not expect Notre Dame to take many more, even if National Signing Day is still five months away.

“It’ll be interesting to see how many more they’ll take after this point,” Frank said. “My guess is they probably won’t go for more than 22 [commitments] at this point.”

Among the candidates for those final four spots, along with Lyons, is receiver Davaris Daniels, from Vernon Hills, Ill., a Chicago suburb. Daniels has expressed interest in Notre Dame for awhile, but he may still have work to do academically, Frank said.

“Based off of things that I hear, I think [Daniels] is just a little bit short of where he needs to be academically,” Frank said. “If that is the case, I think he could get it and get where he needs to be, and if he does, I really think Notre Dame will get him.”

Daniels would fill one of Notre Dame’s few holes in this class.

“[Notre Dame] would probably like to get another wide receiver, a safety, either a defensive end or an outside linebacker and then an offensive tackle if they could get one,” Frank said.

Among the additional possible targets, Frank listed outside linebackers Ishaq Williams, Ray Drew and Christian French, running back Savon Huggins and offensive linemen Antonio Richardson and Jay Whitmire.

“I would guess anybody on that list, if they wanted to commit, Notre Dame would probably take their commitment at this point,” Frank said. “This is certainly a top-10 class in anybody’s eyes right now, and they have a good chance to close out with some really strong players.”